Glen, twenty-one, comes in, and without a word spoken I feel him vibrating with excitement. I began to think of my previous post http://shirahvollmermd.wordpress.com/2010/01/23/the-nature-of-excitement/. There was something about his facial expression, his body movements and his posture, that made me think about how happy he seemed to be feeling. I say “so you are done with school for this year.” He quickly responds “yea, and I am leaving in eleven days.” I suddenly remember that he has been talking about his summer plans to travel to Brazil with his friends. “Eleven days, wow you sound so excited,” I say. “ ”Yea” he responds, with tremendous youthful enthusiasm. In Glen’s mind, he is leaving his troubles behind and he is going to a “stress-free” zone of hanging out and exploring new places. Glen has constructed his summer to be free of “parental nagging” as well as free from studying for examinations. It is as if Glen feels like he is finally being let out of his cage and explore the world on his own terms. The trip is six weeks, so it is circumscribed play. He is not entering the adult world of responsibilities. He is still dependent on his parents for financial support, but he sees himself free from the phone calls from his mom reminding him what he has to do, either for school or for his family. Glen loves his mom dearly, but he also feels burdened by her prompting him to “call this relative, or buy this one a present.” Glen figured out that travel meant a temporary respite from responsibility. Glen knows that travel can be difficult. He could get sick. He could run into significant travel delays. He could have interpersonal issues with his friends. Knowing this, Glen still feels that the opportunity to explore a new culture, a new country, far outweighs the potential for adversity.
I saw in Glen the power of his imagination for a positive experience. Even though Glen has never been to South America, he forecasts a fun time. These positive feelings stem from his sense in himself to become excited by new places. In essence, Glen is calling up his positive introjects. http://shirahvollmermd.wordpress.com/2010/04/18/introjects/Glen also loves his friends and as such, he is excited to share a new experience with them. He is confident that his friendships will deepen with this experience. Glen’s internal sense of security translates into excitement for adventure. He knows that he can rely on himself and his friends, in case trouble occurs. His youth means that he has not accumulated terrifying experiences which can damper a sense of excitement.
Despite the popular belief that therapy is a place to “dump your problems,” therapy is actually a place to share many types of feelings. Good feelings need to be shared, as do bad ones. As Glen and I talked about Brazil, I could see how he both grew more excited and he calmed down. The excitment mounted as we spoke about the details of his trip. He calmed down as he was in such an up-regulated state that talking with me, brought him back to an equilibrium. The layers of his anticipation were displayed over our session. Once again, I was privileged, and in this case excited, to bear witness.