Posted by Dr. Vollmer on January 3, 2013
As we enter into 2013, the party season winds down, and the social demands diminish. I am left to reflect on how people connect with one another, and how alcohol, for some, provides much needed disinhibition in order to allow for a certain amount of emotional intimacy. The fear of rejection is so powerful, for some, that talking to people, especially those that are not part of daily existence, can be frightening. Yet, with a glass of wine, social ease can be available. This intrigues me. Does the alcohol suppress the frontal lobe, such that a more authentic self comes through? Would Freud say that the wine diminishes the harsh superego which judges every word? Or, is there a social pressure to drink, just to be one of the gang?
Desiree, a fifty-year old patient (fictional, of course), said she could not bring herself to go to her best friend’s holiday party because her dog passed away three months ago, and so she “just could not face anyone.” The grief, I imagine, took away her access to her social courage. She did not imagine alcohol could fix this problem. Her melancholia turned her inward. She knew her friend would be deeply hurt if she did not go, but she also knew that this time of mourning, was a time for the self to trump the friendship. She felt guilty for not going, but she also felt entitled to take time for herself. If I think to myself that her child died, then I am sympathetic to Desiree’s perspective. Desiree does not forecast that going to this holiday party will not only support her dear friend, but in turn, she will feel loved and supported as well. By contrast, Desiree sees the party as a drain of her already depleted self. This mourning period is no time to muster up courage; she convinces herself. I continue to be intrigued. Liquid courage only goes so far.
Posted in Holidays, Parties, Psychotherapy, Relationships | 6 Comments »
Posted by Dr. Vollmer on November 23, 2011
Cindy, fifty-six, comes in with her twenty-three year old daughter Tracy, exasperated. “I can’t take this relationship any more,” Cindy says to me in front of Tracy. Over the course of our session, it becomes clear that Cindy is feeling very guilty that she has not been more available to Tracy during her tender developmental years. Cindy worked hard honing her legal skills, leading her to become partner at a major law firm, but in so doing, she delegated the majority of the parenting to her husband, Tracy’s father. Tracy has consistently confronted her mother on what Tracy calls “my abandonment.” Although Cindy acknowledges this to be true, it makes Cindy very angry to hear those words. Her defensive reaction is to pull further away from Tracy, thereby worsening their relationship, but at the same time, Cindy’s behavior protects Cindy from feeling bad about her parenting job.
Tracy wants to get closer to Cindy, but she desperately wants Cindy to apologize and understand how lonely she felt as a child. Cindy distances herself from understanding that, making Tracy rage at her. In the end, they both say that they do not want to spend Thanksgiving with each other. I explain to Tracy that Cindy is too raw now to understand what it was like for her to grow up while she worked long hours. Maybe there will be another time for Cindy to hear this, but now that cannot happen. I also explain to Cindy that although her gut reaction is to pull away from Tracy because she is saying very hurtful things, my suggestion is to keep repeating the idea that you want a good relationship and you want to be there for her.
The tension in the room markedly diminishes, although Tracy chimes in to say, “I am not completely happy about this.” I respond, “sometimes when I see parents and adult children, I feel it is like couples therapy. The best outcome is for both parties to be a bit unhappy. That represents a compromise.” Tracy looks at me fondly, with the recognition that the room feels so much better than when we started. “Happy Thanksgiving,” I say, knowing that airing those harsh words in the beginning allowed them to enjoy the holiday together. Tracy and Cindy hug before they leave my office. “That was for you, Dr. Vollmer,” Tracy says sarcastically, as if to suggest that they wanted to make me feel good about the session, and that the hug was not genuine. “It is nice to see you hug, no matter what the reason.” I say, feeling good about contributing to their holiday joy.
Posted in Cartoons, Holidays, Parenting, Psychotherapy | 6 Comments »