Posted by Dr. Vollmer on March 28, 2013
Monte, the middle-age psychiatrist, continues to seek Marla, the elderly psychiatrist for consultation about his work. In so doing he presents his therapeutic dilemmas and Marla sheds her words of wisdom. Sometimes the “session” goes smoothly, and other times, as previously reported in this blog, Monte and Marla get entangled in personal issues which leaves Monte feeling disappointed that Marla, although sometimes wise, is not always a good mentor, meaning that she does not always seem to want Monte to succeed professionally. This is manifested by Marla giving helpful work opportunities to other psychiatrists. Monte comes to me, wondering about how to handle Marla. “Variable reinforcement is really tough, since sometimes you get a lot out of her, and sometimes you feel that she does not have your back. It must be hard to weigh these competing feelings.” I say, outlining the equation where Monte has to come up with a summation of his relationship with Marla in order to decide whether to continue to see her. Like all relationship dilemmas, the challenge lies in trying to weigh the good with the bad, given that different times yield different experiences, and given that the twenty-five year history with one another cannot be duplicated. The length of their drama speaks to the depth of the good and the bad. I hope Monte can navigate his way through to find peace with that relationship. A deeper consciousness about their dynamics will help him. In that, I can be helpful.
Posted in Monte Marla | 11 Comments »
Posted by Dr. Vollmer on July 27, 2012
Monte and Marla, http://shirahvollmermd.wordpress.com/2012/05/06/i-am-willing-to-talk-to-you/ return, much to Jon’s dismay. Jon has consistently commented to these posts that Marla is one of Monte’s toxic relationship, and as such, he should move on so that Monte can develop self-esteem without the inevitable setbacks that his relationship with Marla encourages. The fictional Monte sees me, where we discuss his relationship with Marla to examine how this serves Monte on an unconscious level. At times, Monte sides with Jon, feeling like distance is the answer. Other times, Monte seeks Marla’s professional consultation for work-related dilemmas. Still other times, Marla solicits Monte’s advice about teaching opportunities and teaching experiences. Recently, Marla contacted Monte, leading Monte to remind Marla of her last interchange in which Marla said “I am willing to talk to you,” much to the horror of Monte. Marla, upon hearing her words reflected back at her, begins to understand the arrogance of her words. She is not exactly remorseful, but she is aware of the haughty nature of that comment. Marla, somehow seeming that she wants to apologize, but never quite saying that, suggests that they meet to talk about that some more. Monte comes to me with the dilemma. “She seemed upset by her words, but I know we are in a cycle of hurt followed by reconciliation followed by hurt again.” Monte says with understanding, along with wishing that their relationship could reach equanimity. ”Why do you think it is so important that you get peace with Marla?” I ask, knowing that I have inquired about this repeatedly, but also knowing that each time I ask I get a slightly different answer. “Two of my mentors have passed away recently, and so there are so few people in my life who have seen me grow professionally, that I want to hold on to Marla because of our long history.” Monte says in a way which makes me understand his yearning, but also in a way which makes me think that he is living in wishes. He seems to be yearning for a parental figure who will nurture him through his career, but he and I both know that Marla cannot be that person. “Sometimes you have to go around the block a few times with people before you really understand how they impact you,” I say, pointing Monte to the idea that we know how this tale ends. We know that Monte will get hurt again. “Yea, I do know how this tale ends, yet for reasons I don’t understand, I want to go around the block again. I am sure I will end up saying you told me so, but I still need to give Marla another chance.” Monte says to me, with both cognitive understanding and deep emotional yearning for a connection with Marla, for reasons we have yet to explore.
Posted in Mentorship, Monte Marla, personal growth, Professional Development | 4 Comments »
Posted by Dr. Vollmer on June 26, 2012
Monte felt used by Marla again, only this time, the drama unfolded years after the event. Marla, the senior mentor/advisor encouraged Monte to pursue medical student education to encourage more medical students to go into psychoanalysis. Years later, Monte finds out that Marla received funding from a benefactor which was going to support medical student interest in psychoanalysis, such that Marla then received an award for spearheading a medical student program. In essence, Monte feels that his work was used to give Marla recognition. “It is the old story,” Monte tells me. “The old story where the little guy does all the work and the big guy gets all the credit, but in this case, I was unaware of Marla’s motivation until now, which is years later.” Monte tells me with both understanding and dismay. “You use Marla as a way to beat yourself up,” I repeat, over the years that for Monte, Marla has become the relationship in which Monte continually feels bad about himself. “Yes, I can see that,” Monte says, without a sense of relief, but with a sense of cognitive understanding. “I can see how my trust in Marla has led to one betrayal after another, but that I keep going back for more.” Monte says, again showing an intellectual understanding without the emotional understanding which would make Monte separate from Marla. “It takes time for you to feel that you deserve relationships which are more respectful of your time and energy.” I remind Monte, to help him see that he cultivates relationships in which the other person treats him how he feels he deserves to be treated. “Yes, it takes so much time that I think I will be dead by the time I figure it out.” Monte says in despair. “I hope not,” I remind him, but I also appreciate how long Monte’s painful journey with Marla has been. “Moving forward is painful because you have to look back and feel your mistakes.” I say, trying to convey this understanding of how challenging personal growth can be. “I resist that,” Monte says. “I don’t want to look back, so maybe I can’t move forward.” “Sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t,” I say, reminding him about the changing nature of his mental state.
Posted in Monte Marla, Psychoanalysis, Psychotherapy | 2 Comments »
Posted by Dr. Vollmer on May 6, 2012
“I am willing to talk to you,” Marla responds to Monte upon his request for supervision. The arrogance overwhelms Monte. The words reverberate in his head. Monte, disturbed by this interaction seeks help from me in psychotherapy. “Yep, it sounds like arrogance,” I affirm. “Why does the grandiosity bother you so much?” I ask Monte. “We are colleagues. I am asking for help, but she treats me like she is doing me a favor.” Monte says with internal turmoil which appears to exceed the current interchange. “You are so disappointed with Marla, over and over again. Why do you keep going back for more disappointment?” I ask, thinking that Monte might be replaying an experience in his life where he gets his hopes up, only to be met by crashing devastation. “I really don’t know,” Monte says, almost pleading with himself to come up with an answer. “Maybe you feel you deserve to be disappointed.” I say, trying to gently suggest that he set himself up for this by calling her up. “Maybe,” Monte tentatively says, with a sense of personal disgust in his voice. “I am willing to talk to you too,” I say, trying to make light of this situation as the time comes to an end. We laugh, but we know the pain is still there.
Posted in Arrogance, Monte Marla, Psychotherapy, Supervision | 6 Comments »
Posted by Dr. Vollmer on September 1, 2011
Charlotte returns to Roger, http://shirahvollmermd.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/unloveable-loneliness-turns/, in a similar way that Monte and Marla continue their drama http://shirahvollmermd.wordpress.com/2011/08/10/monte-and-marla-on-the-rise-again/. Some relationships persist because each person assign the other person a great deal of power over their self-esteem. Roger believes that Charlotte’s love and attention, despite her on-again, off-again behavior, is the only attention which makes him feel whole. Likewise, Monte craves attention from Marla, even though she has been very hurtful to him in the past. For Monte, Marla’s attention enables him to feel like his world is stable, secure. Charlotte and Rogera must also have very important reasons for persisting in their relationship, which to an outsider seems self-destructive.
“I just did not want to come in today to tell you that Charlotte and I are back together,” Roger says. “Since you think I am going to look down on that decision,” I say, explaining that he is externalizing his ambivalence towards Charlotte, and assuming that I hold the negativity about their relationship. “I don’t know, we could break-up again, but I really missed her and it is nice to have her back in my life.” Roger continues to sound defensive and confused. His agony feels palpable. “Charlotte has a lot of insecurities,” I remind him. “Yes, but so do I,” he responds quickly. “I remember that it is hard for you to reassure her that you care about her.” I say, trying to integrate the good and bad aspects of their relationship into one coherent narrative. “Yes, but it makes me feel good when I can make her feel good, so it is worth the effort,” Roger says, explaining that he gets pleasure out of quieting Charlotte’s anxieties. Relationships are so interesting, I think to myself. Roger has suffered with Charlotte, but he has also felt better than he has ever felt in his life with her. How he balances out these conflicting forces is fascinating.
Like the Monte and Marla drama, the experience is so different looking in, as opposed to being a character in the story. As I look in on Roger’s life, I see the pain that he and Charlotte have had together. The happy times, we only discuss in passing. Hence, my vision can be colored, and I have to keep that in mind. Although it is tempting to tell Roger what to do with Charlotte, my job is to help Roger look at his relationship in-depth, and from there he can make a good decision. Respecting the inner world is key. Only Roger knows how he feels.
Posted in Monte Marla, Relationships | 2 Comments »
Posted by Dr. Vollmer on August 11, 2011
“What’s up with Marla?” Monte asks. http://shirahvollmermd.wordpress.com/2011/08/10/monte-and-marla-on-the-rise-again/. Of course, I have never met Marla, so I enjoy the speculative nature of our discussion, but first I want to know what Monte is trying to get at. “What do you mean?” I ask right back. “Why does she want to have a relationship with me? I understand why I want to keep this tortuous relationship going. I mean I sort of understand that, but I can’t get my head around why she continues to engage with me. She could just go completely silent and never return my phone calls. Instead, she only goes silent intermittently.” I am wondering why Monte cares about Marla’s motivations. Maybe he feels that if he understood her motivation then he could make a better decision about whether to continue this twenty plus year relationship. “What are your ideas about that?” I ask, before venturing with my associations to his question. “I think that she is trying to work something out with me. I think she feels guilty for how she has treated me and so by continuing the relationship with me, she tries to assuage her guilt. Severing the connection, it seems to me, would make her have to face her own cruelty. This way, she can reassure herself that she has been forgiven for her dismissiveness and her rage.” Monte explains this to me as if he has given this really deep thought and although he opened the session with this question, he appears at this moment to be more interested in his ideas than mine. “So, does your theory about Marla trying to cope with her guilt, change anything about the way you think of her? I ask. “A little,” he says, ”in that, I know she does not have my best interest in mine, but then again all relationships are selfish when it comes down to it.” Monte returns to his tortured state. His body language changes, he appears frustrated and confused. As he explained how he sees Marla as selfish, and then quickly protects her by saying we are all selfish, his mixed feelings about Marla quickly resurface. “Marla means a lot to you, but exactly what she means to you is my question,” I respond. “I would like to know why you spend so much time thinking about this relationship when you have so many other things going on in your life.” I say, trying to be compassionate, but wanting to challenge him at the same time. “I lost my best friend when I started my psychoanalytic training, which is also when I first met Marla. I think that has something to do with it.” Monte says with tears in his eyes. “You mean that somehow Marla has become the continuation of your best friend. She has somehow eased the pain of that loss.” I say, surprised that I had never known this fact before. “Of course, I am just guessing, but I have been thinking about that recently.” Monte says, crying heavily. “That is very moving,” I say, taken by the change in affect, and struck by the new understanding of the meaning that Marla might be playing in his life. “It is really too bad we have to stop now,” I say, struggling with how to close this moving session. “Yea, I left the major punch for the end. I hate it when I do that,” Monte says, trying to make light in the midst of a heavy session.
Posted in Monte Marla | 2 Comments »
Posted by Dr. Vollmer on August 10, 2011
Monte, the male psychiatrist in his 50s, has this twenty plus year relationship with Marla, a female psychiatrist in her seventies. http://shirahvollmermd.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/monte-and-marla-oh-not-again/ . As previously chronicled, this relationship, although platonic, has had the ups and downs of an intense love affair, flowing from intensely satisfying to painfully disturbing and destructive. Their relationship is professional and personal at the same time. Both are married with children. Marla has grandchildren. Both are successful in their careers. Both are satisfied with their professional and personal lives. Yet, together they have created a dynamic which is characterized by primitive sadistic impulses along with loving support. The relationship is asymmetrical. Monte talks about his professional misgivings and insecurities. Marla listens and offers advice and support, sometimes. Other times, she is deeply critical or surprisingly unavailable. Both of them work on their relationship. When Monte stops calling Marla, Marla will call Monte to “check in”. When Monte has not heard from Marla for a while, he will call under the guise of “needing to discuss a case,” but really wanting to know that Marla still cares about him. As with so many long-term relationships, there have been times when they do not speak to each other: anywhere from months to years. Likewise, there are times when they speak multiple times a week.
Monte chronicles his relationship with Marla by talking to me and seeking guidance for the “hard times” but not wanting to hear about what I call the “warning signs” during good times. In other words, Monte’s focus in psychotherapy is the feelings that Marla stirs up in him. Today, Monte went to visit Marla; a face to face meeting instead of their usual phone contact. Marla continued to apologize for her “rage” as Monte reports. “She has apologized many times before, so it does not mean anything,” Monte tells me, as if to say ‘don’t get too excited’. Monte is depressed after his meeting with her, he tells me, but at the same time, they have scheduled another face to face meeting next week. “Why did you agree to continue the discussion?” I ask, knowing that Monte cares so deeply about Marla that he jumps at the chance to spend time with her. “Well, I was going to refuse, but then she said, ‘hey, we are talking about what went wrong between us. Don’t you think we should continue that discussion?’ I just crumbled when she said that because she had a point. Marla explained to me that although so many people think that Marla is so loving and so giving, I am one of the few people in her life who have seen her rage and as such, she is trying to understand what that is about for her. I was moved by the fact that I was in such a small compartment in her life that I said ‘well, that explains why I have had a hard time finding a support group.’ She laughed. On the one hand I think that Marla lives in a dream world where she thinks that everyone loves her and so she cannot embrace her negativity and then apologize for it. On the other hand, I think there is something very powerful about our dynamic that thinking about our to and fro always draws me in.”
I am left with the same dilemma that Monte carries so deeply. Marla is one of the best things in his life and one of the worst as well. Giving up Marla, to Monte, means a void in his internal world. Keeping Marla means opening himself to deep pain and rejection. Monte keeps Marla in his life, at least for now, because Marla makes him curious and interested in her, and in so doing, Monte stays curious and interested in his world, in general. Monte has made Marla into a parental figure; a flawed parent who one cannot imagine living without. Although Monte was in his thirties when he began his relationship with Marla, Monte feels that Marla has helped him “grow up” and as such, Marla is irreplaceable. My role then becomes helping Monte learn to cope with Marla’s seemingly erratic and hurtful behavior. Maybe if Monte could develop a thicker membrane, then he can keep Marla in his life without being so flattened by her rejecting and withholding behaviors. For now, Monte feels the relationship is mending, yet again.
Posted in Monte Marla, Musings | 2 Comments »
Posted by Dr. Vollmer on August 4, 2011
As Shelly, a blog reader http://shirahvollmermd.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/monte-and-marla-the-repair/ , nailed it:
“How can Monte trust Marla if Marla didn’t explain herself and her behavior to him? It seems almost too simple that Marla apologized and suddenly appreciated the pain that she put him through. What caused Marla’s change of heart? How is it that Monte has hope that she won’t do it again, with no understanding of Marla’s motivations behind her actions? Is he so eager to accept her friendship and supervision that he can put all his torment behind him at the first sign of kindness?”
Marla disappointed/hurt Monte again. The details, by Monte’s account are vague; the feelings are not. They discuss cases, see each other at professional meetings, occasionally share travel stories, so Monte comes to see me confused about why he feels so hurt by Marla, yet again. This relationship both grabs him and repels him. It is as if Monte’s emotional life is wrapped up with his sense of whether Marla has positive or negative regard for him; this determines his mood state for days. It is a relationship that baffles both of us. “So what happened?” I ask, as if to imply that the end of the sentence is ‘this time’. “Well, it is hard to describe. I saw her at a meeting and she dismissed everything I had to say. I suppose you could say it was subtle, but it did not feel subtle to me. I suggested that we do certain things for this upcoming professional meeting, and she said publicly that those were bad ideas and that we should do things another way.” ”It sounds so mean when you describe that she said your ideas were bad,” I say, trying to understand why Monte is upset and trying to understand why Marla is so important to Monte.
The fact that there are three psychiatrists at play in this drama seems to make little difference to the common themes of hopes and disappointments in relationships. Monte continues “I just want to feel good about what I do and I want people to support me in my profession. I need collegial validation. Sometimes I get that from Marla and I feel good, but more often I do not get that and I feel punctured. Sure, I can get collegial validation from others, but I have tried to do that and I just feel a sense of competition, not support.” I begin to feel more deeply for Monte. I say, “I can see that you need collegial validation and I can see that you have assigned Marla that role, and I can see that sometimes she has really helped you, but I also see that you are creating a drama with her which on balance seems to make you hurt. Maybe you are looking to Marla to reassure you because you seem to be unable to reassure yourself and you seem unable to find a supportive mentor who is not as unstable as Marla appears to be.” Monte looks at me as though he is feeling understood, but he does not like what he heard. “I guess the whole thing sounds nuts, but I am very sensitive to Marla and I wish I were not,” Monte says, restating his dilemma. Restating Shelly’s words, I say “Marla is not worthy of your trust. You know that.” Monte looks pained, and sheepishly says “of course I know that. I just can’t help myself.” “We need to keep digging deeper so that your thoughts and feelings can be more in line with one another. The more we can understand what Marla means to you, the easier it will be for you to detach from her. ” I say, emphasizing that Monte’s issues with Marla will help Monte understand his deep emotional needs for this kind of relationship. In the meantime, the Monte/Marla drama is likely to continue.
Posted in Monte Marla | 2 Comments »
Posted by Dr. Vollmer on August 1, 2011
Monte,http://shirahvollmermd.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/monte-and-marla-the-cancellation/ my patient the male psychiatrist in his fifties, who goes to Marla, the female psychiatrist in her seventies for supervision and support, but over the past twenty years has had a tormented relationship with Marla, comes to me with a reversal. “Well, I am sort of embarrassed to admit this, given how much I have told you that Marla was destroying my life, I have come to trust Marla again and I have resumed supervision with her.” Monte says sheepishly, as if he will now be forced to create a narrative to explain how one of the most hurtful people in his life, has now entered into his trust zone. “Wow, either something really big happened to repair your relationship, or you both suffered terrible head trauma to the point where all memories are erased,” I say, validating his thought that I would be shocked at this change of events. “She apologized to me in a nice way for letting me down so many times. She seemed to understand the hurt and pain she caused me and so that softened me towards her.”
Monte explains in a way that reminds me that even terribly hurtful relationships can mend if there is deep compassion for the hurt that was exchanged. “Are you worried that you are back in the cycle of trust followed by disappointment?” I ask, knowing that their long history together has been marked by rupture and repair. “You know, this time I am not worried, but of course, maybe I should be.” Monte explains that his hunch is that Marla has a deeper understanding of her role in their interactions than she had previously and that gives Monte great hope.
”You must feel so good Monte to have this relationship repaired. I know it was dragging on you for many years and I know that most of your friends and colleagues told you to move on. I suspect that you are really glad you hung in there.” I said, struggling to understand if this repair will last or if that is just wishful thinking on Monte’s part. “Oh, yes. I am so glad I stuck with Marla. I just don’t have that kind of history with anyone. She watched me grow from a resident to a practicing psychiatrist. That is a long journey, and I relied on her for years and years to support me in my professional development. ” Monte say, with tears in his eyes, explaining that the making of a mental health professional requires both personal and professional growth and that he is amazed that he has matured into his profession. He credits Marla, despite all the hardship, with staying the course. He is grateful to her and he wants her to know that. If their relationship ended with anger and resentments, then the gratitude would be lost and he was scared of that throughout their stormy course. I am happy for Monte, but again, I am a bit weary that he is re-entering a dangerous relationship. “I am glad that you feel so much better about Marla. I just hope you are mindful of possible disappointments down the road. I can imagine that she really wants to maintain a relationship with you, as much as you do with her, but the ingredients for future pain is still there, so I hope you will watch out for that.” I say, speaking like a mother who is happy, but also pleads for caution. “Of course, past behavior predicts future behavior, but if I did not believe in change, I could not be in this profession.” Monte says to me, as if I am being too negative, but at the same time, he appears to appreciate my concerned words.
Posted in Monte Marla | 4 Comments »