Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for April 8th, 2010

Death Fantasy

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on April 8, 2010

   Jennifer,, twenty-four, in a matter of fact way, described her fantasy that when she turns forty she will be hit  and killed by a bus. “Forty” I said, somewhat shocked. “Yea, I have thought about that since I was a teenager.” Jennifer is not depressed, at least not in the classic sense. She eats well, sleeps well, enjoys her friends, goes to school, and she looks forward to a musical career. Yet, she has a fantasy, which maybe is a wish, that her life will end in sixteen years.  This foreshortened view of her future was striking to me.  Sometimes people perceive a short future when their parents die young, but Jennifer’s parents and grandparents are alive and well. Sometimes people perceive a short future when they have seen a traumatic event. The trauma reminds them of the fragility of life.  Jennifer has no such history. Jennifer struggles with feeling loveable. She can bear this struggle for now, but she does not feel she can bear it forever. She does not envision feeling loved, so at some point she sees that she will no longer be able to cope. Her patience with life will be over. From this point of view I can begin to understand her fantasy. Life is only bearable to a point. Love, a fuel source, will be needed to keep going. According to  Jennifer’s  mental schema, she will not have that, so she must exit. “The royal road,” as Freud would say, leads me from wonder to understanding. Thinking about fantasy, the possible meanings, opens the window into the workings of Jennifer’s mind. I am sad thinking about how she might be feeling, given this fantasy, even though she is not sad telling me about it. At this point we are not emotionally resonating, but we are both thinking. I suspect the resonance will come, but we are not there yet. For now, we are in a reverie, the area of the mind that allows for storytelling without the constraints of logic or judgment. Even though there is sadness, there is a wonderful freedom to think. Jennifer and I both appreciate that.

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