Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer


Posted by Dr. Vollmer on June 22, 2010

    Monte, and, filled with pain from his “break-up” with Marla goes into once weekly psychotherapy with Jared. Jared is an eighty-five year old seasoned psychoanalyst who has been in practice for over fifty years. Monte describes the agony that he experiences when he thinks about his twenty year relationship with Marla. Jared asks Monte to talk about his other relationships; to talk about his family and friends. Monte describes the variety of his relationships, thinking that he is impressing Jared with his ability to connect to so many different types of people. Monte mentions how his support system has been there for him in times of crises, but at the same time he often felt profoundly alone. Jared responds “it sounds so barren”. Monte left fixated on that word, barren.

    Monte felt he knew what Jared meant. Monte expressed a coldness in his relationships, by saying that his friends and family were there for him, but they were also not there for him. Although pleased with himself that he had many relationships, Monte was critical of his support system in that he felt that in times of crises they could have gone further. Monte understood that there was a certain coldness within him that created a  cold aspect to his relationship with his loved ones. More specifically, Monte felt quite self-centered at times, and although he wanted to be there when his friends needed him, he also felt overburdened by work and so he felt himself to be somewhat withholding with his friends. In kind, he felt this sense of withholding from them. Monte was impressed with how Jared could summarize this experience with that one word: barren.

    Monte went for help with his relationship with Marla, and instead he learned more about his other relationships. He connected the idea that his barren relationships reflected the fact that he is likely to seek a psychotherapist who could be withholding at critical times in Monte’s life. In essence, his relationship with Marla was a repetition of his previous relationships; both with his family and his friends. Monte knows that all relationships are repetitions of previous relationships, at least in some ways, but a psychotherapist is supposed to take that repetition and help his patient, not repeat the trauma. As Monte thinks about it, he realizes that this is an ideal, which sometimes happens, but it is also true that therapists can repeat past traumas without helping the patient understand that that is what is happening.

    Monte begins to wonder if he is repeating without gaining understanding, yet again, with Jared. He does not think so, but then, how would he know? The word barren continues to stick in Monte’s mind. Monte was so impressed by that word, that he is going to stay with Jared. One word. Deep meaning. A cause for reflection. Monte is engaged; for better or worse or both.

2 Responses to “Barren”

  1. Shelly said

    What is the difference between psychotherapist, psychoanalyst, psychologist, and psychiatrist (I don’t mean to ask if one can prescribe meds or not)? Can a psychologist do psychoanalysis? If Jared is a psychoanalyst, shouldn’t he have helped Monte explore his relationships and his repeated behaviors in them (or have they only met once and didn’t get into it)?

    Does Monte relate not being as involved a friend as he could be and feeling alone as feeling “barren”?

    How can Monte feel less “barren”?

  2. A psychotherapist is anyone who is licensed to do psychotherapy. This could be a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, nurse or MFT (masters of family therapy). A psychoanalyst is one who has had further training in psychoanalysis. Some psychoanalysts come from academic and not mental health backgrounds and so their PhDs are in unrelated fields such as history, sociology, and anthropology.

    Yes, Monte is just starting his relationship with Jared. Stay tuned.

    Yes, the loneliness he feels was really captured by the word barren.

    Monte’s goal is to learn to be more giving of himself, while using good judgment as to where to apply this energy.

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