Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for July 13th, 2010

Self Loathing

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on July 13, 2010

    Peter,, sixty-four, wants desperately to retire from his twenty-five year teaching job. At the same time, he worries about the emptiness of retirement and not feeling worthwhile. Layered over that conflict, Peter also feels that his idealization of teaching youngsters was so misplaced as he feels he has had little impact, despite the fact that many of his students keep in touch with him to let him know how much he meant to them. “You are really in a self-loathing camp now,” I say. “Well, duh” he says, “I always have been.” “I am struck by how you tell me how much your students mean to you, and how much you mean to many of them, yet at the same time you don’t appreciate your efforts,” I say, stating the obvious. Peter starts to cry. “Yea, I always think that what I am doing is futile,” he says. “Yes, but what strikes me is that sense of futility does not stop you from continuing to push forward in a very positive way,” I reply. “I just have this drive. I don’t understand it, but I feel a need to really work with these kids,” he says. “Well, that is admirable,” I say, again, stating the obvious. “I guess so, ” he says begrudgingly.

     Once again, I am reminded of how therapy involves two sets of ears. The patient speaks; the therapist listens, but so does the patient. As Peter hears himself describe his work, he comes to appreciate the goodness in his efforts to work with children. I remind him of that, but more importantly, he can hear that himself. Yet, if those words did not have air time, then Peter would walk around feeling futile and pathetic. Taking the words out of the brain and into the therapy session, or into a relationship, can change the point of view associated with the thought processes. This is more evidence of how we are social beings; we need each other to listen to our narratives, so that we can listen to ourselves.  In so doing, self-loathing can slowly change to self-love.

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