Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for July 21st, 2010

“I Can’t Talk About My Mom”

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on July 21, 2010

Zach and,  comes back after missing his last appointment.  He opens the session. “I can’t talk about my mom. I am meeting my aunt in an hour and I have to be in a good mental space. I just can’t talk about her.” “That’s fine,” I replied. “You don’t understand,” he continues, “I will be a mess if I start to think about her.” “I can understand that,” I say. “I am afraid that I will fall  in the sink hole,” Zach says. “That is interesting,” I reply. “It seems like you made your own sink hole after we talked about her the last time, since you burrowed under the ground and you did not come up for a while. I can see why you think about sink holes, since it seems that your coping style is such that internal conflict makes you fall away.” “Just like Alice in Wonderland,” he quickly responds. “Alice fell into a world which did not make sense, and that is exactly your experience when you begin to piece together your childhood memories,” I quickly respond in turn. “No,” Zach says strongly. “I can make sense of my childhood. My mom was a nut job.” “That is a broad stroke,” I say. “The details of the ‘nut job’ is where things get messy. However, I am aware that we are talking about the very thing you said we should not talk about.” “That’s OK,” he says. “I need to talk about it.” “Yes, but what about how you are going to feel when you meet your aunt?” I ask.  “Oh, I will be OK,” he says dismissively.

The approach/avoidance dance was clear and painful. Zach wanted to talk about his mom so that he could metabolize his feelings; so that his feelings would not cause him to fall like Alice in Wonderland. On the other hand, the process of falling was terrifying. Maybe his feelings about his mom should be left unsaid, he thought; at least today when he had to keep himself together so that he could keep up some social graces. We began to talk about his mom; he engaged intensely in the discussion. He was riveted to my commentary. His fear subsided to the point where he was dismissive of my reminder that he cautioned me about talking about this subject at the very beginning of the session. Wrestling with how his mother made him feel as a child, along with how his mother makes him feel now, felt to me  like he came in as a dry plant, but now he was  finally getting a drop of water. His body changed; his attention to my words, conveyed a deep need to hear my point of view of his childhood. It seemed as though he had kept his feelings buried for so long that he was relieved when his childhood impressions came to the light of day. His protestation not to talk about his mother, in retrospect, appeared to be a plea to talk about her. The scales of his approach/avoidance feelings were tipped. Approach we did.

Posted in avoidance, Psychoanalysis, Psychotherapy | 8 Comments »

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