Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for October 28th, 2010

Belonging as Affirmation

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on October 28, 2010

Joanie, seventy-one, comes in, wearing a red shirt and beige pants, and so was I. She says, “we look alike”, reminding me of Peter Blos, an expert on adolescent development coined the term uniformism to describe the teenager’s need to be just like his peer group. Judith Harris, another authority on adolescents, proposed that peer relationships are more important in character formation than parental values. Joanie continues in the session telling me how she has never “felt a part of anything.” She describes her childhood where her mother was overwhelmed with her five children. Her dad, never had an emotion, “at least not one I could see,” she says, almost as if she is trying to be funny. “I miss not belonging,” she says, causing me to  wonder about her choice of the word “miss”. “It is interesting that you miss something you never had; it is like a yearning, an imaginary experience in which you think belonging would solve your inner discomfort,” I say, not wanting to be too picky about her word choice, but at the same time, wanting to separate out missing from yearning. “Yes, I can see that,” she responds quickly, seeming to have a deep understanding of my point; her projection, or her idea, that she wants to believe that  belonging would solve her issues of painful insecurities. She says “it  is a wish to have an external fix for an internal problem. ” At the same time, Joanie and I both acknowledge that group affiliation can be character affirming. The weaving of the internal and the external are alive in our session today. Our matching color choices made her feel like she came to the right place. She belonged.

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