Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Jesse and Clarice:The Drama

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on February 6, 2011


Jesse calls Clarice to invite her to dinner. Jesse reports to me Clarice’s response to her inquiry. “Clarice dismissively says she is busy all weekend and that is OK because she has made plans to spend time with some friends.I just felt so hurt by that,” Jesse tells me. “I was trying to include her in things, and I feel that she was telling me that she was not going to be lonely this weekend so she did not need to see me. It was as if I plug up her hole, and if she can find someone else to plug her up, then I am not necessary. The reciprocity is missing. I just ended that conversation feeling really down.” Jesse tells me in a way in which I feel I understand her, but at the same time, I am mystified about why this is getting to her so deeply. “I am wondering if you feel that Clarice was trying to punish you,” I said, thinking about if Clarice’s feelings had been hurt before, maybe her dismissal of Jesse was unconsciously in retaliation. “Yes, that is exactly how I felt, but I did not understand what I was being punished for,” Jesse says with a relief consistent with feeling understood. “I am wondering if you and Clarice are in a negative spin cycle where you are each unconsciously mean to the other and you each feel self-righteous because you only see how you have been hurt and each one of you cannot see how you have hurt the other.” I say, thinking that this is such a common dynamic where each person in the relationship feels like a victim, since it is hard to see how one hurts others, but it is easy to feel hurt by others. “I am sure that Clarice is angry with me, but she would never say that. That is the problem. I cannot have a conversation with her about how she makes me feel.” Jesse says with a frustrated tone. “You are worried you are going to lose the relationship as a result of poor communication,” I say, feeling bad for Jesse. “Yes, indeed, but on the other hand, I am so hurt, I need some relief from this pain.” Jesse says, trying to think both in the present and the future. “Distance will give you some relief,” I say, “along with understanding that your feelings are very important and although they hurt, it is important that you pay attention to them, so that you do not continue to engage in a negative spiral with Clarice.” “It is sad,” I say.”Your dilemma is that if you distance yourself from Clarice you will miss her, but on the other hand, if you get close to her, you feel she will hurt you. It is a tough call.” I say, outlining her predicament; allowing her to make a more conscious choice of interpersonal distance. “I feel like a balloon that collapses when the air is released.” Jesse says, describing how hard it is to look at her friendship with Clarice. “Yea, but we can blow that balloon back up. We just need to be patient.” I say, thinking of the value of mindfulness, accepting the current state, thinking that as hard as Jesse’s state of mind is, it is temporary. Jesse expresses little comfort. She leaves, looking exhausted.

4 Responses to “Jesse and Clarice:The Drama”

  1. Shelly said

    Part of the problem with Jesse and Clarice’s relationship is that Clarice doesn’t give Jesse time to express herself. What if Jesse writes an e-mail or letter to Clarice, letting her know how she feels? That way, she could get her feelings across without Clarisse closing down and shutting Jesse off.

    • Yes, that is the problem. Jesse has tried that, to no success. Clarice becomes very anxious and withdrawn after she receives written communication, so it goes nowhere. It is sad. My hunch is that Clarice is overwhelmed by Jesse’s concerns and so she is unable to talk about it, even though Clarice cares deeply about the relationship as well.

  2. Kristin said

    Clarice’s reaction to the invitation was very interesting. By saying, in effect, “don’t worry, I have other people to hang out with this weekend,” Clarice seems to be saying that she cannot imagine that anyone would WANT to spend time with her. Instead, she seems to be assuming that people extend her invitations ONLY out of a sense of duty or a sense of pity. To me, it sounds like Clarice feels like she is a pathetic burden on those around her (and your previous descriptions of her personality seem to suggest that she is indeed a burden).

    This makes me feel compassion for Clarice, even though she is treating her friend poorly. It reminds me of a story by David Foster Wallace called “The Depressed Person” which is completely heartbreaking in hindsight. It is about a Depressed Person and her treatment of those in her Support System. The story basically makes clear that the Depressed Person is a complete pain in the neck to everyone around her, but not for the reasons that the Depressed Person thinks she is a complete pain in the neck.

    • Very interesting. Thank you for your comments. I agree that Clarice is a compassionate figure in the story, and that is part of Jesse’s dilemma as well. She is both hurt by her, and empathic with her at the same time.

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