Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Monte and Marla: The Repair

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on August 1, 2011

 Monte, my patient the male psychiatrist in his fifties, who goes to Marla, the female psychiatrist in her seventies for supervision and support, but over the past twenty years has had a tormented relationship with Marla, comes to me with a reversal. “Well, I am sort of embarrassed to admit this, given how much I have told you that Marla was destroying my life, I have come to trust Marla again and I have resumed supervision with her.” Monte says sheepishly, as if he will now be forced to create a narrative to explain how one of the most hurtful people in his life, has now entered into his trust zone. “Wow, either something really big happened to repair your relationship, or you both suffered terrible head trauma to the point where all memories are erased,” I say, validating his thought that I would be shocked at this change of events. “She apologized to me in a nice way for letting me down so many times. She seemed to understand the hurt and pain she caused me and so that softened me towards her.”

    Monte explains in a way that reminds me that even terribly hurtful relationships can mend if there is deep compassion for the hurt that was exchanged. “Are you worried that you are back in the cycle of trust followed by disappointment?” I ask, knowing that their long history together has been marked by rupture and repair. “You know, this time I am not worried, but of course, maybe I should be.” Monte explains that his hunch is that Marla has a deeper understanding of her role in their interactions than she had previously and that gives Monte great hope.

 “You must feel so good Monte to have this relationship repaired. I know it was dragging on you for many years and I know that most of your friends and colleagues told you to move on. I suspect that you are really glad you hung in there.” I said, struggling to understand if this repair will last or if that is just wishful thinking on Monte’s part. “Oh, yes. I am so glad I stuck with Marla. I just don’t have that kind of history with anyone. She watched me grow from a resident to a practicing psychiatrist. That is a long journey, and I relied on her for years and years to support me in my professional development. ” Monte say, with tears in his eyes, explaining that the making of a mental health professional requires both personal and professional growth and that he is amazed that he has matured into his profession. He credits Marla, despite all the hardship, with staying the course. He is grateful to her and he wants her to know that. If their relationship ended with anger and resentments, then the gratitude would be lost and he was scared of that throughout their stormy course. I am happy for Monte, but again, I am a bit weary that he is re-entering a dangerous relationship. “I am glad that you feel so much better about Marla. I just hope you are mindful of possible disappointments down the road. I can imagine that she really wants to maintain a relationship with you, as much as you do with her, but the ingredients for future pain is still there, so I hope you will watch out for that.” I say, speaking like a mother who is happy, but also pleads for caution. “Of course, past behavior predicts future behavior, but if I did not believe in change, I could not be in this profession.” Monte says to me, as if I am being too negative, but at the same time, he appears to appreciate my concerned words.

4 Responses to “Monte and Marla: The Repair”

  1. Danny said

    Hi, maybe I’m missing something but why does a psychiatrist in his 50 s need supervision?is he in analytic training?

    • Hi Danny,
      No, he is not in analytic training currently, but he wants to run cases by Marla, to make sure that he is not missing something. Thanks, as always, for your comments. Shirah

  2. Shelly said

    How can Monte trust Marla if Marla didn’t explain herself and her behavior to him? It seems almost too simple that Marla apologized and suddenly appreciated the pain that she put him through. What caused Marla’s change of heart? How is it that Monte has hope that she won’t do it again, with no understanding of Marla’s motivations behind her actions? Is he so eager to accept her friendship and supervision that he can put all his torment behind him at the first sign of kindness?

    • As usual, you raise very important points. I don’t know that Monte trusts Marla, but Monte is open to having communication with Marla. The stand-off has ended, at least for now. Since I don’t see the fictional Marla, but I do see the fictional Monte, I can only speculate about Marla’s motivations. Regardless, Marla appears, by Monte’s report to feel remorse over her behavior. Yes, Monte is eager to mend fences, again not with full trust, but enough to be colleagues without tension and anger.

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