Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

More Adolescent Turmoil

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on August 31, 2011

Greta, sixteen, like Graham, twenty, is struggling with identity formation. “My parents are my whole problem. I don’t want to be anything like them. I hate them. Their lives seem so boring and mundane. I want to be creative. I don’t want to work in an office all day. I just hate living with my parents. I won’t have dinner with them. I hate taking vacations with them; I just hate them.” Greta says with great passion and hysterics. She cries as she tells me how much she dislikes her parents. “Maybe you are scared that you are going to have their lives and so to deal with that fear, you hate them, so as to remind yourself to take a different path.” I say, knowing that Greta’s parents are both attorneys, and imagining that Greta might worry that she will be trapped into going to law school, for fear that she will not figure out what else to do with her life. “I am not scared. I know myself very well and I am not scared. I am angry that I have to live in the same house with these people that I don’t like.” Greta says defiantly, but at the same time, I have a strong sense that she is thinking about what I said. “Also, maybe it is easier to identify your parents as your major problem, rather than working inwards to see how difficult it is for you to make decisions for both the present and the future.” I say, pointing out that it is always easier to blame others for one’s problems, rather than seeing how one’s choices create difficulties downstream. Again, she responds, “it is not difficult for me to make decisions for myself. I know what I want to be doing now and I am thinking about my future in a reasonable way.” Again, I see the two Gretas. The one that contradicts everything I say and the one that processes my comments privately, after our sessions. Over the fifty minutes, Greta calms down. It is almost as if she exhausted herself by complaining about her parents. As she begins to show signs of fatigue, I felt she transformed into a girl, seven years of age. I almost asked her if she wanted to play cards. It seemed like when she was done with her adolescent pushing away behavior, she wanted to be a latency age child who could play and accept the world for what it was. The shift in intensity from hatred to calmness is a wonderful part of working with adolescents. I feel for Greta in that her “hatred” of her parents is clearly an exhibition of her internal painful state. She has not found internal contentment and her parents, with all of their flaws, get the brunt of that, or so it seems to me. “Can I go now?” Greta asks, acting like every minute is now painful for her. “We have about five minutes left,” I say. Greta throws herself on to my couch, lies down, and says “I don’t know if I can survive that.” Then, after the five minutes, she is so comfortable, she does not want to get up to leave. Like infancy, adolescence is such a precious time.

2 Responses to “More Adolescent Turmoil”

  1. Shelly said

    Do you ever work with patients who want to be like their parents? I mean, is it part of the growth process to hate parents so as to become independent and break away? At what age does adolescence end?

    • shirah said

      That is an interesting question. Certainly, every adolescent I see, struggles with this issue of separation. No one knows when adolescence ends. It is probably not an age, but rather, the assumption of adult responsibilities.

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