Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Finding Validation

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on September 1, 2011

 Charlotte returns to Roger,, in a similar way that Monte and Marla continue their drama Some relationships persist because each person assign the other person a great deal of power over their self-esteem. Roger believes that Charlotte’s love and attention, despite her on-again, off-again behavior, is the only attention which makes him feel whole. Likewise, Monte craves attention from Marla, even though she has been very hurtful to him in the past. For Monte, Marla’s attention enables him to feel like his world is stable, secure. Charlotte and Rogera must also have very important reasons for persisting in their relationship, which to an outsider seems self-destructive.

   “I just did not want to come in today to tell you that Charlotte and I are back together,” Roger says. “Since you think I am going to look down on that decision,” I say, explaining that he is externalizing his ambivalence towards Charlotte, and assuming that I hold the negativity about their relationship. “I don’t know, we could break-up again, but I really missed her and it is nice to have her back in my life.” Roger continues to sound defensive and confused. His agony feels palpable. “Charlotte has a lot of insecurities,” I remind him. “Yes, but so do I,” he responds quickly. “I remember that it is hard for you to reassure her that you care about her.” I say, trying to integrate the good and bad aspects of their relationship into one coherent narrative. “Yes, but it makes me feel good when I can make her feel good, so it is worth the effort,” Roger says, explaining that he gets pleasure out of quieting Charlotte’s anxieties. Relationships are so interesting, I think to myself. Roger has suffered with Charlotte, but he has also felt better than he has ever felt in his life with her. How he balances out these conflicting forces is fascinating.

    Like the Monte and Marla drama, the experience is so different looking in, as opposed to being a character in the story. As I look in on Roger’s life, I see the pain that he and Charlotte have  had together. The happy times, we only discuss in passing. Hence, my vision can be colored, and I have to keep that in mind. Although it is tempting to tell Roger what to do with Charlotte, my job is to help Roger look at his relationship in-depth, and from there he can make a good decision. Respecting the inner world is key. Only Roger knows how he feels.

2 Responses to “Finding Validation”

  1. Shelly said

    This is really interesting. I like how you can step back and see that it is the psychiatrist’s role to help Roger see both the good and bad in the situation, and that in the end, it is Roger’s decision. I don’t like to think that shrinks can influence a person one way or another to behave a certain way. That only leads to pain for those involved in the patient’s life and that there are three people in the relationship instead of two.

    • Shirah said

      Thanks. The influence of ‘shrinks’ on relationships are always interesting. There can be an influence, even if it might be indirect. The goal, idealized perhaps, is to help the patient thinks thing through. In reality, there can be influence, sometimes imagined by the patient and sometimes directly from the therapist. As usual, you highlight a good point.

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