Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer


Posted by Dr. Vollmer on November 2, 2011

 Bella,, self-regulates too much. That is to say that she is so worried about school that she does not give herself any permission to have fun. She has made herself into a hermit, by her own report. “I have to. I have no choice,” she tells me. “You have a choice, although you don’t feel like you have one,” I explain. Bella, in a black and white way, believes that if she is not studying, she is failing. “Having fun is like eating and sleeping. You don’t put off these vital functions in order to live, you integrate these experiences into your daily life. Likewise, it is important to weave in good times so that you have a balanced life,” I say, stating the obvious, but it is not obvious to Bella because she has engaged in narrow thinking.

   Olivia, twenty-two, is also having a problem with self-regulation, but she tilts the other way in that she is with her friends all the time, thereby neglecting her studies. “Everyone told me that college is the best time of their lives, so I am taking advantage of the fact that I can party all the time. I know when I am older I won’t be able to do this.” Olivia says, as though she has calculated that college years equal social years, and post-college years are the time for responsibilities. “It seems to me that you need more balance in your life,” I say to Olivia, like I said to Bella, although their problems on the surface seem so different. “Having fun is really important, but it is also important to explore the University, both academically and culturally, so that you can find your passion.” I say, again, trying to impress upon Olivia that her time management can be more nuanced. That is, like with Bella, I am talking to Olivia about integrating work and fun, as part of the evolution of becoming an adult.

  Seeing a great number of emerging adults, I see how hard it is for them to find balance. Sure, it is hard for everyone to find equilibrium, given multiple pressures, but what I see in this age group are young adults who have the new-found freedom of college, leading them to deal with the anxiety inherent in that freedom, by tilting too far in one direction. Most of them will learn through experience that integrating life experiences, work and play,  into daily living,  feels good to the body and the mind. Self-regulation is the goal. Some of them will have to hit hard times to learn that, whereas others will have a more gentle landing. My participation helps them with that gentle landing. I hope.

2 Responses to “Self-Regulation”

  1. Shelly said

    Does self-regulation have a genetic or environmental basis? For example, bella’s reaction may be due to the competition of medical school and she doesn’t want to fall behind her peers. Or olivia’s partying may be due to her mother’s stories of her own days as a sorority sister, etc… All I’m saying is that each person’s reaction, self-regulation, may be a factor of their personality, which as u say, is a combination of genetics and environment.

    • Yes, we return to our nature/nurture discussion and both are at play for Bella and Olivia. Bella is temperamentally more inhibited than Olivia and as such, under stress, Bella is likely to withdraw, whereas Olivia is likely to seek others for comfort. Add on to that, their expectations of themselves, both self-derived, and influenced by their family members, makes them behave in ways which are off-balance. In talking with me, we can see together, how off-center they are, and in each case, they are motivated to more more towards moderation, away from the extremes of their behavior. The work is exciting and rewarding. Thanks, as always, for your comments.

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