Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for March 23rd, 2012

The Etch-A-Sketch Brain

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on March 23, 2012

Nilu, forty-two, married, two teenage kids, is constantly put down by her mother. One session she says “My mother is so mean to me. She tells me what a terrible mother I am to my kids. She tells me that I am fat, and ugly and I am lucky that my husband is still married to me.” The next session, the next day, she states “I feel so close to my mom. I am so lucky to have her in my life. I talk to her every day and I am fortunate.” As the Etch-A-Sketch image has made the news, I begin to imagine the process. Nilu’s painful relationship with her mom is evident by her need to constantly erase each experience so that she can believe she has a good support system. Her dissociation, her forgetting, from one day to the next is a coping mechanism that speaks to the pain of her relationship with her mom. This dissociation also speaks to the fragmented nature of her personality; a need to divide each event into forgettable parts in order to cope from minute to minute or from hour to hour. The integration of the meanness of her mother with the notion that this is the woman who raised her threatens the integrity of her sense of self. Seeing Nilu frequently, helps me help her see how she is fragmented in her thinking leading to dissociation and magical thinking. The Etch-A-Sketch brain implies deep psychological pain. Our work is challenging and deep, but the alternative would mean that Nilu continue to be a shell of human; one who cannot make decisions for herself. One who is dependent on her mother’s approval for every left and right turn in her life. The more permanent her memories can be, the more Nilu can begin to develop her own sense or herself. I hope to move her from an Etch-A-Sketch brain to a three-dimensional sculpture brain-one with depth and facets.

Posted in Psychoanalysis, Psychotherapy | 6 Comments »

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