Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Hurt People, Hurt People

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on March 27, 2012

Wounded adults become wounded parents who then wound their children and the intergenerational transmission of trauma continues. Psychotherapy hopes to interrupt this pattern and thereby not only help the patient, but future generations to come. Leah, thirty-seven, has a thirteen-year old daughter Sophie, and no husband. Leah is divorced, but her daughter is the product of artificial insemination which occurred after her break-up with her husband. Leah constantly “worries” about Sophie in the same way that Leah’s mom hovered over Leah. Leah understands this, but she feels she can’t help herself. She comes to me with the hope that she will be a better parent than her mom, along with the hope that she will feel more relaxed around Sophie. Together, over many years, Leah and I explore her identification with her mom, along with her inability to separate from her. We also explore Leah’s relationship with me, and particularly how Leah has unconsciously assumed that I am judging and evaluating Leah in the same way that her mom has over the years. “OK, to get psychoanalytic about this,” Leah says, “I think I have always thought of you as my mom and I have always thought that you were judging everything about me: my clothes, my hair, my interpersonal skills. It is only recently that I have come to see that I am assuming that, and that maybe that is not true.” Leah explains to me with a sense of contentment that I rarely see her exhibit. I sit there listening attentively, but feeling no need to respond, as Leah has taken over the work of our psychotherapy/psychoanalysis. She has begun to develop an observing ego such that she can appreciate how her dynamics, her assumptions about other people,  are getting in the way of enjoying her life. “Hurt people, hurt people when they do not develop distance from themselves,” I say, reminding Leah that she is beginning to break the chain.

2 Responses to “Hurt People, Hurt People”

  1. Shelly said

    You say, “Hurt people, hurt people when they do not develop distance from themselves.” How do we separate out the emotions from our beings since we live our entire lives in our minds? Developing distance would mean to step outside of ourselves and to see situations as others do, ignoring our own instincts and points of view. Of course we empathize with others but we are composites of our experiences and emotions as well.

    • Hi Shelly,
      I am making an argument for the “observing ego” where there is a part of ourselves that experiences our emotions and there is another part to ourselves which has a more bird’s eye view of our internal dynamics. I think we can develop distance from ourselves and still maintain our instincts and point of view. BOTH are possible. That is the challenge of human existence, as I see it. Thanks, as always.

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