Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Wishful Talking

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on April 27, 2012

“I am going to move to the Bay Area,” Noah, age sixty-two, has been saying for at least forty years. My sense is that Noah is saying “I wish that I had the courage to move to the Bay Area because I would be happier there.” He makes a declarative statement, when his behavior suggests that he wishes he could, but something, likely his fears, prevent him. When faced with this contradiction, Noah maintains that one day he will move up there, as if the fact that he has been saying this for many decades without taking action, makes sense. Noah, in this moment, is unable to appreciate that he is talking in wishes, and at the same time, paralyzed by fear.

Clarissa, forty-nine, Noah’s platonic friend, experiences exasperation every time Noah talks about moving. Clarissa fails to see that Noah is speaking in wishes, so she gets angry with him for what she calls “speaking nonsense.” “What if you thought of his statement as a wish?” I pose to her. “Well, are you saying that I need to remind myself that this is a wish, so that I don’t feel so violent towards him?” Clarissa asks. “Yes, understanding that people sometimes speak from their deep unconscious processes without any awareness that they are doing that. The Freudian slip is the prime example of such a phenomena.” I say, highlighting the idea that from time to time, we all reveal our underlying dynamics. The issue with Noah is that he reveals the inner workings of his mind to others, but he does not take stock of that for himself. In essence, his insight into himself  is limited and that disturbs Clarissa. “Talking in wishes. You should blog about that,” Clarissa says. So, I did.

6 Responses to “Wishful Talking”

  1. Jon said

    “Talking in wishes” is a wonderful expression for expressing subconscious desires. Well said.

    Let us consider Noah’s four decade desire and inaction. Perhaps it is the case that while Noah feels a geographic move would make him happier, he understands down deep that his unhappiness is not truly geographically based. It may be the case that Noah is saying “I would like to be happier,” but his actions are saying, “I really don’t know how to achieve this goal.”

    • Shirah said

      Hi Jon,
      That is a very interesting notion and it makes me think more deeply about Noah’s internal world. Thanks.

  2. Shelly said

    Like someone who spends an enormous amount of time and energy on a resume but absolutely none on sending it out, it sounds to me like Noah has absolutely no idea how to make his dream into a reality. Perhaps some concrete guidance and forward thinking might help both him and CLarissa move forward.

    • Thanks, Shelly. Noah is stuck. That is true. It is not that he does not know how to make his dream into a reality, it is that he is scared to do it. He is deeply conflicted, but his words do not convey his internal turmoil, so no one understands where he is coming from. Concrete guidance might be helpful, but the problem is more internal than external, meaning that he is at war with himself and he has to find a way to compromise with himself. His first task is to get in touch with this inner conflict so he can let people close to him understand him better. Maybe through the understanding of close friends he can move forward. Thanks Again.

  3. Sunflower said

    Wow, this post was unexpected and much appreciated. Helps me be a little gentler with myself for my own never-yet-executed plans. Hopefully, my psychoanalyst is also prone to think of these notions of mine as “part of my unconscious process,” rather than a bunch of outright lies I’m telling myself (“I want to paint a series of pictures,” for which I buy paint supplies but never actually utilize. “I am going to start running again,” at which point I join a gym and only go 5 times before choosing cocktail hour with friends as my favorite activity….)

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