Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Case Closed

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on May 10, 2012

“Case closed” I say to Barbara,  sixty-four, who is struggling with issues surrounding her relationship with her ninety-six year old mother. “How much evidence do you need to understand that your relationship with her has caused you tremendous distress?” I say, trying to demonstrate that after all these years she is still hoping her mother will change in such a way that her mother will show appreciation and admiration for Barbara. “You mean she will never be the mother that I think she should have been?” Barbara responds with some understanding, but also some disbelief that it is not too late to keep trying to achieve motherly love. “I think you need to come to see the kind of person she is, independent of you, and in so doing, you will come to see how she was not, and is not,  able to give you the attention that you felt you needed.” I say, reviewing the sadness of a life lived in search of a kind of affection that will never happen. “Case closed,” Barbara repeats with a touch of sarcasm and wonder as to how I can be so certain. “When do you let it go?” I say, again reminding her of how many times she has tried and failed to feel “whole” with regards to her mom. “That is a good question,” Barbara responds, “but I am not sure the case is closed.”

2 Responses to “Case Closed”

  1. Shely said

    I think it is an important illusiion to Barbara that her mom can change into the loving, kind, giving mother that Barbara has always wished to have and that she could have the relationship with her that she’s always wanted. If not, then it seems that her lifelong dream of having a real mother-daughter relationship would be dead. Is it not you who said that Barbara then will feel that she is not worthy of a mother’s love, which then could spill out into other aspects of her life? Wouldn’t it then be worthwhile for you to keep the illusion alive, so to speak, so that Barbara’s ego remain intact?

    • Shirah said

      Hi Shelly,
      This is, as I often say, the art of psychotherapy. Barbara needs to feel loved and loveable by people who are capable of loving her in a deep way. Eventually, she needs to understand that she is loveable despite her mom’s inadequacies. In essence, she has to de-link her expectations from her mother and her own self image. This, as you know, is a journey wtih many backsteps along the way. The problem with keeping the illusion alive is that Barbara continues to feel disappointment, such that the only way she won’t feel disappointment is that she needs to develop a more realistic picture of her mother. The illusion only helps on an intermittent basis, and Barbara needs to obtain more mental stability in her life. Thanks Again!

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