Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Downstream

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on May 31, 2012

Laurie, twenty-seven, makes decisions which at first glance seems questionable, but the effects are most pronounced “downstream,” as I see it. She dates men who ultimately disappoint her, but initially give her excitement and hope. If she thought more long-term she would imagine the pain and suffering she is subjecting herself to, but instead, she thinks in the moment and she cherishes the happiness that the initial enthusiasm of a possible new relationship brings her. “It is really hard to take your imagination downwards to see how you might feel a few months from now,” I say, trying to help her see that decisions made now have an effect on her mood in a few months. She begins to get upset with me. “You just don’t want me to be happy. I really enjoy the moment and you want to take that away from me,” Laurie says with intense feeling and hurt. “You know that I don’t want to take any happiness away from you. You also know that I am trying to forecast your moods in the future and we can do that by examining the decisions you are making today.” I say, pointing out to her that on a deeper level she understands that I am trying to help her, but in the moment of our session she is feeling frustrated and perplexed by my challenging her about who she is choosing to date. “Looking downstream can be very important,” I say, helping her to live in the present and the future at the same time. “I guess,” she says, with reluctant agreement.

4 Responses to “Downstream”

  1. Mimi said

    But the future could bring surprises!! Disappointment doesn’t have to be a given, right?

    • Shirah said

      Hi Mimi,
      Yes and no. Certain red flags need to be attended to. Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. People can modify their behavior through the love of a relationship, but at the same time, certain traits do not change that much. There are no hard and fast rules, but in the extremes, one has greater certainty about what the future has in store. Thanks for chiming in.

  2. Shelly said

    Does Laurie continuously date a certain type of man such that she always end up hurt in the end? How does she know that each relationship will end in failure until she gets to know each man more intimately along the way? What I mean is, how does one know that one is choosing the wrong type of person before one gets to know him or her better? Everyone is generally on his or her best behavior when people first meet; it is not until one has dated a significant amount of time before the truth will out.

    • Shirah said

      Hi Shelly,
      It is not that Laurie always dates the “same” person, but rather the initial excitement of meeting a new person overshadows her judgment about how she anticipates the relationship will play out over time. There is no doubt that one has to take time to get to know someone before making conclusions about whether he/she is a good fit. At the same time, certain features of a person are clear indicators that there is trouble ahead. For example, some people need other people to be very intellectually stimulating, such that if this is absent, there is no way that the other person can grow to become more intellectual, if that is not how they are wired. To ignore the need for intellectual stimulation can set one up for disappointment and depression downstream. So yes, time yields a lot of information, but at the same time, the intial impression is also rich with needed data to decide whether to move forward. The excitement of a possible new relationship should not cloud the need to think clearly about what one feels are essential components to a good relationship. Thanks, as always.

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