Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

‘Bodies By The Side Of The Road’

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on June 12, 2012

“Bodies by the side of the road,” I say to Rosie, twenty-five, describing the image I have as she describes her constant rejection of men who are interested in her. “Wow, that is a powerful thing to think about. I don’t see it that way. I just have not found the right person.” Rosie says in a way that makes me think that she is being defensive. Her fear of intimacy feels palpable to me. Everyone she dates is flawed in some major way, but as we discuss, each potential partner begins idealized and over time, the almost inevitable disappointment sets in. “Maybe we need to think about how that happens that you go from excitement to disappointment in about four dates.” I say, trying to tread lightly over this very sensitive subject. “I try to keep an open mind but then my needs are not met and then I can’t stand it any longer.” Rosie says, again pushing away a sense of internal disappointment and thereby projecting the upset outwards. “Maybe the trajectory of your dating reflects an internal process which feels insatiable in some way.” I say, again moving the discussion from outer forces to inner forces. “Well, maybe,” Rosie says reluctantly, “but I think I have just not found the right person.” “Maybe when you feel you are the right person, then you can find the right person,” I say, trying again to help her see that the ‘wrong person’ may be a projection of how she feels about herself. “I hope there are not too many more bodies,” I say, maintaining the imagery of the pain of her chronic rejection of potential mates. “I don’t feel that bad,” Rosie insists. “And yet, I have a wounded feeling,” I say,  explaining that perhaps I carry the upset for her. “Interpersonal dynamics are very interesting. Maybe I am feeling something from you, and yet you don’t feel it.” I explain a concept of projective identification, pioneered by Melanie Klein. “Maybe,” Rosie says as she leaves confused.

6 Responses to “‘Bodies By The Side Of The Road’”

  1. Jon said

    By your description, Rosie seems to embody the old adage, “You can’t love someone else until you love yourself.” From what I understand, Melanie Klein championed (among others) object relations theory stating that the way one relates to people as an adult world was determined by the way we experienced our parents when we were infants. You refer to Melanie Klein’s defining projective identification which is a process where parts of the ego are understood as superimposed into another person who is then becomes identified with that which has been projected.

    The mind is a complicated beast. Whatever the cause, the old adage seems to be a driver in helping Rosie shed the syndrome of “bodies by the side of the road.”

    • Yes, Jon, I agree that the old adage has stuck around all of these years because it rings so true. The manifestation of this adage for Rosie is that she plays out her self hatred through her relationships, yet others, play out their self hatred through addictions. Not loving oneself comes in many flavors. Melanie Klein’s contributions help us to understand that other people can create feelings inside of us which represent the other’s internal world. Understanding another sometimes mandates an awareness of one’s own feeling state in a given moment. The influence of early childhood is important to Melanie Klein, but I value more her idea that interpersonal interactions yield a lot of information about the inner workings of both people in the room. Thanks, as always.

  2. Shelly said

    What makes you think that Rosie is wounded? Is she able to articulate what needs she feels are not bring met by each of her men, and the reasons for rejecting each of them? Perhaps she is one of those women who enjoy the chase but once they obtain the prize, discover that it was more fun chasing? What makes you feel that she isn’t yet “the right person” and therefore hasn’t found the “right one?”

    • I think Rosie suffers from a very painful and deep kind of loneliness where she cannot settle into sharing her life with someone for fear that they will find fault with her and then she will not be able to cope with that kind of criticism. She protects herself from this deep wound by pushing people away for an infinite number of “reasons”. I know this sense of Rosie may not come through in this post, so I need to find words to convey this feeling. Thanks, as always.

  3. buddercup said

    The concept of ‘projective identification’ is fascinating, and helps me understand a long term problem I’ve had. Thank you!

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