Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Slippery Attachment

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on June 13, 2012

Sherry, fifty-three, says “if I am gone for three sessions, I think you will forget about me.” Stunned, I look at her. “I know we have worked together for seven years and I know that I have never missed an appointment, but I still think that if I did not come, you would no longer think about me.” “You really feel that our attachment is that slippery,” I say, amazed on the one hand, but aware that her primary attachments to her early caretakers were unstable and this is a likely explanation for how she feels about our relationship. “Yes, I do,” she responds with a seriousness and a sadness which makes me feel for her. I think about what it must be like to  feel that our relationship could evaporate almost instantaneously. I am aware that the world must feel so scary if all attachments seem so fragile. Suddenly, I think of her anxiety in a new way. I see that she is unable to create a safety network of relationships because she has no faith in their stability. Her introverted nature, and her poor treatment of her friendships now begins to make sense to me. One has to have a belief that friendships, that connections, are vital to well-being, in order to preserve and nurture relationships. Our work together gives her hope that maybe, just maybe, I will give her a foundation in which to believe that relationships can be stable, fulfilling and growth-promoting. Sometimes Sherry believes this and sometimes she does not. The wave of trust floats in and out of our relationship-right now, but hopefully not forever.

2 Responses to “Slippery Attachment”

  1. Shelly said

    The difference between your relationship with Sherry and a friendship that builds naturally is great. You know Sherry intimately, far better than anyone can ever hope to know her. She is free to express with you things that others would judge her for. She is right to fear the loss of this special relationship when your therapy ends. You have something special. Not every therapist puts as much thought into thir patients as you do, I feel.

    • Thanks, Shelly. The fear of loss of important relationships manifests in so many ways. For Sherry, the fear comes in the form of not trusting that the relationship will persist. That trust that relationships still exist, even without daily or even weekly contact, can be a challenge. She highlights the challenge of maintaining a good feeling without it being dominated by a fear of loss. Thanks again.

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