Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Nuclear Fallout

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on November 16, 2012

“You can’t come home for Thanksgiving,” Troy tells his twenty-nine year old daughter, Tina. “I just can’t afford to pay for your trip,” he continues. At first, Tina has no emotional response. She does not feel disappointment, anger or resentment. She knows her dad can afford to pay for her trip and she knows that he is punishing her for not being financially independent. Yet, she accepts that she can’t go home for the holidays, with apparent ease. As time marches on, she is drinking more alcohol, and she is thinking about quitting her job. She has lost motivation for self-care. She is depressed. “Maybe it is related to the conversation with your dad. Maybe this is like nuclear fallout,” I say, highlighting that some interchanges have long-lasting emotional ramifications. “I did not think of that,” Tina says. “I am just thinking about how much I hate my job,” Tina continues. “Maybe you hate your job, particularly right now, because your dad is angry with you that you cannot afford to pay for your own trip home. Maybe this makes you feel like your work is futile,” I say, trying to connect her lack of reaction to her dad’s comment to her sudden wish to self-sabotage. “Yea, I can see that,” Tina says in a soft way. “I have a hard time feeling hurt from my dad, but I am hurt. I can see that now.” Tina says, with some acceptance that her internal world was injured during that conversation with her dad. “Nuclear fallout can last a long time,” I say. “Yea, I don’t want to think about that,” Tina replies with a smile.

2 Responses to “Nuclear Fallout”

  1. Shelly said

    At 29, why can’t Tina be self-sufficient? Why does she still expect that her father would pay for a trip home for Thanksgiving? Whom is she then punishing by quitting her job, herself or Troy? Seems to me she is punishing her father more than herself by his self-fulfilling prophecy: she’s not self-sufficient, so she will do what it takes to show that she is still dependent on him financially.

    • Shirah said

      Tina could be self-sufficient, but she is having trouble transitioning to adulthood. She expects her father to pay for her trip home for Thanksgiving because he has done this every year, and so she had no warning that this year would be different. Her subsequent rage towards her father is turned inward, such that in her mind, she is punishing him by regressing. I think she is punishing herself more than her father, as the trite saying that “living well is the best revenge” applies here. Thanks.

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