Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Anxious To Come: Anxious To Leave

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on December 10, 2012

Romy, fifty-three does not sleep well the nights before her therapy sessions, she tells me. She is worried about how our sessions will go. She comes, always on time, settles into a meaningful discussion, and then, after about fifty minutes, with a panic in her voice, she says “so what should I be doing?” Through the years of seeing Romy, she continues to ask this question as the session closes, as if I am going to say something that I have never said before. Instead, as predicted, I say “we need to keep thinking about how you make decisions which trip you up,” knowing that she is looking for a directive and not a meta-analysis of her situation. I understand this panic question at the end as a way in which Romy communicates to me that she is having a hard time transitioning from the security to my office to the uncertainties of her world. Romy’s life is in transition, although as long as I have known her-ten years-her life has been in transition. She has been single, married, divorced, single again and then married again. Through each phase in her life, she has asked me for reassurance that she is making the right decision. Through each of these phases, I have reminded her that decisions come with risk, and so to move forward she has to tolerate the unknown. Yet, despite her need for me to be more directive, Romy is a faithful and reliable patient. Even though she knows that I emphasize the need to be thoughtful and reflective, she still presses me for specifics, is frustrated when I don’t give that to her, and still stays in our treatment. This phenomenon has always intrigued me. Outwardly, she appears dissatisfied with my belief that developing an observing ego is the key to her lifetime happiness. Inwardly, or privately, she appreciates our work and she sticks with it. I imagine that is why she persists in a treatment, which at times, has frustration. Her anxiety in coming and leaving, we both understand, to be her anxiety with herself. She is trying to find inner peace. She believes she will find this as she learns to soften her superego. Yet, the journey is long and hard.

4 Responses to “Anxious To Come: Anxious To Leave”

  1. Jon said

    So, let us look at the “anxious to leave” aspect of Romy’s visits. Her standard question is “so what should I be doing?” Is this really an anxiety about leaving, or a request for an authority figure to set a course of action for her? Consider the second alternative. It would be much easier to accept a definitive directive than to cobble together that plan of action for oneself. Much easier, but definitely the wrong thing to do if Romy wishes to be a self-reliant adult. She seems to understand this as “Inwardly, or privately, she appreciates our work and she sticks with it.” However, she wishes it were easier, but knows that is not the case. Hence, I would guess, anxieties in coming and leaving.

  2. Shelly said

    This blog fascinates me because I can relate well to it. I know someone very well who refuses to make any decisions in life. This person always wants someone else to tell him what to do. He prefers to be led instead of leading. Romy reminds me of him. What causes someone to be like this? I mean, what childhood experiences lead to this? What parenting experiences lead to a child to become an adult who prefers to be a member of the herd? I also ask this because I know most children hesitate making decisions and prefer to be part of the crowd. What can their parents do to encourage them to become firm in their decision-making skills?

    • Passivity is a symptom which needs to be explored further. It could be a personality trait, or, it could be a result of organic impairment, such as dementia. Childhood experiences may or may not be relevant to the experience of passivity. Leadership skills should be encouraged, but not all folks are destined to be leaders. As with all parenting, one must encourage the child to excel in their skill set, but at the same time, recognize the limitations within each individual. Thanks, as always.

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