Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

The Psychiatrist Seeks A Consultation

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on March 28, 2013

Monte, the middle-age psychiatrist, continues to seek Marla, the elderly psychiatrist for consultation about his work. In so doing he presents his therapeutic dilemmas and Marla sheds her words of wisdom. Sometimes the “session” goes smoothly, and other times, as previously reported in this blog, Monte and Marla get entangled in personal issues which leaves Monte feeling disappointed that Marla, although sometimes wise, is not always a good mentor, meaning that she does not always seem to want Monte to succeed professionally. This is manifested by Marla giving helpful work opportunities to other psychiatrists. Monte comes to me, wondering about how to handle Marla. “Variable reinforcement is really tough, since sometimes you get a lot out of her, and sometimes you feel that she does not have your back. It must be hard to weigh these competing feelings.” I say, outlining the equation where Monte has to come up with a summation of his relationship with Marla in order to decide whether to continue to see her. Like all relationship dilemmas, the challenge lies in trying to weigh the good with the bad, given that different times yield different experiences, and given that the twenty-five year history with one another cannot be duplicated. The length of their drama speaks to the depth of the good and the bad. I hope Monte can navigate his way through to find peace with that relationship. A deeper consciousness about their dynamics will help him. In that, I can be helpful.

11 Responses to “The Psychiatrist Seeks A Consultation”

  1. Ashana M said

    I think sometimes we remain trapped in relationships such as these because we so badly want certain fundamental truths not to be true. Sometimes, our hesitation has very little to do with the positive aspects we find ourselves weighing instead in order to continue to avoid pondering that unpleasant truth.

    We want people to have our backs who simply don’t. And we give them an almost endless number of chances to try again in hopes of that one time they will prove we were right all along. It’s all the more confusing, because people who don’t have our backs usually lie and tell us that they do.

    It is so difficult to accept that some people don’t have our best interests at heart and some people lie. We think we are wrestling with a relationship, but we may really be wrestling with an idea.

    Because often we don’t want to face that truth because if it is true that some people don’t have our best interests at heart and some people lie, then there is someone else important in the past that didn’t have our best interest at heart and lied about it, and we don’t want that to be true either. But acceptance, as it turns out, is easier than continuing to wrestle.

    • Thanks, Ashana. The relationship “trap” is the point of my Monte/Marla saga, but I am not sure that I agree that his hesitation does not have to do with positive aspects of the relationship. I think all “traps” are a result of both living in wishes, and actually getting nurturance in the relationship, at times, but not consistently. It is this weaving of fantasy and reality which can cause relationships to continue well past the time in which an outsider can see that the dynamics are more destructive, than constructive.The Monte/Marla drama highlights that these complicated relationships do not always involve a physical romance, in that the emotional dance is just, if not more, powerful. Thanks again.

      • Ashana M said

        What interests me most about this particular exchange of ours is the difference in our degrees of certainty. I repeatedly say “sometimes”–meaning, perhaps not in this case. You mention “all” as if all similar-sounding situations are the same. You are certain. I am not.

        The need for certainty is what I speculated about as the root cause for Monte’s continued engagement with Marla, but how our respective relationships to certainty play out in our exchange is intriguing as well. It says, I think, interesting things about both of us as much as about the vignette.

        Certainty is a very interesting thing.

        • Shirah Vollmer said

          I am not sure if there is a difference in our thinking or a difference in our writing. In general, I don’t feel the certainty, but perhaps I write as if I do. This discrepancy between how one writes and how one thinks is a subject that is particularly interesting to me at the moment. Thanks.

          • Ashana M said

            What do you mean?

            • Writing is a revision of thinking, and as such there is not always a one to one correlation between the two.

            • Ashana M said

              Why do you say it’s a revision of thinking?

            • Because thinking and writing are two different experiences. In putting down words, one wants to sound a certain way, which may be very different than how one sounds when one speaks.

            • Ashana M said

              When I put down words it is, in fact, because I want to know more precisely what I do think. I also want to make sure I am able to communicate that in the most accurate way possible. I think I write for the reason most people who enjoy writing do it.

              I suppose some people focus more on the impression they are making and less on actually communicating, but they probably aren’t very interesting to read.

  2. Shelly said

    Does Monte feel betrayed because Marla “gives helpful work opportunities to other psychiatrists” instead of him? In other words, other people get the referrals? Is there a competition between the two, and that’s why he feels betrayed? If so, why does he continue to see her on a professional basis? Marla could never be unbiased. She knows all his weaknesses couldn’t mindfully send referrals his way. On the other hand, if Monte really wants Marla’s professional opinion, then why does he expect her to still send him referrals?

    • Yes, Shelly, you bring out another complication to this dynamic duo, that I have called “Monte/Marla”. To be a professional requires a certain competence, while at the same time, humility is necessary to grow. One hopes that there is a safe harbor in which growth can occur. However, finding that safe harbor, like finding a good romantic relationship brings out one’s past of what a “safe harbor” means. Monte, like so many of us, confuses safety with intelligence, perceptiveness and reliability, such that Marla seemed like a “safe harbor,” but with time, Monte grew to appreciate that he miscalculated.This miscalculation was based on his prior experiences of not understanding “safety”. Again, like having had a destructive romantic relationship, Monte comes to me to dissect and understand his poor judgment with regards to Marla.
      It is not so much the issue of referrals that Monte is focused on, but rather the issue of leadership opportunities within organizations. Referrals, as you suggest, has many more layers. Thanks again.

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