Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Kaleidoscope Moment

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on June 4, 2013


Claire, twenty-six, has decided to do art which represents a story, like a graphic novel. Ordinarily, she is an abstract painter. For months now, I have been curious about why she is making a major shift in her creative output. Her response to my inquiries have been vague and nonspecific, suggesting either that she is unconscious of her change or she is fearful of sharing her internal process. Suddenly, she tells me about her boyfriend who writes fiction. Instantly, I feel, like a kaleidoscope, that the bits and pieces floating around have instantly made a pattern. Claire has changed her art in order to collaborate with her new love interest. The relationship has pulled her into a new direction. Attachments change people, both internally and externally. I share my thoughts with her, and without much excitement, she says “of course.” I wondered  if the “of course” meant it made sense, or if the “of course” meant that she understood that all along but she had too much shame to say it aloud.  I said “the kaleidoscope moment just happened for me, but I am not sure it happened for you.”  She responded quietly, “let’s just say I don’t feel surprised by what you said,” keeping me in the dark about her internal state. We both relaxed into the moment, feeling close in sharing this insight.

4 Responses to “Kaleidoscope Moment”

  1. Shelly said

    Nobody likes to think that they are so influenced by another that they can entirely change their personalities to fit their significant other. I know someone whose mother’s personality changes to match her husband’s each time she marries. It annoys the children to no end and makes them think that their mother is weak, without a personality of her own. Perhaps your patient is the same: she doesn’t want to be thought of as being defined by the personality (or in this case, the professional interest) of her boyfriend, and therefore didn’t want to admit it to you out loud.

    • Yes, Shelly, I agree. There are some personalities which are prone to folding up one’s tent and moving into the loved one’s tent, without maintaining their own sense of self. One could say that the ego is weak and therefore absorbs the ego of the significant other, suiting the significant other well, particularly when the love object does not feel capable of sharing or compromising. These relationships can work, but as you suggest, the children from these relationships suffer as they do not see two independent people coming together to form a functioning team. Rather, they see a dominant figure who runs the show. If this dominant figure is a mean dictator, then the suffering is immense. If the dominant figure is a benign authoritarian, then there is more hope, but it is still a suboptimal situation. Thanks, as always.

  2. Jon said

    Shirah, you state, “I wondered if the ‘of course’ meant it made sense, or if the ‘of course’ meant that she understood that all along but she had too much shame to say it aloud” to which I can only say, “Yes.”

    • Yes, Jon, in this fictional tale, it was the therapist who had the kaleidoscope moment, not the patient, although this only became clear with time. Thanks.

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