Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

A Bad Hugger?

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on July 30, 2013

Celeste, forty-one, opens the session, “Larry told me I was a bad hugger.” I do not know who Larry is.  She has never mentioned him before. Celeste looks perplexed, if not a little hurt. Where do I go from here? Do I ask her about Larry? Do I wait for her to give me more material? Do I ask how she felt when he said this? I opt for waiting, but Celeste does not continue. I am curious about that. It seems as though Celeste feels both bad about herself and hurt by this comment, all at the same time. Her silence seems to suggest a certain uneasiness in talking about this. “I don’t know Larry, but it seems like his statement penetrated you.” I say, opening up a conversation about the meaning of her opening and the meaning of her cryptic speech. She knows that I do not know about Larry. She has given me an appetizer, as I await for the main meal. “Well, of course it is insulting. Wouldn’t you be insulted?” She asks me, in a rather defensive, and not reflecting, tone. “I am curious why this matters to you and what you took it to mean.” I say, trying to encourage some ways to think about her experience. “I felt as if he was saying I was cold, and maybe I am, but what was I supposed to do with that information? I told him I needed lessons, but then he laughed.” Celeste explains how she felt insulted and helpless at the same time. “Were you trying to give him feedback about his comment?” I asked, pointing out that she responded with humor, perhaps in the hope that Larry could understand her helplessness. “What about the fact that you feel you may, in fact, be cold?” I ask, as this came as a surprise to me. “Temperamentally, I may be a cold person. I do not know if it is how I protect myself from getting hurt, but obviously, in this case, it did not work very well,” and then she laughs at her own comment. “Larry is a friend of mine,” she quickly adds, suddenly wanting to orient me to her life and how he fits in. “Maybe not telling me about Larry for the first forty minutes of our session is also a way of protecting yourself.” I say, suggesting that her cryptic beginning stemmed from fear of judgment, both mine and hers. “It is really not such a big deal,” she concludes our session, clearly minimizing her feelings, and wanting to leave with a crust, and not feel so vulnerable. “You tell yourself it is no big deal, when you mean that you wish it were no big deal.” I say, helping her recognize that she is speaking in wishes and not from her internal mental state. “Maybe if I tell myself that, it will be true.” Celeste explains a reason for her defensive comment. She is hoping to seal over the pain. She can see that there are levels of awareness and as our session concludes, she wants to return to a more unconscious, and wishful state. Luckily, I do not have to hug her goodbye.

2 Responses to “A Bad Hugger?”

  1. Shelly said

    This is an interesting blog. Does Celeste withhold Larry’s name throughout the entire session because the “who” is not nearly as important as the “what?” Being told that one is not a good hugger shouldn’t, in reality, be terribly hurtful, unless she took it as a statement of what is wrong with her entire personality, as she did. This caused her to look at herself deeply. Hugging is far different than the sexual act. It nourishes the soul. It is a statement of friendship and says, “I am here for you.” Perhaps Larry was saying to Celeste, “I need you to be here for me more, to give me more support?” This would be a statement as to what type of friend Celeste is, in general, and it certainly would hurt and damage her self-esteem.

    • Very interesting commentary, Shelly. Your thoughts are provoking a lot of thoughts in my head. All of your hypotheses make sense, and suggesting that the need for more context is clear in order to have a deeper understanding of Celeste’s dynamics. Thank you.

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