Posted by Dr. Vollmer on October 10, 2013
Minh, sixty-three year old man, talks to me, hoping that I will be proud of his activities. His tone and presentation invites me to say things like “wow, that is really great.” This tug to praise him makes me wonder if Minh is hoping that I can mother him in a way that speaks to his need to be taken care of. Minh is single, lonely and often distant from his feelings. He is not aware of his need for nurturing, but that is the feeling in the room. This unconscious expression of a need for maternal concern will be a deep part of our work, but not now, since in this phase of his treatment he would quickly dismiss this notion. Minh is almost always excited to see me, and enthusiastically chronicles his life over the past week. He is not interested in looking at how he makes decisions or what motivates him to pursue his interests, but he lights up when he tells me about his new adventures and his acquaintances. The process of going deeper is blocked by his stiff silence and his quick disavowal of the meaning of his various activities. Right now, we are engaged in his sharing, and me admiring his accomplishments. The understanding of transference aids in giving me the patience to see this dynamic as his communication that he needs someone to watch out for him. As time goes on, he will come to see this need and then search for a relationship that partially fulfills that, along with being able to nurture himself. Once again, time and thought and patience are critical to his treatment.