Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Listening To A Story

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on October 21, 2013

Most Wanted / Snap Judgment, "Walk in My Shoes"

This podcast speaks to the value of psychotherapy. “You showed me love,” Richard, the deceased criminal tells the chaplain who visited him one on one, every week. This is the love of listening, of hearing the pain, the suffering, the loneliness, and the fear. Richard was a man, it seems to me, who wanted to be known, and he made that happen, in the last chapter of his life. I know he was a hardened criminal, who was sentenced to life in prison, but at the same time, he was a young man who realized what he did not get, and so  he lived in fantasy, dreaming of a life he could have, as he invaded homes. As he suggests, the intrusion, gave him a substrate, in which to imagine another life; a life so different than what he had. A life, where he had stability, and consistency. He speaks to going into a home, sitting in a living room, and using his thoughts to bring himself away from his past of being cast about in the world, at an age, too young, for him to cope on his own. This is a sad and happy story. Richard found love, at the end of his short life, through a chaplain, who experienced love, in return. This brief relationship illustrates the power of connection; the power of one human to connect to another, and thereby bring, for a moment, a sense of meaning to both parties. I am moved.


After writing this, I saw this comment posted on the internet….by Lisa1122 “I was so touched by Chris’ account of Richard and his life story. It brought tears to my eyes and I thought – this is the reason that I do therapy! To validate those stories that are less than perfect, often times tragic. I believe they were both enriched by the time they shared together. Thanks for the great story.”

2 Responses to “Listening To A Story”

  1. Shelly said

    I agree that sometimes, people seek simple understanding and a human connection. However, I believe the task is to derive meaning from our actions and to show that we have lived. In your post, I realize that in Richard’s needs are far different than the usual therapy and therefore he truly needs a confidante and friend. What do you think?

    • I don’t think Richard is different than the rest of us, only more articulate than most. The part where he talks about his fantasy life as he illegally enters a home, to me, was the most fascinating. Yes, different folks have a different level of need for an “audience” and Richard was fortunate to find a good listener. I do not see it as a simple understanding and human connection, rather, I see that Richard felt loved and he said so. To that, he spoke about the universality of human experience. Thanks.

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