Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for November 21st, 2013

“Spice It Up”

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on November 21, 2013

Marty, sixty-two, retired, has a routine which he has adhered to for the last ten years. On Mondays, he plays bridge. On Tuesdays, he plays scrabble. On Wednesdays, he bikes with a senior pack. On Thursdays, he visits his elderly mom and on Fridays he spends the day with his wife of forty years. Marty says he like his life, but at the same time, he is dissatisfied in ways which feels vague to him, but he still wanted “to explore this uncomfortable feeling.” “Maybe you need to spice it up,” I say, wondering if his routine serves as an obsessional or rigid way of not exploring new avenues of interest. “Routines are great, but like everything else, there is a need for moderation. Too much of a routine can feel confining, whereas too little of a routine can feel unsettling and confusing.” I say, wondering aloud if whether his regimented life has put him into a nice, and sometimes enjoyable, prison. Repetition, although comforting at times, at other times, can feel dull and almost lifeless. “Routines are good to have and they are good to break,” I say, thinking about how hard it can be to fluidly go from knowing what to do every day to wondering about how to have new experiences and new forms of mastery. “Like a long marriage, there is both the possibility of ¬†comfort and boredom, if you are not mindful to continually challenge your relationship.” I say, pushing the point, even further. “I am confused,” Marty says in protest. “I like my life. I am healthy. I am retired. I do what I want. I have nice friends. There is nothing wrong with my life.” He says firmly and definitively. I look at him, and without words, convey the question of, well then, why are we having this discussion? His quick disavowal of dissatisfaction appears to be fear that he could fall into mild, moderate or severe despair about uncomfortable feelings like boredom and monotony. He opens the conversation, but then quickly shuts it down, as unpleasant feelings seem to hit the surface. We do our dance such that the to and fro motion becomes obvious to both of us. “What did you mean by spice?” Marty returns to his dilemma. “I think you know what I mean, but you did not want to go there,” I said, “at least not right now.”

Posted in Psychotherapy | 7 Comments »

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