Posted by Dr. Vollmer on January 2, 2014
2014 is here and I am not sure if I want to reflect, look forward, or both. As a psychiatrist/psychoanalyst, I encourage reflection as a way to deepen the process of looking forward. As a person, I think about New Year’s resolutions and the passing of time, with both hope and dread about my past decisions. Perhaps it is my mid-life experience which both gives me a lot to look back on, and hopefully, years to plan for. I am struck that markers of time, be it a change in the calendar year, a birthday, or an anniversary, sometimes, but not always, jolt me into a reverie of wonder.
Today, I think about returning to my postings and whether I want to change course, and/or continue on my current path of free associating about fictional patients, the state of health care, psychiatry in transition, or the struggle and pleasure of relationships. I wonder about narrowing my focus to one of the above topics so that I can go deeper. “Writing is a muscle” I tell my 20 year old female patient, Izzy, as I think about Izzy and my blog at the same time. Like scales on a piano, one needs to keep the exercise going so that the words flow in ways which strive to be poetic. “Write for yourself and see what happens,” I say to Izzy, again, giving a directive which makes so much sense to me.
I write to express my ideas, to release tension, to connect with my readers and to explore new ways of using words. The narcissism is clear. I write to impress myself, and if others happen to gain from the experience, I am even more pleased. As with all self-inflicted activities, I get joy and pain from these postings. I am sometimes thrilled with my ideas and the expression of them, and, at other times, disappointed with myself for not expressing my ideas more clearly. Like eating habits, or exercise, the discipline of writing Monday to Friday, creates both a sense of accomplishment and constriction. How would my life be different if I gave up my blog? I ask myself. Would I suddenly have more time and a greater sense of freedom? Or, would I miss the routine of forcing myself to think about something that feels meaningful to me? Or, of course, both?
To my great surprise, I now have an added question. How much will my readers be disappointed if I stopped posting, and should I care about that? Do I owe my readers daily musings, or, as I started out, this is a selfish act and all responses are merely peripheral to my goal of self-expression? To that, my answer has become clear to me. I do have a responsibility to my readers; a responsibility that I created, but now that I post, I must take the prospect of quitting seriously. My narrative that my blog is my “play space” is now only partly true. It is also true, as I have been told, that some folks look forward to my ideas, and hence I do need to keep that in mind. These posts are not just a platform for my ideas, but they are also a substrate for chemical reactions generated by my readers. The internet has taught me a deep lesson, in terms of the world of reflection. I have come to see that the community surrounding my blog, is, in fact, a community. As such, I give and I receive and I must take both sides into consideration. I have chosen to publicize my ideas and not write in a journal. In so doing, I have entered into a contract with my audience. I write, they read, and sometimes they comment. This is all done in a respectful manner, and for the most part, we are all having fun. Still, it is work too, and as such, I accept that. Stay tuned.