Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Looking Ahead

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.

11 Responses to “Looking Ahead”

  1. Jon said

    Welcome back Shirah.

    As one of your readers who does occasionally comment on you posting, I am more than glad that you are posting again. I do find your musings insightful, entertaining, and instructive.

    In this post you write of both looking forward and looking backward. My mind meanders to the Roman god Janus, a god of transitions. As such, he is normally represented as having two faces. This gives rise to the non-flattering term Janus-faced, meaning hypocritical or deceitful. However, I am most glad that you are (in keeping with your nature) able to be Janus without being Janus-faced.

    Keep up the good work. We, your readers, look forward to what your new posting might be, as we look back on what we have learned.

  2. Shelly said

    Shirah, I can see that writing an on-line blog is time-consuming and difficult, at times. It is an obligation and stretches your imagination and sometimes can be a chore. You have to walk a fine line all the time and that can make it very, very difficult. But I also know that one of your goals in life is to be a patient advocate and teacher. In my mind, an on-line blog is a wonderful tool. You can reach people all over the world in this manner, whereas as a professor, you can only reach your students and patients in a local area. I know that you have changed the way that I have looked at life in the years that you have started this blog, and I am sure that for others who religiously follow your blog, that is true for them too. But of course, I always say, follow your heart. If writing a blog ever stops being fun or good for you, if it is too time-consuming or causes conflicts, then stop. Your readership will understand.

    • Thanks, Shelly. Short-term pain for long-term gain, comes to mind. The evaluation of this blog, like all of life’s decisions, are complicated by the dimension of time. Thanks.

  3. Ellen said

    I would miss your blog. But in the end, writing or not is up to you – you don’t owe us a blog. But still, hope you do decide to keep it up. Happy New Year!

  4. mimi lind said

    i hope you continue shirah!!! maybe the compromise would be to write fewer blogs? i don’t think you have any obligation but many of us look forward to it – feel connected to it and really learn a lot! thank you for all of your work so far and happy new year! mimi

  5. Eleanor said

    Shirah I think your blog helps elevate the profession of psychiatry and most particularly psychoanalytic psychiatry to approach equal footing with the rest of our medical establishment…something that is sorely needed in this quick fix fast paced world of ours. Well known psychoanalyst Glen Gabbard M.D. has referred to psychiatry as a “beleaguered specialty” and that viewpoint has also been my experience in my nearly 50 years living in the world of medicine and having seen it from many many varied viewpoints and angles. Psychiatry and again, especially psychodynamic psychiatry, has been made fun of, joked about, insurance companies need “proof” (lab work, MRI’s, whatever….), and patients are now referred to using the more corporate term, “clients”.

    Hope you keep up your blog as I think it helps clarify to folks the importance of and the skill needed in the practice of psychiatry and psychoanalysis. Thank you.

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