Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

The Worried Well

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on January 14, 2014

Is Carla, as described in this post,  https://shirahvollmermd.wordpress.com/2014/01/13/a-bad-day/, the worried well, as one reader privately suggests? Internal bristling was my immediate reaction. “There is no such thing as the worried well,” I wanted to shout. “If someone is worried, they are not well,” a mantra, familiar to my  hundreds of students. Yes, her dog peed in the living room and she felt persecuted. Yes, to another person, this event would  be unremarkable. Exploring why this experience changed Clara is the heart of psychic exploration. On the surface there are immediate reactions, but what happens beneath that for her? Accepting that each of us imbue meaning to our lives allows us to develop intimate relationships with others. To judge one’s inner experience is to create inhibition and secrecy in the other, as no one is comfortable with harsh judgment. Psychotherapy does not just allow Carla to understand her own mind, it allows her to tolerate other minds, as well. From surface to depth is the psychotherapeutic work. The worried have a well of feelings, open for exploration and discovery. To my private reader, I respectfully disagree.

3 Responses to “The Worried Well”

  1. Shelly said

    Shirah, perhaps I am not understanding you, but doesn’t everyone worry about something? How is Carla’s experience any different than anyone else’s? Does your reader who responded privately imply that anyone who worries is not well? He/she is entitled to their opinion, are they not? I agree with you that imbuing meaning to our lives allows us to develop intimate relationships with others; we are normally drawn to people who imbue the same meaning to the same things–these people we call our friends. The autistic person, for example, deeply feels things, but has his/her own way of seeing things and cannot express these things to others. In that way, he/she is stilted and has difficulty developing relationships because he/she cannot share his feelings with other people. Your job, as I see it, is to help Carla understand her worries and to come to accept them so that she can act (or not).

    • I am not sure that everyone has worries, but the issue is the depth of their worries, and how much these worries interfere with enjoying life. The issue that I hoped to highlight here is that Carla, for example, would be ashamed to admit that her dog peeing in her house, caused such distress, as she knows that friends and family might see her as superficial and lacking perspective, but at the same time, this was a very distressing event for her. Once there is understanding of how Carla experienced the dog’s soiling, then there is compassion for her distress, but without the patience to try to understand what this means to Carla, one can be harsh and judgmental about her reaction. I agree with you completely that shared meaning is the basis for intimacy, and as such, autistic folks have a hard time sharing meaning with others. I agree with your interpretation of my job with Carla, but I would also add that my job is also to demonstrate that those close and caring of Carla can hear about her distress, thereby giving her a new expectation of relationships. If Carla insisted that her distress was just about her dog, then it would be hard to feel compassion, but as she related it to her previous experiences in life, feeling for Carla becomes linear. Thanks.

  2. Hey there! I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and finally got the
    courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Porter Texas!
    Just wanted to tell you keep up the great work!

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