Intensely Exciting And Extremely Dangerous
Posted by Dr. Vollmer on January 15, 2014
Athletic thrills, jumping out of airplanes, having an illicit affair, all share the combination of excitement and danger leading to a bind of push/pull. Both the danger and the excitement add up to what might feel like an “addiction” in that although the person might feel they are making for themselves a difficult existence, at the same time, they are unwilling to change course. This contradiction is the human dilemma of wanting and not wanting at the same time. Ki, forty-two, female, comes to mind. She has been married for twenty years and she has had an affair with her high school boyfriend for the last ten years. She feels guilty and excited, at the same time. Her husband may or may not know, but he has never confronted her. She has no desire to break up with either her husband or her lover, and yet she feels uncomfortable in her “skin” and she cannot seem to find a relaxed position in her life. At the same time, she thrives on the excitement of her secret life, and she feels her life would be dull and empty without that. She comes to therapy to find comfort, but at the same time, she adamantly refuses to consider another way to be in the world. This ambivalence, like so much of my work, is the struggle that we engage in, each time going deeper into her mixed and intense feelings. Giving up excitement might make her feel less guilty, but she fears monotony. Maintaining her lifestyle feels wrong and uncomfortable. If her husband finds out, she would be massively unhappy as she does not want to marry her lover. If her lover were to leave her, she would feel bereft. Her life feels confusing and, at the same time, better than she ever imagined. At times, she feels she has the best of both worlds. As we explore her many feelings, we uncover a childhood that was equally confusing. Her mother was devoted, but at times self-centered and not there for her, leading her hesitant to trust only one person, she explains to me. Having two people in her life is her form of emotional insurance. If one man lets her down, she turns to the other one. She does this at the expense of a more intimate relationship, but to Ki, this contract seems right, at least it has for the last ten years. Understanding Ki’s push and pull towards her relationships is our work. Excitement and danger often go together because it is the danger that creates the excitement. Without the threat of catastrophe, the thrill would diminish. As Ki matures, she is reconsidering her drive towards such “excitement”. As we explore her mind, we will see where she settles. Therapy gives her the opportunity to transition to a different “contract” with her partners. Stay tuned.