Posted by Dr. Vollmer on January 22, 2014
Fearing one’s brain is the root of resistance. Patients, generally speaking, are afraid to speak freely, for fear of what they might say, despite the fact that the consultation room is private and safe from outside forces. This fear, this resistance, to some therapists is the frustration in psychotherapy, but to psychoanalysts, this resistance is the meat of the relationship. Gloria, for example, had a counting obsession. Whenever she was unsettled, she would begin to count by threes in her head. As we explored her self-imposed mandate to count, we discovered that counting distracted her from exploring the cause of her anxiety. She was afraid to think about what she was thinking. The intrigue in fearing one’s own mental processes is gripping, in that the mental state is not scary, but rather the reaction to the mental landscape can be frightful. Her counting, in Freud’s words, was the way she inhibited free association. “I always dream about getting to my desk, and not knowing what I should be doing,” Gloria says, expanding Freud’s ideas that what might be scary to relay as a thought, becomes safe to relay as a dream. “It was just a dream,” is a frequent quip to explore the deep recesses of the mind, without admitting to full ownership. Like tone, a dream is a back road into some deeper, more obscure spaces, of the mind. If Gloria could trust that whatever her mind served up, she could manage, then she might feel more relaxed and open to new and interesting experiences. Instead, at the moment, Gloria relapses into counting, so as to maintain a mental tightness of control and rigidity. She has mixed feelings about this controlled existence, so she hopes and fears that she can let go, that she can allow herself her own imagination.