Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Slow Confessions

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on February 13, 2014

“Slow confessions,” I say. Marni says “you should make that the title of your book.” Shocked by her comment, I did not think that this notion was so profound, and yet, in that moment, it hit Marni in a way which meant something to her. She was describing the beginning of her romantic relationship by noting that she and her boyfriend were carefully disclosing their past.  Slow confessions seemed like an obvious way for me to acknowledge that I was listening to her, and yet, she heard it in a way in which she reflected that part of deepening a relationship is saying things with greater and greater amounts of shame, as the trust deepens. Psychotherapy too, is also a process of slow confessions, in that as the relationship moves forward, more tender moments, more shameful moments, are  both experienced and remembered.  Surviving these ‘slow confessions’ creates tremendous relief that the warts, in some magical way, do not destroy the trust, even though the deep fear is that the exposure will be a game changer. The more we wrestle with our past, the more we can be honest about who we are, the more we can connect with others who have done the same. And so why do we argue about the value of psychotherapy? Maybe my book, “Slow Confessions” can put that issue to rest. It is a thought.

6 Responses to “Slow Confessions”

  1. Sunflower said

    Brilliant title!! Please tell me you’re really using it, and that there’s really a book on the way.
    It’s intriguing, too, because I just wrote a blog post today (“Psychoanalytic Seduction: Approach-Avoidance in its Lustier State”) that is very much a slow confession to my own analyst!
    All of this makes me ponder: Could it be that the therapeutic diad is the only relationship in which such slow confessions are not easily deemed to reveal previous “lies by omission?” And that, by contrast, they are welcomed, if not absolutely expected, desired?

    • Oh, Sunflower, you bring up an interesting dilemma about distinguishing lies of omission versus developing a level of trust and safety in which one can disclose painful issues. Lies of omission are more about withholding information which could be helpful. For example, if a man marries a woman but does not tell her about a child from a previous relationship, that would be a lie of omission, as it is reasonable to assume that if he does not speak about a child, then he does not have one. Slow confessions are more about personal feelings which do not impact the other person, but which would be important to share in order to develop a closer bond. I think that in both psychotherapy and in “real relationships” both can happen, and the difference is that the uncovering is either felt as very tender or a betrayal. Thanks for your nice words.

  2. Jon said

    Slow Confessions – an excellent strategy of incipient intimacy, and (I strongly agree with Sunflower) a wonderful title for a book by Shirah Vollmer many of us would love to see in print.

  3. Shelly said

    Shirah, BOOK? Are you writing a book? Ok, now that I’m over my surprise, what would happen to the trust if the therapist did not believe the experiences of the patient when the patient reveals his/her innermost and most painful feelings, saying things like, “I know this person whom you are talking about and that just didn’t happen.” An instant kill, right? The patient feels violated and would never ever trust the therapist again. Why would this therapist say such a thing, even though it is the patient’s experience, and his/her internal world talking, describing the feelings?

    • No, Shelly, there is no manuscript for a book, only thoughts which have floated in me for decades, which might coalesce into a book and which might not. I would hope, that in your example, the therapist would not say “it did not happen” but rather “I hear what you are saying and I wonder if that are multiple levels of meaning to your narrative.” In this way, the therapist does not dismiss the manifest content, but merely suggests that there may be latent content, AS WELL.
      In the situation you describe the therapist tells the patient that he is distorting the situation, based on the therapist’s belief of “truth,” but clearly, no one person holds “truth.” Each person has a perspective and it is in the realm of perspective that the therapist/patient relationship must stay in. I cannot venture a guess as to why a therapist would invalidate a patient’s perspective, but I can say that telling a patient he is wrong, as you say, can be damaging to the client, and therefore it is an example of poor technique. Thanks.

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