Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Loving and Growing

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on November 6, 2014

Freud said that good mental health was evidenced by the ability to love and work. The love, the devotion to others, creates a safety and security to be emotionally vulnerable to new experiences; the loving relationship is the nest to return to, after the world is explored. Following through, those who are unable to love, or feel loved, are often also unable to venture out into the world in new ways, creating a greater sense of one’s idiom, as Christopher Bollas, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Bollas,  would say. Creating the idiom means developing aspects of yourself which feel authentic and deeply meaningful.

Miley, a sixty-four year old woman, comes to mind. She is single, never married, and has few friends. She is heavily involved in the care of her elderly parents. Consequently, she feels quite burdened and “victimized” by their circumstances. Although on the one hand, Miley knows that many people her age deal with elderly parents, on the other hand, she feels that her problems are uniquely horrible and quite weighty, such that she feels she has no time or energy for herself. Miley, on further exploration, has never felt love from her parents, and in turn, has never loved anyone else. This isolation and loneliness has caused Miley to hunker down and create a life which is constricted and “boring”. She does not give herself permission to make new friends, develop hobbies, or get exercise. She has sentenced herself to a life of slavery, mostly, as we discuss, because she feels so unloveable, and hence not worthy of self-indulgence. Our work has changed her from a victim narrative where she feels that her parents prevent her from having a life, to an unloveable narrative, where she is beginning to see that if she could start to love herself, then she would take better care of her own needs, and in turn, she would create her idiom. Miley is on the path to love and work.

6 Responses to “Loving and Growing”

  1. Ashana M said

    We learn how to love from other people.

    I am grateful to have been very deeply loved.

  2. Shelly said

    If Miley never felt loved by her parents, then why does she devote her entire life taking care of them? What did they give her that she needs to give back? On the other hand, Miley never FELT love from her parents–which is not the same thing as her parents never GIVING love. Being single, never married, and having few friends all signal to me some type of socialization issues.

    • One could imagine that Miley is devoting herself to her parents with the unconscious, and maybe slightly conscious wish, to finally, finally obtain their love. She is on, what seems like a futile path, but she seems unaware of this dynamic. Yes, it does seem like a socialization issue, but my point is that some “spectrum” kids and adults, suffer more from trauma than they do from a biological deficit in social skills. Yes, we are talking here about how Miley processed her childhood. That is the point of view from which we began. The subjective dominance in our (mental health practitioners) thinking is knowingly inadequate in a court of law, but extremely important in healing mental wounds. Thanks.

  3. Eleanor said

    Shirah, when I read over your vignettes, maybe it’s just me not being good at “writing”, but I find it difficult to respond in a few sentences….it seems easier to have a verbal interchange about these things. I say this because I find my mind going all which ways…in so many directions. Seems to me these situations need to be seen from every possible angle…like one would look at a piece of three dimensional sculpture. Or my analogy, being a photographer doing work in “black and white”….to process an image in almost unlimited shades of grey and perhaps only having tiny areas of true black and white. In this vignette my mind goes beyond the need to finally obtain love from parents, but also to possibly unrecognized anger and resentment towards parents and in becoming so obsessive about the need to constantly attend to aging parents, one can be turning their negative parental emotions inward, complicating matters. In addition there is usually some guilt inherent in angry wishes toward parents…….and on and on….I certainly may be off base here but seems like so many aspects to consider…as I always like to say….”it’s like pealing an onion…layer after layer. Eleanor

    • Yes, Eleanor! You made my day! The infinite nature of understanding human dynamics makes this an endlessly fascinating field, one in which ideas grow, thereby verifying the utility of the process. Your comment illustrates that beautifully. Thank You.

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