Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for February 2nd, 2015

Life As a Repetition of Feelings

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on February 2, 2015

Love is experienced for someone today in terms of the love felt for someone in the past. as Freud would explain feelings. More recent psychoanalysts, such as Janet Mackenzie Rioch MD  has stated that relationships do not repeat, but they expand on prior relationships. New relationships feel so awesome, because, she would say, they extend the interior of the individual. Old relationships, from childhood, she likens to hypnosis, as certain repetitive messages become etched in one’s identity, such as “you are dumb, you are a nuisance, you always make mistakes, mother loves a good boy who does what I tell him.” Since the child has no other frame of reference about himself, he typically adopts the characterization which is repeated the most. This hypnotic “spell” as Dr. Rioch explains, becomes the transference in psychoanalysis. The adult patient feels like a nuisance, even though the therapist does not experience the patient in that way. Or, the patient makes himself a nuisance to the therapist in order to communicate that is how he is used to being seen. This is why the analytic work is to not be authoritarian, so as to allow the patient to display how he works with the idea of authority. In so doing, both the patient and the therapist can learn about the childhood hypnotic state which has shaped his view of himself.

Colt, forty-one, comes to mind. He comes from a family of published authors. Both his parents and his four siblings have achieved both financial and literary success with their writing, but he does not seem to be able to find his way. He teaches English, and he enjoys that, but he believes himself to be intellectually inferior, not just in terms of his family, but in terms of the world. He does not see that he was in a “hypnotic trance” as he was made to feel inferior because he did not pursue a writing career. As he explores his past, he relates to me, that in his family, writing was the only measure of intelligence, and since he did not have a passion for writing, he believed himself to be dumb. As he sits with me, he is “absolutely certain” that I see him as intellectually inferior, when, in fact, I am in awe of his wit, and his humor, which I take as evidence of his superior intellect. I cannot reassure Colt that I find him stimulating. I mean I could say that, and he would listen, but he would experience me as “trying to make him feel better, because that is what I am paid to do.,” as he has told me in the past. Instead my approach is to help him see how he thinks, to examine his own language, so that he can see that he is generating interesting ideas. Plus, I attack, gently, his certainty, about his intellectual inferiority, and propose a new way of understanding that the message given to him by his family, may, in fact, not be an adequate reflection of his strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps his family never studied him to know his intelligence, but with a high narcissistic endowment, the family thought that since he was not like them, he must be inferior. In other words, together, Colt and I can come to see that beliefs about himself which he has held on to tightly, may, in fact, be generated by people who did not really know him. “Consider the source,” I want to say early in our work together. As time goes on, our relationship strengthens, so  I do say it.  Colt gets it and opens his mind to a new look in the mirror. The work is slow, but over time, the change is huge.

Posted in Psychoanalysis, Teaching, Teaching Psychoanalysis, Transference | 4 Comments »

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