Posted by Dr. Vollmer on July 3, 2012
Dibs, forty-one, got a job, after not having one for five years. Not only that, he is doing something he loves and making more money than he did in his previous job. Dibs, needless to say, is very happy. “How do you think things came together for you?” I ask, wondering if he thinks it is related to our psychotherapy, which has spanned ten years, and three previous employers. “Well, I have been trying to get a job. I really wanted one. I think some people out there get lazy, but I never did. I mean I did sometimes, but I always bounced back and I stayed focused.” “I see your point,” I reply, thinking that he never stopped thinking about getting a job, and even though at times, that made him very depressed, it also reminded him that he needed to try every avenue to see if there were opportunities. I can see that although our work together might have helped to keep him focused, it is also true that he was very hard on himself, which in a way, was painful to watch, but in another way, kept him in the game. “My mom died when I was fifteen,” he chimes into my thinking about how amazing it is that he landed a really good job. “And you wish she could see how happy you are right now?” I ask, knowing that I am finishing his sentence, but also fairly certain as to why he mentioned the saddest part of his life. “Yes,” he starts to cry. “I will never get over it. When she died, I was a mess. I did not get out of bed. I did not go to school. I did not talk to my friends. I know what it is like to shut down. I am just glad that I did not shut down when I was looking for a job. Otherwise, I don’t know what would have happened to me.” Dibs says, with gratefulness to himself for being active and resourceful. “You wanted to make your mom proud,” I say, pointing out that maybe he stayed active because he knew that his mom had faith in him and he wanted to prove her right. Dibs become overwhelmingly sad. “Of course, I do,” Dibs says with deep feeling. “Well, she is proud of you,” I say, also with deep feeling and appreciation for these moments that Dibs and I are sharing together. “Yea, I know. I am also really proud of myself.” Dibs says, ending our session, as we began, with tremendous hopefulness and exuberance.
Posted in Finances, Psychoanalysis, Psychotherapy, unemployment | 6 Comments »
Posted by Dr. Vollmer on March 12, 2012
Elizabeth and Jeffrey, both in their mid-fifties, have been married for ten years. It is a second marriage for both. Together they have an eight-year old son, Ara. Jeffrey has kids from his previous marriage, but they are grown and live independently. Elizabeth and Jeffrey were very ambivalent about getting married. They met in a Salsa class, and they both enjoyed dancing quite a bit. They were both lonely and looking for partners, but the idea of marriage was scary. Elizabeth wanted a child; she felt that her window was closing rapidly. Jeffrey had children, so he did not share the urgency. Elizabeth implored Jeffrey and with much rush, they married, had a child, bought a house in a good neighborhood, and started what they termed “the American dream.” The problems came because both Elizabeth and Jeffrey are self-employed. They both have to market their skills to stay in business, and with all the transitions from single life to married life to family life to home ownership, their marketing skills were put to rest. Consequently, they are facing losing their home. The “American dream” is becoming an “American nightmare”. Elizabeth and Jeffrey are hard-working, earnest people who do not want a hand-out. They want to work, for themselves, that is.
This couple comes to me in significant relationship distress. Each one thinks the other should shoulder the financial burden of keeping up on the mortgage payments. Jeffrey feels that he was railroaded into this “family life” and he never really wanted to start another family. Elizabeth feels that Jeffrey is the “man of the house” and so he should take financial responsibility for his family. In their standoff, both reluctantly market their skills and both of them blame the other for their financial decline. The fear that they feel is palpable, as is the anger. My job is to show both Elizabeth and Jeffrey their role in their predicament. Decisions made over ten years ago are now causing them significant distress. This long delay in seeing cause and effect makes it hard to piece this puzzle together. The puzzle, as they see it, is how two smart hard-working people can be so close to foreclosure. The mystery is large if one looks in the short-term, but pulling the camera back, one can see how this came down. I help them to see the long view, not as a way of imposing guilt, but as a way of understanding that difficult decisions got them into this predicament and so better decisions now can get them out of it. I urge the thoughtfulness of long-term thinking as a way of helping them navigate these rough waters. In some ways, what I say is obvious. Yet, in other ways, when the stress is overwhelming, the obvious becomes obscured. I am no financial planner, as I tell them, but I can help them sort through the feelings of anger and resentment so that they can have clear thinking, resulting in better decision-making. I am optimistic.
Posted in Finances, Psychotherapy | 2 Comments »