Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for the ‘Parties’ Category

Liquid Courage

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on January 3, 2013

As we enter into 2013, the party season winds down, and the social demands diminish. I am left to reflect on how people connect with one another, and how alcohol, for some, provides much needed disinhibition in order to allow for a certain amount of emotional intimacy. The fear of rejection is so powerful, for some, that talking to people, especially those that are not part of daily existence, can be frightening. Yet, with a glass of wine, social ease can be  available. This intrigues me. Does the alcohol suppress the frontal lobe, such that a more authentic self comes through? Would Freud say that the wine diminishes the harsh superego which judges every word? Or, is there a social pressure to drink, just to be one of the gang?

Desiree, a fifty-year old patient (fictional, of course), said she could not bring herself to go to her best friend’s holiday party because her dog passed away three months ago, and so she “just could not face anyone.” The grief, I imagine, took away her access to her social courage. She did not imagine alcohol could fix this problem. Her melancholia turned her inward. She knew her friend would be deeply hurt if she did not go, but she also knew that this time of mourning, was a time for the self to trump the friendship. She felt guilty for not going, but she also felt entitled to take time for herself. If I think to myself that her child died, then I am sympathetic to Desiree’s perspective. Desiree does not forecast that going to this holiday party will not only support her dear friend, but in turn, she will feel loved and supported as well. By contrast, Desiree sees the party as a drain of her already depleted self. This mourning period is no time to muster up courage; she convinces herself. I continue to be intrigued. Liquid courage only goes so far.

Posted in Holidays, Parties, Psychotherapy, Relationships | 6 Comments »


Posted by Dr. Vollmer on March 19, 2012

I am curious about how a group of friends get together and spend time. Is it activity based or socially based? That is, do the group come together to do the same thing, like to ski or to play bridge, or does the group come together to share food and conversation. If the gathering is activity based, then generally speaking, people will feel that they fit in based on their perceived competency in the activity. On the other hand, if the activity is socially based, the ones who are more socially skilled will feel more at ease. Of course, this situation gets more complicated in that the more socially skilled folks are often the more sensitive folks so they can be more bothered by what they are perceiving to be unconscious processes at play. The layers of social interaction intrigue me, needless to say.

Alexis, sixty-one, describes to me how uncomfortable she felt at a gathering of dear old friends who seemed to be preoccupied discussing the successes of their respective children. Alexis has two children who are doing pretty well, but Alexis derives little pleasure in sharing the successes of her kids. She would rather talk about her new interests and passions, but none of her friends seem to want to engage with her about that, at least not at this particular party. “It is hard for you to adapt to different social situations because you are so uncomfortable with yourself,” I say, causing her to look at me, at first in shock, but then with an understanding that may be true. “You are not quite comfortable with the choices your adult children have made, and so when you are in an environment when that is the topic of conversation, you begin to recoil and you want to go home,” I say, pointing out that her discomfort at this party is a window into her triggers for anxiety, her vulnerabilities. “Parties can highlight vulnerabilities,” I say, stating that social gatherings are emotionally and psychologically complicated affairs. “Yes, I guess so. It was hard to sit with my feelings, so I wanted to leave,” Alexis says with candor and shame. “I stayed and got through it and it was nice to see my friends,” she continues to say that the party was indeed a layered event for her. “It is interesting how complicated a Sunday afternoon can be,” I say, stating that within daily, ordinary activities, emotions can rise high and low. Parties, as the word implies, creates all kinds of “parts” to our emotional interior.

Posted in Friendship, Parties, Psychotherapy, Relationships | 12 Comments »

%d bloggers like this: