Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for the ‘Subjectivityy’ Category

Judy Garland

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on April 22, 2013


Thinking about Judy Garland, having  just seen “End of the Rainbow”, with fellow psychiatrists, we engaged in a heated debate about the nature of her suffering. ?Bipolar, ?ADHD, was the launching pad for the discussion, and yet my thoughts turned to her horribly sad childhood in which, she made money for the studios, and in the process, she was fed prescription drugs to keep the “machine” going. “Trauma,” I said firmly, in trying to understand this icon. She seemed robbed of a time in her life to “play” even though some might say that acting is a form of playing, Judy Garland had to play like she was told and so, by definition, this was not the kind of play in which she could make up her own rules, and have a time in her life in which her activities were inconsequential. This left an inner emptiness, a “zombie state,” as a colleague of mine says, in which she could never experience the sensation of being alive, but rather she enlisted her superego to do what she “was supposed to,” thereby leaving her feeling without satisfaction or fulfillment. She never had a chance to experience her ego, as her superego was running her life, from such an early age. Her many husbands, it seems to me, provided this superego, until one of them tired of the emptiness. She never seemed to know herself, to know her ego, and as such, she could never find a path towards happiness. As Ray Bolger, her co-star in the Wizard of Oz, succinctly stated, “”she just plain wore out.” Like a machine, the gears could no longer turn. Sad, sad, and sad. There is no diagnosis, as far as I can see, but only an incredibly talented woman who never developed a sense of herself. What do we call that? I call that child abuse.

Posted in Child Development, Loneliness, Mental Health and the Media, Mother/Child Relationships, personal growth, Play, State of Psychiatry, Subjectivityy | Leave a Comment »

Understanding Subjectivity

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on April 1, 2013


Understanding subjectivity is the essence of good listening. Zoe and Berkeley illustrate this point well.

Many of my readers commented that Zoe was being “too sensitive”. This “too sensitive” remark often strikes me with the wish to respond “on what scale?” Who owns the sensitivity meter between nicely sensitive where one is sympathetic to others, to ‘too sensitive” where one is considered a “drama queen”? I often think of a dog who hears sounds that humans cannot detect. Are dogs “too sensitive”? Or, do they have powers of perception which exceed humans, and therefore we are baffled by their abilities? Sure, one could say that Zoe should not “make such a big deal” about Berkeley interrupting a yoga session, and that Zoe, clearly, to some, is either unforgiving in general, or specifically, with her sister Berkeley. On the other hand, Zoe’s reaction to Berkeley could be a detection of underlying hostility that Berkeley feels for Zoe, and as such, Zoe is wise to pay attention to her feelings, such that she understands the dynamics of her relationship with her sister. Suppose Zoe were to brush off the yoga experience, only for it to happen again, leading to more ‘sensitivity” and pain. This minimization of her feelings could lead her to a larger problem of repeated exposures to situations where she ultimately feels deeply devalued. Similarly, Zoe’s attention to her feelings could lead her to protect herself from people who do not appreciate her, thereby protecting her self-esteem. As Zoe’s therapist, it is my job to understand her subjective experience, and in so doing, help Zoe deepen her understanding of how she is feeling in the moment. I encourage her “sensitivity” such that she has a language for her emotional interior in which she can describe her  experience of a deeply wounding experience. This language of feelings can be scary to some ears, leading some listeners to want to dismiss her and say “get over it”. It does not matter whether the listener, in Zoe’s yoga experience, would have had the same reaction. What matters is that Zoe experienced hurt feelings, and like a person who takes a tumble, the friend asks  ‘how can I  help?’ and not ‘why are you moaning?’

Posted in Psychoanalysis, Psychotherapy, Subjectivityy, understanding | 11 Comments »

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