Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for the ‘Triggers’ Category

The Animal Story

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on June 21, 2012

Toobie, a seventy-year old female, saw a dog lying on the street. In her attempt to rescue the dog, the dog died at the scene. Toobie narrated this sad tale adding in personal responsibility and overwhelming guilt. She was sure that if someone else had tried to rescue the dog, the dog would have survived, even though she called for help, which is what anyone else would have done. “You know, I have never gotten over watching helplessly as my mother died from Huntington’s Disease thirty years ago, and I think seeing this dog die brought back all of those horrible feelings. “Maybe it is a really good thing that you saw the dog in distress, because maybe finally, that gives you an opportunity to work through the overwhelming guilt that you feel over your mom’s passing,” I say, feeling so positive that she could connect the dying dog to her dying mother without me having to make that link. Toobie looked at me with palpable relief. “You get it. You really get it.” Toobie says, expressing her trepidation over telling me the story. “Everyone else tries to reassure me that I did everything I could for that dog, but I know that is not the point. I take every opportunity to feel bad about myself.” “Yes, you are very good at that,” I say, chuckling together. “Maybe it is time to become less good at that,” I say, again seeing the relief in her eyes as we discuss this very painful event. Tears flow rapidly now. Toobie says, “you know I just can’t forgive myself for what happened with my mom.” She has already told me that her mom was dying and even though her mom insisted on no heroic measures, Toobie feels horrible that she did not disobey her mom’s wishes. “Further,” Toobie continues, “my brother is angry at me over my mom’s death, as well.” “I know,” I remind her, “he has never coped with her passing and so he takes his bad feelings out on you,” I say, reviewing previous painful conversations. “You see, that dog on the street has really helped our work. We have this opportunity to explore these bad feelings which stay so alive for you, all these many years.” I repeat, wanting to emphasize that sometimes triggers can be very helpful. “I hope so.” Toobie says as she leaves.

Posted in Psychoanalysis, Psychotherapy, Triggers | 6 Comments »

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