Archives for October, 2012
In one of our first sessions, Carl told me that his feelings of depersonalization began several years ago when he was reading a self-help or psychology book (he can no longer remember the name of it) and one of the author's ideas gave him a sudden unpleasant insight into himself. He can't recall exactly what he realized; but at that moment, he felt himself lift out of his body, into his head and out through the top of it where he has remained ever since. He's now more or less constantly preoccupied with attempting to regulate how he appears to other people by mind-reading and "empathy." Other than a pervasive feeling of anxiety, he has little idea about how he feels.
Melissa continues to struggle with the challenges of her new job, vacillating between fear that she won't be able to master the new skills and contempt for how "stupid and trivial" it all seems to her. We talked about her scorn as a defense: when she can't bear the fear of failure, when it all seems so overwhelming to her, she take flight into contempt. The indifference she sometimes expresses is, in fact, a variation on this theme, where "not caring" reflects an underlying scorn which is equally defensive. The challenge, as we often find, is believing that she might grow little by little over time and gradually get better at something; she usually believes that she must know everything already or she's a hopeless failure.
I've always had a problem with the term attachment to describe what happens between mother and baby. Today, in session with Janice, I remembered the word attunement and felt it was a much better, more accurate descriptor. Janice began the session by talking about her husband's almost complete inability to read her body sexually and to identify what gives her pleasure. The way he had been touching her the night before felt completely unrelated to her own responses; it distressed her so much that she began to cry in the middle of sex. When they talked about it afterwards, he told her he felt there was a very narrow pathway of acceptable behavior and that if he deviated from it, he'd upset her. Janice acknowledged that there was some truth to what he had said. She next talked about how he doesn't pay much attention to his intonation when he plays saxophone, that he often sounds shrill and off-pitch but doesn't seem to notice. Her mother had been like that, too -- interested in music but unable to carry a tune.