Chris

Chris, age 31, came to see me in a state of great anxiety, mostly concerning his relationship with his mother. He felt he could not even talk to his mother on the telephone, worried that he was going crazy, and wanted to come in 2 or 3 times a week. Early in treatment, he learned how to handle his motherís very subtle brand of control and denigration, how to take a position with her and stick to it, and how to avoid raging at his wife when he felt cornered by his mother. We also began to explore similar interpersonal patterns in his other relationships -- with his wife, father, brother, colleagues, bosses, etc. He was most troubled by a constant feeling that he was about to be blamed for something, although he knew that was irrational, and by his own angry, intolerant outbursts towards his wife, father, and brother. As more of these feelings and the experiences that trained them into him came into awareness, Chrisí anxiety eased. His interactions became more appropriate, he was less paranoid at work, and he was feeling more confident and centered.

After about 5 months of weekly sessions, Chris felt strong and independent enough to cut his visits back to alternate weeks. Progress continued for the next 5 months, to the point where he was ready to open up an old photo album he had come across during a recent cleaning of his attic. This album had brought a welling up of tears as he began to look at it, and he had quickly put it away. Similarly, he began to experience this impulse to cry at other relatively mild stimuli -- a song on the car radio, the sight of his children playing. He was reluctant to explore this newfound wellspring of emotion and memory, saying it was a "scary" and that he wasnít yet ready to drop his intellectual controls quite that much.

Soon thereafter, Chris came in and said heíd made a decision. He was not going to open the photo album just yet. He said he was not ready to look at whatever thoughts, memories, images, whatever would emerge if he indulged the urge to cry. He was grateful for the work we had done, but he wanted to stop. Of the photo album, he said:

Itís like a favorite birthday present that you want to postpone opening. Like a security blanket to know that the album is there for me if I start feeling out of touch, crazy, anxious again. And if I start getting really uptight around people again, or yelling at my wife. I know if I look at it and let the feelings and memories happen, things will make sense again. Painful as it may be, Iíll end up saner. But for right now, I want to keep it put away -- the album and my memories or feelings or whatever.
This is the best reason to stop. Youíve made the progress you wanted and donít want to go further.

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