“On a professional level, everything is going well. My company has offered me positions that interest me. I’ve been living in London for five years after spending five years in Oslo, and I love living abroad.
Robert Neuburger: Where does this taste come from?
Sophia: I do not know. From adolescence, I had a taste for languages and travel, when my parents didn’t move much… But I wanted to see you to better understand what is going on in my sentimental life. I alternate phases where I’m in love and contemplating the future with my boyfriend, and those where he exasperates me and where I question everything. In fact, it goes beyond the notion of love, because when I feel detached from it, I question my whole life. I become distant, elusive, ready to go elsewhere and start another life. Constantly going from one state to another ends up weighing me down.
Robert Neuburger: Does this lead to ruptures?
Sophia: No, I’m not going that far. The man I’ve been with for two years shrinks when I’m in the wrong phase and he waits for it to pass. I would prefer him to provoke me a little, to ask me what is wrong, if he is wrong. But in fact, it’s not his fault, it’s only me and I don’t know why.
Robert Neuburger: Have you had many romantic relationships?
Sophia: Yes, and I started very young, I had my first report at 13 with a 20 year old boy. Then I went on and I was never alone. Some relationships lasted, one five years, another six years.
Robert Neuburger: Is it always you who break up?
Sophia: Usually yes, but once I was left when I was 14, and it was very hard. I even made a suicide attempt, like a cry for help.
Robert Neuburger: Could we say…I’m looking for the exact formula…that you don’t have a great faith in humanity?
Sophia: [Rires] It’s funny. In the phases when I am in withdrawal, I have the impression of losing all confidence in humanity. It’s exactly that. I become evasive and silent, even in my work. I am inside myself like a hamster on its wheel and I feel far from the world.
Robert Neuburger: So you retreat and protect yourself. But of what, since in reality nothing is happening? I don’t believe much in things that fall from the sky. I think that when you have a behavior, there is a reason. Even if it can be quite irrational. The last time you put yourself in your bubble, what happened?
Sophia: I always find myself too fat, I often feel guilty for eating and I constantly go on a diet… We were having dinner at the restaurant with my boyfriend and I ordered a chocolate mousse. I felt guilty and wanted him to encourage me to eat it, but he didn’t. It’s silly but, from there, I felt bad and it lasted several days. It’s as if I need my friend’s approval for what I choose to do, and, at the same time, it annoys me to need his approval! So I blame myself, and I blame him for being there, because if he wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have to go through this conflict with myself.
Robert Neuburger: Were there other times when it was prompted by a less anecdotal incident?
Sophia: No, it’s always anecdotal. For unimportant things. I should perhaps write down each time when I “switch”.
Robert Neuburger: It’s not a bad idea, because, each time, there is this question of no longer being able to trust the world… The story of your abandonment at 14 is not for nothing , since, since then, you manage to never be abandoned. As soon as you feel small red lights which light up, you flee. You know, the trauma of abandonment has a strong impact. But maybe it is even earlier. Have you been confronted with something like this in the family setting?
Sophia: Maybe there is something, yes… When I was 12, my older sister became anorexic, and it was hell at home for several years. My parents were no longer available to me. She made suicide threats, we were very distressed. I felt very alone at that time.
Robert Neuburger: Was there a family problem elsewhere? Did your parents get along well?
Sophia: No, they didn’t really get along. My father was an alcoholic, my mother, sad and withdrawn with, for her too, problems with food and weight. It was not a very fulfilling environment.
Robert Neuburger: Neither reassuring. Because, all the same, having a first relationship at 13 is very young. It means that your parents were not attentive to what you could do.
Sophia: When my sister started to get better, they thought it would be nice for her to go out with her girlfriends in clubs. Since we were treated equally, I went too. From 13 to 15, I spent all my weekends in a nightclub!
Robert Neuburger: Because it could help your sister. That’s it ?
Sophia: Exactly. It was for her, not for me.
Robert Neuburger: I’m beginning to understand why you moved abroad…
Sophia: [Rires] Yes, for me, it was a deliverance to leave home.
Robert Neuburger: How is your relationship with your sister today?
Sophia: Very good. She’s my big sister and my best friend. We are very united by a truly sacred bond. She’s kind of my combat companion. We went through the same things. Her life is going well, she is married and a mother, she no longer has any eating disorders, she just stuck to her antidepressant.
Robert Neuburger: Did your parents’ concern about your sister bring them closer or apart?
Sophia: They were never close. When my sister started to get better, it was me who started to get bad, and I became anorexic at 17 years old.
Robert Neuburger: And that did not interest your parents, if I understand correctly?
Sophia: [Rires] No, my mother was broken in. She had me treated, and after a year I started eating again.
Robert Neuburger: It really feels like the symptom in your family, when something is not going well, is expressed in the food mode. When your sister stopped eating, did your father continue to drink?
Sophia: Yes… I have always known him as an alcoholic, with all that entails. Arguments, mean words from him, my mother slapping him because he was drunk… It wasn’t funny. Today my mother has rebuilt her life with a good man and we are delighted for her, my sister and me. My father died in a car accident a few years ago.
Robert Neuburger: It seems to me that these “bubble” episodes that you described to me are modes of defense. I think at times, even very young, you learned to defend yourself by locking yourself in a bubble. However, what you feel today is that it no longer really has a function. It’s a bit disproportionate to the context you live in. I would call this a “residual” symptom. So, I think it wouldn’t be bad for you to do a little therapeutic work, which would allow you to live in a more serene way. This is only a suggestion. If you don’t, it won’t be a tragedy. But I find that your symptom is becoming anachronistic. The goal would be to find a more confident relationship with the world. »
A month later
Sophia: “I was a little disappointed. I expected to have a new perspective on my story. It was not the case. Many things have been discussed, and I don’t know, ultimately, if my problem is that of relationships with men or a more general problem. Dr. Neuburger thinks that I got into the habit of taking refuge in my bubble for protection as a child and that this mechanism is no longer necessary. Seems fair to me. But I don’t feel the need to dig into that, so I don’t think I’ll start therapy just yet. »
Robert Neuburger: “A symptom is always both a problem and a solution. A problem, we see it with Sophie, because it can endanger her relationship. A solution too, because it is a behavior that has protected her from greater pain, such as having been abandoned or at risk of being abandoned, or having been neglected by her parents. She is not ready to take a closer look, because that would risk reactivating old pain. It is necessary to respect resistances which, here, are legitimate, because, in his case, there is the risk that another more serious symptom comes to replace the old one. That’s why I insisted that the psychotherapy offered was only advice that she was free to follow or not. »
Are you looking for a serious shrink?
Find it on the shrink reference directory, Monpsy. Fr