Notes on Touch and the Genesis of Hope: One Touch of Nature Makes the Whole World Kin
Arthur H. Feiner, Ph.D.
I once asked a patient what special moment or event or happening might effect some relief from her persistent feelings of dreariness, her helplessness and hopelessness—feelings that made it so painful for her to be alone. She replied that were she to be noticed, particularly by a man, someone who would say she was pretty, she would indeed feel better. (The patient is married, sixty-five years old, bright, and markedly overweight.) Then she said, “But I know that would only last a few seconds. I respond to little else. I know nothing would ever come of such a remark. I would be too frightened. I would act like a fool and it would be humiliating.” She then said that she does get pleasure from her five-year-old grandson, from listening to music tapes in her car, and from watching ballet videos. She said she never goes to the theater, concerts, movies, or museums, because she would have to go alone. Her husband, her son, her sister, and her few friends were conspicuously absent from her comments. As regards being “noticed,” I am sure she was alluding to me.
In fact, I asked, as I had many times, whether she thought that I hadn't “noticed” her, perhaps in some special way, that special way she was searching for. Her response, as it had always been previously, was negative. I wasn't getting it. Not only had I noticed her, appropriately as her analyst, she asserted, but I had made her feel relevant here in the therapy, a feeling that despite her endless struggle, she had failed to achieve elsewhere. No, “noticing,” as she meant it this time, had implications of more than relevance and nondismissiveness.
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