ALINA’S MIRACULOUS RELEASE FROM
THE TYRANNY OF OBSESSIVE LOVE
by Martha Stark, MD / Faculty, Harvard Medical School
A special THANK YOU to Bruce Ecker, David Feinstein, Allan Schore, Bruce Lipton, Dawson Church, Joe Dispenza, Arnold Modell, Charles Krebs, Dan Siegel, Marion Solomon, Ed Tronick, Bessel van der Kolk, Beatrice Beebe, Pat Ogden, Patricia Coughlin, Mary Bowles, Rob Neborsky, Steve Shapiro, Jon Frederickson, Diana Fosha, Habib Davanloo, Kristin Osborn, Jim Donovan, Richard Schwartz, Peter Levine, Joan Klagsbrun, Al Pesso, Angela Segal, and Francine Shapiro for opening my psychoanalytic eyes to so many exciting new possibilities and for providing me with the impetus and inspiration for adding Model 5 (a quantum-neuroscientific approach to symptomatic relief and behavioral change) to my Psychodynamic Synergy Paradigm.
What follows is an intriguing experience that my friend Alina had a number of years ago.
Particularly distressing for Alina was her obsessive love for Josh, a man whom she knew would not be right for her. Among other things, he was married. Although she and Josh had had very little actual contact, the several times they had run into each other had been extremely exciting for Alina and she was finding that she was becoming increasingly obsessed with fantasies about him and the possibility of having a future with him – despite the fact that there were no indications that his marriage was in trouble or that he was even all that interested in her.
A therapist herself and in a long-term psychodynamic therapy, Alina had come to understand that her intense longing for Josh was probably related, at least in part, to unresolved oedipal feelings that she still had in relation to her dad, a very seductive man with whom she had had a very intimate, albeit complicated, relationship.
But despite Alina’s ever-evolving awareness that some of what she was experiencing in relation to Josh was fueled by unmastered yearnings for her dad, she remained tormented by her obsessive love for this inappropriate (for a whole mix of reasons) and unavailable man – fantasies that, although pleasurable and compelling, were also self-defeating and filled her with self-loathing and shame.
One day, Alina was unfortunately in a serious car accident and suffered a bad concussion. Although she recovered fairly quickly, she did sustain some permanent memory loss, most especially with respect to the events leading right up to the accident. Even though an investigation was done into the cause of the 2-car accident and the scene was reconstructed, Alina’s retrograde amnesia persisted and she herself was never able to retrieve the memory of the events preceding the crash, which made it more difficult to figure out the insurance piece and which driver had been at fault.
In any event, it was shortly thereafter that Alina, with mixed feelings of relief and disappointment, suddenly realized that, after the car accident, she had simply stopped obsessing about Josh! In fact, all thoughts of Josh had miraculously vanished – and it had happened through no conscious intent on her part!
As I later came to formulate things, I believe that Alina must have been engaging in her favorite guilty pleasure, namely, fantasizing about Josh, as she was driving and right up to the moment of actual impact with the other car. The retrograde amnesia that she suffered as a result caused her to forget not only the precrash events but also her obsessive thoughts about Josh!
Alina’s miraculous release from the tyranny of obsessive love as a result of her retrograde amnesia was something that prompted me to think more seriously about including in my Psychodynamic Synergy Paradigm a more brain-based approach to the therapeutic action, one that would take into consideration not just psychodynamic awareness (Models 1 – 4) but also the brain’s microarchitecture and its complex synaptic web of neural circuits (Model 5).