During a recent session, my client Ellen was talking about how poorly she had done over our two-week Christmas break, in terms of looking after herself and using what she’d learned in treatment. It worried her and she didn’t understand why it should be so since she’d recently been taking much better care of herself. Coming back to her first session after the holidays seemed immediately to make her feel better, less distracted by the fantasies and obsessive thoughts that had troubled her during the break. I had some ideas about why this should be so but didn’t at first mention them; I waited to see where this train of thought would take her.
Later in the session, Ellen mentioned that she’d had a “scare” earlier in the week. She works as personal assistant to the boss of a medium-sized company; her boss had been away during the holidays and in his absence, some of his oversight duties had fallen onto her shoulders. She took off a few days herself during that period but because her boss was away, she felt it would be irresponsible to take as many days as she would have liked; this made her feel resentful, to have to deprive herself in order to fulfill her duties.
On the first day after her boss returned from his vacation, it occurred to Ellen that she should probably consult the firm’s calendar (which she had failed to do for a week or so), to see whether there might be an upcoming due-date for one of the firm’s projects. Sure enough, there was a project due that very day; she alerted the appropriate personnel and in the nick of time, they managed to complete the assignment for delivery. It troubled her that she had “forgotten” all about the calendar and wondered why she should have remembered on that very day.