Need for speed?

Need for speed?
Andreas Steininger

The point of urgency here does not concern my own personal analysis, but rather how it was urgent to find a response to a predicament caused by a patient in her first session.

Last week a woman came to me for a first session and she started the session by telling me that she was full in her head. At the same time she expressed the fear that she would not be able to get rid of everything, or was worried whether she would be able to get any of it out at all.

And so, she talked with great excitement, urgency and haste, as if her life was at stake. Every word, it seemed, had to take place exactly as she used it, not a bit differently. Once or twice I tried to ask a question at a slower pace, but she was indignant about this disturbance, rejected me and said to me, “No, I have to finish that first.”

After some time, she was very desperate and told me that she had the impression that her head was not empty. Her pace was now extremely high. Her enormous output of words did not bring her any relief. And I had the impression as if I had a picture puzzle in front of me, where I once saw someone who was actively trying to master a thing with this torrent of words, on the other hand I could suddenly see someone else who was by no means active but was dominated by an urgent text.

At first, I had the idea that I would not have much to say in this session. And so, I was content with minimal punctuation or an occasional ok. At one point, however, I noticed that I could still ask her questions occasionally if something in her speech was unclear to me. Paradoxically, this was only possible if I spoke even faster than she did. It almost gave the impression that she simply did not have time to be disturbed by my questions. And she quickly and willingly gave me the requested information and then continued her text again.

The fact that it was possible in this paradoxical game of increasing speeds that she could finally hear something of her own text through my questions led her to speak more and more slowly in the second half of the session and at the end of the session she realized that she had got rid of something and wanted to come again.