Dear Dr. Poussaint:
I am jealous of the relationship my 5-year-old son's therapist has with him -- I know it has something to do with her being white.
We are black, and it really bothers me when he gets excited over her and runs to hug her when we go to the clinic. I know it's silly to feel this way and I'm troubled because of it, but sometimes I don't want to bring him to the clinic -- and I know that would hurt him. What can I do about how I feel? -- F. L., Seattle, Wash. Dear F. L.:
It is not unusual for a mother to feel some jealousy when her child becomes attached to another person, particularly if it's a woman.
You may take your son's affection for his therapist as a rejection of you, or as an indication that you're a "bad mommy." If you have difficulties in your relationship with your son, then that's all the more reason why you may feel threatened.
You indicated your jealousy may be heightened because she is white. Perhaps it implies to you that she understands him better than you do -- even though you are black. Her race may also stir up your own latent feelings toward whites if you have generalized anger about racial conditions in America. This is understandable, but you should not act to impede your son's progress in any way. It is best to make no negative assumptions and give her a chance.
You realize that most children in therapy become quite attached to their doctors -- regardless of race -- and this becomes part of the treatment process. Many children will see the doctor in a positive light, because he or she is kind to them, and because when they go to the clinic, they play "games" with the doctor. Since the therapist does not usually have to discipline the child in the way a parent does, it is easy to understand why the child would idealize the doctor.
Usually, the therapist is well aware of such feelings and is careful to keep them to a minimum and under control. He or she does not want to -- and cannot -- replace you and ultimately wants to strengthen the parent-child bond. cYour own involvement with treatment, therefore, is important.
You should speak to your son's doctor or another therapist who is part of the treatment team about your feelings and how to cope with them. If there are black members on the staff, perhaps you can also talk to one of them. t
If there are no black workers, you should encourage the clinic to employ blacks. It is exactly in this type of situation that they can be helpful, both to the clients and the clinic staff. Dear Dr. Poussaint:
I've suddenly been having severe anxiety about returning to school to get a master's degree in business administration. I am 33 and single, and have worked for the government since I graduated from college 10 years ago.
I want to go back to school to improve my career chances -- opportunities are really opening up for women. I have savings and my family is willing to help.
I should be feeling good, but I'm so afraid, I'm sure others notice my nervousness. Sometimes I wonder if I really want to go back or whether I'm just getting neurotic. I start school in the fall and really need some help with this. B. G., Washington, D.C. Dear B. G.:
You have reason to feel anxious about returning to school after a 10-year hiatus. Apparently, you have been independent and self-supporting, and returning to student status may threaten your sense of autonomy, even though you do have savings. Then, too, you are giving up a secure job and work-related relationships, and that can precipitate feelings of depression and anxiety.
In other words, leaving your job can be a psychological loss, and it will take time for you to adapt. If you recognize this and talk to friends about what the separation will mean to you, it will help.
Another explanation for your anxiety and fear may be your own insecurity and doubt about handling the rigors of academia again. You have not attended school for 10 years, and perhaps you remember some of the unpleasant aspects of being a student -- the exams, term papers and other pressures.
How prepared do you feel to start?
I would suggest that you try to take some refresher courses at night or during the summer to strengthen your preparation, and to reacquaint you with the routines of being a student.
These measures should help, but if your anxiety becomes too great, you should consult a professional.