Sam says he wants
to change his eating habits and lose 20 lbs. When we look more
closely at this desire, it develops into "To control my
compulsive eating." In a conversational version of clean
language we clarify what he means ("What kind of 'control'?
What do you mean by 'compulsive'?" etc). Then I take him
through an Addiction Audit (see footnote), a comprehensive analysis
of the attitudes around and influences on the client's addiction -
without making any assumptions. I have theories about
the systemic structure of dependency, but I shan't impose these.
We'll just see if any patterns emerge during the audit that Sam may
recognise and elect to find out more about later.
First we look at emotional gain. Sam
describes his compulsive eating as "Like filling a garbage
can". A fascinating metaphor, but doesn't sound much like a
gain to me. However you can never take metaphors for granted. There
may well be a latent resource in the garbage that we'll discover
We check cultural influences . Sam speaks with
feeling about the layout of his local supermarket, where sweets are
concentrated near the checkout, a place he has no choice but to
linger at while queuing.
He talks about family influences, including an
exciting weekend ritual when Daddy - absent for most of the week -
would produce a special treat after lunch ("Now who would like
a nice bar of chocolate?" ).
We go back to school, where Sam had to have
special remedial lessons for dyslexia. He would eat (and was often
sick on) whole packets of Hob Nobs as a way of distracting himself at
an emotionally difficult time.
We break down the sensory distinctions related to
his enjoyment of chocolate: "I want the sensation of
sweetness ... I like the crumbling
texture ... I enjoy the feeling of it melting in the
mouth." You can sense yourself how addictive an
indulgence this could become.
We look at Sam's strategies for his compulsive
eating and discover an association with rest: when he's working he
doesn't notice the need for chocolate; when he stops after two or
three hours he does. We find that when he's with friends he's
"considerate" and eats moderately, but when he's alone
there's "no inhibition".
We consider the issue at all levels of his
experience : environment, behaviour, capability ("I
can't control it"), beliefs & values ("But I
believe I can make it disappear"), identity ("I'm the
sort of person who would have to forget I ever liked
chocolate" ) and beyond self ("It would be better for
human progress if I were healthier.") Somewhere
in the information generated by this audit is a clue to the solution
Sam wants, which is to rid himself of the compulsion. But where is
the clue? In a light trance Sam finds himself going back to school
again. He's having a bad feeling now. "Where is that
feeling?" I ask. He pulls a face. He says "Oh, I don't
want to go down that route." I hesitate. I don't want to lead
him, but my experience tells me this may be a good route down which
to go. Without prompting he adds, "So I guess I should!"