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Compulsion: Week 2
"Reward me ..."

Second session. I invite Sam to get a sense of that metaphorical 'part' of himself which feels the compulsion to eat chocolate. In a trance he identifies a feeling of isolation ... and immediately goes back to problems associated with reading and writing at school. Thirty years ago no-one called it dyslexia. The 7-year old at his new school feels stupid and alone. "I don't have the tools. I'm in a jungle, with no daylight. I want to disappear into another world."

Sam has now come up with several metaphors related to his dependency pattern, and I'm tempted to invite him into a Grovian/symbolic modelling process immediately to explore them. Instead I ask him to put a name to the part-self he has identified as responsible for the compulsion. He finds himself calling it 'Reward Me'. This is another revelation for Sam. The first was that the compulsion he named only recently began almost 30 years ago. The new revelation is that chocolate was a compensation - not for having to work on a mass of facts and figures he couldn't make head or tail of - but for the associated feelings of stress and shame. And the further revelation is that he has been carrying these idiosyncratic connections -

dyslexia = isolation = shame = hard work = need for compensation = chocolate

- thoughout his adult life unconsciously .

For a moment I feel quite sad for this 7-year old. I ask Sam to go inside and acknowledge 'Reward Me'. Many of us are reluctant to acknowledge parts we don't like, or wish we didn't have, in case they take acknowledgment for encouragement and the behaviour or feeling gets worse. When of course lack of acknowledgment is guaranteed to have the associated behaviour or feeling returning time after time to haunt us.

When Sam has acknowledged 'Reward Me' I invite him to take a step further and embrace this part and its needs wholeheartedly. It's been an important, even necessary, response of his system to the systemic experience. He has some initial reservations about the idea of loving something he's been ashamed of for so long and has been aching to get rid of, but can accept that when it first came into being it was essential for his survival. Without it the trauma of the time may have overwhelmed him.

Now comes the crucial stage of this neurolinguistic journey, as I invite Sam to ask 'Reward Me' what it's positive intention has been for him. Chocolate has been the vehicle for an emotional need. What has the part-self with the compulsion wanted for him all this time? Sam goes quiet and concentrates deeply.

After a minute or two he comes up with: "Getting my breath back after struggling." At a cognitive level he can't understand where this answer comes from. I remember the addiction audit we undertook last week, when Sam had talked about the desire for chocolate coming not while he was working, but when work had stopped. His reward at that time had to be something more than rest and relaxation. The last conscious connection he's likely to make as an adult after hours on the phone or in highly charged meetings (he has a demanding job as a film producer) is the memory of having to struggle with dyslexia as a 7-year old and bingeing on chocolate as a reward. Sam's need to get his breath back after struggling may date back to difficulties in taking his first breath after the trauma of birth. It may even have its beginnings before birth or in past generations. I don't share this speculation with him because I could easily be wrong. If these are appropriate connections for Sam he'll make them for himself when the time is right.

I ask: "If 'Reward Me' were to be convinced there was another way of getting its reward that would be at least as effective, and hopefully more so, than eating chocolate, would it be prepared to try it?" Sam goes inside to answer the question. He reports, "'Reward Me' says slightly reluctantly it could try" . I ask him to go inside again and thank 'Reward Me' for its response. The invitation to 'go inside' is a simple and powerful proposal that moves the client's attention from mental abstractions to embodied experience. All our past experience has been embodied in some way (otherwise where is it?), but too many of us believe the only way to access it is by reason rather than feeling.

Next week I shall invite Sam to be creative.

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