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The last week
"The woman in my life ..."

Seventh session. It's a few weeks later and I'm seeing Sam for a follow-up session. He starts, "All round I feel more steady and stable. The idea of small rewards at intervals is so well ingrained in me now that I can go for days without even thinking about it. I now understand when I'm working too hard. I allow myself rest and relaxation rather than thinking I have to work through the tiredness."

He recalls some of the images that came up during his metaphorical journey: the falling trousers, the Mel Brooks revolvers, the silly string "Maybe they were different parts of my creative self. Asa is the only clear figure. The woman in my life. Being helpful. So I've been doing the Relax Me's and mentally ticking off the boxes."

'Relax Me'? Does he realize he's changed the name of the part that was responsible for the compulsion? It used to be 'Reward Me'. "Sometimes I say to myself I deserve a reward for hard work. Once that would have meant an uncontrollable urge to go out and indulge myself. Now I tell myself I'll relax and have a box." Sam doesn't know what's in the box until he opens it. This is the 'perfect gift' of Asa, the giver, the young woman who nurtures, disciplines and rewards Sam. She is his symbolic reminder that rewards are gifts which come to him, not those he takes.

I still haven't asked him directly about his original compulsive need for chocolate. When I get round to it he almost dismisses the question. "Oh yes, I occasionally have a bit." It's as if the compulsion was never there. Only weeks ago it had seemed to loom very large indeed. I feel a sense of anti-climax. I press for more information. He indulges me.

"Well, three weeks after the last session I hadn't had any chocolate at all, maybe one bar. Perhaps I was too busy." Too busy? It used to be when he was busy that he felt the need. "On the Monday of the fourth week I went back to the old habit eating M & M's all day. I felt I'd let myself down. So I talked to Asa, and on Tuesday I had a breakthrough. I bought a bottle of Perrier. I don't think I've had any chocolate since."

"You don't think you've had any?"
"I don't think so. I haven't consciously avoided chocolate. It's not an issue."

Not an issue. The client's casual acceptance of change is a well-known phenomenon. Sam's transformation simply happened at the pace that was right for him. It could have taken an hour or several months. Given Sam's particular mix of motivation and imagination it became a matter of weeks.

I checked with Sam again recently. He reports that he hardly ever eats chocolate - a compulsion that once possessed him. The metaphorical Asa is still his mentor for growth, a spiritual reference he uses in all kinds of ways. His research on the name came up with a Hebrew doctor, by the way, a true physician who heals both mind and body. Sam has learnt to do this for himself. Who is the woman (or man, or resource by any other name) in your life?

© 2000 Philip Harland
First published on this site 8 January 2001.
Philip Harland
Photo of Philip Harland Philip Harland is a neurolinguistic psychotherapist with a private practice in London, England. He has written many articles on Clean Language for professional journals and the internet. In 2009 Philip published the first book related to David Grove's last innovations, Emergent Knowledge, 'THE POWER OF SIX: A Six Part Guide to Self Knowledge'. You can order a copy from or

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