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
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
© 2000 Philip Harland
First published on this site 8 January 2001.