I have a client who was date-raped, subsequently became pregnant, and self-aborted. Her schema was that she had murdered her rapist...and I finally got it out of her that she was talking about the fetus which, to her, was the unwanted/hated him inside of her. Ten years after this trauma, when I "inherited" her, she weighed 300 lbs., had a history of rarely showing up for therapy sessions, and was considered a pretty hopeless case. She was a compulsive binger (no purging, clearly); a compulsive bather; a compulsive shopper; and a compulsive gift-giver. She was living at home with her parents, sleeping or lying around doing nothing, on disability.
Although the bulimia and her "lack of motivation" were the presenting problems and what the family was most complaining about, my unconscious told me not to focus on these at all. Every time I started to talk to her about it, I'd feel "no" in my body and get all tongue-tied. I couldn't even make myself put the weight problem in her treatment plan.
Fearing I would later get called on the clinical carpet for exacerbating her pathology or (shudder) socializing with her, I met her at her favorite store, locked her charge cards in my car, allowed her to take in $20 (far less than she normally would spend), and watched how she behaved for an hour and a half. I went into a light trance and allowed myself to "go into" her lust--because that's what it felt like to me, in my trance, that it was--for all the things she wanted to but could not buy.
I justified being there by consciously teaching her how to resist the impulse to buy things (several "riding out the craving" techniques), but that's not what was really important. This intervention gave me a chance to allow my unconscious to resonate with her "where she lives." I could feel her, then see her, become increasingly agitated, and then she suddenly said she had to leave and fled.
When I saw her in our next session, it just popped out of my mouth, "You had to go home and masturbate, didn't you?" I thought she was going to fall down. She was so shocked that I knew exactly what she had done that I think she underwent some major internal reorganization right then and there. She confessed that she had been compulsively masturbating for days.
In subsequent weeks, we discovered together that she has layered compulsivities (imagine a bullseye), each designed to quell another that was a little closer to the source (the trauma). The shopping, which had become a major problem for her (every charge card maxed out), had elements of avoiding or somehow justifying all the other compulsions: buying tiny dishes (a popular trick to eat less), bath oils to soothe her bathed-raw skin, sensual-feeling pillows that she could feel safe with and good about touching...and, of course, she could justify buying them all by giving most of them away.
I would never have discovered any of this if I had not been in that store with her. The understanding of her nested compulsions did not come from my training. Where else but from my unconscious? By going with it, I was able to help her shake something loose...and I still don't quite understand exactly what or how. But this woman moved out of her parent's house and into her own apartment; enrolled in an exercise program and immediately dropped 30 lbs.; is registering for university classes; has stopped trying to give me coffee pots, little dishes, biscotti, and skin lotions; and has been very consistent in coming to early morning sessions. She even reported last week that she is thinking of going out on a date after 10 years of rage fantasies and refusing to have anything to do with men.
There's still work to do, but she's made major strides in the right direction. After this, I'm trusting my "instincts" more!
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