One of the things I love about working as a life coach and therapist is the wonderful variety of people I meet. A key presupposition in my work is that ‘everybody is doing the best they can with the resources they have available’.
From this perspective it becomes so much easier to relate and sympathise with clients whatever their problem.
Take a case I dealt with a few years ago. Naturally I have given the client a fictitious name to protect his identity:
Case Study: Stephen Nicklaus – Father
When Stephen came to me, he was in a rut.
My first thought was that he might have a dietary problem. He was grossly overweight for his height, with cellulite that was frankly like a bowlful of jelly and although he would not admit it, I suspected, by his red nose that he had a bit of a drink problem.
He seemed to have a poor self-image and had become accustomed to wearing the same red overalls day-in day-out, black wellingtons, and I seriously doubt he ever trimmed his beard.
It is not my place to make judgements, but to listen to my clients and ask questions until I have a clear picture of their ‘map’ or model of the world. So I asked Stephen to park his sleigh outside, tether his reindeer, and tell me about his problem
Well, it turns out that Mr Nicklaus is very comfortable about his size, drinks only during the festive season, and is rather proud of his dress sense.
Stephen’s real problem is that he appears to suffer from a rare psychological condition – he is a manio-kleptic.
Closely related to a more well-known affliction, kleptomania, meaning to compulsively walk into places and steal things, manio kleptic means one who walks backwards into places and leaves things. And Mr Nicklaus had it bad.
As I questioned him a frightening story developed of a long life of nocturnal raids on poor unsuspecting families, sneaking into their homes and depositing piles of technology, toys and footwear in their living rooms and bedrooms. These poor people must have felt violated, tarnished, dirty.
I had to help him.
We established a pattern to his behaviour – it seemed to occur on only one day each year, so there was ample opportunity to reframe his actions in the context of when he didn’t have the problem.
We also had a first event of sorts, though it was a bit puzzling, a past-life experience involving some gold, frankincense and myrrh. But I always use what the client gives me – Timeline Therapy(TM) sounded like a good place to start – though I would need to deal with anger, sadness, fear and guilt first and there seemed to be all sorts of hangups about being able to see in the dark, sealed chimney flues and on one occasion the overindulgence of some mince pies and misplacing of a carrot.
I was all set to start the therapy, but then it all went belly up as they say.
“Is it alright with your unconscious mind to make these changes now?” I asked him, as I ask every client.
He looked at me, and his cheeks flamed an even deeper rosy red.
“Erm, no. Now I come to think of it mate. I do’t think it is. Something tells me it just wouldn’t be right for me. I think on some level I sort of need to do it. It makes the rest of me year seem worthwhile. Without my maniokleptia I would just be some bloke who keeps reindeer and dresses funny. It’s a part of me. I could just as soon shave off me beard.”
I looked at him and saw that he was right. We shook hands and he left.
Looking back. I think it went quite well – don’t you?