In this compelling account by Dr. Juan B. Prado of México City, a mother is finally convinced to listen to her child’s wisdom, thus freeing her child from addiction:
With the authorization of the characters of the story, Sheila and her mother, I send you this experience of Bio-Spiritual Focusing.
In a pediatric consultation, I detect an addictive process in a 10-year-old girl. Currently she feels compelled to eat paper when the slightest event disturbs her, frightens her, or confuses her, that is, when she feels anything that is beyond her control—for example, when her younger brother gets sick, or when the driver of the car she is riding in suddenly puts on the brakes, or when watching the mechanical games in a fair, et cetera.
Shortly before beginning this process, she had severe and recurrent abdominal pain, and doctors were about to operate for acute appendicitis.
We begin her treatment through Bio-Spiritual Focusing. For two months, in the presence of her mother, I teach Sheila to accompany the places where her body carries the issues that make her nervous or upset. She learns to treat those places with kindness and tenderness. However, there is something that remains stuck.
In one session, while Focusing, the little girl makes a discrete allusion about her mother having something to do with her problem. Her mother, with a gesture of annoyance, says that this is not true. She doesn’t accept the felt sense finding of her daughter. At the end of the session, Sheila tells her mother very confidently that she should learn what I do and how I do it (empathically accompanying her in Focusing). Again, the mother does not take seriously what the girl says.
In the next-to-last session, before sitting down, the mother tells me with annoyance: “Last week I spent a whole night awake trying to avoid all the ways that Sheila could eat paper, and another time this week I stayed awake until midnight”.
Knowing that the little girl already knows how to take care of the feelings in her body, I ask: “Sheila, would it be good idea to stay a little while listening to how it feels inside to hear what your mom just said about not sleeping in order to keep you from eating paper?” Without hesitation and peacefully Shiela says: “Yes.”
She finds the feeling of what her mother had said in her chest. “It’s like stuck phlegm,” she tells me. She tenderly accompanies that place. After about 20 seconds she says, referring to how she has been feeling the attitude of her mother: “I know that my mother is there, but I do not feel that she is with me.” I empathically reflect what she has said and I see she is more relaxed. I ask her to notice how the sensation in her chest feels now. A short time later she tells me that the sensation has disappeared and that now that place feels “very good”. I suggest that she stay with this feeling as long as she wants.
We finish the exercise and, after putting my attention on how I feel in my body with what has happened, I propose to the mother: “What do you think, Marlene—would it be good to take a few moments to go inside your body and see how and where you feel what your daughter just said, that ‘you’re there but she doesn’t feel like you’re with her’?” She smiles, dismissing the idea and says: “Oh, doctor, you know how children are …”
Then, from my felt-sense, I say quietly: “Would you give yourself a little time to look for the place in your body where you are feeling these words of Sheila’s?” She replies that she does not know how to do it. Then I tell her to remember how Sheila has been doing it every week. Finally, she agrees.
After a few false starts, she closes her eyes and remains silent. There is tension in her face. A few moments later she says: “There is something very hot here” – pointing to her stomach, “It’s … a lot of anger”. I invite her to accompany this hot and angry place with respect. A little later she tells me: “There’s something rising up from there to here, in my throat …” Ah,” I say, “What word would fit well to express what’s is going up to your throat?” … Before long she says: “It’s worry”. I ask her to attend to that worried place with great gentleness. The features of her face soften, a tear falls, and then she says: “… I feel a lot of tenderness for Sheila.”
In awe of the what has been happening, I suggest that she accompany it a little longer. She does, and before we finish, I invite her to remember how she felt at the beginning of the exercise and to notice how she feels now. She tells me that now she feels very surprised, excited and grateful. She goes to her daughter and hugs her tenderly.
I tell them that, if it feels right, they should notice what comes further in relation to what each one has just experienced. They agree to do so and leave.
The next week they return.
The mother tells me that during the whole week her daughter has not eaten paper. Then Sheila says: “I have forgotten about paper!” I was astonished!
Now it has been a year since Sheila has eaten paper. Her emotional state is optimal and she is enjoying her life as she did before falling into the habit-compulsion-addiction that had overtaken her.
As we can see, in the very moments in which daughter and mother entered into the bodily process of change, taking each other into account, the problem was resolving itself, without them having to do anything!
I wonder if—as in this story—our addictive processes would not be more effectively resolved if all people directly involved, not only the so-called “addict”, entered into the stopped process within each one and between both—the stopped process that originates, installs and perpetuates the addictive cycle.
I send you an affectionate hug!
Dr. Juan Prado Flores