Coaching with NLP often attracts people needing help with conditions relating to their health and wellbeing. It is also not unusual when working with people in their professional or executive capacities, that more personal or health-related issues take their place in the work to be done. Here are just two stories illustrating such cases.
Remarkable disappearing arthritis, and forgetting what she came for
Margaret said she had a sugar allergy, and she had read a little article that suggested NLP could help. Curious about the implications of an allergy to sugar, I asked her how did she know? What she described was a severe attack of candida albicans, or Thrush, which irritated her eyes, nose, ears and mouth the worst. She had been sent to the leading specialist in the UK who had told her all the tests had shown that nothing more could be done for her. She should just avoid sugar, or expect a flare up of the condition. “I can’t even dunk a biscuit in a cup of tea or have a little square of chocolate on my birthday,” she said.
In her early sixties, Margaret explained that her mother had died eighteen months before, and that for the last 25 years, Margaret had been her sole carer, her mother having been severely paralysed by a stroke. The problem for Margaret had been that her mother had treated her “like a dog!” as she had put it. “She hated me, and abused me, and never appreciated anything I did for her.” Margaret said she felt she had wasted twenty five years of her life, and she said, “I feel so bitter!” This bitter-sweet connection is typical of unconscious, metaphorical logic.
What we did in the first session had all the appearance of only working in part, and I was not sure when Margaret didn’t report after the agreed two weeks, that I would see her again. After three months she did call, and I invited her back to continue the work, much to her delight. I realised she hadn’t called for fear that I might say there was nothing more I could do for her, like her physician had.
When she arrived, the first thing she said was, “I don’t know if it was something you said last time, but my arthritis has been so much better.” ARTHRITIS? I thought, where had THAT come from?!!! There had been no mention of arthritis in our first meeting. Naturally, I didn’t show Margaret my surprise. Instead, I wagged my finger at her as if to give her a piece of my mind, and said, “Let that be a lesson to you Lady! If your amazing body can rid itself of arthritis, what we’re here to do will be a piece of cake, won’t it?” When I asked her how she’d known she had had (past tense) arthritis, she reported that she enjoyed walking to keep fit, and for the past five years had never been able to walk more than a kilometre or so, because of severe pain in ankles, knees, hips and lower back. Her doctor had diagnosed arthritis. “And how do you know it’s gone now?” I asked, presupposing it would not return, she replied that three walks of ten or more kilometres each in the past week had produced no pain at all, and had been her happiest walks for years.
Happiness and forgetfulness
We did another hour’s work, and she left in higher spirits. The most beautiful part was when she called me three months later. I could hear laughing on the other end of the telephone as Margaret told me she was so happy, that she was waking up laughing every morning, and felt so happy she couldn’t wait to enjoy her day. I told her how delighted I was for her, and asked her if she had anything else to tell me. It took a few moments before she realised I was talking about dunking a biscuit or nibbling a square of chocolate. She had, several times, and nothing had happened. She paused and then squealed with surprise when she noticed that she had completely forgotten about the old sugar allergy. Nice work Margaret!
Drinking to relax: fear of becoming an alcoholic and of confidence disappearing
“Bill,” said Tom, “I work in a small company of structural engineers, in fact I started the firm with the owner 25 years ago. I’ve been feeling stressed for some time now, and I’ve started drinking every day when I come home from work just to calm down and relax. When my wife and I go out, I’m finding I’ve started drinking too much; it’s as if I don’t know how to stop, and I’m afraid I might become an alcoholic, and that scares me. My pension fund that was going to allow me to retire at 55 has disappeared because of the collapse of the insurance company that ran the investments, so I can’t retire now, and I’ll just have to keep working.
The trouble is, with the recession biting so hard, business is really slow, and I know we’re going to have to shed some jobs in the next six months. With all these young bucks with masters degrees, and computers, I suspect I’m going to be the least valuable member of staff. I work with paper and a calculator. I grew up with a slide rule, and I’ve never worked with computers. I’m struggling with silly things like, when the phone rings, I get a kind of sinking feeling, sometimes almost a horror of picking it up in case it’s a problem I can’t deal with. It’s as if all my confidence has gone.”
When I asked if he had received any calls that he was unable to deal with, he said no, and he wasn’t even sure where the idea had come from, but the fear was still very real. It took six one-hour meetings over four months for us to work through what Tom was facing. Tom talking again during the last meeting:
“I know you’re very skilled and that you must have been doing something each time we’ve met, but for me, it has always seemed like a nice, relaxed chat with a good friend. I’m feeling a lot more philosophical about what’s happening with the business now, and I realise that what I have going for me is all those years of experience.”
And on the telephone three months later
“You surprised me just now when you asked about the drinking, because I’d totally forgotten that was the first thing I came to you for. I can’t believe that! I can really enjoy a glass of wine with a meal, or a couple of beers with friends, and I always know when to stop – well actually, it’s just not an issue now. What’s nice is that I didn’t have to give up drinking and become teetotal.”
Nearly two years later, Tom’s wife told me the company had finally had to cease trading. The owner and Tom were the last remaining employees on the very last day.
(Margaret and Tom are alternative names chosen to protect the privacy of the real people whose stories are outlined above).