Background to my interest in teaching children with autism

PSYCHOTHERAPY BEYOND THE FRINGE, continued

Third, it would be necessary to diminish the power of the inhibitive guilt (judgements) acting in her. That would be a hard task as she did not want to address any feelings at all, and in particular those associated with her father — as the main focus of her guilt feelings. However, she was able to find in herself an image of her father as a huge, foreboding shadow approaching her as she lay helplessly on her bed — as a representation of the guilt she felt, quite apart from anything else it might represent. She also found in the back of her mind an image of her father thoughtfully nurturing her development of knowledge in a garden — as a means by which to represent innocence for herself.

These two imaged ‘parts of herself’ were pictured as being brought out of herself and placed one on each of her hands. She talked to each of these parts of herself in turn, asking it (externalized so that she would know the parts of herself to which she was talking) to tell her what its highest intentions for her were. Her guilt part wanted her dead. But why? So that she would not be a disgrace by making mistakes. But why did it want her not to make mistakes? So that she would be perfect. But why did it want her to be perfect? So she could be happy — she could hardly believe she had said this last thing. And what of the other part of her — her innocence? It just wanted to make her happy.

The two opposing parts of herself ultimately had the same intentions for her!? Perhaps they could talk to each other to find means by which they could cooperate and reunite themselves into one ‘whole’ part of her. Her two hands came together to represent the re-uniting of the two parts in one (using James’ and Woodsmall’s ‘visual squash’ method). But the best integration of the two parts which emerged involved uniting the figure of her father with his shadow behind him, such that the shadow was almost hidden from view by the form of the man. However, there was apparently enough resolution in this ‘protection from guilt’ image that, for the first time she could recall, within a number of weeks, she was able to shout with rage at her father after he had shouted a succession of critical remarks at her in his powerful, angry voice.

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