Background to my interest in teaching children with autism

PSYCHOTHERAPY BEYOND THE FRINGE, continued

Seventh, Felicity addressed Kevin’s sense of rage. At first, Kevin would not acknowledge any rage within him. He judged violence to be an unacceptable, even terrible thing. As his guilt feelings subsided, however, he began to talk about the ‘bad thoughts’ which came into his mind (as if from some external source) and which scared him. He had to fight off the wish, which he repeatedly found in his mind, for the world, perhaps the entire universe, to blow up in one devastating explosion, taking the whole thing with him to its final destruction. He feared that if he did not fight off this fantasy, his wish for it would ’cause’ it to happen. Felicity teased him mercilessly about this fantasy, asking him to enjoy the whole idea, and building images for him to extend and supplement the fantasy, laughing uproariously at each added feature. At first, Kevin was shocked at such destructiveness on Felicity’s part. Indeed, had this initiative been introduced at an earlier stage of the treatment, Felicity’s behaviour would have driven Kevin out of therapy. As it was, by this point Kevin had developed some trust in Felicity, and he eventually joined the game with good humour.

Eighth, this development allowed Felicity to introduce ‘playing the game of anger’. Kevin was asked to play the game of anger, at least with Felicity even if he could not with others. The basic ‘rule’ of the game was proposed as: only play the game of anger when you are not angry – in case the game makes you feel anxious about your pretended anger. The idea was to exaggerate everything way beyond any reasonable proportions. If another were to say, ‘You don’t like me’, the answer might be something like: ‘How could anybody possibly like you? After all, you must realize that you are the vilest, the most horrible and unspeakable person that ever walked this earth. In all of human and animal history there has never been anything as low as you. Heck, Adolf Hitler didn’t have a patch on you for vileness’. The crazy thing is that nobody can believe that degree of vileness in himself, and he is therefore apt to take such extreme statements as an expression of love. Of course, Kevin was clever enough to see at once that this method was not only intended to allow him to ‘use’ his up-to-now-restrained bodily energy by having a sense of ‘safe’ impact on those around him, but also to provide him with a way to diminish his own negative, self-depreciating, guilt-ridden self-judgements.

These initiatives were introduced as a series of ‘doors’ which needed to be opened slowly. As they were opened, changes occurred in Kevin’s life. Noteworthy among these was the development of a courting relationship with a young lady – a relationship in which he progressively was able to take on a decisive and, later a leadership, role. He was delighted.

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