Background to my interest in teaching children with autism

PSYCHOTHERAPY BEYOND THE FRINGE, continued

A Toasted Tootsie

Natalie was a beautiful bride-to-be. She was to be married in about a month when she came to see Felicity. The referral stated that she was fearful of her coming marriage. Now, Felicity thinks that everyone is, or ought to be, afraid of marriage. In his view, that may be the only realistic fear there is. Just to confirm that he was right about this, he checked Bierce’s dictionary definition of Bride. He was right. There it was in black-and-white: “A young woman with a fine prospect of happiness … behind her.” Although somewhat dubious about the appropriateness of interfering with anybody’s excuses for avoiding marriage, he agreed to see her.

Natalie was excited and ecstatic about her coming marriage. Seeing her thus transfixed, he could not doubt that ‘love is a temporary insanity, curable by marriage’. Only one thing marred the prospect of this day above all days. She feared that her hand would tremble visibly during the toasts, and that she would spill her drink. Now Felicity was not disposed to abandon her to spoil that part of her day for herself. It hardly seemed fair that the one part of the day which ought to be fun should be riddled with fear. Either none of the day, or all of the day, should be terrifying.

So, instead of sending her away, Felicity reluctantly got Natalie relaxed – using a quick relaxation procedure with some sub-hypnotic induction instructions. While she was relaxed, he asked her to review the entire sequence of the wedding day, starting with the moment at which she opened her eyes in the morning, and ending as the married couple entered their room for the night. He suggested that she leave anything after that out of her imagination for the present as she was with a stranger, and anything else would be personal and private. Felicity was proud of his thoughtful propriety. However, he really knew that he had asked for that part to be omitted because he was a prude and would likely feel embarrassed by thinking about her thinking about the nuptial bed.

During a single two-hour session, Natalie got sufficiently relaxed and reviewed the whole wedding day twice from beginning almost to the end. Being relaxed, she was aware that her hands and arms were nice and limp, and that they were not trembling at all. In her imagination, she raised her glass calmly in her hand, held it comfortably while the imagined toasts took place, and sipped her champagne happily and contentedly after each toast. In fact, she reported afterwards that she had imbibed so freely during the imagined events that she felt a little tipsy. But she added that her new husband was amused by her light-headedness. There was no further treatment. A few weeks after Natalie’s marriage, Felicity received a Thank You note, as if he had given her a wedding gift, indicating, with gratitude, that the wedding had gone smoothly, and she had not even remembered to think about trembling.

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