Nervous Bowels

Nervous Bowels

Many people have Nervous Bowels. This client was a lovely woman, elegant, composed, and with a terrible secret. She gets immediate diarrhea every time she has to meet someone.

It is not uncommon for people to get shaky bowels whenever they think they're going to be judged. It happens to sportspeople just before they have to perform. Entertainers get it before they go onto the stage. Most people feel some sort of unpleasantness in their gut in the face of a stressful situation.

Living with nervous bowels

In this case the client had been pretending for years. She had a high level position in education and was widely respected for her skills. But she had been hiding the need to rush to the toilet every time she was introduced to someone. After some questioning, it became clear that this was not a normal case of stress induced diarrhoea. This woman could happily address the groups of people. She  had no problem with public speaking. She could facilitate small group meetings, and do it very well. Interacting with two people was OK also. But the prospect of talking to just one person sent her running for the bathroom.

After some investigation I discovered it was really about the fear that she would have to leave the other person alone. In her mind, this was unacceptably rude. So her fear was that she would be called away to something else and have to leave the other person on their own. It was really about what that other person would think of her for doing that.

I tried to get to the cause of this. She said she had a great childhood. She could find no reason for this anxiety. The only worry she could find was that she was very nervous about her own parenting skills. However I could not find any direct cause for why leaving one person alone should generate these feelings.

Treating nervous bowels

I decided to use metaphor therapy on her feelings of anxiety. I asked her to put yourself into the position of being forced to speak with one person. The objective was to get her to go into the state so that I could work directly on the feeling. She tried and could not get into the feeling without being there.

So I put her into trance. I did a simple metaphor therapy about allowing her unconscious mind to search for the source of the feeling. Her unconscious mind found the source of the feeling and pulled it out of its hiding place. Then her mind took that thing and broke it open. The contents turns to liquid. I told her the liquid was pouring down inside and leaking out through the soles of her feet until it was gone.

Clearing the problem

This metaphor triggered something, because she started crying. I use that to associate into her feeling of distress. I then asked her to focus on the feeling and describe what object it most resembled. She told me it was like a brown ball full of moving clouds of black. I worked on this representation and got her to shrink it. She was able to shrink it until it was the size of a golf ball. But she was completely unable to get it to go any smaller.

From experience, I know that this is her unconscious mind resisting my attempts to get rid of it. So I changed the metaphor.  I asked her if she had ever sliced a tomato. Slicing a tomato is something that everyone has done. It is easy and familiar. The moment that I said it, she was no longer stuck. She told me that she was now able to slice the golf ball. I then told her to think about dicing vegetables or something like that, as she got rid of the thing completely and she got rid of the thing completely.

I have no idea what the origin of the problem was, and neither does she. But by using metaphor therapy we were able to get rid of it completely.

The origin of her nervous bowels

After talking about the process and the outcome for a while, I asked again about her upbringing. Now that her unconscious mind had removed whatever it was, she told me a different story about growing up. It turned out that she had a not so good childhood. She had an adopted older brother who caused problems in the family and bullied my client. Her mother expected perfection, that my client felt she could never deliver. Her mother was into Guiding, and loved rules, and discipline, and expected nothing else from her children. I suggested that she didn't have to look very far to find the source of her anxiety, and she agreed.

David Mason

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