Therapy of habits

One ought to be alert to the fact that many a problem is no more than a habit. It may have started originally as a profoundly neurotic response. As the years passed, it became a physical habit.

MAKING A HABIT TOO PAINFUL TO RETAIN CASE OF WILLIAM A.

Seven-year-old William had a very distressing habit. About once every minute, all day long, he made a noise that sounded like "eek, eek." His mother, father, teachers, and everyone else were frantic. But it was no more than a habit pattern. Treatment consisted of regarding it as such.

In this case, therapy was achieved in one week's time A psychiatrist, a friend of the family, happened to be visiting, He sent the boy to his room with the understanding that, instead of once a minute, he was to make the sound twice a minute. He had to make the sound twice a minute before he could come out of his room.

When the boy finally got impatient about being locked up in the bedroom, he gave up, agreed to make the sound twice a minute. What was he actually doing? He was voluntarily taking control of a habit. One entire day went by with that "ecking" twice a minute, with his mother and the psychiatrist insisting that he ought to watch the clock for if he didn't practice the "eek" twice a minute, he would have to be sent back to his bedroom.

The next day he was asked, "How about three times a minute? How about four times a minute?" The boy knew that the question was completely serious. The doctor was explanatory, reassuring, telling him it was important to find out why he made the noise. The boy could understand that a doctor makes examinations and studies results. The psychiatrist, he thought, was very stupid to need so much time, but he could see where his own days were going, practicing that "eek" sound. Within a week's time he had deliberately taken control of the habit. He did not dare to have it.

That was several years ago. He hasn't "eeked" since then, nor has he developed any other symptomatology.

USE OF A PAINFUL TASK TO DISCOURAGE A HABIT

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