case study

Jason, 24

Jason was a twenty-four-year-old actor with asthma since childhood. He was quite adept at imagery and found that deep relaxation and visualizing his bronchial tubes opening widely could help him breathe more easily with less medication. He was pleased to find he had this ability and used it successfully for almost a year.

Then he stopped doing it regularly, and his asthma grew gradually worse until he came in one day wheezing audibly.

He said that he had met a woman he was spending a lot of time with and "didn’t have the time to do imagery." He was invited to relax and ask if there was any part of him that was standing in the way of using his mind to help himself feel better. An image of a small, somewhat agitated dwarf dressed like a Roman soldier came into his mind. The dwarf’s name was Romeo who said he was “on guard,” that the “roads were closed until further orders,” that he was “protecting the kingdom within,” and that he had his job ever since he could remember.

Jason felt strongly that the roads were symbolic both of his bronchial tubes and the “road to my heart.” On further exploration with the dwarf Romeo, Jason began to see that while sometimes bringing him sympathy as a child, his asthma really served to cut him off from intimate relationships in his life. He recalled several flare-ups associated with budding romances, and the embarrassment it had brought him, yet he also felt that at some level it was trying to protect him from heartache.

The direction of Jason’s work now started to focus on how Romeo could protect him from emotional pain while allowing interchange along the “roads” that led inside. Jason imagined an elaborate series of checkpoints as various distances from the center of the “kingdom,” which showed itself as an image of a heart. He experimented with allowing images of different people to reach different checkpoints, and noticed how that felt.

He issued imaginary “passes” and “security clearances” for people, and found that rather than being unconsciously “closed up tight,” he was able to become more intimate with some people. He started to use his remaining asthmatic reactions as signs of the need to pay attention to his feelings, and over time found them a valuable guide to developing healthier relationships.

Jason found his “resistance” to be a loyal ally, trying to do a necessary job with inadequate training and support. As he realized the important function of this resistance, he was able to help carry out its function more effectively, and found it to be an important part of his movement toward greater wholeness and healing.

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