All behaviour serves a purpose

All behaviour serves a purpose

And it’s controlled by your own little body guard!

A young girl was bought to me because she had been expelled from school.  Well schools to be precise, because of unruly behaviour and stealing from home – her foster home.

She would do anything to gain attention that usually resulted in detention.

Various therapists had tried to help her recognise her behaviour was not acceptable but to no avail.

It seems – “stop it” was just not registering with her.

She did not want to talk to me, another therapist, and so I didn’t try to engage her.  I just requested that as she was here and I appreciated she did not want to be, that she should amuse herself for the hour while I got on with some work.

I then turned my back on her and started to talk to my toy doll, Ollie.

“Well Ollie, I don’t believe that you like getting into so much trouble, so I guess your little body guard super power has a good reason for it.  Can I talk to him please?”

I then proceeded to pull out the little bodyguard superpower from Ollie and with it gently cupped in my hand I began talking to it.

“Now little chap, this is interesting because the little girl sat behind me is with a foster family too so you two have a lot in common.” (I caught the little girl out of the corner of my eye- she was watching me)

“Ok little bodyguard.  Now either you hate school and hate your foster family…… but no, that can’t be it, because you’re the bodyguard and you’re about protection, so let me see, how is this behaviour helping you protect Ollie?”

I then suggested some things e.g.

“Do you steal to make people hate you…. now that can’t be it because you then do all you can for their attention….”

“Do you misbehave so people won’t like you…..? Now that can’t be it because you want their attention…”

“Ok little chap, you got me, I think I might finally have been beaten – I admit – I don’t know why you’re doing these things.”

I looked crest fallen and sat very quiet with a very sad look on my face. After a few minutes the little girl said very quietly “maybe it’s not because he wants attention.”

Without turning around I said, “Really – you think – no – I don’t understand that… it has to be about getting attention.”

The little girl said, “Maybe it’s because he doesn’t want to be hungry.”

I still did not turn round but stayed focussed on Ollie, “no I don’t think that’s it – his foster family are lovely and take care of him so that can’t be it.”

The little girl said, “Maybe he is afraid that they might not feed him or his little sister and….”

At that point I turned around, the little girl was in tears….

Basically, she and her sister were in foster care because of an abusive family life, part of which was being locked in their room with no food for – well I don’t know how long.  If she clowned around and made her parents and their friends laugh she got “thrown” food! So she had learnt that if she acted up and did what the kids at school dared her to do they would give her sweets, she stole food from home and was hiding it and money in her room – just in case.

 All behaviour serves a purpose………..

Working with her lovely foster mum we got her a box and filed it with food, that was her emergency box for her and her little sister. Then we started working on getting her through the abuse her and her sister had suffered.

There are no bad kids, all behaviour serves a purpose and in kids it’s usually drills down to their need of security and feeling safe. I am pleased to report she has settled down and better still it looks like her foster family may well become her forever home.

   * Disclaimer:  results may vary from person to person


Why do I do that? All behaviour serves a purpose.

I know I am always banging on about this but if one thing stayed with me from my training it’s the statement ‘all behaviour serves a purpose’ because it’s true.

No matter what people come to me for, I intently listen to the thing they want to stop doing.  Not because that’s how to improve things for them, but because that’s the biggest clue to what’s really going on.  That behaviour is almost always protecting them in some way, even though by doing so it’s causing them distress.  So I listen to what they are doing and think to myself and if they do that what is it stopping them doing.

Some examples are:

  • over eating – what’s it stopping them doing?  Losing weight – why would your subconscious put you through that?
  • I shake or stutter in public – what’s it stopping them doing? Being happy to be in public places – why would your subconscious do that?
  • I seem to only choose bullying partners – what’s it stopping them doing?  Being with someone nice – why would your subconscious do that?

The list goes on and on but the principle is the same.  The ‘why would your subconscious do that’ question helps me home in on the real issue. I work on the belief that even though the issues people are dealing with are causing them stress, they are created to protect. So my job is to work with the client to try and get to why your subconscious thinks you need protecting. By drilling down, we get to it.

These are generalizations but you’ll hopefully see what i mean…

  • over eating – by staying big you wont attract a partner so no chance of another heart break….
  • stuttering or shaking in public – well this would put you off being in public so you cant do or say anything to make yourself feel embarrassed in some way ….
  • choosing bullying partners – by doing that you can stay away from someone that might just make you really give your heart and then risk it getting broken again….or something in you makes you think you don’t deserve better….

As I said, generalisations, but it hopefully shows the maps I use to get to the root of your true issue, because what you present with is the side effect not the true problem. Roots and branches.

Some therapists will cut off the branch, i.e. give you the strength for a few weeks to diet or copping strategies to stay calm in social situations.  You will feel better for a few weeks but because you have not gotten to the root, your issue will return with vengeance and you will then feel nothing can help you.

I go for the root every time. Snip the head off a weed it will grow back, but if I pull the root out…..


  * Disclaimer:  results may vary from person to person

Stepping on every other paving slab – why not?

A lot of clients I see for depression have come to me because I am their last hope.  They tried counselling and all types of therapy and now depend on drugs for an even keel. Their paths are set in their minds.

I am going to stick my neck out here but I truly believe that no one is born depressed. Oh, I concede there are genetics and stuff but as a rule I won’t accept that things have to be just because no one has been able to prove otherwise – yet!

I don’t believe our paths are set but I do believe that an ideal destination has been, that’s specific for each of us.  Years ago the Romans built one long straight road.  I believe you can walk that or rather let it lead you and that you can take a few detours and have a look around on your trip.

The people that come to me with depression can only see the one road.  They can’t see the signs all around them detouring them off for the scenic route. The drugs make that road easy but also keep you on that road, obliviousness to the scenic detours.

The first thing I say to them when they tell me there is no hope is ‘why are you here then?’ They come because something in them – a fire, a life force won’t give in. I believe it’s that life force that helps us choose the paths we want to take to our destination. If life really won’t get any better what’s the problem with just humouring me and taking a detour – you have nothing to lose after all.

Through Cog Hyp I gently lead them off the road and we take a minute to enjoy the view or the new perspective. We walk further down the detour and find it’s a different country with new experiences, the air tastes better…..

My clients say ‘that was nice but when I leave your hut I am back on my path, you can’t change fate’. But here’s the thing.  No I can’t change your fate when you leave my hut you step back into the reality of your life.  I ask my clients to notice the paving slabs leading them away from my hut and again, just to humour me, walk beside them or miss every second one on the way out.  Sounds simplistic but depression is an enormous weight and burden. It’s a prison. There is no escape in my client’s minds. The path is set.

Tiny changes equal changes that seem so insignificant to my clients but start to change their mind set.  Ever watched two ocean liners? One has a slight compass change, maybe only half a degree out on the other. For ages they run side by side but every hour they are slightly further apart.  It’s so small a change you could not notice it but over time that tiny half a degree will have them thousands of miles apart, heading to different destinations. Clients struggle to notice that half a degree but the course is set and the path has been changed.  I love it when one day they look out from the helm of their ships and realize their paths have changed. Step off the path or dare to miss every other paving slab – who knows where it could lead?

  * Disclaimer: results may vary from person to person

Tree pruning v get the root out

Tree pruning v get the root out…..

I was looking back through my client notes and noticed I draw the same picture in every initial consultation – a very sad looking tree. The reason is, pictures speak a thousand words. I draw a tree with branches and put their presenting issue on one of the branches. I explain that a lot of ” therapists” will butcher the branch off and that for a few weeks their presenting issue will go. But, as with all weeds, if you do not get to the root it will grow back, stronger and slightly different.  The problem is made worse.

An example.

In my early days of being a therapist I had a lady come to me who wanted to loose weight. She was hell bent that chocolate was the problem. Being keen and naive I dealt with the chocolate issue and loved the accolade of her telling everyone how great I was because she did not eat chocolate anymore!  A few weeks later she was back – no weight loss – yes she had stopped eating chocolate but had now developed an obsession for jelly babies. I was at fault for disregarding all my training and going for the quick fix or sticky plaster. I did not look for the root. Now this could have gone on for months and each time I removed her craving for something – something else would have stepped in.

Clients want you to sort them out quick and a lot of therapists will happily take your money and prune your branch.  Oh you will keep going back because you will be amazed that they stopped you eating chocolate – but in my humble opinion they are failing you and my profession. Now when I draw my trees I put the roots in.  I tell this tale allowing me and my client seek out the root. You know, if you get to the root, it can’t live or grow and so the issue goes and a strange thing happens – the weight goes too!.

Yep its quicker to get the branches pruned but it’s pointless and expensive. So I guess I will continue to draw a tree for all my clients so we can both set our sights on doing the job properly and getting to the root of the issue.


  * Disclaimer:  results may vary from person to person