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Narrative Interviewing and Behavioral Change

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Narrative Interviewing and Behavior Change

Why do we keep doing things that we know are bad for us? In a workshop this weekend at the New York Open Center, I had the opportunity to teach Narrative Style Interviewing and spoke with a person who could help us to understand this puzzle. Mary's presenting problem was that she wanted to eat what she wanted to eat, and, when she did, her body rebelled.

"What do you want to eat?" I asked, which seemed like the obvious next question.

"Sugar and bread," she said, laughing.

"Do you mean, like, cake?" I asked.

"Exactly," she said. "Dessert is best."

"So what happens when you eat what you want to eat?" I asked.

"It messes me up inside and outside. Inside I get pain and diarrhea and outside I get puffy and sore."

"What should you eat?" I asked.

"Salad, kim chee, fish, turkey, greens," she answered.

"So what are the foods that make you sick?" I asked.

"Bread, sugar, chocolate, ice cream, some fruits, cheese, potato, and maltodextran," she answered.

"So what do you make of this?" I asked.

"I'm being denied the sweetness of life," she answered. That sounded a bit dramatic.

"So how come you eat things that make you sick?" I answered.

"Because I want them," she answered. "But I guess it's punishment. I eat when I'm angry. I feel justified to do so, even entitled. "

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Lewis Mehl-Madrona graduated from Stanford University School of Medicine and completed residencies in family medicine and in psychiatry at the University of Vermont. He is the author of Coyote Medicine, Coyote Healing, Coyote Wisdom, and (more...)

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