Although the client’s presenting problem was abnormal hair loss, often joked about as a cliche symptom of stress, the underlying causes were not “cliche” at all but unique to the client.
A client I hadn’t seen in several years returned because her hair had suddenly begun to fall out. When we questioned her intelligence during the Stress Evaluation, we found psychological and guilt stresses. She naturally assumed they were related to the contentious divorce she was going through, but to her surprise they were not. (We found that she was actually dealing with the divorce’s stress fairly well.)
Instead, the stress behind her hair loss was related to a several years-old business matter that she subconsciously considered a test of her integrity – a test she was failing. A few years earlier, she’d been selling an expensive line of cosmetics that included a shampoo. While she no longer sold these products, she had continued to use some of the leftover shampoo inventory on her hair — that is, until recently when it had gotten packed away during her move to a new house. In the new home, she’d been washing her hair with whatever shampoo she unpacked first, which happened to be a different brand. And THAT was the problem.
No, it wasn’t because one shampoo was better than the other. Instead, it was strictly a matter of integrity. The Stress Evaluation revealed that she subconsciously felt honor-bound to use up all of the expensive shampoo she’d formerly sold before she could legitimately start using another brand.
She felt this way because her customers had purchased the expensive shampoo on the basis of her word that it was superior and well worth the very high cost. For her to use another brand while she still had some of the high-priced product on hand was beneath the standards of her integrity, hence the guilt stress. It was as if she’d lied to her customers about the worth of the shampoo.
Interestingly, we found that her sense of integrity did not require her to continue buying the high-priced shampoo when she used up her supply. Presumably, her changed financial circumstances due to the divorce constituted a legitimate reason to switch to a less expensive brand.
After the Stress Evaluation, she felt at peace with herself and stood taller from reaffirming the fact that she had high standards. True to our findings, as soon as she returned to the shampoo she formerly sold her hair immediately stopped falling out because she no longer needed to punish herself. These days, she’s long since exhausted her supply and yet her hair remains intact because she is living up to her value standards.
We shared a laugh when she called later to report back to me because it was funny in the ridiculous way that life often is. And yet it was also a sweet moment to me. I love the fact that integrity and morality matter to all of us at our core — even to people who see themselves as hard-bitten expedient types, not given to pondering the morality of their actions. Oftentimes people think they’re getting ahead by short-cutting integrity but in truth they’re creating their own stress, diminishing self-esteem, and possibly setting themselves up to pay for it later with self-inflicted illness.
The Stress Evaluation provides information possibly not obtainable anywhere else to guide targeted corrective action, as opposed to the hit-or-miss conjectural solutions that can emerge from conventional talk therapy. In this client’s case, the most obvious stress in her life, even to her, was her ongoing divorce. Indeed, it was the only thing she mentioned when I asked for background at the start of the session. As such, the divorce would likely have been the focus of psychotherapy, yet we were able to dismiss it from consideration immediately because the Stress Evaluation revealed that it was not a factor in her hair loss.
Instead, the relevant stress was an integrity concern connected to an old business matter. Without being able to draw on the intelligence for this information, what would a physician, psychologist, or nutritionist have suggested to correct the problem? How many tests would have been run and at what expense? With what findings? How long would it have taken to find a solution, if ever? (This Stress Evaluation took about twenty minutes.) In conclusion, when a client is willing and able to face their stress, the Stress Evaluation can provide a valuable wealth of information about problems and solutions.