The Silent Hand

As a story or a practical exercise, the story “The Silent Hand” represents an intervention for reducing skin moisture, or in other words for regulating the formation and absorption of oil and perspiration, and reducing the production of dandruff. During therapeutic work with bulimia and emetophobia (fear of vomiting and vomit) the story can be used to teach clients that they have involuntary control over their excretions, even their sweat. For patients suffering from colds (including blocked-up ears), the story can be used metonymically (as an example of an adjacent phenomenon), since it is associatively linked with the idea of reducing the swelling of the mucous membranes and the production of secretions. Finally, the story can be used to teach clients how to influence the production of endogenous substances through suggestion, for example a change in the quantity of tears secreted in the case of patients suffering from dry eyes. The story also illustrates how events experienced by the therapist can be turned into a third-person narrative – which is automatically more detached than a first-person narrative – using the phrase “my friend Peter” (the “My Friend John” technique).

My friend Peter belongs to an African drumming group led by a Congolese drummer. The leader was teaching a piece to the group which ends by getting quieter and quieter until the music stops entirely and the drummer’s hand is lying motionless on the drum. The leader lifted his hand away from the drum without making a sound. The other drummers copied him, but each of them made an audible squelch because of the sweat and oil on the skin of their hands. They tried repeatedly to lift their hands soundlessly, but time and time again the leader lifted his hands in complete silence while audible squelches could be heard from the others. In his thoughts, Peter said to his hand, “Dear hand, please absorb all the oil and sweat which is currently on your surface.” Seconds later, he lifted his hand in absolute silence. “How on earth did you manage that?” the others asked hm. Within a matter of seconds, they too could regulate the sweat and grease on their own hands.

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