A thirty-year-old university professor attended a university dance and saw a thirty-year-old single woman on the other side of the room. She saw him, and they rapidly gravitated toward each other. Within a month they had planned their future and were married. Three years later they appeared in my office and told their sad story. In telling it, they were extremely prudish and embarrassed, and they used a most stilted and formal wording. In essence, their complaint was that even before marriage they had planned to have a family, and because they were both thirty years
old, they felt that there should be no delay of any sort. But after three years they were childless, despite medical examinations and advice. They were both present in the office, and, in telling me their problem, the man said, "In my thinking, and that of my wife, we have reached the conclusion that it is more proper that I give voice to our trouble in common and state it succinctly. Our problem is most distressing and destructive of our marriage. Because of our desire for children we have engaged in the marital union with full physiological concomitants each night and morning for procreative purposes. On Sundays and holidays we have engaged in the marital union with full physiological concomitants for procreative purposes as much as four times a day. W e have not permitted physical disability to interfere. As a result of the frustration of our philoprogenitive desires, the marital union has become progressively unpleasant for us, but it has not interfered with our efforts at procreation; but it does distress both of us to discover our increasing impatience with each other. For this reason we are seeking your aid, since other medical aid has failed.
At this point I interrupted and said to the man, "You have stated the problem. I would like to have you remain silent and have your wife state her opinion in her own words." In almost exactly the same pedantic way, and with even greater embarrassment than her husband had shown, the wife voiced their com plaint. I said, "I can correct this for you, but it will involve shock therapy. It will not be electric shock or physical shock but it will be a matter of psychological shock. I will leave you alone in the office for fifteen minutes so that the two of you can exchange views and opinions about your willingness to receive a rather severe psychological shock. At the end of fifteen minutes I will come back into the office and ask your decision and abide by it."
I left the office, returned fifteen minutes later, and said, "Give me your answer." The man replied, "We have discussed the matter both objectively and subjectively, and we have reached the conclusion that we will endure anything that might possibly offer satisfaction for our philoprogenitive desires." I asked the wife, "Do you agree fully?" She answered, "I do, sir." I explained that the shock would be psychological, involve their emotions, and be a definite. strain upon them. "It will be rather simple to administer, but you will both be exceedingly shocked psychologically. I suggest that as you sit there in your chairs, you reach down under the sides of your chairs and hang tightly to the bottom of the chair and listen well to what I say. After I have said it, and as I am administering the shock, I want the two of you to maintain an absolute silence. Within a few minutes you will be able to leave the office and return to your home. I want the two of you to maintain an absolute silence all the way home, and during that silence you will discover a multitude of thoughts rushing through your minds. Upon reaching home, you will maintain silence until after you have entered the house and closed the door. You will then be free! Now hang tightly to the bottom of your chairs, because I am now going to give you the psychological shock. It is this: For three long years you have engaged in the marital union with full physiological concomitants for procreative purposes at least twice a day and sometimes as much as four times in twenty-four hours, and you have met with defeat of your philoprogenitive desires. Now why in hell don't you fuck for fun and pray to the devil that she isn't knocked up for at least three months. Now please leave."
I learned later that they maintained silence all the way home thinking "many things." When they finally got inside the house with the door shut, according to the husband, "We found we couldn't wait to get to the bedroom. W e just dropped to the floor. W e didn't engage in the marital union; we had fun. Now the three months are barely up and my wife is pregnant." Nine months later a baby girl was born. When I called on them to see the baby, I learned that formal speech and polysyllabic words and highly proper phrases were no longer necessary in their conversations. They could even tell risqué stories.
The forty-mile drive to the home of the couple in absolute silence made possible, in accord with the suggestions given them, a great variety of much repressed thinking which ran riot in their minds. This resulted in their sexual activity immediately upon closing the door when they reached home. This was what I had hoped. When the couple were questioned about this, they stated that they believed there had been an increasingly greater build-up of erotic thinking the nearer they got to their home, but they said they had no specific memories.
This case history was related in full to an audience of over seventy practicing psychiatrists at Columbia University. Before narrating the case history, I asked the audience if they thought that they could endure listening to some so-called Anglo-Saxon words in relation to a psychiatric problem. The audience were certain they could, and I felt that they could. However, to my astonishment, at the utterance of the key word, the audience actually froze into rigid immobility for a few moments. I noted that my own tone of voice very definitely changed. This was most revealing about the long- continued effects of the learned inhibitions in childhood and their continuance into adult life.
Taken from Uncommon therapies – The psychiatric techniques of Milton H. Erickson M.D. W.W. Norton & Company, New York, London.