Oliver is 15. Growing fast, he is a bright high school student, with clear friendly eyes and an interested gaze, the young intellectual type.

He comes in with his mother, who describes an interesting but disturbing symptom: when Oliver has a test in school forgets everything he has learned as soon as he sees the test paper with the questions.

I remember that in our first session three years ago Oliver was a good ally in the process, so I engage him in a conversation as if he were a psychologist colleague, while drawing a diagram on the flipchart in my consulting room. What's the matter in this mysterious case? We have a bright young guy as a client, who suddenly is unable to perform.

What happens in the process? He studies for the test, knows everything covered, he receives the test questions, looks over the sheet to get an overview of the exam, and when he begins to answer, he has forgotten everything he learned. Mysterious, indeed. Oliver’s reaction when he realises that he can't pass the test is 'sh*t'.

I draw a formula on the flipchart, with a sheet of paper on the left, an F for forgetting in the middle, and 'sh*t' on the right. In our psychological conversation we try to find out if there is any additional information, but we can't find anything, so I draw a black box between the sheet of paper and the F for forgetting. I tell Oliver that in my opinion the 'sh*t' is not relevant: Once he stops forgetting, there will not longer be a reason to be irritated.

So we concentrate on the black box. Oliver is fascinated by the way I take this problem apart and tries to help me where he can. I come up with the idea that there must be a stress reaction. Something happens, which causes his brain to switch to a state of 'empty'. I'm really puzzled and look at my colleague helplessly: What, for heaven's sake, is in that black box?

Psychologist Oliver finally comes up with the answer himself: "I put myself under pressure." I notice that that's a very interesting statement, because it means that he has two parts: one part is called 'I'. It exerts pressure on the other part that's called 'myself'. Oliver is confused by the idea of being split in two parts, so I explain the topdog-underdog mechanism in the black box.

The I-part of Oliver gives a strong message to the myself-part that he is not allowed to fail the test. The myself-part reacts to this message with a stress reaction, which turns off the part of his brain that can access what he has studied and instead goes into a state of alarm, in which he freezes. Now Oliver gets it: the I-part gives the orders, the myself-part must comply, but the myself-part is scared of the I-part and panics.

I ask Oliver where the two parts are in the room, and he discovers that they share the same space in the middle of his head. I conclude that it's too confusing to keep them in the same spot, so I invite him to find a place for the I-part and the myself-part on my carpet, and then a third spot for the Oliver that doesn't have the problem. These spots are marked with coloured paper anchors.

Once the map is laid out, I ask Oliver where the most energy is bound from his position of Oliver who doesn't have the problem. It's the I-part anchor that he feels pushed by. Now I give him the three Logosynthesis sentences for that I-part. They take a long time to process, especially the second one, which is not surprising. When I ask him what happened to the I-part, he says, amazed: "Both parts have become much weaker."

Oliver is pleasantly surprised. His back has straightened, his eyes shine even more brightly, and when we go through the formula on the flip chart again, the I-part is taken out of the equation. That means that the myself-part also disappears and that we can leave the answers to the test questions to this healthy, intelligent 15-years old. 

Two weeks later:  

Good afternoon, Dr. Lammers,

We were with you two weeks ago. On Friday I had my mathematics exam and the result was a B+. I almost wrote an A-flat! The sentences have helped me to get my nervousness completely under control and since then I am getting good grades again. Thank you for your help!
Greetings and many thanks again,