The Perfect Angel
By V. Vernon Woolf, Ph.D.
I received a phone call from a friend of mine from Utah.
It was four years after I had moved to California and she
was desperate for help. Her son, age nine, had been admitted
to the State Mental Hospital.She explained he had been diagnosed
“antisocial psychopath with schizophrenia tendencies.” This
meant they were planning on keeping him in the mental hospital
for a long time. I knew her and had met the young boy and
I asked what had caused him to be admitted to the hospital.
“He has been taking knives, putting them to the throat of
little girls and raping them” she cried.I agreed to fly
in and see the boy as soon as possible.
I was traveling a lot so I changed my flight plans, phoned
ahead to the hospital, and made arrangements to visit with
the boy.As I approached the building, one of a large complex
situated at the base of the mountains in Provo, Utah, near
where I raised my family, I was met at the door by the psychiatrist.
He knew me from my work with families of schizophrenics
and other patients from a few years earlier. “You have one
hour!” he exclaimed in a harsh and authoritative voice.
I understood what he meant. It was only a few years ago
that over 80% of the hospital population was “pulled out”
from the hospital because of my efforts and I would likely
have emptied the entire hospital if the psychiatrists had
not persuaded the political powers to request we stop our
programs.I was on “enemy ground” according to them and was
given a very tight leash. At the same time, my credentials
were impeccable and there was no legal reason they could
limit my access to the boy since I am a licensed psychotherapist
in the state.
I walked the three flights of worn stairs, went down the
dark hallway painted ugly green, and entered the small and
barren visitor’s room. The boy was sitting on an old green
couch, much worn over the years. I sat on the other end.
He remembered me and I him. “What are you doing here?” I
“I been bad,” he sighed and he picked up the couch’s middle
cushion, put it between us and peeked over the top. It was
plain he felt guilty and I knew he was not in a psychotic
state. “Did it feel good?” I beamed at him. “Oh yeah!” he
beamed back and the pillow dropped a little.
“When did you first begin to be bad?” I queried. The pillow
came back up and he ducked his head a little. “When I pushed
“What button?” “The one on my friend’s dad’s VCR” - he
whispered as though it was some kind of secret.
“What did you see?”“I saw a man put a knife to a lady’s
neck and do things that looked like more fun than I ever
had in my whole life. It felt gooood!” “So you wanted to
have fun and feel good?”“Yeh,” he said.“So you did bad things
so you could feel good?” “Yeh.”
“Can you feel that good feeling now?”“Oh yeah,” he said.
“Does it have a color?”
He squinched up his nose and looked away a little as he
concentrated.“Its black and brown.” “Does it have a shape?”
“It’s like a big dog. More like a beasty dog. It’s big
and it has a collar and a big chain.”The way he referred
to the collar and chain made me ask, “Where does the chain
go? ”His eyes widened and his mouth dropped open as he looked
upward toward the ceiling. He gasped and before I knew what
was happening he had crawled under the cushion and was shaking
so hard the entire couch was rocking.
I climbed down to his level and poked my head under the
cushion. “What is it?” “It’s the devil!” he wailed. “Oh
good!” I beamed back. He paused at the implication and I
responded, “Do you want to know a secret about the devil?
”The pillow raised a little and he said, “What secret?”
“If you love him he has no power.” “Really?” “Yep. It’s
a fact.Try giving him a big hug and see for yourself. ”I
watched as this courageous little boy pulled himself out
from under his protective pillow and looked cautiously upward
toward the devil. He half closed his eyes, slowly put out
his arms and gave the devil a hug .As he was doing it, I
said, “Ask him what he wants.” “He says he wants to have
fun.” “Tell him thanks for answering and ask him and his
beast if they will wait for a minute. “Yep.They will.”
“OK. Great! Now let’s do something else. Can you imagine
what it would be like to have fun in a more normal way,
without doing all this “bad” stuff?” “Oh sure.” “What would
you do for real fun but not bad fun?”
“Play ball, go swimming, play games and stuff.” “How does
it feel to have good fun?” “Well it feels gooood. It feels
like it’s normal stuff.” “Does it have a color?” “Yep, it’s
like sunshine.” “Does it have a shape?”
“Well yeah. It’s like an angel. It’s my very own angel
with flippers.” “With flippers?” “Yeh. It’s not a serious
angel. It has flippers?” “Flippers?” “Yeh. For swimming
and it reminds me it’s a fun angel!”
“OK. We got one more thing to do.” “OK. What?”
“Well, can you invite the devil and his beast to meet your
angel?” “Sure.The devil says he’s tired and so is his dog.
They want to rest and stop doing bad things.” “Really? Can
you ask him if he and his dog would like to be able to have
fun in a good way?” He scrunched up his face and had a little
inner dialogue with his devil and then said, “He says he
wants to be like the angel.”
“Ask the angel if it’s OK.” “She says sure it is.”“Can
you ask the devil if it would be OK for him and his dog
to change. Maybe they could change forever into the angel
so they could always have good fun?” “Well they just changed.”
“What happened?”“They are gone.Only my angel’s there now.”
“Will the angel help you have all the good fun you want?”
“Oh yes.She’s great!” “Will you ask her whenever you want
fun so she always helps you to know what to do?” “Oh yeah.It’s
“Can you draw your mother a picture of your angel?” “Sure!”
And he did. It was an angel with wings and flippers. There
was still about 10 minutes left and we sort of joked around
and I asked him questions about his mom and how she would
be very interested in his angel. He promised to talk to
his angel every day and tell his mom everything.
I made arrangements to return and had no contact until
I walked up the path toward the building three weeks later.The
psychiatrist met me outside of the building. “What did you
do to that boy!” he exclaimed pointing a very authoritative
finger in my face and waggling it back and forth. He was
very frustrated. “Why?” I asked. “What happened?”
“You were only there for an hour. He was rapping little
girls, slapping people in the halls, attacking other children
without cause and a real sociopath. From the time he talked
to you, his behavior changed entirely.” “What do you mean?”
“He’s been a perfect angel!”
“Of course!” I exclaimed, realizing he had been following
the advice of his angel with flippers.“How did you do it?”
the psychiatrist asked. Seeing he was somewhat perplexed
and seemed sincere, I put my arm around his shoulder as
we walked together into the building. I took a few minutes,
explained about the VCR incident and how it triggered a
situational response which took over the boy’s fun loving
patterns. I explained about tracking the holodyne of the
beast and the devil and transforming them into the angel
so the boy could have “good fun” instead of “bad fun.” “Can
I watch?” the psychiatrist asked. “I am sure it will be
fine but really, there’s not much left to do. Just observe
the boy for awhile and let him go. He should be fine.” “I
can’t believe it” he was saying as we walked into the reception
The boy ran to me and jumped up and gave me a hug. The
perfect angel was released four weeks later.
This is an excerpt
from “The Dance of Life: Transform your
World NOW!” by V. Vernon Woolf.
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