Her clumsiness started when she was 18 months old. Then when she was 5, she fell and bit all the way through her tongue. "My mother was chopping vegetables, and she just about chopped one of my fingers off," she reveals. "When I was 7, my sisters were digging potatoes, and I went and got a pitchfork, and I stuck it straight through my foot." She also accidentally stabbed herself in the
She's fallen three times in the last six months, and ended up with both of her arms in splints. Teresa is to the point now where she just expects to get hurt. "I think I should get married just so someone will be here just in case I fall and break a hip," she jokes. "Dr. Phil, my life is a mess and I'm afraid I'm going to one day seriously injure myself."
"Why do you think you create this in your life?" Dr. Phil asks Teresa. "Why have you become this signature individual?" He quotes her: "'I expect injury no matter what I do.' 'I'm clumsy.' You go into it expecting something's going to happen."
Dr. Phil explains that everyone has a persona and a way of engaging with the world. "A big part of yours is that you're an accident looking for a place to happen," he says.
Teresa agrees. "I come from a huge family, lots and lots of people. I'm the one who's going to get hurt," she admits. "And when I get hurt, it focuses everything in on me."
Dr. Phil notes that Teresa grew up with five sisters, and the only way any of them got attention was if they hurt themselves. He offers several theories that could explain her behavior. "You could just be socially unaware. You could be punishing yourself. You could get a payoff from the attention because you thrive on crisis ... Or you could just lack a regard for rules and the way things are done," Dr. Phil explains. "But you have to assume that there is a reason behind why you are choosing this."
Acknowledging how powerful the subconscious is, Dr. Phil asks Teresa, "Could it be that you're setting yourself up for that because you really need a hug?"
"That could be," she agrees.
"Yeah, it's incredibly painful," she admits.
Telling Teresa that she can't change what she doesn't acknowledge, Dr. Phil suggests that she find other practical ways of getting attention. "If you want attention, do volunteer work. If you want attention, call a guy and say, 'Would you like to take me to dinner. Would you like me to take you to dinner?' That's so much easier than putting both arms in a sling," he says.
"Less expensive too," Teresa laughs.
"If you consciously replace it, it can stop," Dr. Phil says.