Estimated reading time: 8 minutes, 49 seconds.
It is with immense pleasure that I present to you the engaging interview below, conducted by Dan Short with Jeﬀrey Zeig, founding director/president of the Erickson Foundation. The Foundation is celebrating 40 years since it was established in 1979, while Erickson was still actively practicing as a clinician and teacher. The first Erickson congress took place in Phoenix, December 1980, and was just completed the 13th Erickson Congress this past December. Throughout these past four decades, the Erickson Foundation – whose two of its Board of Directors are the Europeans Camillo Loriedo and Bernhard Trenkle – has advanced the development and expansion of the fields of hypnosis and psychotherapy. The Foundation has also promoted many international gatherings, including the Evolution of Psychotherapy conferences, to further not only Milton Erickson’s therapeutic methodologies, but also to honor the relevant pioneers and proponents of diverse theoretical and clinical practices. Jeﬀ Zeig ponders and expands on those pioneers throughout the interview with Dan Short.
Both Jeﬀ and Dan are well known to European professionals through their lectures, workshops, and publications. The most recent by Zeig is a group of four books, part of his Empowering Experiential Therapy Series published by The Erickson Foundation Press (2019).
Dan Short: The Erickson Foundation, which you founded, has acted as a vehicle for education, as well for the spread of Ericksonian institutes around the world. Could you tell us something about your original plans for the Foundation, 40 years ago?
Jeffrey Zeig: To tell you the truth, I did not know it would become so robust. I couldn’t have predicted that it would become integral to the incredible interest around the world in learning about Erickson’s contributions. But the Erickson Foundation is not solely dedicated to the work of Milton Erickson. The Foundation is a psychotherapy organization that began in 1980 to help organize Ericksonian congresses. But then, in 1985, I organized the first Evolution of Psychotherapy conference, which brought together 26 distinguished leaders of diﬀerent schools of psychotherapy.
The first Evolution of Psychotherapy conference was a seminal event, timed to coincide with the hundredth anniversary of psychotherapy’s conception. Some of the leaders of various schools of psychotherapy met for the first time at that conference. For example, I saw 78-year-old Joseph Wolpe walk over to 83-year-old Carl Rogers to say hello. The titular founder of behavior therapy and the titular founder of humanistic therapy recognized that they had never met before.
The first Evolution conference was designed around the schools of psychotherapy. It provided a forum in which leaders could talk about their developments and be honored for what they had oﬀered to the field. Since then, the underlying theme of Evolution conferences is consilience: Finding the commonalities that make psychotherapy work. It is my belief, my hope, and my continued goal that the Evolution conferences continue to serve as a vehicle for the integration of psychotherapy.
According to some historians, psychotherapy began in 1885 when Freud became interested in the psychological aspects of medicine. Up until World War II, there was a tight therapeutic community, based on understanding the Freudian, Adlerian, or Jungian perspective.
But after World War II, when Europe was decimated, psychotherapy found a new home in the United States. There was a proliferation of diﬀerent schools and streams of psychotherapy, including the humanistic school, the behavioral school, the family system school, the cognitive school, and now aﬀective neurobiology. So, after World War II there was a wild proliferation of approaches, by some estimates there are currently more than 800 diﬀerent schools of psychotherapy. But after so much expansion, I believe that there needs to be some contraction. We need to search for integrative principles that help explain what makes psychotherapy work. I hope that the Foundation has been instrumental in that endeavor.
DS: What do you see happening in the field of hypnosis?
JZ: The United States used to be the most fertile bed for interest in hypnosis. Today, the interest and growth has shifted to other countries, including Italy, France, and Germany, as well as other European countries which are bringing a new vibrancy and life to hypnosis. The European audience in France and Germany is especially strong, and in these countries as well as others, there are more developments and experts. Over the course of its history, there has been a mercurial rise and fall in interest in hypnosis. Because of this, I imagine that people in the U.S. will once again be stimulated into learning about it.
DS: Of all the people that you have met, who has inspired you most?
JZ: When I think of all the master therapists that I have been fortunate enough to know and study with, Erickson has been the one who has spoken most deeply to me. He was instrumental in helping me improve who I am as a person and as a professional. Of course, I will never be his equal in experiential wizardry, but I have trained myself to be less left-hemisphere dominant, operating instead from the right-hemisphere, which enables me to be more evocative.
I also had the good fortune to spend time with Carl Whitaker, who conducted consultations with me as I met with families. And, I learned a lot from Viktor Frankl. In fact, I use logotherapy regularly in my practice. I’ve had exceptional training in gestalt therapy because I attended a doctoral program that was influenced by Joan Fagan and Norma Shepard who are first-generation students of Fritz Perls.
I have a background in transactional analysis and was a clinical member of that society at one time. I also had a year of training with Bob and Mary Goulding who profoundly influenced me in understanding parts of the human psyche. I developed a great rapport with Salvador Minuchin, whom I adored. I am now the curator of one of Minuchin’s archives.
If you go to psychotherapyvideo.com you can see some of Minuchin’s clinical work. It was his wish to make his archives available to people around the world. But of all these individuals, Erickson has been the most profound influence on me both personally and professionally. His precision, his humanism, his way of orienting toward, his strategic nature, his evocative experiential way of approaching things, his basis in utilization, are all things that have intrigued me. To this day, I continue to learn a lot from Erickson.
DS: What are some of the resources available to people who wish to learn more about Erickson?
JZ: We have an expansive archive at the Erickson Foundation with hundreds of hours of audio and video recordings of Milton Erickson. And we are just at the cusp of being able to launch this resource on the internet for the professional world, so that people will have the opportunity to see footage of Dr. Erickson doing teaching seminars in the latter half of the 1970s. We also have videos of me discussing Erickson and oﬀering my perspective on his work.
The best video of Erickson that we have is titled, “The Artistry of Milton Erickson”.
It is available in several language on our store at: https://catalog.erickson-foundation.org/.
For those who visit Phoenix, we oﬀer tours of the Erickson Historic Residence, so that people can see where Erickson lived and worked the last decade of his life. The Erickson children have been especially active in developing the historical residence as a museum, so that visitors get a feel for the modest way in which Erickson lived and practiced.
The Erickson Foundation has also published the Collected Works of Milton H. Erickson, which is a 16-volume set of the written work completed by Erickson across five decades. This resource can be found at the Foundation’s web store. In addition to these resources, I am the author of several books on Ericksonian hypnotherapy. I have written four books that are the corpus of what I teach, including one on hypnotic induction, one of the Ericksonian model of brief psychotherapy, one on therapist development, and one on the evocative nature that I think is essential to skillful psychotherapy.
DS: I know that you are currently working on a biography of Milton Erickson. Could you tell us more about this important project?
JZ: Over the years, I have conducted 200 interviews with colleagues of Milton Erickson. I have also interviewed all eight of his children and three of his siblings. Before Erickson died, I spent a significant amount of time with him, seeking to know and understand him as best I could. Jerry Piaget, who is one of the leaders in promoting psychotherapy education, has provided a grant, which is helping to make it possible for me to write the Erickson biography.
When I first met Erickson in 1973, he seemed that he just took all of this wisdom oﬀ the top of his head. He just seemed to be so complete. But as I came to know him, I realized that he was very diligent about crafting what he would say and do and how he would be in therapy.
He worked hard to develop his incredible skills; his remarkable perceptiveness, his ability to communicate with such loving precision, as well as his impressive ability to overcome adversity.
While seeking to utilize all of his limited faculties, he tried to make other people’s lives a little bit better. Erickson suﬀered from the degenerative eﬀects of post-polio syndrome, but he was still an inspiration. If you had limitations, he certainly had more. If you had pain, he certainly had more. Yet he was laughing all the time. It seemed that he wanted to make the world a better place by virtue of his presence on this planet.
When I first visited Erickson, my thought was that he would train me to be a better psychotherapist, but in a sense, I was wrong. It became apparent to me early on that the time I spent with him was an experience about life and learning to be a better Jeﬀ Zeig. It was not about being trained to be a better therapist.
Without knowing Erickson and experiencing him, I wouldn’t be here today. I actually don’t know how my life would’ve turned out had I not spent those years in the ‘70s traveling to Phoenix to see Erickson. In fact, I’m living in Phoenix because I moved here 40 years ago to be closer to him.
Now my desire is to encapsulate the inspirational spirit of Erickson on the written page so that people around the world can experience him.
DS: Thank you Jeﬀ. I am grateful for your insights and for what you have done through the work of the Erickson Foundation.
Article compliments of European Society of Hypnosis in Psychotherapy and Medicine from their newsletter here: http://esh-hypnosis.eu/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/ESHNSL2019September.pdf
by Marilia Baker
A long, meaningful, well-lived life ended on December 26, 2008, blessed with a peaceful death. Concepts such as beauty, truth, love, simplicity and complexity they all were encompassed in the lifetime of Elizabeth Euphemia Moore Erickson.
The last Holiday Greeting card I received from her contained the following:
I am still living in my Hayward Avenue home here in Phoenix and enjoying Life on a quiet scale. I have had the pleasure of visits from many family members and friends throughout the year, and have found that time goes by swiftly. I am now 92 years old and still up and about, though I limit my outings and have given up travel. I am glad to say that with the help of my good neighbor and friend, I get out every day for a spin through my neighborhood (in the foothills of Squaw Peak) in a wheelchair, which I use for extended walks. I really enjoy the beautiful flowers, the cacti, and the trees that are seen year round in Phoenix. I wish you and yours every happiness this season and in all the coming years.
These words resume the existential philosophy of an exceptional woman, who found true pleasure in the smallest of moments, and in the smallest of things around her. In weaving together the pieces on Elizabeth Erickson’s life, some concepts and meanings come to mind: well-born, well-bred, and much loved by family and friends; simplicity and complexity, as well as intellectual and emotional intelligence. The passionflower vine in her garden and the anniversary orchid from her husband of 44 years.
Elizabeth as the family bedrock: her years of motherhood, of caregiving, and of graceful widowhood come to mind. With a scientific mind and prodigious memory, she was her husband’s lifelong hypnotic subject and colleague extraordinaire. I am also reminded of the many seasons of Elizabeth’s life, who experienced each phase of her life-cycle to their full extent and splendor, despite grave, serious challenges at each turn. She lived well into her 93rd year, self-reliant and independent minded, always cultivating the art of le petit bonheur (little happiness). She knew quite well how to enjoy even the smallest moments of happiness, as she described in her Christmas card, above.
The foundation of Elizabeth’s early family life: born in Detroit in 1915, she was firmly set on her family’s triple vision: the pursuit of truth and excellence through higher education and lifelong learning; the pursuit of beauty through appreciation of nature and the arts. She was kind to humans and animals as well gentle in manners, completed by refined, sophisticated taste in self-care.
This foundation was also set on the pursuit of Love in its broadest sense: healthy self-love; love for Others, and love for Humanity. Throughout her lifetime Elizabeth lived to the letter the meaning of her middle name: Euphemia, from the Greek concept, euphemios – he/she-who-speaks-well. She not only pursued the right word, the good word, and the just, well-measured word (le bon mot), but she was also an indomitable, resolute pursuer of the well-written word. She was proud of her polished, demon proofreader skills!
A unique, remarkable woman, of an exceptional beauty and intelligence: these are all synonyms for uncommon. Elizabeth embodied these qualifiers throughout the many seasons of her life. Initially, as the undergraduate experimental psychologist in 1935, chosen by the respected Dr. Milton Erickson to be his research assistant at the Wayne County Hospital in Eloise, Michigan. Then as the adult professional who wrote, co-wrote, and edited countless scientific articles presenting the hypotheses and findings of their joint research and experiments. Always as the colleague extraordinaire who worked shoulder-to-shoulder with her husband in many capacities, for approximately 16, 000 days – while raising a lively family of eight children, four boys and four girls. While nurturing their passion for each other, Elizabeth and her husband found creative solutions to everyday family and professional challenges. As a team they faced the vicissitudes brought upon Elizabeth’s shoulders by times of severe physical illnesses suffered by Dr. Erickson.
Intellectual and emotional intelligence: Elizabeth’s intellectual pursuits were many and worthy. She authored and co-authored thirteen professional articles on hypnosis (see pp.5-6). She was an editor and co-editor of the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis for many years. There are countless stories and vignettes about her sophisticated emotional intelligence, specifically in the process of welcoming her new husband’s three young children, and in fostering the power of imagination in all her children. Bert, Dr. Erickson’s eldest son, recalls with delight how Elizabeth prepared their peanut butter and jam sandwich, by smoothing and blending the two ingredients together… An appropriate ‘action metaphor’ by the young mother-to-be. Particularly meaningful to me was her habit of educating and nurturing their children’s imagination through storytelling.
Daughter Roxanna recalls the magical mornings in her childhood when her mother would read from L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz series while braiding her long tresses and those of her younger sister’s Kristina. A major implication of this apparently simple tradition makes significant reference, in my view, to the indirect education of children for the lifelong habits of freedom of thought, autonomy, love for Others and respect for boundaries.
Storytelling with a purpose fosters habits of physical and mental health, self-reliance and resilience through the imagination. Evidence from neuroscience research corroborates the intricate relationship between imagination and health. What is therapeutic hypnosis if not the utilization of influential words and powerful imagery to mitigate human suffering so individuals may attain freedom from stress, dis-ease? Storytelling, by definition, through its hypnotic characteristics and post-hypnotic suggestions can build autonomy, self-reliance, altruism, and a healthy self-concept in children.
Of love for Others, here is a striking example of an indirect yet powerful suggestion: Elizabeth would systematically and thoughtfully pack a dress shirt with matching necktie for each ex-convict graduating from the Seventh Step halfway house program for former criminals, which Dr. Erickson was counsel to.
Leaving a trail of happiness: Elizabeth Erickson died peacefully at home the day after Christmas 2008, in the arms of her youngest daughter Kristina, a medical doctor. Elizabeth was surrounded by her granddaughter Joya, Kristina’s daughter and by Kathy Renée, a great-granddaughter by Bert, the Ericksons’ eldest son, named after his paternal grandfather, Albert. Four generations present together at the final moment. The life-cycle completes itself, and renews itself through the new generations.
Beauty, Symmetry, Simplicity and Complexity. The current concepts of beauty, symmetry, simplicity and complexity, whether expressed through the arts, prose, poetry, philosophy, science, physics, psychology are delicately intertwined within my reflection of what Elizabeth Moore Erickson’s life and work means to me. A simple dictionary definition of beauty, for instance, says that beauty contains all the qualities that give pleasure to the mind or senses.
There was everything in Elizabeth to encompass the depth of this concept: from her physical beauty to the harmony of her being and actions; from her lifelong pursuit of truth and excellence, to the truthfulness of her character and the meaningful, positive connotation she gave to all her actions and behaviors into the last days of her life. Upon emerging into consciousness from surgical anesthesia of several hours duration, Elizabeth was heard singing a favorite Irish tune, “Danny Boy”, a melancholic and somewhat premonitory song of an impending farewell, famous during the first decades of 20th Century America.
One of Elizabeth’s favorite poems contains all beauty and complexity of her life, and of her luminous passage through this Earth:
Flower in the crannied wall, I pluck you out of the crannies. I hold you here, root and all, in my hand. Little flower – but if I could understand what you are, Root and all, and all in all, I should know what God and Man is.
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Articles by Elizabeth M. Erickson
Erickson, E. M. and Erickson, M. H. (1938). Hypnotic Induction of Hallucinatory Color Vision Followed by Pseudo-Negative After Images. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 39, 6, 581-588.
Reprinted in: Rossi, E. L. (Ed.). (1980b). The Collected Papers of Milton H. Erickson on Hypnosis. Vol. II: Hypnotic Alteration of Sensory, Perceptual and Psycho-physiological Processes. New York: Irvington.
Erickson, E. M. and Erickson, M. H. (1941, Jan.). Concerning the Nature and Character of Post-Hypnotic Behavior. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 2 1, 95-133.
Reprinted in: Rossi, E. L. (Ed.). (1980d). The Collected Papers of Milton H. Erickson on Hypnosis. Vol. IV: Innovative Hypnotherapy. New York: Irvington.
Erickson, E. M. and Erickson, M. H. (1941, Aug.). Critical Comments on Hibler’s Presentation of His Work on Negative After Images of Hypnotically Induced Hallucinated Colors. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 29, 164-170.
Reprinted in: Rossi, E. L. (Ed.). (1980). The Collected Papers of Milton H. Erickson on Hypnosis. Vol. II: Hypnotic Alteration of Sensory, Perceptual and Psycho-physiological Processes,. New York: Irvington.
Erickson, E. M. and Erickson, M. H. (1958, Oct.). Further Considerations on Time Distortion: Subjective Time Condensation as Distinct from Time Expansion. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 1, 2, 83-87.
Reprinted in: Rossi, E. L. (1980b). The Collected Papers of Milton H. Erickson on Hypnosis. Vol. II: Hypnotic Alteration of Sensory, Perceptual and Psycho-physiological Processes. New York: Irvington.
Erickson, E. M. (1962, Oct.). Observations Concerning Alterations in Hypnosis of Visual Perceptions. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 5, 2, 131-134.
Reprinted in: Rossi, E. L. (Ed.). (1980b). The Collected Papers. Vol. II. New York: Irvington.
Erickson, E. M. (1966). Further Observations in Hypnotic Alteration of Visual Perception. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 8, 3, 187-188.
Reprinted in: Rossi, E. L. (Ed.). (1980b). The Collected Papers. New York: Irvington.
Erickson, E. M. (Ed.). (1985) Certain Principles of Medical Hypnosis, by Milton H. Erickson, MD. In S. Lankton (Ed.). Ericksonian Monographs Number I: Elements and Dimensions of an Ericksonian Approach (pp. 22-25). New York: Brunner/Mazel.
Erickson, E. M., Erickson B.A. and Klein, R.E. Erickson (1999). “Erickson: A Framework of Therapy and Living”. In: Matthews, W.J. and Edgette, J.H. (Eds.) Current Thinking and Research In Brief Therapy. Vol. III (pp. 7-17). New York: Brunner/Mazel.
Baker, Marilia (2004). A Tribute to Elizabeth Moore Erickson. Colleague Extraordinaire, Wife, Mother, and Companion. Alom Editores: Mexico.
Battino, Rubin (2008). That’s Right, Is It Not? A Play About Milton H. Erickson, MD. The Milton H. Erickson Foundation Press: Phoenix, Arizona.
Erickson, Betty Alice and Keeney, Bradford (eds.) (2006). Milton H. Erickson, MD. An American Healer. Ringing Rocks Press: Sedona, Arizona.
Erickson-Klein, Roxanna (2006). Family Traditions: The Oz Books – Why They Are Treasured by the Erickson Family. Unpublished essay, distributed by the author to young family members, to preserve and nurture family memories and traditions.
Rossi, Ernest L. (2004). Discorso tra geni. Neuroscienza dell’Ipnosi terapeutica e della Psicoterapia. Editris s.a.s.: Benevento, Italy.
Rossi, E., Erickson-Klein, R. and Rossi, K. (Eds). Advanced Approaches to Therapeutic Hypnosis. In: The Collected Works of Milton H. Erickson, Vol. IV. The M. H. Erickson Foundation Press: Phoenix, Arizona.
Stewart, Ian (2007). Why Beauty is Truth. A History of Symmetry. Basic Books/Perseus Books Group: New York.
I did not know what time it was when I came downstairs to finish our winter display — images and symbols communicating the holiday season, as observed and celebrated by various sacred traditions in anticipation of the coming of light. All I knew was that it was cold and dark outside, and I was ready to head home.
Just as I was hanging one of the last ornaments, I caught a glimpse of her in the corner of my eye — a student of mine, who I knew had an extremely long commute. And, I also knew she had cancer, as she asked our community to remember her in our prayers at a service she could not attend last year.
“It’s beautiful,” she said, referring to our twinkling display.
“It really is,” I agreed. “A student worker put it up. I just came down to hang these last few pieces.”
I asked how she was doing.
She pointed to an area under her left arm, saying, “I am in a lot of pain — scar tissue. It’s unbearable.” She said the pain was so distracting she was uncertain if she would be able to finish her program.
I asked what time she had to be at class. She had an hour. I asked if she would like to take 15 minutes for a meditation that might help with the pain. She agreed, even though she just finished a nearly two-hour drive.
We found an empty classroom. I adjusted the lighting so that it was neither too dark nor too bright.
I invited her to get comfortable in her chair, and then listened as she described her pain.
“Does it have a color?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, “it’s red, fiery red. Like flames.”
I asked if she had a place of health or strength — physical, mental, or emotional.
She said she was emotionally strong.
I asked what that place of strength looked like. She said it was blue.
“Light blue or dark blue?” “It is sapphire, she replied.
“Sapphire blue….Does it have a shape?” “No,” she said, “it’s like water.” I asked if she could bring it to her place of pain.
Then I queried, “Is the water cool?”
“It’s getting warm,” she answered. “It’s putting the pain out.” “How is it feeling now?” I asked, after a long pause.
“The pain is gone. It feels tender.” “Does it want anything?” I inquired. “It wants ointment,” she said.
“OK. Can we apply some ointment, so it’s just right?” “Yes,” she said, “I am applying it now and it feels good.”
“Take as much time as you need,” I said. “I am covering it with gauze now,” she said.
“That’s right,” I said. “It will protect it, while allowing it to breathe and the tissue can stretch.”
“It feels good,” she said, dreamily, after another long pause. Then, opening her eyes widely, she said, “It’s cool!”
“Yes!” she said, “the area — it’s cool! And what we just did — it’s cool!” “Yeah, it is cool,” I agreed.
When I got home, I called my mom who is in severe pain after a terrible fall that resulted in a broken hand and fractured knee. By the time we got off the phone, she said she could no longer feel the pain — pain that had made it nearly impossible for her to sleep.
But, that’s a story for another time.
Commentary By Eric Greenleaf, PhD
Student work is often more impactful and immediate than other work. It carries authority because it is relational, not technical. And it is also fresh, taking the essence of teaching to heart. Carrie Rehak, a student of mine who is studying Ericksonian approaches, has years of experience in spiritual direction and pastoral care. This example of her work with imagery was spontaneous and effective, and utilized the spirit of a class exercise we had done, called “A Pain Map.” This consists of drawing one’s physical and emotional pains on the outline of a body; drawing one’s strengths and resources on a second map; and, in trance, placing a particular strength on a pain and then taking note of what happens. In, Carrie’s example, the exercise is focused, empathic, and succinct.