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By Angela Z. Wu, MFT


Lisa is a 32-year-old single Chinese woman living in Shanghai who has been seeing me for six months via Zoom (online chat like Skype). Two years ago, she discovered that both of her parents were having affairs. Soon after, her periods ceased and she began to get headaches.

Lisa’s parents treated her like a boy, and this angered her, as the little girl inside her yearned to be loved and treated like a girl. In therapy, we did a lot of active imagination so that Lisa could take care of that little girl; love and mother her. She also met a trustworthy man — her acupuncturist – who played a role in her recovery.

Lisa plays the guzheng (classical Chinese string instrument) well, and wants to study violin. During therapy, she cut off contact with her parents. She also ended an uncomfortable romantic relationship, quit her data analyst job, and made plans to study violin in Europe.

Lisa reported that although she was not menstruating, she felt more “woman juice” flowing out of her, and felt her body get warm. However, the headaches remained.


Using The Pain Map, (Drs. Eric and Lori Greenleaf, 1997), she drew all of her pain (physical, emotional and spiritual) on one map, and all of her resources on another. Then, in her imagination, she applied a particular resource to a specific pain.

Lisa: My headache became closer, heavier. I see an angry face: a child, but it is my father. Father’s angry face is replacing the headache. [pauses] Now the angry face is getting closer and clearer. I don’t feel much headache.

Angela Wu: What does the child want — to be angry, or not? [pauses],

L: He doesn’t know what to do; he only knows anger.

AW: Suppose the child gets comfort from someone?

L: I feel my acupuncturist is touching the child’s head to calm him. The child is getting quiet and calm. [After a long pause, Lisa begins to cry.] AW: I see the tears; they are real, and my heart gets tender when I see tears. [pauses] Often tears are sacred; they remind us to grieve or to know joy. It is a strong, real emotion. It shows us real life, with all kinds of feelings. When I see your tears, I feel you are so real.

L: I’m crying as I see the angry boy calm down. He said, “I am sorry” to me.

AW: Very nice hearing, “I am sorry.”

L: I see a little girl come out. That was me at 12.

AW: Welcome. How is she?

L: Finally, she can come out. She was so scared by that angry boy.

AW: What does she want? [long pause]

L: She wants to have her period.

AW: That is right. She wants to have her period. Suppose you help her to prepare for her period: read her books, get her sanitary pads, cute underwear, nail polish, or a promise of her favorite ice-cream when the period is over. [Lisa smiles and nods.]

L: The little girl wants to perform music. Her parents always told her that she was not good enough; now she wants to perform. But she is shy, not sure if she can.

AW: Suppose the girl gets dressed in a beautiful Chinese qipao [form-fitting dress]; sets up her guzheng in her room; prepares two seats for her parents. Then she can play and record the saddest melody, and mail it to her parents, as if you are mailing your bad headache to your parents.

L: That is a good idea. I will do that. I am more comfortable playing in my own apartment. And I will mail them my sadness and my bad headache.

AW: One more thing. I do not know about you, but for me, two or three days before my period I often have bad headaches. When I feel that headache, I know I will prepare myself.

Two weeks later:

Lisa felt overwhelmed when she played the guzheng, and she stopped. She didn’t record or send the music to her parents. Before our next session, she sent me a link to a classical Chinese violin piece called, “So Long.” She said, “When I hear it, I feel gentleness, unconditional love, separation, and sadness. I may want to hear it during the session. Let’s be prepared.”


L: I don’t feel the headache. I started to feel a mother’s unconditional love, but it is not my mom.

AW: If now you use your body as the map, where do you feel the love?

L: In my feet, and my hands.

AW: What is the sensation when your feet and hands feel love?

L: It is freedom to move around.

AW: Good. Focus on that freedom — your feet and hands. Does that feeling stay still or move around?

L: It is moving up, coming to my hands. I feel very gentle and warm, like a baby’s skin. Now it’s moving to my belly button. [pauses] AW: What is happening there?

L: The little belly button wants to say something.

AW: Before a baby’s born, she is connected with mother through the cord. The baby gets food; feels mother’s heartbeat. In this way baby communicates with mom, so of course the belly button wants to say something. [pauses]

L: The belly button feels mom’s love. She was held in big hands; warm and gentle. The little belly button feels mom’s gentle touch, gentle kisses. [Lisa nods, and begins to cry; long pause.] Then, the little belly button grew up. Mom starts to say she is not good enough, and is very harsh to her. She didn’t want to talk. She is so scared all the time; scared, sad, and hurt. She is afraid of talking; felt something stuck in her throat.

AW: Let’s start with a long, deep breath; breathing out first. Really clear out all the fear, all the worries and sadness inside of her. Then breathe in all the fresh air and oxygen that she needs. That’s right; just breathe, breath by breath. She is growing up, she is still good. The little belly is still good.

Now she is an adult, and she can open a new file for her life. She is going to put the people she likes and loves; the loving memories, in her new file. She knows she has unconditional love with her; right on her feet, right on her hands. She just needs to feel it. [pauses]

L: The little belly walked to a door. It is oval; a glass door. She is nervous, scared.

AW: Where does the door take her to? [pauses]

L: The other side of the door is the womb.

AW: Does little belly want to go there?

L: She is nervous and scared…even with unconditional love. It is dark over there.

AW: Can little belly put a flashlight in her pocket?

L: Yes, a flashlight will be useful.

AW: If you like, you can take me with you. You can hold my hand.

L: Yes, let’s do that. I am shining the flashlight and holding your hand. I’m walking in. [tears; long pause] I saw an old friend.

AW: What does the old friend look and feel like?

L: It is round, soft, sticky. It is red.

AW: Very good. Say, “Hi” to this old friend. Tell her, “I missed you, and I’m so happy to see you. I know you’re here, so today I came. We are old friends. I know I’ll always see you.”

L: I started to feel warm. I started to feel the blood running through my body. Now it’s time to play the music.

AW: [I push the button and music plays.] Yes, you are saying good-bye to the fear, to the worries. Now feel the blood and the freedom. Feel and enjoy the love. [pauses]

Ten days later, Lisa sent me a message saying that her periods resumed.

The session after her period:

Before the session, Lisa sent me another violin solo called, “Raise Me Up,” to play as background music for the session. She still gets a headache from time to time, but isn’t bothered by it. She remembered that she often had a headache around her period. She began to remember her grandfather, who loved her very much.

L: I feel that I need to walk home and become a mature woman. I feel lonely. I am scared to be with the old friend; to be a normal woman.

AW: Now you’re telling me, so you’re not lonely anymore. You’re walking towards your home; not a little girl going to her parents’ home.

L: I feel the love was buried by hate for so long. Now I have to go through the pain to find it. [crying] I haven’t been crying like this.

AW: This is good. When the love is opening up and meeting the pain, two strong energies meet, and it can be overwhelming.

L: I see so many things: I see grandfather; I see me on the stage as a grown, beautiful woman playing violin; I see a man that I want to love — only his back, not his face yet.

AW: These are beautiful things. They are somewhere — awaiting. And now I know you can go there. You have met your old friend, and you will meet many new friends.

L: [still crying] I know. I am walking home. My home.

We decided to do a monthly checkup, and eventually terminate the therapy. Lisa is now looking into studying music in Europe and has started to date men.


Eric Greenleaf, PhD

Relationships shape therapy, and the language used represents human experience. The patient often speaks in symptom language: a headache, amenorrhea, or anxiety. Ericksonian therapists speak in image, metaphor, and a common language: “the little girl,” “an oval door,” “the old friend.” Angela Wu’s gentle, healing touch and patient inquiry formed a relationship that drew healing from the patient’s inner life resources. And, hand-in-hand, both therapist and client shone a light together into the frightening darkness — and they created beautiful music.

By Marnie McGann

Milestones in life are often reached by a number, more specifically, one’s age in decades. Turning 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 and beyond all resonate as if we are passing through an invisible wall and stepping into a new realm of maturity with another decade of life experience under our belt. We join those on “the other side” and hope that the new decade serves us well.

This year, Jeff Zeig passed through another invisible wall when he turned 70 on November 6th. In each decade of his life, he continues to grow and share his wealth of knowledge and experience; his 70s will be no exception. And despite his many accomplishments, he humbly and gracefully continues to offer guidance through therapy and training. At the Foundation, he is our fearless leader, treating all staff members with kindness and respect. He is the Founder and Director of The Milton H. Erickson Foundation, which will reach its own milestone in 2019, when we will celebrate our 40th anniversary. It has been nearly 40 years since Jeff commenced organization of the first of many conferences – a Congress held in December 1980. Since then, he has been the architect of the Couples Conference, the Brief Therapy Conference, the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference, and the Intensives training in Phoenix, held in consecutive weeks three times throughout the year.

There are many more accomplishments, including more than 20 books on psychotherapy that appear in 14 languages. But, this article is more about who Jeff Zeig, the man, is and what makes him tick. So I felt the best way to know him was to listen.

A Conversation with Jeff Zeig:

Marnie McGann: First off, happy 70th birthday Jeff, and thank you for agreeing to be the subject of this article. As Founder and Director of the Erickson Foundation, you’ve spent nearly 40 years creating an organization that’s known throughout the world. But, I can’t even say for sure where you were born. So let’s start with that. Could you please share a bit about your childhood?

Jeff Zeig: I was born in the Bronx, New York, and spent my first 10 years of life living in an apartment with one bedroom that my sister and I shared. My parents slept on a roll-out couch in the living room. My father was a postman and took the subway to Manhattan every day for work. Coincidentally, my sister eventually had an office in the building where he used to deliver mail. After apartment life, my family moved to Long Island into a Levitt home. My father eventually took a job as a salesman for a home improvement company and we entered the middle class. I grew up in a child-centered Jewish family. My parents were adamant that my three sisters and I would have the opportunities that my parents never had. They were the children of Jewish immigrants and their parents mostly spoke Yiddish. My maternal grandmother came alone from Russia at age 18 and worked in sweatshops to earn funds to bring her siblings and her father to the U.S. My paternal grandparents were matched by a matchmaker on their wedding day! Needless to say, it was not a match made in heaven.

MM: I know you enjoy flying sail planes, are a bronze life master at bridge, and have been writing book after book. What else do you enjoy doing in your limited spare time?

Jeff Zeig: I exercise daily for more than 45 minutes. Usually during that time, I either talk to my love, who does not live nearby, or I educate myself by listening to tapes from Erickson, previous conferences, or online courses. I also listen to audiobooks; currently, it’s Resurrection by Tolstoy and A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens. I also listen to audiobooks when traveling and just finished “The Body Keeps the Score,” by Bessel Van der Kolk. Right now, I am taking a course in linguistics. Another positive addiction is taking Spanish lessons, which I love, but lack competence. I gifted the Erickson Foundation staff with private Spanish lessons. We take the classes online with a teacher in Mexico. Then, there’s my 2-year-old granddaughter, Lily Beth… Relaxation would be a good hobby, but the concept escapes me, as does watching television.

MM: What makes you happy?

JZ: Learning and Loving. The goal of living is to grow.

MM: What three words describe you best?

JZ: Driven, Driven, and Driven.

MM: Would you say that you’ve achieved your dream professionally?

JZ: More than I ever expected.

MM: What is your greatest achievement and how has it shaped you?

JZ: The Evolution Conference is my greatest professional achievement. Promoting integration and discovering the commonalities that makes therapy work.

MM: What is your greatest failure, and how did you overcome it?

JZ: When I graduated with my PhD in 1977, I wanted to be an academic and applied for more than 50 positions. I didn’t get any of the jobs I really wanted, but since then, some of those schools have hired me to do workshops. I took a job as a child psychologist at the Arizona State Hospital, but it was my last choice. Erickson advised me by telling me a story about his son, Bert, who came back from the Army only to face unemployment. The refrain of the story was to strictly do a professional job. So I did, and it worked.

MM: Have you ever taken a giant leap of faith?

JZ: Yes, by moving to Phoenix in 1978 to be close to Erickson. And, doing a clover leaf in a glider.

MM: What has been most satisfying for you in your life?

JZ: Service.

MM: How do you deal with stress?

JZ: I thrive on it. I live with it. I invite it. And I harness it to pursue what is most meaningful to me.

MM: What book, poem, piece of music, painting or other work of art has moved you the most?

JZ: I had a hobby of memorizing poetry and can still quote quite a few poems. I have been most inspired by e.e. cummings.

MM: How do you make your therapy an art?

JZ: I improvise. I study the evocative nature of all art, and apply it to helping clients and therapists access adaptive states.

MM: Do you have any current goals that you are working toward?

JZ: Loving the important people in my life. Professionally, writing more books. Reading more literature. Staying healthy.

MM: If you could do one thing over, what would it be?

JZ: I would learn how to play music, but I am tonally challenged.

MM: Where do you see yourself in the next five years, 10 years?

JZ: Contributing as much as possible. Loving to the limit.

MM: Milton Erickson was your mentor and left a legacy. What do you hope is your legacy?

JZ: Making the world a little better by virtue of my time on this planet.

MM: What does turning 70 mean to you?

JZ: I have less tread on the tires.

MM: Do you have any advice for young therapists?

JZ: Study and incorporate into your life, Erickson’s utilization orientation.

Jeff has recently begun working on Season 2 of his 5 Minute Therapy Tips video series on YouTube. These 5-minute videos deal within the general areas of client problems, professional issues, clinical concerns, and methodology with specific focus on anxiety, grief, depression, pain, smoking cessation, and much more. View the video below, or click here to view the entire series.


Contact: Jeffrey K. Zeig, PhD Director: The Milton H. Erickson Foundation Telephone: 602-956-6196 Cell Phone: 602-684-1918 Web site: Email:

Location: Anaheim Venue: Convention Center, Anaheim Hilton and Marriott Dates: December 13-17, 2017


International experts assemble to describe state-of-the-art methods used to solve problems in behavioral health and relationships.

This conference is an unparalleled opportunity for interviews and in-depth coverage of the problems that challenge contemporary culture, including trauma, anxiety, depression, and marital problems. Faculty members are authors who are commonly featured on national media. They have written some of the most important, best-selling books that appear on self-help and professional bookshelves worldwide.

The Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference is organized by The Milton H. Erickson Foundation, established in 1979 in Phoenix, Arizona. It is the world’s largest meeting for mental health professionals. Estimated attendance for 2017 is more than 8,000 professionals from 50 countries. Advances in the art and science of psychotherapy will be presented. Keynote speakers include Tipper Gore, Robert Sapolsky, Philip Zimbardo, and Antonio Damasio. Also: Aaron Beck, Salvador Minuchin, Martin Seligman, and Irv Yalom. Held every four years, the Evolution Conferences have been covered by TIME magazine, The New York Times and Los Angeles Times.

### For information or interviews, contact Jeffrey K. Zeig, PhD.