It was a stressful moment. A young woman sat before me trying to tell me why she had come in, a matter of vital concern to me. I was a new intern at the counseling center and had to document each client’s presenting issue. In this case, though, I was stymied. After 30 minutes, I had absolutely nothing to write. This woman was clearly grappling with a need to maintain a secret. Every sentence was unintelligible, lacked a noun or verb, and relayed virtually no information. I was getting anxious wondering what my supervisor would think about a chart note that lacked the most basic information.
Fortunately, an intervention of Erickson’s came to mind. I interrupted the woman’s stream of words, which had been both continuous and halting at the same time. I said, “You know, there are probably 20 things you wouldn’t dream of telling me right now. Highly personal parts of your life story. Who could expect you to share these things?” Silently, she nodded. → Read more
The following is in the words of John Grinder:
One of my favorite episodes with Erickson was when Bandler [Richard] and I were dazzled with the elegance and effectiveness of the Ericksonian patterning somewhere in the mid to late ’70s. In our obsessive quest for the testing of patterns we had modeled and coded, we decided to take one of the young people who had spontaneously gathered around the adventure called NLP, and determine whether we could transfer a significant portion of the Ericksonian skill set to such a person. One of our students — Stephen Gilligan, then in his early 20s — had caught our attention by demonstrating an enhanced ability to alter his state. → Read more
A woman told Milton Erickson about her eight-year-old daughter, Ruth, who hated EVERYBODY:
A very MISERABLE kind of girl. I (Erickson) asked the mother what she thought made the girl hate herself and everybody else.
The mother said, “Her face is a solid freckle. And the kids call her, “Freckles.” → Read more
The very first time we met with Milton Erickson there were just five people present: Three physicians and the two of us sitting with the awesome Dr. Erickson. A woman walked into the room with her husband. She wanted to be hypnotized so that she could comfortably pass a licensure examination free from the anxiety often generated by such a test.
Erickson asked her husband if he was a qualified professional with a degree. The husband nodded his head affirmatively and said, “I have a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering.”
Dr. Erickson’s response surprised all of us: “You’ll have to leave. Come back in an hour.” → Read more
When I visited Dr. Erickson I stayed in the bedroom in his guesthouse. I was putting away my things and I found a box on the floor of the closet containing old reel-to-reel audiotapes of Dr. Erickson’s lectures to medical audiences in the 1950s and 1960s. Remember that he was teaching to medical audiences. The audiences than did not consist primarily of psychotherapists or counselors, because there weren’t so many psychologists or counselors in the 1950s and ’60s.
I asked Dr. Erickson, “Could I listen to these old tapes and, could I put them in a more modern form so they could be preserved for history?” He agreed that I could. I started listening to one of the old lectures and it was like one long induction of hypnosis. It was curious. It was surprising. And so I asked him, “Dr. Erickson, this wasn’t really a lecture; it was like one long induction of hypnosis.” And he said to me, “Oh, Jeff, I never listen to those lectures. I didn’t teach content. I taught to motivate.” → Read more
Edited by Richard Landis, Ph.D.
Discussion by Betty Alice Erickson, M.S.; Carol Lankton, M.S.W.; Eric Greenleaf, Ph.D.; Goran Carlsson, Psych.; and Steve Lankton, M.S.W.
Editor’s Note: Steve and Carol Lankton, Eric Greenleaf, Goran Carlsson, and Betty Alice Erickson were asked to discuss one of Erickson’s classic cases, “Case of Airplane Phobia.” The following is an excerpt from that discussion.
Steve Lankton (SL): The “Case of Airplane Phobia” or “Two Phobias” is explained at varying lengths in the different literature references (Experiencing Erickson, pp. 122-125; Hypnotherapy Casebook, pp. 314-347; Teaching Seminar, pp. 64-70). This is a case of a woman having anxiety that is related to an earlier mild air travel trauma that was beginning to generalize to situations where she is destined to experience disruptive air turbulence. The first intervention is preceded with a demand that she agrees to a “total commitment” of anything Erickson might ask. → Read more
The following was a Christmas gift from Mrs. Erickson to Jeff Zeig in 1986. Mrs. Erickson wrote this to Zeig, penned by hand.
It is her account of Milton Erickson’s extraordinary talent in being able to diagnosis a psychiatric patient by looking at the art he or she produced:
“Milton was always deeply interested in the manner in which neurotic and psychotic symptomatology, and ways of experiencing and interpreting the world, were manifested in the artistic productions of the artist. → Read more
Since I was a doctoral student at the University of Arizona in Tucson, I have been interested in clinical hypnosis and the power of the mind. I studied hypnosis independently with a professor who recommended that I attend the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis seminar held in Phoenix. At the seminar, I met Kay Thompson, Bob Pearson, Marion Moore, and Joe Barber. At lunch, Thompson and Pearson were discussing their demonstration of deep trance phenomena and demonstration hypnoanesthesia which they were teaching that afternoon. I asked whether or not I could volunteer for the demonstration, but Kay Thompson firmly replied ¨No!” explaining that “Dr. Erickson will be there and we want to make sure that all will go well, so we will have a member of the faculty help us.” → Read more
Recently, I was in Gent, Belgium talking about my father’s early career work. I was shocked by the myths and misconceptions that seem to have been perpetuated about my father. I was stunned to discover that my father is often viewed as physically feeble by a large percentage of his followers. From the perceptions expressed, it seems that most of the people who are writing books and giving talks about my father met him in the 1970s when he was confined to a wheelchair and had changed his practice to align with his physical limitations. This perspective has clouded the true picture of how my father was when he was younger. I remember my father quite differently; he was a vigorous man. The following story sheds light on my view. → Read more
Cathy was a 55–year-old single client of a colleague. Her initial complaint was that, although she was very competent in her work, she repeatedly raged at her boss and at coworkers. It soon emerged that she had a history of sexual abuse from her father, and had a very difficult time separating her own experience from others. Hence, it was hard for her to know her own needs, and defend herself from the expectations and intrusions from others. She showed what is often called “codependence,” or “enmeshment.” My colleague had done a lot of work with her intermittently over a period of several years, and she had made a lot of progress, but they had reached a plateau.
Cathy’s sense of herself was still wobbly and unclear, and she often felt numb, as if she were “just going through the motions,” and she wanted to feel “solid in my skin.” My colleague knew that one of my specialties was working with self-concept, so she asked me to do a session with Cathy while she observed. → Read more