Erickson speaking to a group of students:
A patient came to me and said, “I weigh 180 pounds. I’ve dieted a hundred times down to 130 pounds. As soon as the scale reads 130, I celebrate by going to the kitchen and stuffing myself and I gain back to 180 pounds in an awful hurry. And I’ve done that hundreds of times. Can you help with hypnosis?”
“I doubt if she did it hundreds of times. She said, ‘I diet down 130 pounds, then I celebrate by gaining it all back again. I told her, ‘Yes, I can help you by hypnosis, but to do so you’ll have to promise me that you’ll do whatever I tell you to do. No matter what it is you promise me, you’ll do it.’ I made her promise me in a waking state. I got the same promise in a trance state. And I explained to her in the trance state and the waking state, “You have gained your weight to 180 and you diet and lose to 130 pounds, and then you gain it back. Now what you’re going to do this time is you’re going to do your weight gain first and have your reduction second. So, you will now gain from 180 to 200 pounds.’ And with every ounce she gained, she wanted me to let her start reducing. I held out for 200 pounds on my scales and then gave her permission to reduce. She reduced in a hurry to 130 pounds and stayed there. I took her pattern and reversed it.” → Read more
Forty years ago, on March 25, 1980, Milton H. Erickson, MD passed away. Erickson is known as the father of modern hypnosis and one of the greatest psychotherapists of the 20th century.
Born in 1901 in a log cabin in Aurum, Nevada, and raised on a farm, Milton Erickson’s modest lifestyle was evident throughout his remarkable life. At 17 he contracted polio, and for decades to come, until his death at 78, he suffered many physical ailments due to what is now known as post-polio syndrome. He had muscle deterioration, double vision, loss of coordination, impaired hearing, and chronic pain. He was also colorblind. But instead of wallowing in his own suffering, he utilized his maladies to benefit others. He lived by example. He was happy to be alive and brought this sense of joy and triumph over his physical limitations to his therapy. Milton Erickson was the quintessential “Wounded Healer.”
These rules were compiled by Milton Erickson’s daughter, Betty Alice Erickson. It should be noted that these are not going to be found elsewhere in the Ericksonian literature. You are getting them here, exclusively, at www.Ericksonian.info. These are ten “Rules of Life” that Milton Erickson lived by and taught his children.
These are not “Presuppositions of Ericksonian Hypnotherapy and Psychology.” These are the rules of life that Milton himself lived by and were, arguably, the backbone of his philosophy. And, because they are rules like “what goes up, must come down,” they are essentially true whether you like them or not.
As Betty Alice put it “Nobody has to follow them, but rules of life, of physics, exist regardless of whether or not you believe in or follow them. People can’t flap their arms and fly. Believe it or not.”
Milton Erickson’s innovative way of working with people is legendary. But like the childhood game of “telephone” where the end result is often far from the original message, some of what he believed and taught is not true to him. Years ago, my mother and I were discussing that. We were both distressed that so much of what he was, what he did, was being so misunderstood, so different than his basic beliefs. Nobody was doing it on purpose; it was just that nowhere was there basic information about his core beliefs. So my mother and I wrote “ten rules.” They seem simple, and they are. But most of life, Most of therapy, is simple–or as I say, when I am teaching Daddy’s work: “Erickson was profoundly simple and simply profound.”
1. Life is hard work.
We all know this—but we don’t know how deep it really is. We are the only creature on earth who looks for hard work. Nothing else climbs a mountain “because it’s there” as George Mallory is famously quoted. No other living thing trains for a marathon—to run 26 miles faster than someone else merely for fun. People are hard-wired for hard work—we complete one task and look for another.”