Anxious parents called, each in turn, about their 17-year-old daughter Bev, who for the past six months had obsessively washed her hands three to four hours a day. Both parents reported they had “tried everything.” including counseling and drugs. They were so desperate they were now exploring hypnosis, about which they were skeptical. Somewhat worn down by their forceful skepticism, I said to the anxious mother, “Look, because you are desperate and because you worry that once again you will be throwing money away, I will offer you a complimentary consultation. I will evaluate your daughter’s symptoms and only schedule a therapy session if I believe I can help her.” With this assurance, she made an appointment. → Read more
A private girl’s school near my office referred a sophomore named Lana to my practice because of missed classes and academic problems.
Normally when a girl this age comes to a professional for the first time, she pays attention to her appearance. But Lana’s hair was disheveled, her sweatsuit looked like it needed a trip to the washing machine, and her sneakers were worn. Her clothing was too big, meant to camouflage her weight. She was definitely not comfortable in her skin. If one looked closer, underneath all this baggage was an attractive, intelligent young lady. → Read more
Perhaps the most useful of Erickson’s remarkable techniques is the concept of utilization. Utilization harnesses the language and experience of the client. It allows clients to use their own knowledge, strengths, and skills to explore useful solutions to their own problems. As such it is well suited to working with clients like the adolescent described below, who may not be particularly interested in “therapy” or in “self-examination.” → 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 co-workers. 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 “co-dependence,” 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. → Read more
Dr. Jim, a sweet-faced, middle-aged man, arrived, referred for treatment of anxiety by a previous hypnosis patient. When I ask him what form the anxiety takes, he says he is a good doctor with a healthy practice, confident in his skills and in his marriage relationship. He describes his wife, Beth, in loving terms. He wants to please her.
His wife had convinced him to take dancing lessons with her so they could enjoy learning together, and he consented. She is a very adept, fluid, and comfortable dancer. He had to work hard at the lessons to be a good partner, and his lessons went well. But, like all beginners, he sometimes stumbled. → Read more
Implication is one of the most common ways that we unconsciously make meaning out of events in everyday life. A speaker’s statement implies something that the listener infers. Erickson used implication extensively and deliberately, as shown in the following examples (some paraphrased) with the implication in parentheses:
“You don’t want to discuss your problems in that chair. You certainly don’t want to discuss them standing up. But if you move your chair to the other side of the room, that would give you a different view of the situation, wouldn’t it? (From this different position you will want to discuss your problems.) → Read more
Impact Therapy is an approach that is growing in popularity both in the United States and Canada. The founder, Ed Jacobs, Ph.D., professor at West Virginia University, has already written three books on the subject (Jacobs, 1988, 1992, 1995). The creativity and dynamism emerging from this model of therapy were largely inspired by Milton Erickson’s methods.
People learn, grow, and change mainly with what they hear, what they see, or through the kinesthetic system which processes all information coming from the body. Neurophysiologists agree that the kinesthetic system is more important than the visual system which is more important than the auditory system. When we limit therapy to the audio system, simply talking to the clients, we restrict our interventions to a small part of the brain. Dr. Jacobs recognized that the more systems involved, the greater the therapeutic impact. → Read more
The Fantasy Bond in Childhood and Intimate Relationships
The human experience can be conceptualized as a series of separation experiences ending with death, the ultimate separation. Each successive separation or movement through life — separating from the mother’s body at birth and later from her breast, beginning to walk, talk, and develop a sense of self, going to school, dating, marrying, and becoming a parent and grandparent—predisposes an individual to anxiety. The basic tenet of my theoretical system is the concept of the fantasy bond: the core defense against separation, and later, death anxiety. The fantasy bond refers to the forming of a fantasy of connection or fusion, originally with the mother or primary caretaker, and later with other family members and romantic partners, in order to compensate for emotional pain and separation anxiety. The illusion offers the child some relief from primal pain, but at the same time, the fantasy processes contribute to various degrees of maladaptation. How people cope with trauma and existential fear, and form defenses, will ultimately determine the course of their emotional lives. Hellmuth Kaiser’s germinal idea that the delusion of fusion represents “universal psychopathology” is analogous to the conceptualization of the fantasy bond as the primary defense mechanism in neurosis (Fierman, 1965). → Read more