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
Selena is a precocious five-year old girl who could not stop sucking her fingers. Her teeth were beginning to protrude. Because she still believes in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, I was positive that she would be very susceptible to hypnosis.
I asked Selena to “move to the magic chair where kids stop sucking their fingers .” Then, at my request, she named each finger. She responded with, “Bunny Rabbit,” “Robin” and other similar titles. I directed her to ask each finger if it liked being sucked. She said, “No.” Then, I asked her to find out what her fingers would rather do instead. After some conversation with her fingers, she told me they would rather play dolls, jump rope, and do puzzles. → Read more
Our life is what our thoughts make it. ~ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
The critical inner voice is made up of a series of negative thoughts and attitudes toward self and others, which is at the core of a person’s maladaptive behavior. It can be conceptualized as the language of a defensive process that is both hostile and cynical. The voice is not limited to cognition, attitudes, and beliefs; it is also closely associated with varying degrees of anger, sadness, shame, and other primary emotions. It can be thought of as an overlay on the personality that is not natural or harmonious but rather learned or externally imposed.
The voice is a form of internal communication – usually critical, yet sometimes self-nurturing and self-aggrandizing, but in either case opposed to one’s self-interest. It is experienced as though one were being spoken to. It includes attacks such as, “You’re so stupid!” “You’re a failure!” “No one could ever love you.” “You can’t trust anyone.” “They don’t appreciate you.” → Read more
People who are hit with panic attacks have a common response. They feel compelled to fight the symptoms with all their available resources. They brace for the fight as they approach any feared situation. And if they predict this on-guard approach will fail, they avoid entering the scene as the only way they can guarantee their safety. But this resistance and avoidance come with a price: a restricted lifestyle, anxious hypervigilance, and often depression.
Over the past three decades, specialists in the treatment of panic disorder have helped their clients move from a commitment to resist their symptoms to one of acceptance. By allowing the racing heart and spinning head and wobbly legs to continue in a permissive mental environment, clients discover that they don’t actually have a heart attack, go crazy, or faint. As they adopt this new permissive attitude – “It’s OK to be anxious here.” “I can handle these symptoms.” “I’m willing for people to notice my nervousness.” – then each panic attack runs a more limited course with far less intensity. → Read more
When asked about James Braid, Ernest Rossi said, “Braid is the true father of hypnosis (personal communication, Dec. 7, 2001). His work forms the basis of what I’m doing today.” This praise becomes understandable after a quick look at Braid’s contributions. He not only popularized the terms hypnosis and hypnotist; he first explained trance states as the interplay of physiology and psychology.
Historians credit Braid (1795-1860) as both the first researcher of psychosomatic medicine and the father of modern theories of hypnotherapy. → Read more