Estelle is a friend who at age 75 was diagnosed with breast cancer. She knew that I had done volunteer work with people who have life threatening diseases. The first session was devoted to going over the kinds of things I do to help people. For instance, teaching them how to relax and meditate, guided imagery for healing, and asking direct questions about living wills and medical treatment. Considering the information Estelle provided, I prepared two 15- minute guided imagery tapes for her. I used the first session to elicit information about past surgical experiences and any fears Estelle had about the upcoming surgery. I told her about research which indicated that while under anesthesia patients can hear what is said in the operating room. Using the information she gave to me I led her through a hypnotic session centered on preparation for surgery. → Read more
Estimated reading time: 15 minutes, 25 seconds.
Our purpose in this chapter is to describe a hypnotic technique we use to help our clients enhance their performance in almost any enterprise. Our approach remains fairly constant no matter what area of life a person wishes to improve. Whether a client wants to lower his or her golf score, become a better salesperson, develop new interpersonal skills, or simply feel better emotionally, we conduct our sessions in essentially the same manner.
ENHANCING FUTURE PERFORMANCE
After an initial diagnostic interview to determine why the person is there and what he or she wants to accomplish, we use hypnosis to clarify the thoughts, sensations, emotions, and behaviors that individual associates with the desired outcome. During this trance session, the client is instructed to imagine how it will feel to accomplish the desired goal and to examine all of the elements of this imagined situation, including the events that led up to it. This utilization of the individual’s own prior experiential learnings and understandings to establish the treatment outcome ensures that the particular objectives, personality, and background of that person are taken into account and that the prescribed changes truly suit the activity under consideration. → Read more
A fellow church member whose husband died 10 years ago called out of concern for her 30-year-old daughter, Amy, who had never gotten over the loss of her father. The woman said, “I think Amy’s depression is affecting her health and her marriage.”
“Haggard” would not be too strong a word to describe Amy when she entered my office. She looked much older than her years. Tears began flowing down her face even before she sat down. The visual evidence of depression was so dramatic, I could understand why her mother reported that it was taking its toll. → Read more
Milton H. Erickson & Ernest L. RossiEstimated reading time: 4 minutes, 54 seconds.
THERAPEUTIC BINDS AND DOUBLE BINDS
The concept of the double bind has been used in many ways. We use the terms “bind” and “double bind” in a very special and limited sense to describe forms of suggestion that offer patients the possibility of structuring their behavior in a therapeutic direction. A bind offers a free choice of two or more comparable alternatives-that is, whichever choice is made leads behavior in a desired direction. Therapeutic binds are tactful presentations of the possible alternate forms of constructive behavior that are available to the patient in a given situation. The patient is given a free, voluntary choice between them; the patient usually feels bound, however, to accept one alternative. → Read more
Estimated reading time: 50 minutes, 58 seconds.
Reprinted with permission from The American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, October, 1973, 16,147-164.
At the Colorado State Psychopathic Hospital in July 1929, the author listened to an extensive and very detailed account of six days of seasickness suffered by a resident in psychiatry newly arrived from England. This account was the author’s first direct knowledge of the subjective aspects of seasickness reported upon by someone trained in medicine and competent to answer questions informatively.
The information received led the author into prolonged private thinking about various aspects of seasickness, possible seemingly unrelated significances, and possible methods of experimental investigation.
The following September that resident questioned the author about hypnosis. l Not only did the resident express interest in learning about hypnosis but volunteered to be a hypnotic subject for the reason that the experience itself might enhance didactic learnings. → Read more
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 15 seconds.
Dialogue between Milton H. Erickson and Ernest L. Rossi, 1973.
ERICKSON: The conscious mind already has its own set ideas about the neurosis. It has its fixed, rigid perceptions that constitute a neurotic set. It’s very difficult to get people at the conscious level to accept an alteration of their general thinking about themselves. You use the trance state so that you can get around the self-protection which the neurosis provides on an unrecognized level. The neurotic is self-protective of the neurosis.
ROSSI: How does trance get around that self-protective aspect of neurosis?
ERICKSON: The literalness of the trance state causes the patient to have a new pattern of listening. He listens to the words in the trance state rather than to the ideas. → Read more
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 34 seconds.
Reprinted with permission from The American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, January 1965, 7, 207-208.
An eight-year-old girl with a marked visual defect in one eye and a strabismus of that eye was under the care of an ophthalmologist. He had prescribed various eye exercises and the wearing of an eye-patch over the stronger eye to correct the suppression of vision in the weak eye. The girl performed her exercises faithfully, sitting in front of a mirror so that she could see what she was doing. During the course of therapy she became much interested in her pupils and soon discovered the papillary responses to bright and dimmed lights. Since she was an excellent somnambulistic hypnotic subject and had had extensive experience with suggested visual hallucinations, some of which she intentionally remembered subsequent to arousal from the trance state, she became greatly interested in watching her eyes while ”I thought different things.” The wearing of the eye-patch was “thought about,” and she watched the pupils of her eyes as she did this “thinking.” She would “think about” bright lights, semidarkness, and visual hallucinations close m her eyes and far off in the distance. She became markedly aware of the difference in the visual acuity between her eyes, and she would hallucinate an eye-patch over her eye. She learned to dilate and to contract her pupils at will. Then she became interested in unilateral papillary responses. This, she explained, was harder to learn, therefore more interesting. To accomplish this she “imagined” wearing an eye-patch and seeing with only the weaker eye. Then, undoubtedly aided by the learnings affected by the suppression of the vision in the weaker eye, she “imagined” seeing with only the normal eye while she “stopped looking” with the weaker eye. This uniocular effort of hers may also have been aided by a possible central fusion defect, which the ophthalmologist had suggested as distinctly a possibility during his first studies of her vision. In furthering uniocular behavior the girl had called upon her hypnotic experience to hallucinate a patch over one eye and a bright light in front of the other. There were variations of this, such as “imagining looking at something close by with one eye and at something else far away with the other,” an item of behavior highly suggestive of the accomplishment of students who learn to look through a microscope with one eye while using the other in reading or sketching. → Read more
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 22 seconds.
As told to the Ernest L. Rossi in 1976.
On one occasion Erickson was lecturing to a group of doctors about hypnosis. He was interrupted when another doctor brought in two women volunteers who were interested in experiencing hypnosis and introduced them to Erickson. In the following he describes the situation as he understood it. → Read more
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes, 43 seconds.
Unpublished manuscript, circa 1940s, edited by E. L. Rossi
Laskarri had been diagnosed in the psychiatric ward as suffering from schizophrenia of the mixed catatonic-hebephrenic type. He was moderately disturbed in his behavior; several times a day he would shout gibberish apparently at hallucinatory figures and race back and forth and around and about the dormitory beds or scramble frantically under and over them. Or in the dayroom comparable behavior might be manifested in relation to the chairs and tables. Otherwise, he merely mumbled and muttered when questioned, despite the fact that he had a college education. Another item of great interest was his alert, intelligent gaze when not disturbed emotionally. He seemed to be intently studying his fellow patients and the interpersonal relationships between patients and the nursing and medical personnel. Yet when approached directly, his interest seemed to vanish and his gaze became veiled. → Read more
Estimated reading time: 24 minutes, 48 seconds.
The traditional psychotherapies, ranging from classical psychoanalysis to current cognitive-behavioral schools, usually conceptualize communication in terms of verbal interactions between the therapist and patient. The brain and body in the early behaviorist school, for example, were labeled a “black box” that need not be taken into account in describing human behavior. In contrast to this traditional approach, Milton H. Erickson (1948/1980) emphasized that it was the experiential “reassociation,” “reorganization,” and “resynthesis” of one’s internal life that led to problem-solving and healing as follows:
The induction and maintenance of a trance serves to provide a special psychological state in which the patient can reassociate and reorganize his inner psychological complexities and utilize his own capacities in a manner in accord with his own experiential life … Therapy results from an inner resynthesis of the patient’s behavior achieved by the patient himself. It’s true that direct suggestion can effect an alteration in the patient’s behavior and result in a symptomatic cure, at least temporarily. However such a “cure” is simply a response to suggestion and does not entail that reassociation and reorganization of ideas, understandings, and memories so essential for actual cure. It is the experience of reassociating and reorganizing his own experiential life that eventuates in a cure, not the manifestation of responsive behavior which can, at best, satisfy only the observer. (p. 38, italics added) → Read more