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Pictured: From L to R Carl Whitaker, John Weakland, Jay Haley and Carlos Sluzki

The following was presented by Jay Haley in December 1980 at the First International Congress on Ericksonian Approaches to Hypnosis and Psychotherapy:

I have published my views of Erickson’s therapy extensively, but to me he remains a mysterious person. In hundreds of hours talking together, I explored his life and work; yet I know him less well than other men I have associated with more briefly. Having learned many of his therapy techniques, I applied them in my practice and teaching. Not a day passes that I do not use something that I learned from Erickson in my work.

Erickson was by no means secretive about his work…For many years he gave seminars and workshops to large audiences in this country and abroad. He wrote over one hundred publications. Thousands of visitors came to talk with him, individually and in groups. His lectures, demonstrations, and conversations have been recorded more than those of any other clinician. He gave generously of himself and his knowledge to anyone who was interested. Although Erickson liked to show you that you still had much to learn, he did not attempt to be mysterious or obscure. Often, he was frustrated when his ideas were only partially understood…I don’t know how many times over the years I asked him why he did something in therapy, and he answered, “That’s obvious.” I would say, “Milton, it’s not obvious,” and I pursued him only to find a new and unexpected complexity in his thinking.

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by Lori Greenleaf, Ph.D., MFT Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 28 seconds.

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

Literalness and the Use of Trance in Neurosis Milton H. Erickson and Ernest L. Rossi

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

Acquired Control of Pupillary Responses Milton H. Erickson

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

Another Example of Confusion in Trance Induction  Milton H. Erickson

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