By Ron Alexander, Ph.D.
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes, 25 seconds
The following is an excerpt from the Erickson biography. It was taken from a document Ron Alexander, Ph.D., sent to Jeff Zeig in 2015.
In 1976, Alexander phoned Erickson at the beginning of the week, asking him if he would consult on a personal medical problem. The holistic treatments Alexander tried had not been successful. During that phone call, Erickson asked Alexander to call him back the next day, sharply at 9 a.m. The following days, Erickson asked Alexander to do the same thing: Call him the following day promptly at 9 a.m. Alexander was perplexed, but each day that week he did as Erickson asked. And after each request, Erickson said, “And don’t be late.” On Friday, Erickson finally invited Alexander to Phoenix for the consultation.
When Alexander and his colleagues arrived at Erickson’s home, Erickson was holding a bowl of strawberries and offered them to Alexander. It was as if Erickson knew he loved strawberries and had a bowl waiting for him. Then Erickson invited Alexander to go into trance. Alexander remembered coming out of trance with something Erickson said at the forefront of his mind: “Your unconscious is very creative, is it not?”
Erickson said something else that stuck in Alexander’s mind. During trance, Erickson repeatedly awoke him and said: “Why should we inflict pain on ourselves to…do the right thing?”
After the trance, Erickson asked Alexander if he was brought up Catholic. Alexander told him that he had been baptized Catholic. Alexander then asked Erickson, “How did you know I love strawberries?” Erickson softly replied: “Well, sometimes you can hear in a voice not only what the problem is, but also a delicious solution.”
Erickson put Alexander in a trance again and elicited an arm levitation. He asked Alexander if he taught at U.C.L.A. Alexander answered yes. Erickson asked if there were T-shirt shops in the area. Again, the answer was yes. Erickson then gave Alexander a specific assignment: To make a T-shirt with the front saying: “Why Should We Inflict Pain on Ourselves in Order to…” And the back was to read: DO THE RIGHT THING?! Alexander returned to California and had the T-shirt made.
At the next appointment in Phoenix, Alexander promptly arrived at 9 a.m. to see Erickson. Erickson asked Alexander if he were a happy type or the guilty type. Alexander responded: “At the moment, the guilty type.” He then shared with Erickson that he was not in a fulfilling marriage; he and the “lovely woman” he married were unfortunately not compatible. Erickson’s reply was that music bands often try out new musicians and replace band members for the sake of making better music — and that no one should feel guilty about this. He said that in life, some arrangements are kept, and some need letting go because they are not flowering. Erickson said, “Are you aware that your unconscious is up to something interesting and it’s always orienting toward?!” Alexander recalled being in and out of trance, and awakening three hours later, remembering only some of Erickson’s words.
As Alexander was leaving, Erickson asked, “Sonny, are you from Boston?” Alexander replied yes. Erickson continued: “Well, I know there are a lot of Catholics up there. Are they happy or guilty?” He then smiled at Alexander and told him to wait 10 days before being retested for the medical issue that Alexander had presented to him. Erickson also asked Alexander to get back to him with the results. Erickson said that he may be surprised and delighted to discover that his infection had suddenly disappeared.
Ten days later, Alexander was retested, and there was no sign of infection. Alexander also concluded that even though he was raised Catholic, he did not need to feel guilty about not wanting to end his marriage.
Reflecting on what he learned from Erickson, Alexander said that whenever he thought he had a psychosomatic symptom, he would go into trance and remember Erickson’s words: “Why should we inflict pain on ourselves to…do the right thing?!” After his visit with Erickson, he also decided to redirect his career to mind/body medicine.
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