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Milton Erickson’s Teaching Seminar

From the Erickson Archives

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes, 24 seconds 

Erickson speaking to a group of students:

A patient came to me and said, “I weigh 180 pounds. I’ve dieted a hundred times down to 130 pounds. As soon as the scale reads 130, I celebrate by going to the kitchen and stuffing myself and I gain back to 180 pounds in an awful hurry. And I’ve done that hundreds of times. Can you help with hypnosis?”

“I doubt if she did it hundreds of times. She said, ‘I diet down 130 pounds, then I celebrate by gaining it all back again. I told her, ‘Yes, I can help you by hypnosis, but to do so you’ll have to promise me that you’ll do whatever I tell you to do. No matter what it is you promise me, you’ll do it.’ I made her promise me in a waking state. I got the same promise in a trance state. And I explained to her in the trance state and the waking state, “You have gained your weight to 180 and you diet and lose to 130 pounds, and then you gain it back. Now what you’re going to do this time is you’re going to do your weight gain first and have your reduction second. So, you will now gain from 180 to 200 pounds.’ And with every ounce she gained, she wanted me to let her start reducing. I held out for 200 pounds on my scales and then gave her permission to reduce. She reduced in a hurry to 130 pounds and stayed there. I took her pattern and reversed it.”

Another patient said, “I’m way overweight. I stick to my diet for a few days and then get so hungry that I gorge and gain weight, and it always happens that way. Can you help me with hypnosis?”

Erickson replied: “Yes, quite easily. You stick to your diet for another two weeks. Or, if you can’t stand it for longer than a week, stay on your diet for a week and gorge on Sunday and don’t feel the least bit guilty because that’s my prescription. You can’t eat enough on Sunday to regain all the lost weight. So, you have your guiltless gorging and your happy loss of weight.”

Speaking to the students, Erickson concluded, “Whatever the patient brings you is something [essential] with him [or her], and so you find a way of using it. She wants to reduce and then gain, [so you] reverse it. She wants to diet and then gorge with the guilt, reverse it. Have her diet happily looking forward to the day she can gorge without guilt.

Note: The Erickson Foundation will stream video of Milton Erickson at his teaching seminars. We will send notice to newsletter subscribers who can also see: www.Erickson-foundation.org.


This excerpt has been extracted from Volume 40, Issue No. 1 of The Milton H. Erickson Foundation Newsletter

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