Posts Tagged ‘jeff zeig’

Utilization — the Virtues of Faults Excerpts from the Erickson Foundation Archives

By Jeffrey K. Zeig, Ph.D.

Case One: The Right “Spell”

My son, Robert, asked me when he was attending grade school, “My two best friends can’t spell; [their papers are] marked 10, 15, or 20, and my spelling [lessons are] marked, 85, 90, or 95. Now, will you teach them how to spell?” I said, “I can’t really do that Robert without consulting their parents…I’ll tell you what to do. You make sure you have your spelling lesson with you and your friends have their spelling lessons with them — a marked copy corrected by the teacher. I’ll come over and pick you up and drive you home, and I’ll [also] offer to drive the boys home. And, as we’re riding along, you tell me what mark you got on your spelling lesson. I’ll pull up to the curb and go over your spelling lesson. [When Erickson did this, he said to Robert,] “You got this word right, and this word right, and this, this, and this.” And I graded [his lesson] and it was 98. I turned to one of the boys and said, “Have you got your spelling lesson with you? I’d like to see it.” He didn’t want to show it to me, but I insisted. I looked at it and said, “My goodness…a ‘ck’ in ‘chicken’ is the hardest part of the word to spell — and you got that right.” I looked at the next word and there were three letters correct and [I] said, “[That’s] the hardest part of that word to spell…” Now the second boy handed me his spelling lesson [and] I pointed out the letters he got [right, too.]

A short time later, I asked Robert, “What happened to those little boys after that day?” He said, “They are spelling correctly.”

I merely showed them how to look at their spelling lesson and see the right part of their spelling. [But,] adults will look at the failures, without realizing that failures are always an opportunity to learn.

Case Two: Appreciable Curves

Hans (a student asking for help with a case): I had a woman client who came in with her husband. She has scoliosis, which means she has a very rounded back and is much smaller than she would be if she didn’t have it. Other than that, she’s a beautiful woman, but the couple has the same difficulty I told you about before: the man is no longer turned on by his [wife]. He says it does not have to do with her back, but I still think it has something to do with it. He simply tries not to think about it, and the woman gets depressed a lot because she thinks her rounded back is the reason why her husband doesn’t like her anymore — that he no longer accepts her as a woman.

Erickson: Now my [question] to the woman would have been, “Madam, aren’t you aware that all men [think] curves are wonderful?” If the woman has an extra curve, I’d [ask] the man, “What do you want — a flattened board? As a man you are supposed to enjoy [all kinds of] curves.” [This puts] him on the defensive, and when he admits liking some curves, [he’ll] admit to a predilection for [all] curves, [there- fore viewing] his wife’s scoliosis through different eyes.

Cases Three and Four: The Body of Knowledge

Erickson speaking to students at a teaching seminar:

I’ll give you two other cases from my [experience working with the WWII] induction board. A handsome young man came through [in] good physical condition, and he had Jayne Mansfield [a buxom actress of the era] beat with his [enormous] breasts. My medical students looked at him in horror, [but were even] more horrified when I wrote a red “A” on the chart, which meant [he was] accepted. I let the medical students wonder for a while, [and] then I said, “The medical students are concerned because I’ve accepted you for the Army. They think that with those great big breasts of yours you’re unfit for the Army. Now, I’ll ask you a question and your answer will reassure [them]: “When you take a shower with the boys and they see your great big breasts, and they start to rib you [and] tease you, what are you going to tell them?” He said, “I’ll tell anybody who stares at my breasts that I brought them along for the homesick boys.” There was no question why [this man would] be accepted. And his composure was excellent.

The next selectee squirmed while I did the psychiatric examination, [but] I didn’t find anything wrong with him. I accepted him and [asked], “Now, why were you so afraid I wouldn’t accept you for the Army?” He said, “Well, I’ve got a problem: I can urinate only when sitting down.” The medical students looked concerned, so I said, “All right. When you’re marching and the sergeant says, ‘At ease, relieve your- selves,’ and you squat down to urinate, what are you going to say to your fellow soldiers?” He said, “If they fault me [for] squatting down, I’ll tell them, ‘Anything good enough for my mother is good enough for me.’”




By Marnie McGann

Milestones in life are often reached by a number, more specifically, one’s age in decades. Turning 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 and beyond all resonate as if we are passing through an invisible wall and stepping into a new realm of maturity with another decade of life experience under our belt. We join those on “the other side” and hope that the new decade serves us well.

This year, Jeff Zeig passed through another invisible wall when he turned 70 on November 6th. In each decade of his life, he continues to grow and share his wealth of knowledge and experience; his 70s will be no exception. And despite his many accomplishments, he humbly and gracefully continues to offer guidance through therapy and training. At the Foundation, he is our fearless leader, treating all staff members with kindness and respect. He is the Founder and Director of The Milton H. Erickson Foundation, which will reach its own milestone in 2019, when we will celebrate our 40th anniversary. It has been nearly 40 years since Jeff commenced organization of the first of many conferences – a Congress held in December 1980. Since then, he has been the architect of the Couples Conference, the Brief Therapy Conference, the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference, and the Intensives training in Phoenix, held in consecutive weeks three times throughout the year.

There are many more accomplishments, including more than 20 books on psychotherapy that appear in 14 languages. But, this article is more about who Jeff Zeig, the man, is and what makes him tick. So I felt the best way to know him was to listen.

A Conversation with Jeff Zeig:

Marnie McGann: First off, happy 70th birthday Jeff, and thank you for agreeing to be the subject of this article. As Founder and Director of the Erickson Foundation, you’ve spent nearly 40 years creating an organization that’s known throughout the world. But, I can’t even say for sure where you were born. So let’s start with that. Could you please share a bit about your childhood?

Jeff Zeig: I was born in the Bronx, New York, and spent my first 10 years of life living in an apartment with one bedroom that my sister and I shared. My parents slept on a roll-out couch in the living room. My father was a postman and took the subway to Manhattan every day for work. Coincidentally, my sister eventually had an office in the building where he used to deliver mail. After apartment life, my family moved to Long Island into a Levitt home. My father eventually took a job as a salesman for a home improvement company and we entered the middle class. I grew up in a child-centered Jewish family. My parents were adamant that my three sisters and I would have the opportunities that my parents never had. They were the children of Jewish immigrants and their parents mostly spoke Yiddish. My maternal grandmother came alone from Russia at age 18 and worked in sweatshops to earn funds to bring her siblings and her father to the U.S. My paternal grandparents were matched by a matchmaker on their wedding day! Needless to say, it was not a match made in heaven.

MM: I know you enjoy flying sail planes, are a bronze life master at bridge, and have been writing book after book. What else do you enjoy doing in your limited spare time?

Jeff Zeig: I exercise daily for more than 45 minutes. Usually during that time, I either talk to my love, who does not live nearby, or I educate myself by listening to tapes from Erickson, previous conferences, or online courses. I also listen to audiobooks; currently, it’s Resurrection by Tolstoy and A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens. I also listen to audiobooks when traveling and just finished “The Body Keeps the Score,” by Bessel Van der Kolk. Right now, I am taking a course in linguistics. Another positive addiction is taking Spanish lessons, which I love, but lack competence. I gifted the Erickson Foundation staff with private Spanish lessons. We take the classes online with a teacher in Mexico. Then, there’s my 2-year-old granddaughter, Lily Beth… Relaxation would be a good hobby, but the concept escapes me, as does watching television.

MM: What makes you happy?

JZ: Learning and Loving. The goal of living is to grow.

MM: What three words describe you best?

JZ: Driven, Driven, and Driven.

MM: Would you say that you’ve achieved your dream professionally?

JZ: More than I ever expected.

MM: What is your greatest achievement and how has it shaped you?

JZ: The Evolution Conference is my greatest professional achievement. Promoting integration and discovering the commonalities that makes therapy work.

MM: What is your greatest failure, and how did you overcome it?

JZ: When I graduated with my PhD in 1977, I wanted to be an academic and applied for more than 50 positions. I didn’t get any of the jobs I really wanted, but since then, some of those schools have hired me to do workshops. I took a job as a child psychologist at the Arizona State Hospital, but it was my last choice. Erickson advised me by telling me a story about his son, Bert, who came back from the Army only to face unemployment. The refrain of the story was to strictly do a professional job. So I did, and it worked.

MM: Have you ever taken a giant leap of faith?

JZ: Yes, by moving to Phoenix in 1978 to be close to Erickson. And, doing a clover leaf in a glider.

MM: What has been most satisfying for you in your life?

JZ: Service.

MM: How do you deal with stress?

JZ: I thrive on it. I live with it. I invite it. And I harness it to pursue what is most meaningful to me.

MM: What book, poem, piece of music, painting or other work of art has moved you the most?

JZ: I had a hobby of memorizing poetry and can still quote quite a few poems. I have been most inspired by e.e. cummings.

MM: How do you make your therapy an art?

JZ: I improvise. I study the evocative nature of all art, and apply it to helping clients and therapists access adaptive states.

MM: Do you have any current goals that you are working toward?

JZ: Loving the important people in my life. Professionally, writing more books. Reading more literature. Staying healthy.

MM: If you could do one thing over, what would it be?

JZ: I would learn how to play music, but I am tonally challenged.

MM: Where do you see yourself in the next five years, 10 years?

JZ: Contributing as much as possible. Loving to the limit.

MM: Milton Erickson was your mentor and left a legacy. What do you hope is your legacy?

JZ: Making the world a little better by virtue of my time on this planet.

MM: What does turning 70 mean to you?

JZ: I have less tread on the tires.

MM: Do you have any advice for young therapists?

JZ: Study and incorporate into your life, Erickson’s utilization orientation.

Jeff has recently begun working on Season 2 of his 5 Minute Therapy Tips video series on YouTube. These 5-minute videos deal within the general areas of client problems, professional issues, clinical concerns, and methodology with specific focus on anxiety, grief, depression, pain, smoking cessation, and much more. View the video below, or click here to view the entire series.