Posts Tagged ‘Psychologist’

By Terry Argast, PhD Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes, 28 seconds

Rick was a 17- year- old boy who had stuttered since he started to speak. He and his mother came to Arizona from Massachusetts to see Erickson, who said, “I took one look at the mother and Rick and I recognized the ethnic group.” He got a history. The parents were both from a certain community in Lebanon. They came to the United States and married and became citizens. Erickson explained, “Now, in that culture, man is a lot higher than God, and woman is a low lower than low. Now, a man’s children live with him, and as long as they live with him, he is an absolute dictator. And girls are a nuisance. You try to get them married and off your hands because girls and women are fit for only two things–hard work and breeding. And the first child of the marriage should be a boy. If it isn’t a boy the man says, ‘I divorce you,’ three times, and even if his bride brought a million dollars in dowry, her husband confiscates it…Because the first child should be a boy.”

In this case, Rick was the third child with two older sisters. Erickson continued, “Rick was broad-shouldered and sturdy, about 5’10” and his father was 6′ and slender. So Rick was an insult also, not only because he was the third child, but because he didn’t resemble his father.”

Erickson gave Rick a task of working two hours a day in the shop of a Lebanese woman’s florist shop and nursery. Over the phone in the presence of Rick and his mother, Erickson gives the following instructions, “I want you to give him (Rick) the dirtiest, dirtiest work you can…he is not to be paid anything. You don’t have to say anything, just point to the dirty work.”Erickson explained, “..no self-respecting Lebanese…would ever think of working for a woman–it is beneath his dignity. And as for dirty work, that’s only fit for females.”

After seeing Rick for some time, Erickson told the mother to rent Rick a temporary apartment and give him a checking account, then for her to take the first plane back home. The woman said, “I don’t think his father will approve.” To which Erickson replied, “Woman, I never allow anybody to interfere with my patients. Now go and do as I say,” which she did.

Erickson met with Rick and told him, “Rick, I have listened to you carefully. I don’t believe you stutter.

And tomorrow, I want you to bring in two sheets of paper. On the sheets of paper, you will write the numbers of the alphabet from one to ten, and you will write the alphabet. And then you will write a composition on any subject you wish and bring it in tomorrow. And that will prove that you don’t have a stutter.”

This is part of what Rick wrote:

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0

z y x w v u t s r q p o n m l k j i h g f e d c b a

Life Histoyr

I fele that theer is anothre rea- son fro my stuttergin, which ew have ton dicussde. I fele, however thta this reanos is onyl a minro one. Yte, you mya feel thta this reanos

did ton contribute ot my stuttergin at lla.

Erickson explained to Rick that, “He came from Lebanese parentage. That is the first part of the family, and they are all right. And he had two sisters who were born before he was and there should be two reversals in that family. But you can’t reverse them.”

Erickson gave Rick the task of reading a book aloud backward from the last word to the first word. “That will give you practice at saying words without communicating…You need practice at saying words.” Then Erickson gave him the assignment of reading a book from the last chapter to the first.

Then  Erickson told  Rick that while he came from a home that was Lebanese, that he was an American. “You are a first-class citizen of America, and your parents are second class…You can respect the Lebanese culture, but it isn’t your culture. Your culture is American.”Erickson’s parting words were, “Now, Rick your therapy is to respect your parent, to know what American culture is for you, for your sisters; and learn to think freely in all directions.” Rick’s speech improvement was rapid and complete.

 

Discussion

Erickson said, “I think any theoretically based psychotherapy is mistaken because each person is different.” Understanding Rick’s personal, family and cultural dilemma provides a springboard for the clinical intervention that has nothing to do with the diagnosis of stuttering. Erickson sees the symptom as symbolic of Rick’s double bind and provides a way out of the bind, which Rick took. Not only did his speech improve, but Rick was able to assert himself with his parents and make his own decision regarding college and a profession. Erickson also gave Rick the assignment of explaining what it meant to be American to his sisters. Erickson said, “I don’t know what the parents think about me, but they have three children to be proud of. You might call it family therapy.”

This case is from A Teaching Seminar with Milton H. Erickson, edited by Jeffrey K. Zeig. (1980) New York: Brunner/Mazel. Pages 121-132.

 

This excerpt has been extracted from Volume 23, Issue No. 1 of The Milton H. Erickson Foundation Newsletter. 

By Steve Andreas Estimated Running Time: 6 minutes, 21 seconds 

When children paint the sun, they often draw a circle with rays coming out. You’ve all seen that; you probably did it yourself when you were young. A year or so later, a child might paint the sun partly behind clouds. Several years later, they might paint rays coming out from the clouds, but the sun is not visible — what a friend of mine calls a “God sunset.” Even subtler is to paint only the scattered reflection of sunlight on water. An accomplished artist doesn’t paint the sun at all but suggests where the sun is by painting a tree with a little more light on one side than the other, and a subtle shadow to indicate the sun’s location. I think that’s a good metaphor for implication: indicating something without ever explicitly stating it. One of my favorite quotes is: “The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.” (Ralph W. Sockman) Knowledge and wonder are stated; the ocean of ignorance is implied.

On the first page of the first volume of Conversations with Milton H. Erickson, (in which the word “implication” appears about every third page) Jay Haley says, “I have a whole week, so I suspect I can learn all about psychotherapy in that time. I wouldn’t expect that anywhere else but here.” Erickson laughs and says, “Well, we can have our dreams.” That’s a polite way of implying, “You are wildly optimistic!”

When Erickson worked with an alcoholic, he would often say, “Bring a full, unopened bottle of alcohol with you to the next session.” The implication was, “Don’t drink,” and the deeper implication was that the client can control his drinking.

In working with couples, Erickson would often say to one of them, “I want to hear your side of the story. One implication is: “I also want to hear the other side of the story.” But, because of the word “story,” the further implication is a distinction between the “story” and real story. Virginia Satir made the same kind of distinction by saying to a family member, “I want you to tell me how you see the problem,” implying that there were other views.

Erickson would frequently say to a client, “I want you to withhold any information that you don’t want to share with me.” “Withhold” is not necessarily permanent; you can withhold for a while, and then you can yield. But the implication is: “Don’t pay attention to all the stuff you’re going to tell me; pay attention to the stuff you want to withhold.” So, clients would tell him many sensitive things, and most likely by the end of the session, would think, “Well, I told him all that other stuff, I may as well tell him this too.”

Erickson was in session with a woman right before she was scheduled for a risky surgery and she had doubts if she would be okay. He gradually led the discussion around cooking and asked about her favorite recipes. When she would mention something, he would say, “Oh, you know, I’ve always wanted a good recipe for that. Would you give it to me?” Of course, she couldn’t give it to him in that session because she was due to have surgery, so he’d say, “Oh, that’s all right, you can bring it in when we have our next session,” implying that the surgery would be successful.

I went to see Erickson in 1979, about a year before he died. In the middle of the day, seemingly out of nowhere, I heard him say, “Marry an ugly woman and she’ll always be grateful.” I thought to myself, ‘What an awful sexist thing to say!’ At the time, I was with a woman who I — and many others — thought was quite beautiful. The implied message is: “Marry a beautiful woman and she won’t always be grateful.” I didn’t understand that consciously until after the woman and I were married.

Erickson once worked with a woman he called, “Inhibited Ann.” Shortly before bedtime, she’d start gasping and choking, which interfered with her having sex with her husband. In order to be physical with him, the woman insisted that the lights be out so that she could undress in the bathroom, put on a long robe, and then, covered head to toe, she’d come into the bedroom in the dark and get into bed with her husband. After finding out that Ann loved to dance, Erickson said, “You know, you could dance into the bedroom in the nude.” And then said, “We don’t want to give him heart failure,” implying, “We do want to give him something else.” Then, later in the session, Erickson said, “You really could dance into the bedroom in the nude. You’d be in the dark with all the lights out, so your husband can’t see anything, and he’d never know.” So Ann took his suggestion, danced in the nude in the dark, and then crawled into bed feeling like a schoolgirl, giggling about doing something so daring. Giggling implied not gasping, and not gasping implied availability for sex.

On another occasion, Erickson worked with a professor of music who fainted whenever he tried to go on stage to give a piano performance. He told Erickson he was going to be fired from the university if he didn’t perform. So Erickson said, “Okay, ahead of time, put down towels of different colors all the way from the backstage up to the piano. Then, as you walk onstage, decide which one you’re going to faint on.” Involving the professor in a decision process implied that he would not be attending to whatever thoughts made him faint in the past. Since fainting is elicited unconsciously, the implication is he won’t faint at all. And since you have to faint where you are, not somewhere else, thinking about fainting there implies not fainting here.

This same intervention saved Erickson’s life once. When he was working in a mental hospital, he walked into an elevator and per regulation, locked the door behind him before realizing that there was a murderous psychopath in the corner, who said, “I’m going to kill you.” As Erickson always did, he first paced what the psychopath said, and then replied, “Oh, okay, you’re going to kill me…” as he put the key in the elevator door to unlock it, “and the only question is, ‘Where do you think the best place would be for you to slaughter me?’” Erickson opened the elevator door, pointed down the hall and said, “Would over there be best?” The psychopath looked out into the hall as Erickson calmly walked out of the elevator, saying, “Or, maybe over there in that chair would be better. But then again, over there might be best.” Erickson continued walking down the hall toward the nurse’s station, and to safety. Since there is nowhere he can be slaughtered, he distracted the psychopath from killing him where he stood.

Learning about implication is similar to opening another set of eyes and ears; seeing and hearing in a whole new dimension. It’s spooky the things you can become sensitive to, particularly nonverbal implication. I believe that Erickson’s unparalleled ability to “read” people was largely due to his ability to notice and use implication.

In earlier issues of the Newsletter I have written more extensively about both verbal and nonverbal implication. (Vol. 23, No. 1; Vol. 24, No. 1; Vol. 24, No.2)

*Edited from a dialogue between Jeff Zeig and Steve Andreas “Experiential Approaches: The Power of Implication” at the 2014 Brief Therapy Conference. BT14-D02

 

This excerpt has been extracted from Volume 35, Issue No. 2 of The Milton H. Erickson Foundation Newsletter. 

orca

Feb 12

Orca Strait

By Michael F. Hoyt, PhD Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes, 48 seconds

My wife, Jennifer, is not a big traveler, but she has always wanted to go to Alaska to see the wildlife. So in the summer of 2015, we signed up with National Geographic/Lindblad and went for two wonderful weeks. Jennifer is a hospice nurse, and what makes the story interesting is that for many years if you asked her how someday, she would like to die, her answer was that she would like to be eaten by orcas—those magnificent creatures sometimes called “killer whales,” even though they are actually oceanic dolphins. She had recurring but not frightening dreams of a big orca devouring her—she had talked about it several times. And here I was, signing up to be in a two-person kayak in Alaskan waters teeming with orcas with someone who wants to be eaten alive!

To prepare, we took a one-day kayaking class. For the first week of the trip on the Inside Passage cruise/expedition, our cabin was on a lower level without an outside deck, so we could lie in bed and look out the window and watch pods of orcas swimming alongside the ship. We also frequently went topside to see them. One day, a native guide came aboard. He was a young man who grew up in a village and on the ice, but also went to college for a while in Colorado. He came dressed in his native regalia— beads, bear claw, emblems, etc. He told stories and answered questions. When the orcas and other creatures appeared during the day, we stood on the deck in the brisk air as he sang prayers to them. I introduced myself and my wife, and asked him for any reflections from his tradition, about the meaning of being devoured by an orca. (I also mentioned the Bible story of Jonah and the Whale.) He thought about it, then said the orcas were guardians and protectors (hence, the prayers of thanks and supplication when they appeared), and that if my wife’s dreams were not violent or frightening, he would understand them as positive — to mean being welcomed and protected.

Every day during the week, we got into zodiac boats and kayaks and sometimes hiked on remote islands. We saw moose and bears, caribou and sea lions, salmon and eagles, humpback whales and wolves, but didn’t have any dangerous “close encounters” with orcas.

At the end of the week, we got off the ship and went to Denali National Park for a second week of adventure. The first evening at the lodge deep inside the park, the couple who run the lodge asked each of us in our little group to briefly say something about ourselves by way of introduction. When my turn came, I said, “Hi! I’m Michael. I’m here with my wife, Jennifer. We live in Northern California, near San Francisco. I’m a clinical psychologist, and I retired about two years ago. I’m here to see the wildlife, but I’m really here to watch my wife enjoy herself.”

The next morning in the breakfast room, the woman who runs the lodge came up to our table and asked if she might join us. We welcomed her. When she sat down she said, “Michael, last night you said that you’re a psychologist, right?” I replied, “Well, yes, but I retired two years ago.” And then she said: “Well, I’m hoping that maybe you can help me. I keep having dreams about being eaten by orcas.”

My wife and I looked at each other, dumbfounded. (Hey, you can’t make up stuff like this!!!) Welcome to “The Twilight Zone!” After stammering a bit, we told the woman about Jennifer’s orca dreams. She was astounded. We also told her about our understanding gained from the guide on the boat— she found it reassuring and helpful.

Amazing? I think so. The world sometimes works in mysterious ways.

 

Commentary

By Eric Greenleaf, PhD

Dr. Erickson would have enjoyed and appreciated the serendipitous intersection of old cultures and modern anxieties. The utilization of dream material in this story is contained in loving, helpful, and curiosity-driven human relationships. Erickson-influenced therapy has an eye toward the future – to see what happens next – and a desire that, as Dr. Erickson said, “When you look back, you’d like to see you’ve left a trail of happiness behind you.” The lesson for therapists in this lovely adventure is to guide the ship by connection with others — the waves and stars of our lives – and not by the charts of interpretation.

 

This excerpt has been extracted from Volume 36, Issue No. 1 of The Milton H. Erickson Foundation Newsletter.