Posts Tagged ‘story’
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Stone carving transformed my life of chronic pain, depression, and drug dependency into a life of renewed vitality with the ability to work, dance, and feel whole again.
After 25 years of working as an emergency room physician, I underwent several back surgeries, which resulted in many hours of physical therapy and treatments with never-ending pain and limited mobility; my life was reduced to bed rest and hot baths. So, I pursued several treatment options, including tapping into my creativity as a way of healing chronic pain.
I began by carving small hand size pieces of alabaster and marble while lying in a zero-gravity chair, and I instantly fell in love with sculpting stone. Later, I was able to carve while standing, which provided the opportunity to work on larger pieces. To my amazement, time seemed to melt away while I was engrossed in this process; my physical and mental attention deepening and widening. It was as if I had entered a spacious room, leaving the back pain outside. Something magically healing occurred in me when I entered the world of the stone carving, while at the same time, I remained in the present, discovering the shapes and lines embedded in the rock. Focused attention on carving became a meditation, complete with mindfulness of the body in motion. Previously, I discovered that distracting myself was minimally effective in relieving pain. In contrast, stone carving was highly effective. The repetitive movements of chiseling, filing, and sanding the stone were a perfect setting for mantra recitation and training the mind. I was learning to stay in the present while remaining open in this vast new room of creativity. Stone carving transformed time. Hours felt like minutes, while my body pain was in the distance, as if on the back burner. When the stone would crack and pieces would fall away, it opened me to another opportunity to use creativity and literally go with the flow. As my dear friend and source of sculpting inspiration, Shiffi Menaker-Schreiberr used to say, “The stone is the guru [teacher].” I also found that the process of carving trumped the outcome. This idea became paramount in healing. Stone carving became my medicine.
I hope my story and art will be beneficial to others. A thank you to all my doctors, healers, teachers, and friends (too numerous to name) and to my partner Ellen Vogel whose support and love made this possible. Also, special thanks to Anam Thubten Rinpoche, Darlene Cohen, and Shiffi (mentioned earlier), who were invaluable inspirations and helped guide me along the path.Commentary
By Eric Greenleaf, PhD
“When you have a difficult problem, make an interesting design out of it.” – Milton H. Erickson, MD
Dr. Erickson employed all manner of creative devices to respond to his own physical pain, and to a patient’s emotional pain in life. He tried countervailing his own pain with distraction, like when he would press his chin into the top of a chair, and when he hallucinated that the colorful hooked rug in his office was spiraling into the air. He would also have detailed discussions with Mrs. Erickson in the middle of the night about the pain sensation in his feet. He used the conversation and detailing of the pain as a distraction until his wife would gently remind him that she and the rest of the family needed their sleep.
To reduce the emotional pain of a woodcarver’s low self-esteem, Dr. Erickson borrowed one of the patient’s ironwood carvings overnight and returned it the next day with bruised fingers and a replica of the carving that he had made. He did this to experientially show the patient the value of his (the patient’s) work.
Dr. Samuels, an experienced physician, and healer discovered a way to respond to his own crippling pain in a way his patients would recognize. He did this by putting his thoughtful, calm demeanor to work through his eyes and his hands, as he slowly changed stone to art. As was once said, “Architecture is frozen music.”
Note: Those interested in viewing Dr. Samuel’s stunning sculptural work, please see: http://mrdrjoel.tumblr.com/
For imaginative approaches to healing, using visual arts, movement, and trance, see www.miltonherickson.com.
This excerpt has been extracted from Volume 39, Issue No. 3 of The Milton H. Erickson Foundation Newsletter.