Rossi: So your hypnotherapy is almost the exact opposite of most conventional hypnotic approaches. Other hypnotherapists believe they have to specify exactly what the patient is supposed to do. But you just open a patient up to knowledge that is within, together with new life experiences, rather than trying to program him with your version of how you believe he ought to behave.
Erickson: Too many hypnotherapists take you out to dinner and then tell you what to order. I take a patient out to a psychotherapeutic dinner and I say, “You give your order.” The patient makes his own selection of the food he wants. He is not hindered by my instructions, which would only obstruct and confuse his inner process.
One of my daughters had a tongue-thrusting problem during swallowing that was interfering with the formation of her teeth. The dentist showed her the more natural way of swallowing and contrasted it with her way. He then told her to go home and practice both. And sure enough, after a while, my daughter selected, on her own, the natural, correct way to swallow.
Rossi: She was not following any rigid prescription for behavior change given to her by the dentist. He gave her alternatives that enabled her to make her own choice based on her own actual experience.
Erickson: Yes, providing the patient with alternatives sets the stage for inner search and creative problem-solving.
Rossi: This reminds me of the story you told me about a carpenter who had only three fingers. You did not tell the carpenter he would have to hold the hammer in exactly such and such a manner, applying pressure here and there in a certain way. He could not learn in such a fashion. The conscious effort to learn your way would have interfered with his own unconscious manner of learning to deal with his own handicap. You simply gave him a task that would stimulate his inner problem-solving capacities.
Erickson: That’s right.
The Milton H. Erickson Foundation shares this excerpt in honor of Ernest Rossi. To learn all about his genius life, Kathryn Rossi’s beautiful tribute can be read here.