Home PageBlogWhat a Storm Called Derecho Brought into My Life

By Maria Escalante de Smith, MA

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes, 5 seconds

It was Monday, August 10, 2020. The weather began to worsen. It was nearly 2 p.m. in Cedar Rapids, Iowa when strong winds began to bend trees dramatically and the noise got louder and louder.

It was time to go downstairs to the basement – a safer place – to wait out the storm.

When it finally passed, I went upstairs to survey the damage. It was huge. According to the meteorological service the wind reached 140 mph. I ventured outside to see how the neighbors were doing. People were walking around in awe and disbelief. There was fear, sadness, and perhaps a sense of relief and gratefulness for surviving Derecho. I took a ride around the neighborhood to see some of the fallen trees, with roots completely exposed. So many gorgeous maples were now gone.

I met a neighbor for the first time who I will call Nancy, and she introduced me to Buddy, her three-legged yellow Labrador Retriever, a rather sweet fellow who loves to be petted. And that made me feel relief like things will eventually return to normal.

As I walked around the neighborhood and spoke with friendly people, I remembered Milton Erickson’s advice regarding how as human beings we all have the resources to resolve the problems we encounter in our lives. This experience also taught me about the wide array of emotions that can arise during a storm like the one we had in Iowa. I saw shock, fear, panic, anxiety, and later sadness – all human emotions that connect us.

I realized that after the experience I was in a freeze mode. I suffered insomnia, remembering the loud noises and brute force of the hurricane-type derecho wind uprooting trees and slamming them into the earth. I could still hear the sound of my maple tree falling.

The power lines in our area were damaged, and consequently, we had a blackout and had to borrow a generator from generous neighbors next door.

Things are slowly and steadily getting back to normal. A crew of tree service people came to remove the debris from the trees. The maple that had grown in my garden could not be saved. I never felt so sad to see a tree being removed.

This experience has also been a good opportunity to practice the remarkable “future rehearsal” technique by Dr. Erickson. The idea is to imagine a future when the problem has been solved and things are going well. I pictured a garden with a young, healthy apple tree, and I was enjoying the sweet and juicy apples it yields.

During the aftermath of this event, I noticed how my attention was wandering as I became absorbed in my own experience. In Hypnotic Induction, it states: “…being unaware of sights, sounds, odors, touch, or the position of limbs in space” (Loriedo, C., Zeig, J., Nardone, G. 2011, p. 48), and it was almost as if I was in trance.

“Geometrical progression is a cognitive technique designed by Dr. Erickson to justify the patient’s initial investment of energy into the healing process. The technique helps create positive expectations for what eventually can be achieved using a modest beginning.” (Short, D., Erickson, B. A., Erickson-Klein, R., 2005, p. 88)

So, this is exactly what I intend to do in the next few days – to keep my positive expectations alive.



Loriedo, C., Zeig, J. & Nardone, G. (2011). TranceForming Ericksonian methods: 21st-century visions. The Milton H. Erickson Foundation Press.

Short, D., Erickson, B. A., & Klein, R. E. (2005). Hope and Resiliency: Understanding the Psychotherapeutic Strategies of Milton H. Erickson, MD. Crown House Publishing Limited.


This excerpt has been extracted from Volume 40, Issue No. 3 of The Milton H. Erickson Foundation Newsletter.

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