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When Do I Get the Book Review? Erickson’s Efforts to Secure a Book Review

Written By Joyce Bavlinka, M. Ed., LISAC

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes, 26 seconds

Several weeks ago, while researching an article on T.E.A. von Dedenroth, I came across a folder containing 85+ pieces of correspondence between Erickson and Eric M. Wright, Ph.D., M.D. of the University of Kansas covering the period from 1964 to 1966. In 1965, Wright was the President of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis and Erickson was editor of the American Journal of Hypnosis: Clinical, Experimental, Theoretical. The file was donated to the Foundation in 2015 by David Wark, Ph.D. of Minneapolis, MN.

The file correspondence covers the Society’s activities, Erickson’s trials as editor of the Journal, and Erickson’s attempts to get Wright to complete a review of the second edition of Wolberg’s “Hypnoanalysis”. The first edition of “Hypnoanalysis” was published in 1945 and the Second Edition was published in 1964. The second edition copy we have had been the property of T.E.A. von Dedenroth. Von Dedenroth’s books on hypnotherapy and hypnotism were donated to the Foundation. Erickson has some quirky prods to get Wright, the reviewer to fulfill his responsibility including sending poems and stories about his parents and potentially applying arm-twisting.

On July 27, 1964, Erickson writes to Wright:

“Now that I mention it, there does seem to be some vague possibility of an incompleted correspondence about something such as a possible book review: Perhaps if you pause briefly in your frantic cerebrations it may come to you.

But this is not the purpose of this letter. Stating it very simply, the purpose is to ask you if you would be interested in reviewing the revised and enlarged “Hypnoanalysis” by Lewis R. Wolberg, M.D.

If you find yourself hesitating, let me know at once and I will try to fasten an arm-twister to you.”

Wright responds on August 17, that he “would be interested in reviewing the revised and enlarged ‘Hypnoanalysis’ by Lewis Wolberg “because I would read the book in the first place and I might as well read it with this purpose in mind.”

On October 28, 1965, Erickson writes to Wright:

“Myself when young did go to school, the months to learn. I discovered that wet April is followed by merry May, then comes happy June followed by sultry July, succeeded by doggy August and schoolday’s September. Then comes glorious Indian Summer October, Thankful November, and Merry Christmas December. Then it’s the end of the year. But nowhere, just nowhere, in that list of months do I find The Wished-For-Month containing the Book Review of Wolberg’s “Hypnoanalysis” you promised (What base innuendo lies within that word?) “after April.” (This year, too! Ach, Weh ist mir!)

I can only wonder with the poet, “Of what Base-Metal Hopeful Substance are Editors made?

P.S. I’m definitely not mentioning the other book review.”

Attached to that letter is a copy of THE PLAINT OF THE CAMEL EDITOR. The poem is a take-off of “The Plaint of the Camel” by Charles Edward Carryl. Erickson replaces the refrain of the poem to the plight of the editor and how the camel/editor is viewed and how poorly he is treated.  In the first stanza, the camel laments that other animals have fine food diets “but there’s never a question about my digestion, ANYTHING……ANY DATE does for me!” Later verses lament that the camel does not have the unique housing afforded by other animals and that he is a beast of burden. The last verse laments the “Camel all lumpy and bumpy and humpy, ANY SHAPE, ANY DATE does it for me.”

Link to Erickson’s typewritten “The Plaint of the CAMEL EDITOR.”

On December 15, 1965, Wright writes:

“When you have failed to fulfill an obligation in spite of your intentions to do so, it seems to me the only thing that one can do is ask for pardon and express regret. I honestly would like to review the Wolberg book, but I know that there are needs that your editorial job makes insistent. If you are willing to extend your period of grace until the first of March 1966, I shall make a sincere effort to fulfill this obligation. However, if you feel that this report is long, long overdue, please let me know and I will forward the book back to your office with great relief. You are perfectly right to childe me, and I have only the wish that I were somewhat more patient and more fluently productive so that I did not fall behind in my obligations. It is hard for me to judge the long-term quality of things which I have tried to write and have written, but I do know that they have been gone over and reworked several times before being submitted, and if they are not of good caliber, it is not for lack of trying.

There are times when you do create very real ambivalences. For example, if the book review on Wolberg had been written with promptness, the five-sonneted poem “The Plaint of the Camel Editor” would never have been written. Now it is better to have placated the editor so that his job moved smoothly along but he remains uncreative? Even Hamlet, when he held the skill of poor Yorick in his hands, was no less perplexed. To do or not to do, that is the question. Now there are other cryptic comments and notes which escape my grasp. You make me wish I had the featness of mind of von Dedenroth who seems to be always perfectly tuned in on even the surplus of allusions which you make.”

On December 19, 1965, Erickson writes to Wright:

“Unfortunately for you, I am delighted to extend the period of grace to the first of March 1966.  I do so much want to have you review that book.

Now really Erik, I just plagiarized that poem – – it was such an appropriate plaint. Useful too!

“I’ll try to be less obscure in my allusions. Too bad you are getting a barrage of letters from me—one mailed yesterday.

With Season’s Greeting from all of us to all of you – us includes the mice, the guinea pig, the skunk, the tortoises, the ducks, the hen, the dog, the fish, and various other re-incarnations.”

On January 21, 1966, Erickson writes Wright:

“The passing seconds become minutes, the passing minutes become hours, the passing hours become days, the passing weeks become months, the passing months become years – – – do I hear a pitiful sobbing in the wilderness of the desert? Ah, yes, it is the crying of the tears into his beers by the editor pertinaciously thinking about a book review of Wolberg’s ‘Hypnoanalysis’. But what boots it to repeat how fleeting are these little woes of common humanity?”

Erickson attached a “complaint form” to the letter, asking the reader to state the nature of complaints in a box 1/8” by 1/8” with a ‘write legibly’ instruction.

On February 28, 1966, Erickson write to Wright:

“My mother waited most patiently for her 93rd birthday and my father likewise waited most patiently for his 96th birthday. Both of those days were momentous occasions and here I am, so shamefully impatient about a little book review.  It’s really hard to live up to the achievements of our betters.”

On March 3, 1966, Wright writes:

“As promised, enclosed is the review of the Wolberg’s “Hypnoanalysis”, I wish that it were of the dimensions of a 93rd or 96th birthday. It is not the birthdate which is so impressive, it is the keen interest your father shows in the world around him. To live until the 10th decade is unusual for man, but to remain alive is even more wonderful.”

Wright’s book review was published in The American Journal of Hypnosis: Clinical, Experimental, Theoretical, Volume IX, Number 1, July 1966, pages 80-81. He notes new material in the first three chapters, “Uses and Abuses of Hypnoanalysis”, “Induction of Hypnosis”, and “A Hypnoanalytic Session”.

What exactly was Erickson doing? Erickson discloses to Wright that he was testing out his confusion technique on him. T.E.A. von Dedenroth, who presented at the first Erickson Congress, had a great description of Erickson’s confusion technique:

“…. he would have them [the patient] follow exactly what he said, and then, wind up saying something totally unexpected by the patient so they would not follow what they thought they were following… because they couldn’t follow what they thought he said…. Confusing??? ….. not at all.”

These letters date back to the days before word processors, spellcheck or autocorrect. Many of the letters go on for three pages, single-spaced and without a typing error!!!

Watch for Part II: Hau Trees and Roasted/Baked Camel Stew: Erickson Shares the Challenges of Being President of The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis and you will read one of Erickson’s early descriptions of his Confusion Technique. This description is a first from the archives of the Erickson Foundation. WARNING: You very well might get confused, very confused!!!

Please send your comments on this article to joyce@erickson-foundation.org

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