Thursday, 8 July 2010

Milton Erickson and The Holy Grail

From Yahoo! Groups

“I know it goes against the perceived wisdom, and is an heretical thought, but if Erickson cannot do Ericksonian hypnosis, what chance does anyone else stand?”

Forget perceived wisdom, how about common sense? No one is successful 100% of the time, even Ol' Miltie. I don't know this particular video, but I know when I was in class learning Erickson hypnosis, watching the videos tranced out most of the class.

Now if you want to criticize him, you can pick on that weird spanking thing he goes on about in one of his other videos, but it's plain silly to write someone off because of one bad session, or even more than one session. It's hard, if not nearly impossible, to make a client change who doesn't want to.

Remember that the big "E" didn't just use that slow grumbly induction, he also explored and pioneered rapid inductions, embedded commands, metaphors, storytelling, dissociation, and lots of other hypno-goodies that are now stock and trade.

Besides, so many people have been using "Eriksonian" so effectively for so many years that I have to ask where you've been all this time?



Hi Jeff

The most obvious thing about common sense is that it is a rare commodity indeed. Despite that, I'll try to apply some here.

I publish a DVD called Hypnotism for Hypnotherapists (this isn't spam so I won't provide a link). It's a demonstration of hypnotic phenomena. In it I use two volunteer hypnotees. One of them I knew was a good hypnotee. The other I had never met or communicated with before the session.

I used a known, good hypnotee for the demo because
a) I wasn't trying to prove I could hypnotise people, I was trying to show what could be done with hypnotism, and
b) if I used unknown subjects and the first one was a flop I'd have moved on to another, and another until I found a good hypnotee: the film of the flops would have never left the cutting room and the video would have shown me working with a good hypnotee.

Common sense dictates (doesn't it?) that you wouldn't publish a demonstration of hypnotic techniques and phenomena when the subject doesn't get hypnotised and the only phenomena on display are confusion and social compliance.

But that's what Erickson (or Haley or whoever was responsible for the Ruth video) did. So, using common sense still, it's hard to argue that Erickson and his colleagues thought it was rubbish.

I've attempted to substantiate my opinion that it is, indeed, rubbish by publishing a transcript and commentary here:

Ericksonian advocates can argue that my opinion is tosh. They can argue that they are amongst a select band of cognoscenti who really get Erickson and the rest of us don't know what we're talking about, but it would be much more interesting if they read the transcript and debated that. These discussions always seem to be more productive when people stick to the principles and eschew the personalities.

If your 'where have you been?' question is about my credentials; I've been around. I'm a full time clinical hypnotist and have been for many years. I work in private practice and with the National Health Service in the UK. I've posted thousands of hypno-related messages in various fora going all the way back to when Yahoo! Groups were Clubs.

I don't have a 'let's bring down Erickson' campaign going and so don't have this discussion very often, but the subject does interest me - so much so that I've spoken with Betty Erickson and Judith de Lozier about Erickson's relationship with Bandler and Grinder (Judith was John Grinder's girlfriend at the time and later his wife). I've even tried to track Ruth down.

And I've read a good chunk of the Erickson/NLP canon. Like most hypnotherapists (I guess), Erickson was introduced to me as the Grandfather of Modern Hypnotherapy, and spoken of in quasi-religious terms. I started reading him with awe and amazement. But I have a questioning mind and don't take much at face value. (I was so impressed in the famous Basketball experiment, for example, where the group that only visualized throwing hoops made most progress because 'they only visualized the success', that I tracked down the source. It wasn't conducted in Boston or Miami as is usually quoted, but in Australia. And the people who practised throwing hoops actually did better than the visualizers.)

I suspect that if one approaches Erickson expecting the Holy Grail, the Holy Grail is what you'll find. I have no doubt that lots of Ericksonian hypnotherapists have great success with their patients, but then lots of therapists of all sorts have successes, and all power to them.

The bottom line is, Erickson spent 32 minutes trying to get arm levitation with Ruth, failed, and then published the video as if it was a success. I have yet to read any reasonable justification for that.

I don't doubt Erickson was a good therapist, and he may have been a good hypnotist. All the stuff about 'successive approximations' and 'apposition of opposites' is not, I think, Erickson's fault. He just went with what he had in his gut. I think Ruth was a poor hypnotee and I don't suppose I could have hypnotised her either. But then, I wouldn't have published the video.

Best wishes


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