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Giants in Psychology

(Still Unfinished . . . but good enough for now)

The Premise
Ernest Hilgard
Divided Consciousness

Milton H Erickson
Erickson & Hypnosis

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The Premise
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There are are what we might call  founding fathers of modern psychology. Giants in their field! There are a few in particular, who discovered, in my estimation, the most important discoveries with the biggest implications. I bring them here to you now in brief summary. They are essential knowledge if you are to move beyond the primitive boundaries of current psychology. Enjoy!

Ernest Hilgard

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From Wikipedia


July 25, 1904
Belleville, Illinois


October 22, 2001 (aged 97)
Palo Alto, California






Stanford University

Alma mater

University of Illinois
Yale University

Known for


Notable awards

NAS Award for Scientific Reviewing (1984)

Ernest Ropiequet "Jack" Hilgard (July 25, 1904 – October 22, 2001) was an American psychologist and professor at Stanford University. He became famous in the 1950s for his research on hypnosis, especially with regard to pain control. Along with André Muller Weitzenhoffer, Hilgard developed the Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scales.

>>But in my opinion, it is the discovery of the "hidden observer" of Hilgard, that has huge implications for the greatest understanding of how the human mind works. Just watch and see.<<


Born in Belleville, Illinois, Ernest Ropiequet Hilgard was the son of a physician, Dr. George Engelmann Hilgard, and Laura Ropiequet Hilgard. Hilgard was initially drawn to engineering; he received a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois in 1924. He then studied psychology, receiving a Ph.D. from Yale University in 1930. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1958.[1] In 1984 Hilgard was awarded the NAS Award for Scientific Reviewing from the National Academy of Sciences.[2]


Hilgard is specifically known for his theory that a so-called "hidden observer" is created in the mind while hypnosis is taking place. His research on the hidden observer during hypnotic pain management was intended to provide support for his neodissociationist theory. This theory held that a person undergoing hypnosis can still observe his or her own pain without consciously experiencing any suffering. The phenomenon of the "hidden observer" was controversial and critics claimed it could be manufactured by suggestions, indicating that it was possibly no more than an artifact of the instructions given to the research participants.[citation needed] Writing in the late 1970s (Hilgard, E. (1977). Divided consciousness: Multiple controls in human thought and action. New York, NY: Wiley), Ernest Hilgard became convinced that we all have another being sharing our lives. Hilgard termed this entity the ‘‘hidden observer.’’

>>Hilgard is correct says I in that last conclusion. The Hidden Observer (HO hereafter), is indeed, a part of us that stays awake at all times, allowing our conscious part we have throughout day, while awake, to be walled off, if  need be, in order to allow intellectal function without interference from fear, or other such distracting powerful psychological injuries that leave permanent functional scars in brain operations.

The HO can control any aspect of the autonomic functions of the brain, it being largely primitive and instinctive, to allow rapid reaction and protection from dangers that we can not handle when young or vulnerable. As we age, it can allow thinking functions in certain situations of danger, where it has been recognized that the intellect has a better solution, perhaps more detailed and insightful than auto-pilot instinctive reactions.

The HO is extremely sensitive, easily hurt or wounded, and ultra protective of the entire person. As such, it can be a good or bad thing. But in our insensitive world, it is going to take a beating and the person hardens in response to repeated injuries of feelings.

Of a disturbing nature, the HO can be directly accessed and brutalized, thereby beating it into submission and having it deny the consciousness any knowledge of its intentions and operations forced upon it. Thru hypnosis and torture, the HO can become a slave of the hypnotist/torturer/conditioner, and the consciousness will have no idea anything is wrong.

The HO stores traumas in isolated areas it creates in an organized manner, to protect the consciousness or to work in antagonism to the will of the conscious self, without the consciousness knowing this is all going on.

There is nothing the HO can not control. It can block out and deny any reality or input. It can make you see things not there, hear things that are not there, feel things that are not real pro present. It can cause any hallucination, or cause great focus and concentration or make one clueless and see and hear nothing. It has the power of language at some point, and thru that language, accept or deny any instruction, according to programming.

The HO is not that perceptive or intelligent, but can be very obedient, if it wants to, or is conditioned to, or instructed to by a trusted source, like parents, or a hypnotist who has previously gained such access to this level of consciousness, the HO. So the HO does not do well at abstract thinking. It becomes in some fashion, a bit like legalistic lawyer, taking words very literal and limited.

For instance, a programmer might instruct a mind-control subject to never tell anyone what they know in memory. But the HO may very well try to communicate in non-verbal pictorial images to reveal things, believing these do not violate their instructions or commands.

I'll write more in a follow up but the HO is where the control center really is. It constantly watches for danger and protects the person with a fight or flight sort of reaction, which is the safest solution for all cases when young but can be counter productive later to things perceived as danger that might have a better thought out solution.

The HO must learn to trust the ability of the intellect and let it do its magic, so to speak. This is a life long lesson.<<

In one of his books, Hilgard described a classic test demonstrating how this hidden entity is part of our consciousness. He wrote of a blind student who was hypnotized and, while in a trance state, was told that he would become deaf. The suggestion was so strong that he failed to react to any form of noise, even large sounds next to his ear. Of course, he also failed to respond to any questions he was asked while in his trance state. The hypnotist was keen to discover if ‘‘anybody else’’ was able to hear. He quietly said to the student, ‘‘Perhaps there is some part of you that is hearing my voice and processing the information. If there is, I should like the index finger of your right hand to rise as a sign that this is the case’’(Hilgard, 1977, p. 186). The finger rose. At this, the student requested that he be brought out of the hypnotically-induced period of deafness. On being‘‘awakened,’’ the student said that he had requested to come out of the trance state because ‘‘I felt my finger rise in a way that was not a spontaneous twitch, so you must have done something to make it rise, and I want to know what you did’’ (p. 186). The hypnotist then asked him what he remembered. Because the trance was light, the student never actually lost consciousness; all that occurred was that his hearing had ceased. In order to deal with the boredom of being deprived of both sight and sound, he had decided to work on some statistical problems in his head. It was while he was doing this that he suddenly felt his finger lift. This was obviously strange to him, because under normal circumstances he was, like all of us, the ‘‘person’’ who decides on how the body moves. In this case he was not. Not only that, but ‘‘somebody else’’ in his head was responding to an external request that he had not heard. As far as Hilgard was concerned, the person who responded was the ‘‘hidden observer.’’

>>Hilgard was right on, but peers would seek to contradict it, since they saw a better secret use of this discovery, so they wanted to purge it from publish knowledge and acceptance. The HO can participate apart from consciousness. This is the ability sought out by programmers to leave the conscious void of knowledge of other things going on in the mind, that the "commanders" do not want the conscious person to know. I bold-highlighted the above to show how the conscious decision maker can be kept out of the loop. This is what no psychologist wants any of us to understand. The very basic elementary ways a programmer can exploit the mind of a human being.

But ironically, due to protective mode, the HO can keep many things away from consciousness, even though it was not instructed to do so. It can make decisions on its own, if not interfered with or threatened. But the decisions it can make are often not well thought out. Hence the value of the intellect, if the HO will make use of it. Our biggest battle is with our HO, who means well, but with its limited capacity for more careful analytical thought, can not arrive at the best decision or solution. So development of the intellect is of prime and urgent importance. It can be the salavation of the entire person, including the HO.<<

One of Hilgard’s subjects made the following interesting statement about what she experienced, making particular reference to what she sensed was her higher self: The hidden observer is cognizant of everything that is going on. . . . The hidden observer sees more, he questions more, he’s aware of what is going on all of the time but getting in touch is totally unnecessary. . . . He’s like a guardian angel that guards you from doing anything that will mess you up. . . . The hidden observer is looking through the tunnel, and sees everything in the tunnel. . . . Unless someone tells me to get in touch with the hidden observer, I’m not in contact. It’s just there. (Hilgard, 1977, p. 210).

>>My proposition is that we can get in contract with the HO. WE can reach out to him/her and make it clear what we want. If we are persistent, the HO will eventually give in, says I. But it might resist for a while, not being sure of how much we really mean what we say. The HO is very perceptive and can smell a lie in a millisecond.

The next statement is a complete lie. The HO can be completely overcome by shutting down all intellectual ability, leaving just enough stimulation to keep the language abilities functioning. As one hypnotizes harmlessly, doing so a number of times, it seduces the HO into relaxing and trusting everything without question, since the intellect is no where to be found. Soon, commands are issud to not tell the intellect anything. Soon, the HO can be commanded anything and will obey as it treats the commander as it would a parent or even more than a parent. Carla reports that a hypnotic trance is a sort of high that feels very good, almost like a sexual experience where 2 people are totally high and focused on each other, with eye to eye contact and most other stimuli are blocked out. Kathleen Sullivan describes is as a lot like sexual focus. So do not let anyone hypnotize you, ever!!! I mean it! take this very seriously.<<

The hidden observer protects us from doing anything in hypnosis that we would not do under any circumstance consciously, such as causing someone else physical harm. >>Its a lie to get people's guard down and not fear hypnosis. Be afraid! Be Very Afraid!<<

Duality of personality

This idea of the basic duality of human personality is culturally and historically almost universal. The ancient Chinese called these two independent consciousnesses hun and po, the ancient Egyptians the ka and the ba, and the ancient Greeks the Daemon and the Eidolon. In each case, the two entities shared their senses and perceptions of the external world but interpreted those perceptions with regard to their own history, knowledge, and personality.

>>I believe the concept of "conscience" is from this. Conscience comes from 2 Latin words, Con and science. Con is two as in Co-workers, and science means to know, to be aware. You recognize that word, right? Conscience indicates 2 types of knowledge existing together. The New Testament writer made use of the word conscience. Perhaps we did not fully appreciate what was being indicated.<<

For the Greeks, the relationship was an unequal one. The higher self, the Daemon, acted as a form of guardian angel or higher self over its lower self, the Eidolon. The Stoic philosopher Epictetus wrote: God has placed at every man’s side a guardian, the Daemon of each man, who is charged to watch over him; a Daemon that cannot sleep, nor be deceived. To what greater and more watchful guardian could He have entrusted each of us? So, when you have shut the doors, and made darkness in the house, remember, never to say that you are alone; for you are not alone. But God is there, and your Daemon is there (Epictetus, 1998/2nd century, 14:11) The belief was that the Daemon had foreknowledge of future circumstances and events and as such could warn its Eidolon of the dangers. It was as if in some way the Daemon had already lived the life of its Eidolon.

>>The Greek concept of daemon has 2 concepts in it, I believe. I do think the HO was recognized but also that real demons, who could foresee the future at times, also got involved at times. But this also shows that an understanding of the HO does seem to be apparent in Greece and likley other cultures, too, according to research by Carla Emery whose book I recommend. Hypnosis has been around almost as long as man. You figure, that if, and I speak to Christians primarily in this instance, that if demons knew, and they had to know, about the HO and how to exploit it, then they likely revealed it to man, without wasting too much time.

So Christians ought to be avoiding hypnotizing or getting hypnotized, but they are benefited without harm, by learning about it without employing it.<<


Hilgard was also the author of three hugely influential textbooks on topics other than hypnosis. The first, “Conditioning and Learning”, jointly authored with Donald Marquis, was very widely cited up until the 1960s. When Gregory Kimble updated a second edition in 1961, Hilgard and Marquis’s names were made part of the title, a distinction, as Hilgard himself noted, usually reserved for deceased authors.

A second text, “Theories of Learning” (1948), was also widely cited, and lasted for five editions (through 1981); the last three editions involved Hilgard's Stanford colleague Gordon H. Bower.

The third textbook was the well written and wide-ranging “Introduction to Psychology” (1953), which was, according to his biography on the website of the American Psychological Association, “for a long period, the most widely used introductory psychology text in the world.” Several editions were co-authored by Rita L. Atkinson or Richard C. Atkinson, another colleague at Stanford and later chancellor of the University of California at San Diego and then president and regent of the University of California. The 15th edition, published in 2009, is called “Atkinson and Hilgard’s Introduction to Psychology”.


  1. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter H". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 10 April 2011.
  2. ^ "NAS Award for Scientific Reviewing". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 27 February 2011.

>>>End Wikipedia Article

Truth1 writes now:

So you might be able to see how important Hilgard's understanding of the HO is to hypnosis and trauma based Mind-control. As well, the HO is vital to understanding why humans can be so oblivious to their own faults, while easily recognizing those of others. Or why humans seem to suffer from neurosis, psychosis, delusion, and the like. The HO gone wrong or wild, leaving the intellect to basically do what it is told, which is often to simply supply justified reasoning for why they are behaving as they are, even if it is irrational.

Janov refuses to accpet or believe that the HO is infull charge and power. Janov says the intellect can easily overpower the 1st level reptilian brain stem, and deceive it. But the HO is not that bright and needs the help of an objective intellect, rather than one that is simply obedient to the HO.

Consider this! If one person is assigned to do their job in an assembly line, and they do not do it or do not do it right, then the next person in the line will get fouled up as well. Its the blind leading the blind. Likewise, if the HO does not let the intellect do what it does best, the HO will suffer as a result, as well. but Janov has things he is very afraid of, in my opinion and he fears the intellect intensely, since it must be presenting a threat that terrifies him. Indeed, a conscience can be a prickly matter. And knowledge can lead to carry conclusions that we might not like, so we avoid anything even heading in that general direction. This is why the HO often blocks any meaningful attempt in certain directions of knowledge, so that it never has to confront something it does not like or fears.

Hence, we have a constant battle potentially going on inside us, between a very protective HO, and an innocently inquiring intellect about to venture somewhere that the HO instinctively knows will lead to trouble, fear, pain or the like and the HO protects the intellect from uncovering that source of pain or fear. so our biggest challenge lies within ourselves. We need to be brave and convince the HO we want to know, regardless of fear or pain. It does have the ability to relent and stop blocking if commanded in sincerity to do so.

There is much more that could be written about the HO, the Hidden Observer. But this will suffice to show how important Hilgard's discovery was. Too bad Janov can not accept that. Janov has written about Hilgard. He knows Hilgard. There is no good excuse for ignoring Hilgard.

Divided Consciousness
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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Divided consciousness is a term coined by Ernest Hilgard to define a psychological state in which one's consciousness is split into distinct components, possibly during hypnosis.


The theory of a division of consciousness was touched upon by Carl Jung in 1935 when he stated, "The so-called unity of consciousness is an illusion... we like to think that we are one but we are not."[1] Ernest Hilgard believed that hypnosis causes a split in awareness and a vivid form of everyday mind splits. [2] Drawing themes from Pierre Janet, Hilgard viewed hypnosis from this perspective as a willingness to divide the main systems of consciousness into different sectors. He argued that this split in consciousness can not only help define the state of mind reached during hypnosis, but can also help to define a vast range of psychological issues such as multiple personality disorder.

In Hilgard's Divided Consciousness Reconsidered, he offers a great many examples of "dissociated" human behavior. With regard to theory, he does state that it is useful to assign two modes of consciousness, a receptive mode and an active mode--that is, a bimodal consciousness. In other places he mentions the concept of coconsciousness, wherein two or more states of consciousness may be equally receptive or active, as, for example, in some types of multiple personality.[3]

Many psychological studies assume a unity of consciousness. Doubt is cast on this assumption by psychophysical studies in normal subjects and those with blindsight showing the simultaneous dissociation of different modes of report of a sensation, and by clinical studies of anosognosic patients showing dissociations of awareness of their own states.[citation needed] These and other phenomena are interpreted to imply two kinds of division of consciousness: the separation of phenomenal experience from reflexive consciousness and the non-unity of reflexive consciousness. Reflexive consciousness is taken to be necessary for report and is associated with the self as the subject of experience and agent of report. Reflexive consciousness is operative only when we attend to our own states. When we are involved in the world reflexivity intervenes less and our consciousness is more unified.[4]


The theory has been tried and tested and many some tests have proven that the theory makes is legitimate.[citation needed] Others, such as one performed on 169 undergraduate students, some of whom performed tasks in selective attention and divided attention conditions being correlated with scores on the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility refute Hilgard’s findings.[5]

New trends in psychology and cognitive neuroscience suggest that applications of nonlinear dynamics, chaos and self-organization seem to be particularly important for research of some fundamental problems regarding mind-brain relationship. Relevant problems among others are formations of memories during alterations of mental states and nature of a barrier that divides mental states, and leads to the process called dissociation. This process is related to a formation of groups of neurons which often synchronize their firing patterns in a unique spatial manner. The central theme of this study is the relationship between level of moving and oscillating mental processes and their neurophysiological substrate. This presents a question about principles of organization of the conscious experience and how the experiences happen in the brain. Chaotic self-organization provides a unique theoretical and experimental tool for deeper understanding of dissociative phenomena and enables to study how dissociative phenomena can be linked to epileptiform discharges which are related to various forms of psychological and somatic manifestations. Organizing principles that constitute human consciousness and other mental phenomena from this point of view may be described by analysis and reconstruction of underlying dynamics of psychophysiological measures.[6]


  1. ^ (Review: Dissociationism Revived, Matthew Hugh Erdelyi, Science, New Series, Vol. 200, No. 4342 (May 12, 1978), pp. 654-655; Published by: American Association for the Advancement of Science)
  2. ^ (Myers, David G. Psychology: Eighth Edition in Modules. New York, NY: Worth Publishers, 2007)
  3. ^ Huebner, B. (1979). Distributing cognition: A defense of collective mentality, Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 8 (6),591; Retrieved from
  4. ^ Hebb, D, Juzyck, P, Klein R.,(1983). The Nature of Thought, Medical Research Council, Applied Psychology Unit, Cambridge, UK. Retrieved from,+Peter+W.+Jusczyk,+Raymond+M.+Klein&source=bl&ots=N_f-8zNr2K&sig=dBHDyYyDKSCTQ4YohMjalD85fxY&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=4&ct=result#PPA32,M1
  5. ^ Some operationalizations of the neodissociation concept and their relationship to hypnotic susceptibility. Stava, Lawrence J.; Jaffa, Melvyn. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol 54(6), Jun 1988, 989-996.)
  6. ^ Chaos, brain and divided consciousness. Petr Bob, Acta Univ Carol Med Monogr. 2007 ;153 :9-80 17867519 (P,S,G,E,B)


Milton H. Erickson
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>>My next pick for a giant, based on principles introduced to psychology to deepen our understanding of the human being and the human mind, is Mr. Milton H Erickson. Erickson had a unique childhood that enabled him to see/discover, what he might not have ever seen, otherwise and maybe why no one else had seen it to that point, either.

Erickson became a master at noticing subtleties in human behavior, if not contradictions. I'll let this Wikipedia article do the talking, for the most part. He developed an amazing tact with patients that could propel psychology light years into the future but IT has declined to take advantage of it, at least publicly and therapeutically. He used it in combination with hypnosis very effectively. He is a marvel to behold. If you want to understand psychology better, this is a good place to start.<<

Milton Hyland Erickson (5 December 1901 – 25 March 1980) was an American psychiatrist specializing in medical hypnosis and family therapy. He was founding president of the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis and a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychopathological Association. He is noted for his approach to the unconscious mind as creative and solution-generating. He is also noted for influencing brief therapy, strategic family therapy, family systems therapy, solution focused brief therapy, and neuro-linguistic programming.[1]

Personal history

Erickson frequently drew upon his own experiences to provide examples of the power of the unconscious mind. He was largely self-taught and a great many of his anecdotal and autobiographical teaching stories were collected by Sidney Rosen in the book My Voice Will Go With You. Erickson identified many of his earliest personal experiences as hypnotic or autohypnotic.

Erickson grew up in Lowell, Wisconsin, in a modest farming family and intended to become a farmer like his father. He was a late developer and was both dyslexic and color blind. He overcame his dyslexia and had many other inspirations via a series of spontaneous autohypnotic "flashes of light" or "creative moments", as described in the paper Autohypnotic Experiences of Milton H. Erickson[2]

At age 17, he contracted polio and was so severely paralysed that the doctors believed he would die. In the critical night when he was at his worst, he had another formative "autohypnotic experience".

E: As I lay in bed that night, I overheard the three doctors tell my parents in the other room that their boy would be dead in the morning. I felt intense anger that anyone should tell a mother her boy would be dead by morning. My mother then came in with as serene a face as can be. I asked her to arrange the dresser, push it up against the side of the bed at an angle. She did not understand why, she thought I was delirious. My speech was difficult. But at that angle by virtue of the mirror on the dresser I could see through the doorway, through the west window of the other room. I was damned if I would die without seeing one more sunset. If I had any skill in drawing, I could still sketch that sunset.

R: Your anger and wanting to see another sunset was a way you kept yourself alive through that critical day in spite of the doctors' predictions. But why do you call that an autohypnotic experience?

E: I saw that vast sunset covering the whole sky. But I know there was also a tree there outside the window, but I blocked it out.

R: You blocked it out? It was that selective perception that enables you to say you were in an altered state?

E: Yes, I did not do it consciously. I saw all the sunset, but I didn't see the fence and large boulder that were there. I blocked out everything except the sunset. After I saw the sunset, I lost consciousness for three days. When I finally awakened, I asked my father why they had taken out that fence, tree, and boulder. I did not realize I had blotted them out when I fixed my attention so intensely on the sunset. Then, as I recovered and became aware of my lack of abilities, I wondered how I was going to earn a living. I had already published a paper in a national agricultural journal. "Why Young Folks Leave the Farm." I no longer had the strength to be a farmer, but maybe I could make it as a doctor.[3]  

>>Erickson, or perhaps more accurately, his protective inner self, the HO, was able to take direction and perform what was necessary to deliver Erickson from death and into healing. We also see as evidence, how powerful the HO is. It can literally deny visual or other stimuli such as the tree or fence. Overriding normal senses can be life saving, or cause us to walk off the deep end and never come back. It can be protective, life-saving, or cripple us in function or even kill us, in time. We need to know more and bring this all under our control and not let it rule without a say, right?<<

Recovering, still almost entirely lame in bed, and unable to speak, he became strongly aware of the significance of non-verbal communication - body language, tone of voice and the way that these non-verbal expressions often directly contradicted the verbal ones.

I had polio, and I was totally paralyzed, and the inflammation was so great that I had a sensory paralysis too. I could move my eyes and my hearing was undisturbed. I got very lonesome lying in bed, unable to move anything except my eyeballs. I was quarantined on the farm with seven sisters, one brother, two parents, and a practical nurse. And how could I entertain myself? I started watching people and my environment. I soon learned that my sisters could say "no" when they meant "yes." And they could say "yes" and mean "no" at the same time. They could offer another sister an apple and hold it back. And I began studying nonverbal language and body language. I had a baby sister who had begun to learn to creep. I would have to learn to stand up and walk. And you can imagine the intensity with which I watched as my baby sister grew from creeping to learning how to stand up.[4]  

>>It was the polio and paralysis that placed Erickson in a situation neither he nor anyone else had been in, before or normally. This was actually a gift, for him, and for us. He spent all his time watching and learning and piecing things together about human behavior.<<

He began to recall "body memories" of the muscular activity of his own body. By concentrating on these memories, he slowly began to regain control of parts of his body to the point where he was eventually able to talk and use his arms. Still unable to walk, he decided to train his body further by embarking - alone - on a thousand mile canoe trip with only a few dollars. After this grueling trip, he was able to walk with a cane. This experience may have contributed to Erickson's technique of using "ordeals" in a therapeutic context. (See below).

>>Other paralysis victims have also healed themselves in the past. Julio Iglesias, a notable celebrity, did that. Intense focused concentration of muscle memory and attempted muscle stimulation slowly bring back a healing/repair of muscles and limbs. Keep that "ordeal" factor in mind, too!<<

Erickson was an avid medical student, and he was so curious about, and engaged with, psychiatry, that he obtained a psychology degree while he was still studying medicine.

Much later, in his fifties, he developed post-polio syndrome, characterized by pain and muscle weakness caused by the chronic over-use of partially paralyzed muscles. The condition left him even more severely paralyzed, but, having been through the experience once before, he now had a strategy for recovering some use of his muscles which he employed again. After this second recovery, he was obliged to use a wheelchair and suffered chronic pain which he controlled with self-hypnosis:

It usually takes me an hour after I awaken to get all the pain out. It used to be easier when I was younger. I have more muscle and joint difficulties now... Recently the only way I could get control over the pain was by sitting in bed, pulling a chair close, and pressing my larynx against the back of the chair. That was very uncomfortable: But it was discomfort I was deliberately creating.

>>I suspect that Erickson could have also been helped by nutrition supplements, had they been around then and perhaps electrical stimulation as well. But note that he deliberately created discomfort in himself, perhaps to goad his inner HO, into helping with the pain killing or healing, if there was any.<<

In the early 1950s, anthropologist/cyberneticist Gregory Bateson involved Erickson as a consultant as part of his extensive research on communication. The two had met earlier, after Bateson and Margaret Mead had called upon him to analyse the films Mead had made of trance states in Bali. Through Bateson, Erickson met Jay Haley, Richard Bandler and John Grinder, amongst others, and had a profound influence on them all. They went on to write several books about him.

In 1973, Jay Haley published Uncommon Therapy, which for the first time brought Erickson and his approaches to the attention of those outside the clinical hypnosis community. Erickson's fame and reputation spread rapidly, and so many people wished to meet him that he began holding teaching seminars, which continued until his death.

Milton H. Erickson died in March 1980, aged 78, leaving four sons, four daughters, and a lasting legacy to the worlds of psychology, psychiatry, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, pedagogics and communications.  


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Erickson is noted for his often unconventional approach to psychotherapy, as described in the book Uncommon Therapy by Jay Haley and the book Hypnotherapy: An Exploratory Casebook, by Milton H. Erickson and Ernest L. Rossi (1979, New York: Irvington Publishers, Inc.). He developed an extensive use of therapeutic metaphor and story as well as hypnosis and coined the term brief therapy for his method of addressing therapeutic change in relatively few sessions.

Beginning in the 1950s, Erickson's use of interventions influenced strategic therapy and family systems therapy practitioners including Virginia Satir and Jay Haley. He was noted for his ability to "utilize" anything about a patient to help them change, including their beliefs, favorite words, cultural background, personal history, or even their neurotic habits.

Through conceptualizing the unconscious as highly separate from the conscious mind, with its own awareness, interests, responses, and learnings, he taught that the unconscious mind was creative, solution-generating, and often positive.

>>This again brings us to Hilgard's HO (hidden observer) theory. What I see as clear is that the HO must be sought and involved in order to get anything done. You can not ignore it or you will fail. It has its own sort of intelligence but other research also tends to suggest that it can have blind spots due to its often simplistic or narrow way of interpreting things sometimes. Just as you can not do anything without the HO, the HO can not be totally successful without informing and cooperating with the intellect of the neo-cortex. They both have their own unique skill to use in each other's behalf.<<

He was an important influence on neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), which was in part based upon his working methods.[5]  

>>Neuro-linguistic programming is a fascinating subject. Tony Robbins speaks of it often. It is powerful and can enlighten us on why hypnosis is so powerful, and why parents, authorities, and celebrities seem to have so much influence on us. More on this later.<<

Trance and the unconscious mind

Erickson believed that the unconscious mind was always listening and that, whether or not the patient was in trance, suggestions could be made which would have a hypnotic influence, as long as those suggestions found resonance at the unconscious level. The patient could be aware of this or could be completely oblivious that something was happening. Erickson would see if the patient would respond to one or another kind of indirect suggestion and allow the unconscious mind to participate actively in the therapeutic process. In this way, what seemed like a normal conversation might induce a hypnotic trance, or a therapeutic change in the subject. According to Weitzenhoffer, "[Erickson's] conception of the unconscious is definitely not the one held by Freud."[6]

Erickson was an irrepressible practical joker,[7] and it was not uncommon for him to slip indirect suggestions into all kinds of situations, including in his own books, papers, lectures and seminars.[8] For example, one student arrived at one of the five-day intensive seminars he held in his home office near the end of his life and when Dr. Erickson asked he why she had come, she replied very frankly: "My teacher told me that I should come to see you before you died." Dr. Erickson smiled and said: "You tell him that dying is the LAST thing I intend to do." The group laughed at this pun. Then Dr. Erickson said, with a twinkle in his eye: "Do you want to know how to avoid dying?" Of course the group wanted to know. "Always wake up every morning." Again an appreciative laugh from the group. "And do you want to know how to ensure that you will wake up every morning?' Dr. Erickson continued. "Drink lots of liquids before you go to sleep!"

Erickson also believed that it was even appropriate for the therapist to go into trance.

I go into trances so that I will be more sensitive to the intonations and inflections of my patients' speech. And to enable me to hear better, see better.

Erickson maintained that trance is a common, everyday occurrence. For example, when waiting for buses and trains, reading or listening, or even being involved in strenuous physical exercise, it's quite normal to become immersed in the activity and go into a trance state, removed from any other irrelevant stimuli. These states are so common and familiar that most people do not consciously recognise them as hypnotic phenomena.

The same situation is in evidence in everyday life, however, whenever attention is fixated with a question or an experience of the amazing, the unusual, or anything that holds a person's interest. At such moments people experience the common everyday trance; they tend to gaze off to the right or left, depending upon which cerebral hemisphere is most dominant (Baleen, 1969) and get that faraway or blank look. Their eyes may actually close, their bodies tend to become immobile (a form of catalepsy), certain reflexes (e.g., swallowing, respiration, etc.) may be suppressed, and they seem momentarily oblivious to their surroundings until they have completed their inner search on the unconscious level for the new idea, response, or frames of reference that will restabilize their general reality orientation. We hypothesize that in everyday life consciousness is in a continual state of flux between the general reality orientation and the momentary microdynamics of trance...[9]

Because Erickson expected trance states to occur naturally and frequently, he was prepared to exploit them therapeutically, even when the patient was not present with him in the consulting room. He also discovered many techniques for increasing the likelihood that a trance state would occur. He developed both verbal and non-verbal techniques and pioneered the idea that the common experiences of wonderment, engrossment and confusion are, in fact, just kinds of trance.

Clearly, there are a great many kinds of trance. Many people are familiar with the idea of a "deep" trance, and earlier in his career Erickson was a pioneer in researching the unique and remarkable phenomena that are associated with that state, spending many hours at a time with individual test subjects, deepening the trance.

That a trance may be "light" or "deep" suggest a one-dimensional continuum of trance depth, but Erickson would often work with multiple trances in the same patient, for example, suggesting that the hypnotised patient behave "as if awake", thereby blurring the line between the hypnotic and awake state.

Erickson believed there are multiple states that may be utilized. This resonates with Charles Tart's idea (put forward in the book Waking Up) that all states of consciousness are trances and that what we call "normal" waking consciousness is just a "consensus trance". NLP also makes central use of the idea of changing state, without it explicitly being a hypnotic phenomenon.

Indirect techniques

Where classical hypnosis is authoritative and direct and often encounters resistance in the subject, Erickson's approach is permissive, accommodating and indirect.[10] For example, where a classical hypnotist might say "You are going into a trance", an Ericksonian hypnotist would be more likely to say "you can comfortably learn how to go into a trance". In this way, he provides an opportunity for the subject to accept the suggestions they are most comfortable with, at their own pace, and with an awareness of the benefits. The subject knows they are not being hustled and takes full ownership of, and participates in, their transformation. Because the induction takes place during the course of a normal conversation, Ericksonian hypnosis is often known as Covert or Conversational Hypnosis.

Erickson maintained that it was not possible consciously to instruct the unconscious mind, and that authoritarian suggestions were likely to be met with resistance. The unconscious mind responds to openings, opportunities, metaphors, symbols, and contradictions. Effective hypnotic suggestion, then, should be "artfully vague", leaving space for the subject to fill in the gaps with their own unconscious understandings - even if they do not consciously grasp what is happening. The skilled hypnotherapist constructs these gaps of meaning in a way most suited to the individual subject - in a way which is most likely to produce the desired change.

For example, the authoritative "You will stop smoking" is likely to find less leverage on the unconscious level than "You can become a non-smoker". The first is a direct command, to be obeyed or ignored (and notice that it draws attention to the act of smoking); the second is an opening, an invitation to possible lasting change, without pressure, and is less likely to raise resistance.

Richard Bandler and John Grinder identified this kind of "artful vagueness" as a central characteristic of their 'Milton Model', a systematic attempt to codify Erickson's hypnotic language patterns.

Confusion technique

In all my techniques, almost all, there is a confusion.[11]

A confused person has their conscious mind busy and occupied, and is very much inclined to draw upon unconscious learnings to make sense of things. A confused person is in a trance of their own making - and therefore goes readily into that trance without resistance. Confusion might be created by ambiguous words, complex or endless sentences, pattern interruption or a myriad of other techniques to incite transderivational searches.

Scottish surgeon James Braid, who coined the term "hypnotism", claimed that focused attention was essential for creating hypnotic trances; indeed, his thesis was that hypnosis was in essence a state of extreme focus. But it can be difficult for people racked by pain, fear or suspicion to focus on anything at all. Thus other techniques for inducing trance become important, or as Erickson explained:

... long and frequent use of the confusion technique has many times effected exceedingly rapid hypnotic inductions under unfavourable conditions such as acute pain of terminal malignant disease and in persons interested but hostile, aggressive, and resistant...

Handshake induction

Among Erickson's best-known innovations is the hypnotic handshake induction, which is a type of confusion technique. The induction is done by the hypnotist going to shake hands with the subject, then interrupting the flow of the handshake in some way, such as by grabbing the subject's wrist instead. If the handshake continues to develop in a way which is out-of-keeping with expectations, a simple, non-verbal trance is created, which may then be reinforced or utilized by the hypnotist. All these responses happen naturally and automatically without telling the subject to consciously focus on an idea.

Richard Bandler told people that Erickson had taught him this handshake technique. However, it is clear that Bandler embedded some parts in it that were, in fact, impossible for Erickson such as "gradually lessening the pressure with his right hand", which of course was impossible for Erickson since he was almost completely paralysed in his right hand. Bandler talks about this in one of his videos Creating Therapeutic Change.[dubious discuss]

This induction works because shaking hands is one of the actions learned and operated as a single "chunk" of behavior; tying shoelaces is another classic example. If the behavior is diverted or frozen midway, the person literally has no mental space for this - he is stopped in the middle of unconsciously executing a behavior that hasn't got a "middle". The mind responds by suspending itself in trance until either something happens to give a new direction, or it "snaps out". A skilled hypnotist can often use that momentary confusion and suspension of normal processes to induce trance quickly and easily.

The various descriptions of Erickson's hypnotic handshake, including his own very detailed accounts, indicate that a certain amount of improvisation is involved, and that watching and acting upon the subject's responses is the key to a successful outcome.

Erickson described the routine as follows:

·         Initiation: When I begin by shaking hands, I do so normally. The "hypnotic touch" then begins when I let loose. The letting loose becomes transformed from a firm grip into a gentle touch by the thumb, a lingering drawing away of the little finger, a faint brushing of the subject's hand with the middle finger - just enough vague sensation to attract the attention. As the subject gives attention to the touch of your thumb, you shift to a touch with your little finger. As your subject's attention follows that, you shift to a touch with your middle finger and then again to the thumb.

·         This arousal of attention is merely an arousal without constituting a stimulus for a response.

·         The subject's withdrawal from the handshake is arrested by this attention arousal, which establishes a waiting set, and expectancy.

·         Then almost, but not quite simultaneously (to ensure separate neural recognition), you touch the undersurface of the hand (wrist) so gently that it barely suggests an upward push. This is followed by a similar utterly slight downward touch, and then I sever contact so gently that the subject does not know exactly when - and the subject's hand is left going neither up nor down, but cataleptic.

·         Termination: If you don't want your subject to know what you are doing, you simply distract their attention, usually by some appropriate remark, and casually terminate. Sometimes they remark, "What did you say? I got absentminded there for a moment and wasn't paying attention to anything." This is slightly distressing to the subjects and indicative of the fact that their attention was so focused and fixated on the peculiar hand stimuli that they were momentarily entranced so they did not hear what was said.

·         Utilisation: Any utilisation leads to increasing trance depth. All utilisation should proceed as a continuation of extension of the initial procedure. Much can be done nonverbally; for example, if any subjects are just looking blankly at me, I may slowly shift my gaze downward, causing them to look at their hand, which I touch and say "look at this spot.". This intensifies the trance state. Then, whether the subjects are looking at you or at their hand or just staring blankly, you can use your left hand to touch their elevated right hand from above or the side - so long as you merely give the suggestion of downward movement. Occasionally a downward nudge or push is required. If a strong push or nudge is required, check for anaesthesia.[11]

Richard Bandler was a keen proponent of the handshake induction, and developed his own variant, which is commonly taught in NLP workshops.

Any habitual pattern which is interrupted unexpectedly will cause sudden and light trance. The handshake is a particularly good pattern to interrupt because the formality of a handshake is a widely understood set of social rules. Since everyone knows that it would be impolite to comment on the quality of a handshake, regardless of how strange it may be, the subject is obliged to embark on an inner search (known as a transderivational search, a universal and compelling type of trance) to identify the meaning or purpose of the subverted pattern.


Erickson recognised that many people were intimidated by hypnosis and the therapeutic process, and took care to respect the special resistances of the individual patient. In the therapeutic process he said that "you always give the patient every opportunity to resist". Here are some more relevant quotes pertaining to resistance:

Whatever the behaviour offered by the subjects, it should be accepted and utilized to develop further responsive behaviour. Any attempt to "correct" or alter the subjects' behaviour, or to force them to do things they are not interested in, militates against trance induction and certainly deep trance experience.

If the patient can be led to accept one suggestion, they will more readily accept others. With resistant patients, it becomes necessary to find a suggestion that they can accept. Resistance is always important, and should always be respected, so if the resistance itself is encouraged, the patient is made to feel more comfortable, because they know that they are allowed to respond however they wish.

Many times, the apparently active resistance encountered in subjects is no more than an unconscious measure of testing the hypnotist's willingness to meet them halfway instead of trying to force them to act entirely in accord with his ideas.

Although the idea of working with resistance is essentially a hypnotic one, it goes beyond hypnosis and trance. In a typical example, a girl that bit her nails was told that she was cheating herself of really enjoying the nail biting. He encouraged her to let some of her nails grow a little longer before biting them, so that she really could derive the fullest pleasure from the activity. She decided to grow all of her nails long enough that she might really enjoy biting them, and then, after some days, she realised that she didn't want to bite them anyway.

Ericksonian therapy

Erickson is most famous as a hypnotherapist, but his extensive research into and experience with hypnosis led him to develop an effective therapeutic technique. Many of these techniques are not explicitly hypnotic, but they are extensions of hypnotic strategies and language patterns. Erickson recognised that resistance to trance resembles resistance to change, and developed his therapeutic approach with that awareness.

Jay Haley identified several strategies, which appeared repeatedly in Erickson's therapeutic approach.

I usually say, "There are a number of things that you don't want me to know about, that you don't want to tell me. There are a lot of things about yourself that you don't want to discuss, therefore let's discuss those that you are willing to discuss." She has blanket permission to withhold anything and everything. But she did come to discuss things. And therefore she starts discussing this, discussing that. And it's always "Well, this is all right to talk about." And before she's finished, she has mentioned everything. And each new item - "Well, this really isn't so important that I have to withhold it. I can use the withholding permission for more important matters." Simply a hypnotic technique. To make them respond to the idea of withholding, and to respond to the idea of communicating.[12]

Some people might react to a direction by thinking "why should I?" or "You can't make me", called a polarity response because it motivates the subject to consider the polar opposite of the suggestion. The conscious mind recognizes negation in speech ("Don't do X") but according to Erickson, the unconscious mind pays more attention to the "X" than the injunction "Don't do". Erickson thus used this as the basis for suggestions that deliberately played on negation and tonally marked the important wording, to provide that whatever the client did, it was beneficial: "You don't have to go into a trance, so you can easily wonder about what you notice no faster than you feel ready to become aware that your hand is slowly rising....."

My first well-remembered intentional use of the double bind occurred in early boyhood. One winter day, with the weather below zero, my father led a calf out of the barn to the water trough. After the calf had satisfied its thirst, they turned back to the barn, but at the doorway the calf stubbornly braced its feet, and despite my father's desperate pulling on the halter, he could not budge the animal. I was outside playing in the snow and, observing the impasse, began laughing heartily. My father challenged me to pull the calf into the barn. Recognizing the situation as one of unreasoning stubborn resistance on the part of the calf, I decided to let the calf have full opportunity to resist, since that was what it apparently wished to do. Accordingly I presented the calf with a double bind by seizing it by the tail and pulling it away from the barn, while my father continued to pull it inward. The calf promptly chose to resist the weaker of the two forces and dragged me into the barn.[13]

I was returning from high school one day and a runaway horse with a bridle on sped past a group of us into a farmer's yard looking for a drink of water. The horse was perspiring heavily. And the farmer didn't recognize it so we cornered it. I hopped on the horse's back. Since it had a bridle on, I took hold of the tick rein and said, "Giddy-up." Headed for the highway, I knew the horse would turn in the right direction. I didn't know what the right direction was. And the horse trotted and galloped along. Now and then he would forget he was on the highway and start into a field. So I would pull on him a bit and call his attention to the fact the highway was where he was supposed to be. And finally, about four miles from where I had boarded him, he turned into a farm yard and the farmer said, "So that's how that critter came back. Where did you find him?" I said, "About four miles from here." "How did you know you should come here?" I said, "I didn't know. The horse knew. All I did was keep his attention on the road."

Erickson's metaphorical strategies can be compared with the teaching tales of the Sufis (those of for example the Nasreddin) and the Zen tradition of Koans, each also designed to act on the unconscious mind.

Compare this with "Prescribing the Symptom" (below).

If I send someone out of the room - for example, the mother and child - I carefully move father from his chair and put him into mother's chair. Or if I send the child out, I might put mother in the child's chair, at least temporarily. Sometimes I comment on this by saying, 'As you sit where your son was sitting, you can think more clearly about him.' Or, 'If you sit where your husband sat, maybe it will give you somewhat of his view about me'. Over a series of interviews with an entire family, I shuffle them about, so that what was originally mother's chair is now where father is sitting. The family grouping remains, and yet that family grouping is being rearranged, which is what you are after when changing a family."[14]

This may be directly compared with Fritz Perls' use of an "empty chair" as a context for imagined interactions (where the client was often invited to occupy the chair and thus take on the role of the person imagined to be sitting there); Bert Hellinger's approach, which requires the client to arrange family members (played by volunteers) in a row or pattern which matches the client's internal understanding, and then to reorganise the row; and Virginia Satir's work with tableaux and posture.

Erickson would often compliment the patient for a symptom, and would even encourage it, in very specific ways. In one amusing example, a woman whose in-laws caused her nauseous feelings in the gut every time they visited unexpectedly was "taught" to vomit spectacularly whenever the visits were especially inconvenient. Naturally the in-laws would always sympathetically help her clean up the vomit. Fairly soon, the annoying relatives started calling in advance before turning up, to see if she were "well enough" to see them.

The subject of dozens of songs, "emphasizing the positive" is a well known self-help strategy, and can be compared with "positive reformulation" in Gestalt Therapy.

INTERVIEWER: Suppose someone called you and said there was a kid, nineteen or twenty years old, who has been a very good boy, but all of a sudden this week he started walking around the neighborhood carrying a large cross. The neighbors are upset and the family's upset, and would you do something about it. How would you think about that as a problem? Some kind of bizarre behavior like that.
ERICKSON: Well, if the kid came in to see me, the first thing I would do would be to want to examine the cross. And I would want to improve it in a very minor way. As soon as I got the slightest minor change in it, the way would be open for a larger change. And pretty soon I could deal with the advantages of a different cross - he ought to have at least two. He ought to have at least three so he could make a choice each day of which one. It's pretty hard to express a psychotic pattern of behavior over an ever-increasing number of crosses.[14]

INTERVIEWER: You don't feel that exploring the past is particularly relevant? I'm always trying to get clear in my mind how much of the past I need to consider when doing brief therapy.

ERICKSON: You know, I had one patient this last July who had four or five years of psychoanalysis and got nowhere with it. And someone who knows her said, "How much attention did you give to the past?" I said, "You know, I completely forgot about that." That patient is, I think, a reasonably cured person. It was a severe washing compulsion, as much as twenty hours a day. I didn't go in to the cause or the etiology; the only searching question I asked was "When you get in the shower to scrub yourself for hours, tell me, do you start at the top of your head, or the soles of your feet, or in the middle? Do you wash from the neck down, or do you start with your feet and wash up? Or do you start with your head and wash down?"
INTERVIEWER: Why did you ask that?
ERICKSON: So that she knew I was really interested.
INTERVIEWER: So that you could join her in this?

ERICKSON: No, so that she knew I was really interested.[15]


Shocks and ordeals

Erickson is famous for pioneering indirect techniques, but his shock therapy tends to get less attention. Erickson was prepared to use psychological shocks and ordeals in order to achieve given results:

When the old gentleman asked if he could be helped for his fear of riding in an elevator, I told him I could probably scare the pants off him in another direction. He told me that nothing could be worse than his fear of an elevator.

The elevators in that particular building were operated by young girls, and I made special arrangements with one in advance. She agreed to cooperate and thought it would be fun. I went with the gentleman to the elevator. He wasn't afraid of walking into an elevator, but when it started to move it became an unbearable experience. So I chose an unbusy time and I had him walk in and out of the elevator, back in and out. Then at a point when we walked in, I told the girl to close the door and said, "Let's go up."
She went up one story and stopped in between floors. The gentleman started to yell, "What's wrong!" I said, "The elevator operator wants to kiss you." Shocked, the gentleman said, "But I'm a married man!" The girl said, "I don't mind that." She walked toward him, and he stepped back and said, "You start the elevator." So she started it. She went up to about the fourth floor and stopped it again between floors. She said, "I just have a craving for a kiss." He said, "You go about your business." He wanted that elevator moving, not standing still. She replied, "Well, let's go down and start all over again," and she began to take the elevator down. He said, "Not down, up!" since he didn't want to go through that all over again.

She started up and then stopped the elevator between floors and said, "Do you promise you'll ride down in my elevator with me when you're through work?" He said, "I'll promise anything if you promise not to kiss me." He went up in the elevator, relieved and without fear - of the elevator - and could ride one from then on.[14]



Erickson's work on hypnotism was controversial during his lifetime and has remained so to the present day. Some of his central presuppositions have been questioned by other researchers and the opaque nature of his explanations has led to a variety of competing interpretations of his approach.

A friend and colleague of Erickson, the hypnosis researcher André Weitzenhoffer, a prolific and well-respected author in the field of hypnosis himself, has extensively criticised the ideas and influence of Erickson in various writings, such as his textbook The Practice of Hypnotism. Weitzenhoffer displays a clear, and explicitly stated, bias against Ericksonian Hypnosis in his book, in favor of what he terms the semi-traditional, scientific, approach.[16]

The author Jeffrey Masson dedicated a whole sub-section of his book Against Therapy to criticism of Milton Erickson.[17] Masson questions the accuracy of Erickson's case reports. Regarding Erickson's report of a female patient who was allegedly hypnotised to have spontaneous orgasms throughout the day, Masson writes, "The whole thing is tinged with fantasy and has a feeling of unreality about it." [18]

Masson was particularly concerned by Erickson's own reports of cases in which he acted in a manner he felt might be construed as sexually inappropriate. He even goes so far as to suggest that Erickson may have obtained "sexual pleasure" from cases like the following, where he reports asking a young female client to gradually strip naked in his office, allegedly as a psychotherapeutic exercise. It is to note, however, that Mrs Erickson was present in the room. Furthermore, Erickson presents the case as illustrating the power of shock therapy against inhibitions and rigidities of character, claiming his technique has freed the patient from her incapacity to marry her fiancé.

"Now you need to know how to undress and go to bed in the presence of a man. So start undressing." Slowly, in an almost automatic fashion, she undressed. I had her show me her right breast, her left breast, her right nipple, her left nipple. Her belly button. Her genital area. Her knees. Her gluteal [buttock] regions. I asked her to point where she would like to have her husband kiss her. I had her turn around [naked]. I had her dress slowly. She dressed. I dismissed her.[18]

Masson also notes that Erickson, as a psychiatrist in the Arizona State Hospital, was an enthusiastic advocate of the use of restraints, a subject which he delivered a well-attended talk on, and frequently had patients confined by straitjackets. Masson cites various instances of Erickson's behaviour toward psychiatric patients which he considers "cruel, crude jokes". Referring to Erickson's authoritarian approach as "prison-camp therapy" and "therapist-as-boss", Masson concludes, "It is not surprising that Erickson succumbed to the opportunity to abuse his patients, as the examples quoted make clear."[19]

Self-professed "sceptical hypnotist" Alex Tsander cited Massons concerns in his 2005 book "Beyond Erickson: A Fresh Look at "The Emperor of Hypnosis"". The title of which alludes to Charcot's characterisation in the previous century as "The Emperor of the Neuroses". Tsander re-evaluates a swathe of Ericksons accounts of his therapeutic approaches and lecture demonstrations in the context of scientific literature on hypnotism and his own experience in giving live demonstrations of hypnotic technique. Emphasising social-psychological perspectives, Tsander introduces an "interpretive filter" with which he re-evaluates Erickson's own accounts of his demonstrations and introduces prosaic explanations for occurrences that both Erickson and other authors tend to portray as remarkable.

Influence on others

Erickson's friend, and sometime collaborator, Andre Weitzenhoffer, a well-known hypnosis researcher himself, has repeatedly raised concerns over the nature of Erickson's legacy.

The majority of today's Ericksonians consist of individuals who have never known Erickson, even less been directly trained by him. Today, and for some time now, much of the teaching of the Ericksonian approach is and has been done by individuals who have acquired their knowledge second and third hand. [...] Some of those who did spend time with Erickson, like Jeffrey Zeig, Ernest Rossi, and William O'Hanlon have tried, I believe, to present and preserve as much as they could what they believed and have understood Erickson's thought and methods to be. They have succeeded to do so to a fair degree. Others, like Richard Bandler and John Grinder have on the other hand, offered a much adulterated, and at times fanciful, version of what they perceived Erickson as saying and doing guided by their personal theorizing. [...] Further distortions have resulted outside of the United States due to translation problems as well as for other reasons. More and more the Ericksonians have become a heterogeneous group of practitioners.[20]

One of his first students and developers of his work was Jay Haley. Other important followers include Stephen Gilligan, Jeffrey K. Zeig, Stephen R. Lankton and Stephen Brooks.

It has been claimed that Erickson was modeled (see Milton model) by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, the co-founders of Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).

In the sphere of business coaching and training, he influenced the methods that behaviour training companies, such as Erickson College International, Krauthammer, Gustav Käser Training International or Dynargie used in communicating with coachees and training participants.




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