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What is Ericksonian Hypnosis?

When you hear "hypnosis" you might think of the traditional form of Hypnosis where the powerful, authoritative hypnotist implants suggestions in his subject, such as, "you are getting sleeeepy. Your eyelids are growing heavier and heavier. You will quit smoking," ...

Hypnotic trance however exists in many different forms in every day life. Sometimes it is recognised and utilised (hypnotherapy, rituals, or dance, for example), but most of the time it goes unnoticed (daydreaming, people's behavior in lifts, or irrational fears, to name a few). In fact, people live most of their lives in one trance or another and the job of the hypnotherapist is generally not to hypnotise them, but to de-hypnotise them. The true hypnotists in life are teachers, religious leaders, and even advertisers.

Hypnotherapy is simply the use of trance for therapeutic purposes. Traditional hypnotherapy uses commanding language, as in the above example, called direct suggestion. This method sometimes works, but not for everybody. Some people resist these suggestions.

Ericksonian hypnotherapy on the other hand uses more of what it is called indirect suggestions. Indirect suggestions are much harder to resist because they are often not even recognised as suggestions by the conscious mind, since they usually disguise themselves as stories or metaphors. An example of an indirect suggestion is " and perhaps your eyes will grow tried as you listen to this story, and you will want to close them, because people can, you know, experience a pleasant, deepening sense of comfort as they allow their eyes to close, and they relax deeply."

Think about the following scenario: A child of five years of age is carefully carrying a full glass of milk to the dinner table. The parent of the child warns in a stern voice, "don't drop that!" The child looks up at the parent, stumbles, drops the glass, and spills milk everywhere. The now angry parent shouts, "I told you not to drop that! You're so clumsy. You'll never learn!"

As unintentional as it may be, this is an example of hypnosis. The powerful authoritative voice (the parent), having created through indirect suggestion ("don't drop that!), an altered state (trance), has issued a direct post-hypnotic suggestion ("You're so clumsy. You'll never learn"). "Post-hypnotic" because, if the child accepts the suggestion (and children often do), he or she will always see themselves as clumsy. This post-hypnotic suggestion by the parent may well adhere to the directive in the future, sabotaging the child's success.

 

Milton Erickson

Milton Erickson is considered the father of modern hypnotherapy, one of the fastest growing and influential branches of hypnotherapy today. His methods have inspired short term therapy, guided imagery, and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) to name a few. He is often referred to as "the greatest therapist who ever lived."