Common steps and sub-activities

Milton Erickson objective reduction

People do not take kindly to being given orders, so words such as 'will', ' must', 'have to' 'should', 'need to', and so on were never used by Milton Erickson.  Instead, he suggested 'possibilities', positive things which replaced the person's own objectives without the person really knowing that that was what was happening.

This had two advantages.  From a therapeutic point of view it helped them forget all those thwarted and unsatisfied desires and from a spiritual point of view it could replace these impossible thwarted pain making problems with all sorts of exciting and achievable alternatives like having hallucinations or visions.

The start of this process was to imply that they had a huge amount of untapped potential in them that had never been exploited, abilities they had no idea they had.

Hypnotic Realities – Milton Erickson

Now the important achievement
for you
is to realise
that everybody
does not know
his capacities
pause

Notice the odd use of language to add a befuddling element to the suggestion that tapping these abilities is a positive thing.  Notice although there are no orders here.  No  'What you need to realise is that you don't know your own abilities' which is aggressive, direct and will never achieve anything.  His phrasing is  suggestive and indirect and far more likely to be taken on board.

Erickson also aimed to give the person completely free space to develop and understand what the composer was telling them.  This is supremely difficult for a hypnotherapist to do, because you have to stay with the person to give them encouragement to continue, but you must not at any cost interrupt the flow of communication taking place.  The following is an induced hallucination, the sentences in italics are the lady herself..................

Hypnotic Realities – Milton Erickson

And in some way
I would like you to see someone
who is someone between you and me
whom you haven't seen in many years

John!

Who is John?

He is a friend from college

Now speak to him

Hi

How have you been doing?

The next example is a masterpiece because it is full of options that the person can explore – none of which limit the person, but all of which help them to go deeper into trance and thus in very detailed communication with the composer.

Hypnotic Realities – Milton Erickson

And now or in a few moments
when your unconscious is ready
there may be a blankness or haziness in your visual field
pause
and how will that haziness develop?
Will there be a fog or shadows?
And when will the shadows begin to arrange thenselves into definite forms?
Pause
it will be interesting to find out whether it will be hazy or foggy or blurred
or will things be unusually bright, sharp and clear when you open your eyes?
Will there  be an alteration of the colour background?
Will some things be unusually clear and other things not seen at all?
You can wonder and wait
comfortably
as that develops.

Notice too that he still incorporates the idea that there are no threats in doing this – the word comfortably becomes a keyword which at each stage means 'have no fear '.

Another example, geared towards encouraging the  person to develop what he calls an hallucination but is actually a vision, because she has her eyes shut and it is total - takes up her entire field of view …...........

Hypnotic Realities – Milton Erickson

Now the next thing
is actually to develop an hallucination
of, let us say, a specific landscape
one that has not been seen previously
but a landscape you would like
pause
now who knows what you put in the landscape
birds, trees, bushes, rocks.....

This encourages the  person to turn away from memory  - 'one not seen before' – and let the composer create a landscape for her.  So she relinquishes control to the composer.  The word 'like' is simply reassurance again – no threat exists in doing this, it will be a landscape that won't frighten you.  Birds, trees, bushes, rocks is totally open ended – although it implies detail so the composer knows it needs to be a detailed landscape - and these are actually filler words whilst the composer does his stuff and finds the landscape she needs.

The composer creates things that we need at the time, it helps us by creating something which is a mythological message, a symbolic story that might take some unravelling but that is always for our own benefit.  There is a message there for us.

Even if the hypnotherapist uses regression to try to tap into perceptions of the past, he can leave it open ended enough to mean the composer chooses the sequences of perceptions that will tell us the most about a past event that may be affecting us now and may indeed have coloured the way our whole life has been run.  Here is Erickson suggesting regression but leaving the door wide open for any important eventually.

Hypnotic Realities – Milton Erickson

A scene of S as a little girl
enjoying something she long ago forgot
pause
and I would like that scene to come into being
be real
and i want S to begin that scene
feeling.... sensing ....thinking
as that situation was years ago
and there will be no memory
of the intervening years since then
so S can be a little girl
happily playing
something long forgotten
and now you can regress
and enter into that
pause
you will in due course say something
long forgotten
now remembered
pause
a very happy memory
and then the next year you will remember
and the year after that
and the year after that
and time is passing rapidly.

The phrasing always allowed the person to feel as though they had a choice in the matter. 

Hypnotic Realities – Milton Erickson

Would you like to experience a light, medium or deep trance?

Would you like to go into a trance sitting up or lying down?

Would you like to have your hands on your thighs or on the arms of the chair when you go into trance?

But read these sentences again. Implied in all these sentences is the suggestion – what Erickson wants to happen, but he masks the suggestion with apparent choice – 'you are going to go into a trance'.

And it is this latter aspect which shows the cleverness of the Erickson approach. There was also his use of the past tense to imply that it had already been achieved by the person, all they had to do was repeat the experience and that repetition was their choice.

Hypnotic Realities – Milton Erickson

You have already had some experience
of being in trance
with your eyes open.

or the linking of a simple and easy to do thing with a possibility that was more difficult.

Hypnotic Realities – Milton Erickson

If you sit down
then you can go into a trance.

or the use of a definite future event to imply the certainty of a less definite possibility.

Hypnotic Realities – Milton Erickson

Obviously, you are not going into trance, now                  [but you will do after now]

Certainly your arm won't be numb before I count to five       [but it will be after five ]

He used split sentences.  The first part of the sentence was  the suggested action.  It was stated almost as a throw away line.  The second part provided the person with a choice or an option – apparently what would they like to do.  Where in the sentence these could occur could alter, with the choice first and the action second or vice versa.  In effect, the person came to accept the truth of the action but lingered over the choice in the belief that they were in control.  .......

Hypnotic Realities – Milton Erickson

You can feel water
You may want to swim in it

Do you begin to experience a numbness in the fingers or the back of the hand first?

Would you like to go into trance now or in a few minutes?

Hypnotic Realities – Milton Erickson

What part of your body begins to feel most comfortable?

Please let me know when the feeling of warmth enters your head.

Many of Erickson's short sentences were designed to also arouse the curiosity of the person, their natural desire to want to know.  He used words like 'remarkable' and 'secret', 'questions' and alternative names for 'want' such as 'wish', 'dream of', whilst reassuring the person again with simple words that following your dreams was perfectly attainable because they were in some way qualified to do it – they had done it before, they had the right attitude, intelligence, qualifications.  Occasionally this was a blatant appeal to the person's ego [and possibly a bit counterproductive as a result], but in the insecure person it appeared to have good results.

Hypnotic Realities – Milton Erickson

Now with your background
You'll have many questions about many things
you really don't know what those questions are

and so in your experiences be aware of the fact
that you really don't know where you are going to
but you are going to go

you can go into a trance to find out
a whole lot of things that you .....   can do
and they [sic] are so many more than you dreamed of

it is a remarkable thing to discover
that you can lose an arm
a leg
an entire moment
you can forget where you are

you can dream of yourself as a small child
wondering who that child is
you can watch that child grow older
week by week
month by month
year by year
until finally you are able to
recognise who that child is who is growing up.

Hypnotic Realities – Milton Erickson

And now I don't know
what particular experiences
you want to sense
I don't know if you have any conscious idea


but always the unconscious mind has its own thoughts
its own desires

pause

and you can feel very pleased
in discovering
what your unconscious is going to do

long pause

and it will be your own experience

pause

and experience can be any place
any time
in any situation

pause

to look at oneself
doing something
is always a charming thing.

Hypnotic Realities – Milton Erickson

as the rest of your body maintains that immobility so characteristic of a good hypnotic subject, your right hand will move the pencil across the page, writing automatically something you would like to experience in trance.