Common steps and sub-activities

My friend Joe

This very simple visualisation technique was used by Milton Erickson in his work in hypnotherapy.

The seminars, workshops and lectures of Milton H Erickson – edited by Ernest Rossi and Margaret O Ryan

I have them sit down and look at my friend Joe sitting in that chair - the little man who isn't there - and I tell them to produce in Joe this hand levitation. I tell them to levitate Joe's hand until it touches his face, and to watch Joe close his eyes, take a deep breath, and go deep asleep.

And so they use that technique in the privacy of their own homes.  They sit down and imagine there is a chair over there with an imaginary man named Joe sitting in it, and they very carefully show Joe how to sit with his hands on his lap.  And then they start suggesting hand levitation, eyelid closure, a deeper and deeper trance, and they go into their own trances.

I usually have them try it once in my office to be sure they understand.

Now, there are psychology students who are tremendously interested in this approach. They haven't got any money for psychiatrists' fees, and why should I spend a lot of time teaching them something that they can learn very, very quickly? And so they sit there, and usually one experience is all that is necessary for them to go into a very satisfactory trance.

Then the next thing to teach them after they are in a trance is to respect their own unconscious. And they've all found out that if they go into an autohypnotic trance, let us say, for the preordained purpose of studying geometry, they will wind up studying ancient history, or some other subject, because their unconscious minds will not take that kind of dictation.  And so, one by one,  they reach the understanding that when they go into a trance,  they also must trust their own unconscious to pick the right things for them to do.

The last issue in this matter of autohypnosis is the willingness of the person to learn at his own speed.

Why should Joe decide that he should learn at Anne's speed? In the first place, he isn't Anne. Why should Anne learn at Joe's speed? Anne isn't Joe.

Each person learns in his own way. One person may learn hand levitation first, but that may be the last thing another person learns. Yet another might learn automatic writing before he learns anything else about a trance state.  We have to be willing.  I may discover that I can visualize more and more clearly certain things, and I ought to enjoy that particular thing I can visualize, never finding fault with the capacity of my unconscious to learn and to do things.