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Common steps and sub-activities

Number games

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

Psychologically you approach a patient in that same way. You approach the development of an amnesia by telling him:

"l would like to have you remember this simple little thing. I'm going to give you four digits. Do you mind remembering the four digits, 4... 7... 81?"

What have you done? You have said, " . . . four digits, 4 . ..7 ...81."

And the patient has to stop and analyze the 81 as 8 and l.

You have named four digits, right?

You've made him pause and put all of his attention, not on the 4 and the 7, but on the 8 and the l. And so he's giving the major part of his attention to the 81.

Then you apologize, "I should have said '8 and 1 instead of 81."'

And the patient accepts your apology.

Then you ask, "Now, what were the other two numbers?"

Because the patient is giving so much of his attention to the 8l he tends to forget the 4 and the 7. You've mentioned these last two digits coupled together so frequently that he's forgotten the 4 and the 7.

You have taught him to fixate his attention. You have taught him to separate his attention. You have taught him to accept an idea; you have taught him to fixate his attention from all other parts of the task.

Then you can compliment him upon the fact that he developed an amnesia so quickly, so easily.

How does one develop an amnesia?

It's so easily done. You can be introduced to half a dozen people very rapidly. When the introductions are completed you wonder who was who, and what was the first person's name; and while you're trying to figure that out, you're busy forgetting the second person's name; and once you become aware of the second person's name you wonder, "Now, what was the third person's name?"

You wind up wishing that the person who had introduced you had taken his time. But it's a very nice way of developing amnesia.