Erickson, Milton - Selective perception
Type of Spiritual Experience
Milton Erickson grew up on a farm in Lowell, Wisconsin, and intended to become a farmer like his father. He was 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", - spiritual experiences to you and I. He contracted polio when he was 17 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 "autohypnotic experience" .
A description of the experience
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.