One of Erickson’s greatest skills was his capacity to operate in two “realities” simultaneously: the interior world and the exterior world. His “inner work” (with a dazzling array of naturalistic trance experiences) showed the infinite possibilities of consciousness; his “outer work” (with all sorts of directives to act differently in the social world) showed many creative paths for shifting a person’s identity; and his skill at holding both worlds simultaneously gave him a special capacity as a heale
All types of events, positive and negative, may be seen as extraordinary states of consciousness, that is, experiences that take us beyond the ordinary “identity state” we tend to usually occupy.
Self-relations is especially interested in such experiences for two reasons. First, without the proper skills and relationships to such experiences, a person may become mired in suffering or distracted in endless fantasies. This is often what is happening for people seeking psychotherapy. Second, and equally important, a skillful relationship to extraordinary states of consciousness can allow deep transformation and success in creating what Self-Relations calls the “4-H club”: happiness, health, helpfulness (to others), and healing (of self and others)
Self-relations sees extraordinary states of consciousness, both pleasant and unpleasant, as essential and vital parts of a person’s developmental growth.
The attack on the Twin Towers and the consequent bombing of Afghanistan were stunning expressions of violent relationships in the new global order: the two poles of religious fundamentalism and rampant consumerism trying to destroy each other. Each side is convinced of its own righteousness; each side is committed to destructive violence as its primary relational act; and each side believes they will “win.” As the months pass, I can’t help but be reminded of Gandhi’s observation that, “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”
Psychotherapy is in large part a conversation about our relationships to such enemies. These enemies embody what we might call “negative otherness”. It is “otherness” in that it doesn’t fit with our identity, ideals, values, hopes or plans; it’s negative in that it seems to want to negate our presence, our humanness, our integrity, our very lives. Without the presence of “negative others”—whether we think of them as internal states, behavioral patterns, external institutions, other people or groups—we would have no basis for a psychotherapy conversation. So how we think about this negative otherness, how we understand our relationship with it, how we develop our responses to them, makes a great deal of difference.
The principle and processes of sponsorship are the cornerstone of self-relations. The word “sponsorship” comes from the Latin spons, meaning, “to pledge solemnly”. So sponsorship is a vow to help a person (including one’s self) use each and every event and experience to awaken to the goodness and gifts of the self, the world, and the connections between the two. Self-relations suggests that experiences that come into a person’s life are not yet fully human; they have no human value until a person is able to “sponsor them”. Via sponsorship, experiences and behaviors that are problematic may be realized as resources and gifts. In this way, what had been framed and experienced as a problem is recognized as a “solution”.
Helping people to improve their lives is one of the world’s oldest professions. It has assumed many forms –philosophy, fortune telling, shamanic healing, religious rituals, informal relationships, psychotherapy, and so forth– but the underlying process of people seeking guidance for life changes has endured. The practice of generative coaching, that I have co-developed with Robert Dilts, is a third generation version of the more recent tradition of professional people helpers.1 This brief paper overviews generative coaching, first by briefly situating it in a historical context and then outlining the five basic steps of the approach.
The first generation of trance work is the traditional hypnosis that is still holds sway in most places. Here both the conscious mind and the unconscious mind of the client are considered to be, well, idiots. So trance work involves first â€œknocking outâ€ the conscious mind, and then talking to the unconscious mind like a 2-year old that needs to be told how to behave. So if a person comes in wanting to change a personal habit, they're told to be quiet and follow the orders of the hypnotist. To relate to a person in this way seems like the problem, not a solution. Is it any wonder that so many people are (rightfully) leery of trance and hypnosis?
Generative trance is a higher state of consciousness wherein new identities and realities may be created. This state allows consciousness to unbind itself from the fixed settings of the conscious mind and re-attune to the infinite possibilities of the creative unconscious, thereby making possible the reorganization of the mental filters underlying reality construction. This blog overviews a model of how to do this. We will start with the central premise of three interacting minds—Somatic (in the body), Cognitive (in the head), and Field (in the space around). We will then see these three minds can operate at three different levels of consciousness— Primitive, Ego, and Generative. These core distinctions of “three minds, three levels” can suggest how and why generative trance can be developed.
Life can be lived in many ways. You can make it about making money or winning at all costs, or pleasing other people, or perhaps never standing out. Or you can live your life as a great journey of consciousness, one filled with many challenges and surprises, one that makes a positive contribution to the world. I want to talk here a bit about these different paths, emphasizing that the Self-Relations approaches of Generative Self and Generative Trance are especially tools for supporting the latter path.
The great quantum physicist, Neils Bohr, used to say that there are two types of truth. In the shallow type, the opposite of a true statement is false; in the deeper type, the opposite of a true statement is equally true. In generative trance work, these two levels correspond to the conscious mind and the creative unconscious. We see the conscious mind as being tied to a specific position in a systemic field (of many positions), while the creative unconscious rests in the field (of all positions). We further see the conscious mind as being helpful when we want to repeat previous patterns, while the creative unconscious is better when new patterns or understandings are needed.