Living in a Post-Ericksonian World

For many years, I tried to be more like Milton Erickson. This chapter is about the more difficult challenge of trying to be more like Gilligan. It is based on 22 years of teaching, practicing, and writing about hypnotic psychotherapy. It indicates how my path has diverged from Ericksonian thinking. I hope it encourages others on their own paths.

What was really astonishing about Erickson was his willingness to be himself, to accept his "deviancies" from the norm. This courage translated directly, I believe, into compassion for and acceptance of others. To follow a similar path is remarkably challenging. But this is what we stand for as therapists.

In describing where this post-Ericksonian path has led me, I'll start by honoring a few core ideas from Erickson's legacy that still light my way. I'll then raise questions about how these ideas are put into practice. The main intent is to stimulate thinking, rather than to argue about truth.

Read More

Ericksonian Approaches to Clinical Hypnosis

In the exceprt from the introduction Dr. Gilligan writes:

I would like to discuss in this paper what I consider to be some essential aspects of an Ericksonian approach to hypnosis and Hypnotherapy. I want to first contrast briefly the Ericksonian view of the hypnotic relationship to other more traditional views, and then to identify what I consider to be the general principles of communication in the Ericksonian approach and their application to the specific situation of hypnotic inductions. Finally, I want to comment about the need for integrity in applying these principles and techniques. Each of these topics is a major one, and in a short discussion I can convey only a general sense of their significance. 

Read More

Navigating the Hero’s Journey: Principles and Processes for a Meaningful Life

One of the hallmarks of successful and effective people is a deep sense of purpose and intention.  Without this deep sense, it is easy to get lost in the infinite dramas of everyday life, to be pulled by the many forces trying to use you in one way or another.   By sensing and aligning with an inner calling, it is possible to steer one’s life course in a meaningful way.  One of the best models for describing this path is the “Hero’s Journey,” first described by the mythologist Joseph Campbell (1949) in his seminal book, The Hero with a thousand faces. 

To realize the hero’s journey, a person needs maps, tools, and resources. So what we’d like to do in this article is briefly overview how the hero’s journey may be navigated.

Read More

I was without a face and it touched me: Milton Erickson as a healer

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

Read More

An invisible presence is awakening: Key ideas in self-relations therapy

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. 

Read More

Who speaks for the relationship?

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.”

Read More

The experience of “negative otherness”: How shall we treat our enemies?

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.

Read More

The problem is the solution: The principle of sponsorship in psychotherapy

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”.

Read More