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

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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. 

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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.”

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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.

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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”.

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