Milton H Erickson – Experiencing Hypnosis

This book is a continuation of our earlier work in Hypnotic Realities (Erickson, Rossi, & Rossi, 1976) and Hypnotherapy: An Exploratory Casebook (Erickson & Rossi, 1979), whereby the senior author, Milton H. Erickson, trains the junior author, Ernest L. Rossi, in clinical hypnosis. Taken together, these three volumes present a deepening view of what hypnosis is and the ways in which a creative process of hypnotherapy can be achieved. The material in these volumes touches ultimately on the nature of human consciousness and suggests a variety of open-ended approaches to facilitate its exploration in hypnotherapy as well as in more formal research situations.

Indirect communication is the overall concept we use to cover what we have variously described as two-level communication, the naturalistic approach, and the utilization approach. The common denominator of all these approaches is that hypnotherapy involves something more than simple talk on a single, objective level. The readily apparent, overt content of a message is like the tip of an iceberg. The recipient of indirect communication is usually not aware of the extent to which his or her associative processes have been set in motion automatically in many directions. Hypnotic suggestion received in this manner results in the automatic evocation and utilization of the patient’s own unique repertory of response potentials to achieve therapeutic goals that might have been otherwise beyond reach. In our previous volumes we outlined the operation of this process as the microdynamics of trance induction and suggestion. Although this is the essence of the senior author’s original contribution to modern suggestion theory, we will review in this volume some of the many means and meanings that other authors have used as they struggled to reach an understanding of indirect communication in the long history of hypnosis.

The first section of this volume presents an historically important lecture on clinical hypnosis by the senior author wherein we witness his transition from the older authoritarian approach to hypnosis to the new permissive approaches, which he pioneered. Due to the unique nature of this presentation, an audio cassette of it accompanies this volume. We strongly recommend that our professional readers listen to this cassette and savor it a bit before dealing with the lecture as presented in the text.
The second and third sections of this volume focus on the phenomena of catalepsy and ideomotor signaling, two of the senior author’s basic approaches to trance induction and hypnotherapy. The primary concern is the practical question of how to induce therapeutic trance and how to evoke the patient’s repertory of life experiences and involuntary response systems that are utilized in hypnotherapy. As is characteristic of our previous work, the growing edge of our current understanding of the subjective experience of clinical trance and altered states is discussed throughout.

A film of Erickson made by Ernest Hilgard and Jay Haley at Stanford University is available from Irvington Publishers for study by serious students who wish to observe the nonverbal aspects of Erickson’s I innovative work utilizing the reverse set in hypnotic induction presented in Section III. We believe that further research on and development of this reverse-set approach will greatly expand our understanding of the dynamics of trance and serve as the foundation for a new generation of more effective approaches in hypnotherapy.

The fourth section, dealing with the experiential learning of hypnosis, illustrates one of the senior author’s favorite occupations in recent years: the training of professionals in the use of clinical hypnosis by allowing them to experience the process themselves. The two sessions presented in this section are illustrative of the problem faced by a modern, rational, scientifically trained mind in learning to experience hypnotic phenomena. Herein are illustrated many of the phenomena and paradoxes of modern consciousness as it seeks to understand more about itself by making an effort to transcend its current limitations.

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