Many Americans make their judgments of how they view things based off of things they see in the media, unfortunately, this could cause a stigma to such things that will never seem to go away. Where hypnosis is concerned people tend to view it as parlor trick alongside pulling a rabbit out of someone’s hat. This is one stigma that I was taught to see from television shows and movies. Yet, after researching a key figure with an open mind it was easy to find a lot of validity in the practices and it has even (Beahrs, 1977) peaked my curiosity to learn more.
Milton Hyland Erickson is this key figure who really highlighted what hypnosis is capable of. was born on December 5th, 1901 in Aurum, Nevada. He was an odd child to many and to himself as well because it was difficult for him understand formalities or unnecessary practices such as how he couldn’t understand why people would start yelling and screaming and call it singing, or why his grandfather was so adamant to plant potatoes when the moon was full and only with the eyes facing up when planting at any other time and any direction produced the same results. It seems like it would almost be an act of nature that child as odd as him must also have a life filled with abnormalities. His younger years he was considered dyslexic and yet, as he explains he, “there was a sudden burst of atomic light,” and suddenly he was able to see the M and 3 for what they were. (Erickson & Rossi, 1977) there were serval instances in his life that he would experience that light such as when he learned to read the dictionary or pronounce the word “government.” Many people could interpret these experiences in different ways but the before and after differences are hard to deny. At the age of 17 when he was sick and dying of polio, he was so determined to see the sunset before he died that he was able to block out the tree and fence that impeded it, later in his life he would work to block out the pain associated with his polio. Hearing him describe the whole process is an enchantment in itself, maybe it is the will he his mind is able to exert over his body, his life, but it is clear that autohypnosis is what would help someone who shouldn’t have even been alive take his life back every day he chose to get out of bed.
With hypnosis doing so much for himself, it was a generous thing for him to use his affinity with hypnosis to help others. Erickson has recounted some of his experiences with his patients and in his retelling, you could hear the struggle as he put his natural talents to the test in his attempts to be able to help them. One patient, he mentions had bouts of amnesia and would regress back to the 1930’s. She was truly a puzzle to him until an idea came into his head to reverse the amnesia. helping her focus on a calendar with a hypnotic trance he started with the year she was in and had her watch it “change” to the current date. (Erickson, Hypnotic Approaches to Therapy, 1977) She was just one of the many people he was able to help with hypnosis. While some have claimed that his methods would border on unethical anyone who had a conversation or just read about his personal life would know that he is the far from being unethical, in fact he was able to call into question some practices of hypnosis and remind us of something that many tend to forget once they have had a few years of experience under their belt.
Something that I personally greatly respect is when a practitioner in the field is open to question what is established, that way we can move on into a brighter path. In a speech he gave at UGLA medical school he questions somewhat abnormal physiological function and if they can be achieved without the use of a hypnotic trance, such as dilating one pupil and contracting the other, well there were several instances where they were. He brings up an excellent point in how to define what normal is since normal is not the same for two people so it brings good suspicions for such practices. For many of his patients that he cites he explains how although he would use hypnotic trances for some to break through resistances that the mind can put forth he is able to so although it may be different than what others assume he was able to help people by starting at the begging of the cause of the problems his patients faced. That way he would be able to build on it and translate the therapy into their own experiential life. (Erickson, Control of Physiological Functions by Hypnosis, 1977) This is something that many counselors and therapists can take from him; having the ability to make each patient and individual and not just another body to treat. It is something that I personally want to make an effort to remember when I finish my schooling and am treating people.
He and a few of his friends and colleges were able to establish the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis and served as an inaugural president for the American society of clinical Hypnosis. Although his life was filled with health problems he remained as active as he could in his practice. He died on March 25th, 1980 living a life that brought hypnosis to validity in America. Before closing this paper, I wanted to highlight what I had noticed about Milton H. Erickson in my research. He was truly loving and passionate about what he did despite having blow after blow to his health he knew how to fit well in his place in this world and continually worked around whatever barrier came to pass in his life. His life exemplifies not just a model of what a therapist should be, but what man can accomplish and if anyone still has their doubts about both the validity or the positive results hypnosis I invite them to take a look at this man’s life and see what hypnosis can help do.
Beahrs, J. O. (1977). Integrating Erickson’s Approach. The Ameerican Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 55-68.
Biography of Milton H. Erickson. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Milton H. Erickson Foundation. https://www.erickson-foundation.org/biography/
Erickson, M. H. (1977). Control of Physiological Functions by Hypnosis. The American Joutnal of Clinical Hypnosis, 8-19.
Erickson, M. H. (1977). Hypnotic Apprpaches to Therapy. The American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 20-35.
Erickson, M. H., & Rossi, L. E. (1977, July). Autohypnotic Experiences Of Milton H. Erickson. The American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, pp. 36-54.