The Hypnotic Power of Metaphor and Storytelling

From the beginning of my hypnosis training, I’ve been a fan of Dr. Milton Erickson, often best known for his prolific use of metaphors and casual storytelling to seamlessly integrate hypnotic suggestions past a client’s more resistant conscious awareness. Those Ericksonian “Secret Ops” techniques were skillfully employed as needed at the time.

In other situations with less-resistant hypnosis clients, Erickson was direct and specific about the requested changes to be made, but fewer people remember him for protocol shock-inductions of pretending to shake a new person’s hand and instead momentarily confusing the client with a quick arm-lift movement followed by commands to drop him into a deep-trance state.

That was more the stage show aspect of his practice. It revealed his total mastery of the medium and wowed his audiences every time. That’s not the aspect of Erickson that I admire.

While it often produced positive results for clients, to me it also violated a basic trust between the client and the hypnotist. You don’t pretend to do one thing and instead shock them into a confused state to easier access their subconscious mind. That’s not my style of hypnosis.

I don’t care for that kind of deception. I find it unethical and unacceptable. So as much as I admire Erickson’s many storytelling techniques, I will not jerk your hands or arms around to “put you under,” as it was then called, but I will talk a lot and do a lot of guided imagery in a hypnosis session because I want clients to feel comfortable and safe in my office, and to naturally relax into their requested life changes, while I simply clear the obstacles from their path to reach them.

Some of you might have even noticed, that most my blog posts are very Ericksonian: full of metaphors and suggestions—some indirect, some direct. But I never try to deceive a reader, because I personally feel that if you once violate someone’s trust in you, that person will never completely trust you again.Image

And if you wrote something with the intention of deception, then how can you even trust yourself?

This alludes back to my previous post of “Baby the Rain Must Fall” on the two NLP books premise about incongruent behavior being a leading cause of disharmony and dissatisfaction in many lives. When our behaviors don’t match our values, we end up fighting with ourselves, and that is not a battle anyone can win.

So, I’ll conclude this tribute to Dr. Milton Erickson post with Shakespearian prose from Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)  :

Juliet:  “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” … and an Ericksonian metaphor: “A rose by its very sweetness smells.”

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