Milton Erickson

(1906-1980) MD, one of the most authoritative hypnotists of our times

(1906-1980) MD, one of the most authoritative hypnotists of our times, he worked in Phoenix and invented a less invasive trans. He was a great expert of communication also because he has been one of the rare people who had polio twice (in 1919 and 1952) and was in bed and immobilized for long. Milton H. Erickson was called the “Mozart of therapy” by Gregory Bateson.

Umberta Telfener: I was twenty-eight, overweight and not ready to go back to Italy, where I had to start all over from scratch. I felt miserable and scared. I had shaken hands with Erickson just once in Philadelphia, where he had given a seminar. He was in a wheelchair and looked distracted.
Before going back home I had the desire to follow one of his sessions. I left for Phoenix in Arizona and already on arrival at the airport I felt his presence: since he was colour blind and could see only purple, many people that obviously were going to meet him wore something purple: a hat, a tie, a scarf, a jacket. We would recognise each other and winkle or smile to one another. It was like being part of a secret sect and already sharing something together.
I arrived at his office with many other people and we were put in a big room seated to wait. We waited a long time, in silence, each one rehearsing his/her intent. Then finally he arrived and started talking in a low, slow and profound voice, monotonous, at a slow pace. I think we were all in trance from the beginning, also because of the high expectations. He talked for a long time and rapidly disappeared. We remained all together before leaving and talked to each other. It was amazing: each of us felt sure to have received an answer to our quest and each of us had heard the message in a different way. “Sure, he told me to go back to Italy and not to be scared” I stated; “He suggested me to remain in the couple and fight more for its working out” someone else said out loud; “No, no, he disapproved of my choice of my career, he gave me a suggestion to change town and to search more”. The differences were amazing! Each of us had found an answer coherent with its quest and we seemed all satisfied. I remember thinking how the process he had induced had helped us to look inside for an answer; I wondered if also therapy – his performing art – implied the avoidance of purposeful goals and instead a disposition to play with the tune, tempo, timber and themes, so as to per-form rather than in-form.

Theo Compernolle: Inspired by Richard Van Dijk in the Netherlands, I dabbled in Erickson’s hypnotic therapy approach. I was surprised upon arriving in Philadelphia to discover that the man himself was still alive and kicking. Armed with his contact details courtesy of Jay Haley, I took the plunge and wrote him a letter, introducing myself and humbly requesting a visit: he was for me a semi-god. Honestly, I didn’t hold my breath for a positive response. But lo and behold, a warm letter arrived from his wife, Betty, extending a gracious welcome. When I mustered the courage to call and arrange a meeting, she offered me the opportunity to shadow Mr. Erickson during a working day. And when I inquired about a cheap motel in the area, she graciously invited me to stay in their own guest room! ! Imagine my astonishment when, a few weeks later, I found myself lying in the same bed where influential figures like Margaret Mead and Jay Haley had slept before. On the bedside table stood a bottle of the purple liquor « Parfait d’amour » that I had brought as a small gift, knowing that he was colorblind and had a fondness for the color purple. The excitement of spending the next day with Erickson had my mind racing like a Formula One car, leaving sleep miles away.

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