Milton H. Erickson

by Bob Walsh

Milton H. Erickson is a now legendary hypnosis master. He actually was a medical doctor, but medical doctors were not allowed to practice hypnosis back in his days. So he invented methods of “covert hypnosis”, also called “conversational hypnosis”.
He developed techniques that allowed him to put his hypnotic subjects into deep hypnotic trances, without them even realizing it. And he was truly masterful at this art of “secret hypnosis”.
However, Erickson also had very high ethical standards and never abused this powers over the mind. But he used these very effective hypnotic techniques to cure hundreds and hundreds of people from conditions that seemed incurable.
He also was a big influence on the development of Neurolinguistic Programming. Richard Bandler and John Grinder, the founders of NLP, credit Erickson for introducing them to hypnosis, which became a major part of NLP.
But Erickson was more than just an influential hypnotist and medical doctor – his personal life story is no less impressive.
He grew up on a farm in Wisconsin, but was both dyslexic and color blind. In his late teenage years, he suffered from polio and the doctors were already convinced that he’d die. Here’s a quote of his childhood memories:

As I lay in bed that night, I overheard the three doctors tell my parents in the other room that their boy would be dead in the morning. I felt intense anger that anyone should tell a mother her boy would be dead by morning. My mother then came in with as serene a face as can be. I asked her to arrange the dresser, push it up against the side of the bed at an angle. She did not understand why, she thought I was delirious. My speech was difficult. But at that angle by virtue of the mirror on the dresser I could see through the doorway, through the west window of the other room. I was damned if I would die without seeing one more sunset. If I had any skill in drawing, I could still sketch that sunset.

Now, he later lost consciousness and remained unconscious for three days, but he didn’t die. However, when he woke up again, he was completely paralyzed.

I had polio, and I was totally paralyzed, and the inflammation was so great that I had a sensory paralysis too. I could move my eyes and my hearing was undisturbed. I got very lonesome lying in bed, unable to move anything except my eyeballs. I was quarantined on the farm with seven sisters, one brother, two parents, and a practical nurse. And how could I entertain myself? I started watching people and my environment. I soon learned that my sisters could say “no” when they meant “yes.” And they could say “yes” and mean “no” at the same time. They could offer another sister an apple and hold it back. And I began studying nonverbal language and body language. I had a baby sister who had begun to learn to creep. I would have to learn to stand up and walk. And you can imagine the intensity with which I watched as my baby sister grew from creeping to learning how to stand up.

He “relearned” moving by watching his baby sister and his experiences are largely hypnotic experiences.

After recovering from polio, he started to travel like a vagabond, earning his food and a place to sleep by telling stories to fisherman. This was probably another very formative time for him, where he mastered the art of storytelling and captivating peoples attention.

Erickson treated all kinds of problems through hypnosis – from bedwetting kids, to alcoholics, to phobias, to paralysis, to addictions, to relationship problems and basically every psychological problem under the sun.

Below is a video of Milton putting a person in trance. It’s a very long video – 34 minutes long, and the sound and video quality is lousy – but it’s well worth studying if you want to learn more about how seemingly easy, simple and harmless this master hypnotists worked. Milton H. Erickson could basically smoke all those “covert hypnotists” that are out there today in a pipe, including Derren Brown. (that’s not to say that they aren’t great hypnotists – many of them are. But nobody has reached Milton’s level of skill so far).

Now, once you watched that video, here is another video – this one is even longer, almost an hour. However, you can still learn a lot from it. It’s done in a very “scholarly” manner, but there are some true hypnotic gold nuggests hidden in the boring talk.

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