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My Favourite Milton Erickson Quotes

My Favourite Milton Erickson Quotes

My clinical work has been greatly influenced by the work of the American Psychiatrist and Hypnotist, Milton H Erickson. Known for his folksy ways and use of metaphor his approach was and is still quite unique and innovative. I have collected some of my favourite quotes of his to share with you. Enjoy

Develop your own technique. Don’t try to use somebody else’s technique. . . . Don’t try to imitate my voice or my cadence. Just discover your own. Be your own natural self. It’s the individual responding to the individual. . . . I’ve experimented with trying to do something the way somebody else would do it. It’s a mess!

[Erickson, M (1983: 3)]

Each person is an individual. Hence, psychotherapy should be formulated to meet the uniqueness of the individual’s needs, rather than tailoring the person to fit the Procrustean bed of a hypothetical theory of human behaviour.

[Erickson, M (1979)]

Too often psychotherapists try to deal with their patients by using their doctoral degree language, trying to explain the ego, superego, and the id, conscious and unconscious, and the patient doesn’t know whether you’re talking about corn, potatoes or hash. Therefore, you try to use the language of the patient.

[In Gordon, D & Meyers-Anderson, M (1981: 49)]

By using the patient’s own patterns of response and behaviour, including those of their actual illness, one may effect therapy more promptly and satisfactorily, with resistance to therapy greatly obviated and acceptance of therapy facilitated.

[In Rossi, E (ed) (1980: 4: 348)]

I always trust my unconscious. Now, too many psychotherapists try to plan what thinking they will do instead of waiting to see what the stimulus they receive is and then letting their unconscious mind respond to that stimulus . . . I don’t attempt to structure my psychotherapy except in a vague, general way. And in that vague, general way the patient structures it. He structures it in accordance with his own needs. And the loose structure I create allows him to discover, bit by bit, some of the things he’s repressed, doesn’t know about himself. There are a lot of things we know that we don’t know we know, but we need to know that we know it . . . You trust your unconscious.

[In Gordon, D & Meyers-Anderson, M (1981: 17)]

The thing to do is to get your patient, any way you wish, to do something. . . . It is the patient who does the therapy. The therapist only furnishes the climate, the weather. That’s all. The patient has to do all the work.

[In Zeig, J (1980: 143, 148)]

The past cannot be changed, only one’s views and interpretations of it, and even these change with the passage of time. Hence, at best, views and interpretations of the past are of importance only when they stultify the person into a rigidity. Life is lived in the present for the morrow. Hence, psychotherapy is properly oriented about life today in preparation for tomorrow, next month, next year, the future, which in itself will compel many changes in the functioning of the person at all levels of his behaviour.

[In Beahrs, J (1971)]

Many psychotherapists regard as almost axiomatic that therapy is contingent on making the unconscious conscious. When thought is given to the immeasurable role the unconscious plays in the total experiential life of a person from infancy on, whether awake or asleep, there can be little expectation of doing more than making some small parts of it conscious. Furthermore, the unconscious as such, not as transformed into the conscious, constitutes an essential part of psychological functioning.

[In Rossi, E (ed) (1980: 4: 246)]

Most people do not know of their total capacities for response to stimuli. They place mystical meanings on much of the information they get by subtle cues.

[Erickson, M, Rossi, E & Rossi, S (1976: 247-8)]

I think that the vast majority of habits developed by people tend to be habits based on habitual patterns of response, so they are not necessarily symptomatic of deep traumatic experiences.

[In Rossi, E & Ryan, M (1985:21)]

You see, trance induction should not be a laborious thing. The mere confidence in your ability to induce a trance is the most important thing of all. And anybody who is human is going to get into a trance . . . . experimentally, I have determined that all patients can go into a trance state – that anybody can. Now, is it necessary to know that you are in a trance? No, it isn’t. How deep a trance is necessary? Any trance that is of sufficient level to let your unconscious mind take a look, a mental look, at what’s going on, is sufficient. In those mental looks and understandings, you learn a great deal more than you do by conscious effort. And you should use your mind at the unconscious level, even while you are using it at the conscious level.

[In Rosen, S (1982: 63-4)]


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