Neo-Ericksonian Approaches


I am blessed with having stellar dentist who took time from his vacation to see me last week. Seems I had a bit of a dental emergency and needed a root canal. Fortunately, I was on a staycation and could easily travel to see him. He fixed me right up, gave me a script for penicillin and made an appointment for a few weeks from now.

And – as great as that is – did I mention I had a root canal?

Them mothers hurt.

So as I was driving back from New Jersey I reflected on how amazingly fortunate I was. As little as a hundred years ago dentistry was pretty barbaric. Throughout the 19th century, there was no separate field as dentistry and tooth extractions were done by barbers! I’ve been barbers who hurt me when they cut my hair! But seriously. people DIED from complications of dental problems such as mine. They’d get an infection in a tooth – pull it out to try and save the patient, but without things like penicillin, people would frequently die from these infections. Heck, Bayer only invented aspirin in 1899. I had been given four ibuprofin.

So I started to feel pretty good driving along the Garden State Parkway. I mean I was in pain but the ibuprofin was starting to kick in, I was ALIVE, I had a prescription and a positive prognosis.

I was reminded of a simularity between Milton Erickson, MD, the great Hypnotherapist you may have heard of, and Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Monk, teacher, author of Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life.

In both these great teacher’s teaching, the both make use of the common experience of a tooth ache. Milton was once doing a session with a client and asked her, “Do you have a toothache?” She said no. He said, “Isn’t that nice?”

Thich Nhat Hanh has pointed out that when we have a toothache, we focus a great deal of our energy upon it and wish it would go away. When it finally does we can be very happy.

What if could feel that way all the time?

A friend of mine, for a few days once, thought she had breast cancer. She was certain of it. Then was told that she did not – that she was clean. Don’t ya know the rest of her day went pretty well? Nothing else matters after that. Life is good.

I had a client just recently with whom I used similar a sort of comparison. She was feeling limited in her choices, so I said I knew how she felt. I told her that I’d worked for a few years in the Department of Complementary Medicine at New York’s Columbia/Presbyterian Medical Center and would make my rounds of the 6th floor transplant wing, where the guys were all waiting to get a new heart. They couldn’t leave that wing because of the extreme fragility of their condition. I described how on certain holidays, like New Year’s eve, hopes ran high cause hearts often became available on those days.

I didn’t, of course, leave the discussion there, but by the time we both left the office that day, we were both really grateful to be able to walk under our own power and happy to enjoy the life we’d been given.

About Doug O'Brien

Doug O’Brien is a Master Practitioner and Trainer of NLP, and a Certified Hypnotherapist. In 1988, while assisting at NLP and NAC training seminars with Anthony Robbins, Doug achieved the designation of Master Trainer. He now conducts numerous seminars of his own around the globe (specializing in the “Sleight of Mouth” patterns of Robert Dilts, NLP Certification Courses, and Ericksonian Hypnotherapy) and helped found Columbia-Presbyterian’s Department of Complementary Medicine with Dr. Mehmet Oz.

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