Ericksonian Language Patterns
Milton Erickson once likened traditional psychotherapy to “psychological archeology.” He didn’t see much point in spending too much time analysing a patient’s past and trying to find out the reasons “why” they were displaying certain behaviors. He saw these behaviors as habits. I like to call them patterns. He told stories to illustrate his point, sometimes evoking his early life on the farm and lessons learned thereon. As an example, he might describe how, on the farm, he learned that when you shovel the waste from the animal stalls you put it out behind the barn and cover it over with straw. And you quickly learn not to go poking around back there. You let the hay lay.
Thus, in Ericksonian hypnosis we spend more effort orienting clients toward the future and towards solutions.
You can indirectly get your client to visualize or otherwise imagine the future via most of these collected patterns, and the following openings are useful:
“You may not know if… “
“What happens when you…”
“How would it feel if you…”
“Can you imagine… “
“You probably already know… ”
Here are some complete examples (remember the words in bold are said with your tonal shift):
“You may not know if you will go into a deep trance when I count to ten.”
“What happens when you learn new ways of responding?”
“How would it feel to close your eyes and drift into a very comfortable
You could even join a few together, as in the following:
“You may not know if you’ll really enjoy the feeling of control that comes when
you quit smoking, but can you imagine what you would do at the office tomorrow
as a non-smoker?”
So, now, write your own examples. The best way to learn is by doing. Write
them out. Practice. Say them aloud to a human being with the proper tonal shift.
(See July 19th’s post if you need more clarity on that) Write at least ten. Twenty is
better. You probably already know that you can utilize the few sentence
openings offered on this page and then go from there.
Use them on teachers: “How nice will it feel when you give me a high grade?”
Use them on newsboys: “Can you imagine how grateful I’ll be when you place
the paper safely on the front porch tomorrow morning?”
Use them on your spouse, your teammates, your party members, your clients.
Use them playfully and respectfully.
Isn’t it nice to know you can do both at the same time?