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Experiencing Hypnosis - Milton H. Erickson

Experiencing Hypnosis - Milton H. Erickson

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By Milton H. Erickson, M.D.
and Ernest L. Rossi, Ph.D.


Copyright © 1981 Ernest L. Rossi
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatever, including information storage
or retrieval, in whole or in part (except for brief quotations in critical articles or reviews), without written permission
from the publisher. For information, write to: Irvington Publishers, Inc.

740 Broadway, NY NY 10003

ISBN 0-8290-0246-4

Reprint Edition 1992



Dr. Milton Erickson and Dr. Ernest Rossi

We dedicate this volume to Elizabeth Erickson and Margaret Ryan, whose thoughtful editorial
work has made it possible.



I. The Indirect Approaches to Hypnosis
a. Hypnosis in Psychiatry: The Ocean Monarch Lecture
b. Utilization Approaches to Indirect Communication
1. Language and the Art of Suggestion
2. Multiple Levels of Communication in Hypnosis
3. Internal Responses as the Essence of Suggestion
4. Indirect Communication in the Ocean Monarch Lecture
II. Catalepsy in Hypnotic Induction and Therapy
a. Catalepsy in Historical Perspective
b. Recognizing Spontaneous Catalepsy
c. Facilitating Catalepsy
d. Utilizing Catalepsy
e. Summary
f. Exercises with Catalepsy
Demonstration in the Use of Catalepsy in Hypnotic Induction: Hand Levitation in a Blind
III. Ideomotor Signaling in Hypnotic Induction and Therapy
a. Ideomotor Movements and Signaling in Historical Perspective
b. Recognizing Spontaneous Ideomotor Signaling
c. Facilitating Ideomotor Signaling
d. Facilitating Ideosensory Signaling
e. Utilizing Ideomotor Signaling
f. Summary
g. Exercises in Ideomotor Signaling
An Audio-Visual Demonstration of Ideomotor Movements and Catalepsy: The Reverse
Set to Facilitate Hypnotic Induction

IV. The Experiential Learning of Trance by the Skeptical Mind

Session One: The Experiential Learning of Minimal Manifestations of Trance
Session Two: The Experiential Learning of Hypnotic Phenomena
1. Dissociation and the Modern Experiential Approach to Altered States
2. Learning Indirect Communication: Frames of Reference, Metalevels, and


This book is a continuation of our earlier work in Hypnotic Realities (Erickson, Rossi, &
Rossi, 1976) and Hypnotherapy: An Exploratory Casebook (Erickson & Rossi, 1979),
whereby the senior author, Milton H. Erickson, trains the junior author, Ernest L. Rossi, in
clinical hypnosis. Taken together, these three volumes present a deepening view of what
hypnosis is and the ways in which a creative process of hypnotherapy can be achieved. The
material in these volumes touches ultimately on the nature of human consciousness and
suggests a variety of open-ended approaches to facilitate its exploration in hypnotherapy as
well as in more formal research situations.
Indirect communication is the overall concept we use to cover what we have variously
described as two-level communication, the naturalistic approach, and the utilization
approach. The common denominator of all these approaches is that hypnotherapy involves
something more than simple talk on a single, objective level. The readily apparent, overt
content of a message is like the tip of an iceberg. The recipient of indirect communication is
usually not aware of the extent to which his or her associative processes have been set in
motion automatically in many directions. Hypnotic suggestion received in this manner results
in the automatic evocation and utilization of the patient's own unique repertory of response
potentials to achieve therapeutic goals that might have been otherwise beyond reach. In our
previous volumes we outlined the operation of this process as the microdynamics of trance
induction and suggestion. Although this is the essence of the senior author's original
contribution to modern suggestion theory, we will review in this volume some of the many
means and meanings that other authors have used as they struggled to reach an
understanding of indirect communication in the long history of hypnosis.
The first section of this volume presents an historically important lecture on clinical
hypnosis by the senior author wherein we witness his transition from the older authoritarian
approach to hypnosis to the new permissive approaches, which he pioneered. Due to the
unique nature of this presentation, an audio cassette of it accompanies this volume. We
strongly recommend that our professional readers listen to this cassette and savor it a bit
before dealing with the lecture as presented in the text.
The second and third sections of this volume focus on the phenomena of catalepsy and
ideomotor signaling, two of the senior author's basic approaches to trance induction and
hypnotherapy. The primary concern is the practical question of how to induce therapeutic
trance and how to evoke the patient's repertory of life experiences and involuntary response
systems that are utilized in hypnotherapy. As is characteristic of our previous work, the
growing edge of our current understanding of the subjective experience of clinical trance and
altered states is discussed throughout.
A film of Erickson made by Ernest Hilgard and Jay Haley at Stanford University is
available from Irvington Publishers for study by serious students who wish to observe the
nonverbal aspects of Erickson's I innovative work utilizing the reverse set in hypnotic
induction presented in Section III. We believe that further research on and development of
this reverse-set approach will greatly expand our understanding of the dynamics of trance
and serve as the foundation for a new generation of more effective approaches in

The fourth section, dealing with the experiential learning of hypnosis, illustrates one of
the senior author's favorite occupations in recent years: the training of professionals in the
use of clinical hypnosis by allowing them to experience the process themselves. The two
sessions presented in this section are illustrative of the problem faced by a modern, rational,
scientifically trained mind in learning to experience hypnotic phenomena. Herein are
illustrated many of the phenomena and paradoxes of modern consciousness as it seeks to
understand more about itself by making an effort to transcend its current limitations.

Ernest Rossi Malibu, California

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