Guided VisualisationA gentle way to use relaxation, focussing and metaphorical storytelling to refresh the subconscious.
The work of Milton Erickson teaches that there is much about the mind that we do not understand, but it responds beautifully to positive suggestions and metaphorical stories.
Annie’s clients often leave her therapy room feeling relaxed and happy. They often notice many small changes over the next few days which lead them to see things in better perspective. This is frequently due to the ‘relaxation’ that they experience in the therapy chair, when she guides them through a body focussing process and tells them metaphorical tales.
Milton Erickson maintained that trance is a common, everyday occurrence. For example, when waiting for buses and trains, reading or listening, or even being involved in strenuous physical exercise, it’s quite normal to become immersed in the activity and go into a trance state, removed from any other irrelevant stimuli. These states are so common and familiar that most people do not consciously recognise them as hypnotic phenomena.
Erickson believed that the unconscious mind was always listening and suggestions could be made which would have a hypnotic influence, as long as those suggestions found resonance at the unconscious level and allow the unconscious mind to participate actively in the therapeutic process.
The same situation is in evidence in everyday life, whenever attention is fixated with a question or an experience of the amazing, the unusual, or anything that holds a person’s interest. At such moments people experience the common everyday trance; they tend to gaze off to the right or left, depending upon which cerebral hemisphere is most dominant and get that faraway or blank look. Their eyes may actually close, their bodies tend to become immobile (a form of catalepsy), certain reflexes (e.g., swallowing, respiration, etc.) may be suppressed, and they seem momentarily oblivious to their surroundings until they have completed their inner search on the unconscious level for the new idea, response, or frames of reference that will restabilize their general reality orientation. We hypothesize that in everyday life consciousness is in a continual state of flux between the general reality orientation and the momentary micro dynamics of trance.
However where classical hypnosis is authoritative and direct and often encounters resistance in the subject, Erickson’s approach is permissive, accommodating and indirect. For example, where a classical hypnotist might say “You are going into a trance”, an Ericksonian hypnotist would be more likely to say “you can comfortably learn how to go into a trance”. In this way, he provides an opportunity for the subject to accept the suggestions they are most comfortable with, at their own pace, and with an awareness of the benefits. The subject knows they are not being hustled and takes full ownership of, and participates in, their transformation.
Erickson maintained that it was not possible consciously to instruct the unconscious mind, and that authoritarian suggestions were likely to be met with resistance. The unconscious mind responds to openings, opportunities, metaphors, symbols, and contradictions. Effective hypnotic suggestion, then, should be “artfully vague”, leaving space for the subject to fill in the gaps with their own unconscious understandings – even if they do not consciously grasp what is happening. The skilled hypnotherapist constructs these gaps of meaning in a way most suited to the individual subject – in a way which is most likely to produce the desired change.
For example, the authoritative “You will stop smoking” is likely to find less leverage on the unconscious level than “You can become a non-smoker”. The first is a direct command, to be obeyed or ignored (and notice that it draws attention to the act of smoking); the second is an opening, an invitation to possible lasting change, without pressure, and is less likely to raise resistance.
Erickson recognised that many people were intimidated by hypnosis and the therapeutic process, and took care to respect the special resistances of the individual patient. Erickson is most famous as a hypnotherapist, but his extensive research into and experience with hypnosis led him to develop an effective therapeutic technique. Many of these techniques are not explicitly hypnotic, but they are extensions of hypnotic strategies and language patterns. Erickson recognised that resistance to trance resembles resistance to change, and developed his therapeutic approach with that awareness.
Erickson’s metaphorical strategies can be compared with the teaching tales of the Sufis (those of for example the Nasreddin) and the Zen tradition of Koans, each also designed to act on the unconscious mind.