Ecologist Gregory Bateson called his friend Milton H. Erickson (1901-1980) "the Mozart of Psychotherapy." And so he was in his long and productive career as a medical doctor, psychiatrist, and psychologist who pioneered therapeutic hypnosis and set the standard for being truly present with patients and open to whatever comes up in a session. This maverick dealt with many difficulties in his life, including polio that confined him to a wheelchair, color blindness, dyslexic, and tone deafness. but he refused to complain about them; instead, he called them the "roughage" of life and transformed them into resources.
This tribute to his amazing life and work is edited by his daughter Betty Alice Erickson, a marriage and family therapist in private practice and an international teacher of Ericksonian psychotherapy and hypnosis. The other editor is Bradford Keeney, editor of the Profiles of Healing series about the world's traditional healers. They have gathered together a wide range of materials, including pages from Erickson's diary about a life-altering canoe trip, excerpts from his correspondence with h children, an inquiry with Aldous Huxley on the mind, and remembrances from family members and colleagues. A DVD packaged with the book presents a case study with previously unseen film of a demonstration session.
To illustrate the openness that characterized his therapeutic practice, Betty Alice Erickson shares this story: " A fellow came in with his toes painted bright red. Dad talked to him and talked to him. The man seemed perfectly normal except in the 1940s, perfectly normal young men did not wear red polish on their toenails, Finally, Daddy broke down and asked him directly, 'Why are your toenails painted red?' The guy blushed and replied, "I was napping on the couch yesterday with bare feet and my little sister thought it would be funny. She was so tickled with how she had gotten one over on me. I just left them.' This reinforced to my father that he should always have an open mind, ready to change in an instant should new information be received. He kept that very valuable trait his whole life.''
In another telling vignette she reveals that Erickson said that there are two kinds of fear. One is the fear of the tiger who comes into the room and bares his teeth at you. That's real fear that sends chills through you. All other fears come from your mind and sometimes it seems that this mental fear is the worst kind.
This enlightening volume salutes the creativity, openness, focused attention, joy and positive spirit of this healer, who reminded many of the shamans and medicine people of past eras. One of his colleagues remembers him saying, "When you look back in your life, you'd like to see that you've left a trail of happiness behind you." That Erickson's legacy is such a trail is evident in the jubilant words and fond memories of the contributors to this work.