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John Simon February 14th, 2006 01:47 AM

The Castor Oil Difference
Mr. Lankton,

I have noticed that so many of the different individuals who met Erickson seem to have taken away with them a multitude of dimensions of Erickson's personality. For instance, some say he was direct while others such as yourself seemed to have focused on his indirect work and how his framework fits into the larger theoretical structure of therapy. Did this happen because Erickson was simply utilizing each person's beliefs, emotions etc, which would ultimately make each individual have a different co-created experience with Erickson?

Maybe this is all too theoretical...I was intrigued with your story at Evolution about Haley and his suggestion for a family to not discipline a child, which ended in the child being given a dose of castor oil. How did you and Haley have such a different view of how Erickson would have intervened with this family when you both had spent a considerable amount of time with Erickson? To me, I find it curious that the strategic founders seemed to have missed Erickson's focus on building resources and it got dummied down into simply changing patterns while many of the individuals who trained with Erickson took a more sophisticated stance that added humor, resource building, and enchantment. Was this by accident or an indication of who you are/were vs. who Haley is/was? Although it is off subject, I would be really curious about the type of stories you would have used to shape the family's behavior related to the paradox. Is this in print somewhere?


Stephen Lankton February 15th, 2006 03:59 AM

Re: The Castor Oil Difference
Well, that is one fine set of observations and questions! I'll do what I can to answer it all. Haley is just brilliant and I love his work and him. He is keenly aware of Erickson's indirect approach and embraces it. His use of paradox is simply one angle of Erickson's in my opinion. His personality is very humorous and sarcastic (and me too) and his ability to get people to rebel is, therefore, good. So, he uses paradox in that manner. He studied with Erickson in the decades before Zeig and Gilligan and I did. So, Erickson's approach changed and i think Haley got the major gist of it. Others however, studied or at least met him much earlier. Here is an evolution of his thinking in that area taken from his writings.

In a 1957 transcript of induction, we find Dr. Erickson’s redundant use of words like “sleep” as in the following quote, "Now I want you to go deeper and deeper asleep" (Haley 1967). In addition his authoritative approach can be found in this same transcript represented with the statement "I can put you in any level of trance" (Haley 1967).. However, by 1976 Erickson believes indirection suggestion to be a “significant factor" in his work (Erickson, Rossi et al. 1976, p. 452). Furthermore, by 1981 Erickson clearly states that he "offers" ideas and suggestions (Erickson and Rossi 1981, pg. 1-2) and explicitly adds, "I don't like this matter of telling a patient I want you to get tired and sleepy" (Erickson and Rossi 1981, p. 4). With regard to his use of indirection, there is clear evidence that evolve in his practice to a point in the late 1970s when Erickson had abandoned his earlier techniques of redundancy and authoritarianism during induction.

That was from my forward to Dan Short, BA Erickson, and Roxie Erickson's new book HOPE AND RESILIANCE. (So...I hope the copyright permissions are all okay!!)

But, you can see that the "old timers" who know his work would walk away thinking he used direct suggestion, while the "new comers" would walk away saying he prefered indirect suggestion.

As for your comment on some strategic and solution focussed founders missing the point about retrieving resources.... I strongly agree. IT is all about having the resources we need in the context we need them. But there are various ways to help people get in contact with them (not just metaphor or talking, of course). From the same Foreword:

The one area in which Erickson never wavered was his view of “cure.” I suspect this was a result of his personal experience overcoming paralysis. He learned as a young adult that experiential resources created change. As early as 1948 Erickson recognizes that cure not the result of direct suggestion but from reassociation of experience (Erickson 1980). In the later years of his career we find this theme repeated again and again (Erickson and Rossi 1979; Erickson and Rossi 1980; Erickson and Rossi 1981),



John Simon February 17th, 2006 08:28 PM

Re: The Castor Oil Difference
Mr. Lankton,

Thanks for your thorough and detailed explanation! I look forward to hearing the story you would have used with this family sometime in the future.


Stephen Lankton February 18th, 2006 11:33 PM

Re: The Castor Oil Difference
You are welcome. Great questions get the great answers!

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