It's pleasure to be here with you, Gil. Jeffrey Zeig and I have known each other and worked together since 1969. It is terrific to have the Internet as a way to keep working together. Thanks for helping make that possible for us.
Jeff began here with a story of meeting Dr. Erickson so I thought I would add a flavor of what it was like to learn and be challenged to grow while studying with him. I first contacted him in 1975 and was with him for four, 5-day intervals each year until his death in 1980.
Here is a not-atypical day with him. (It would be wrong to say, "a typical day." There were no typical days).
Dr. Erickson asked me my reason for coming the first day for my third visit, "What is your excuse for coming this time?" He continued speaking to me and implied that what followed was a pre-condition for my returning. It went like this:
Do you know what a Boojum tree is? It's a real tree...'B double-o, g', no, 'b double-o,' no,...yes, that's right, 'b double-o, j - u - m -- Boojum.' It grows in the Baja Peninsula North of Squaw Peak. And it can be found in a strip of southern California, and in the botanical gardens - but don't go there first.
Go north of Squaw Peak...you'll find the Boojum tree. And when you do your conscious mind will recognize that it is a tree and your unconscious mind won't believe it. So go into a trance and look at it again and your unconscious mind will recognize that it is a tree. And your conscious mind will say, 'I don't believe it, I don't believe it, I don't believe it, I don't believe it,......, I don't believe it.' And look around for the creeping devils. They'll be there! All right."
And whenever he said, "All right," like that, it seemed to mean "I'm done talking with you now" and in this case it also seemed to mean "now, go and do it." I left that afternoon and went directly to my hotel to get my tennis shoes and then on to Squaw Peak. I parked the car and walked around in the desert, North of Squaw Peak. I suspected that I would be in for an unforgettable learning experience that suddenly would bring into foreground a part of my self or my memories of events, etc., that he referred to as "the creeping devils." And with that, I would have the "intended" learning. Actually, I saw a lot of barrel cactus and sequoia, prickly pear, century plants, and dirt and rocks. And all of a sudden...reality was enduringly boring.
It was apparent to me even then how much of my own expectation I had projected into the assignment. But, the richness of my imagination was far more worrisome than the things I saw. And I wondered, "Maybe this is what he wants me to learn."
Then I saw a huge upside down carrot, thirty feet high. "I thought, that's a tree. It must be the Boojum tree. I don't believe it." Then, I remembered his word - he predicted I would think that. So, I followed his advice and put my self in trance and continued to examine the tree.
There I stood. Sun. Desert. Cactuses. Boojum tree.
"I don't believe it. I don't believe he knew I would make all these memories instead of looking at the obvious. I can't believe this was a practical joke. I don't believe he planned it to this degree. I don't believe this. I don't believe it."
Then I saw the horizontal web-work of cactuses at the base of the Boojum. "Those must be the creeping devils," I thought.
When I went back the next day the first thing he did was turn to me, "Did you find the Boojum tree?" I said, "Yes." (In fact, I handed him a book about Boojum trees I purchased that night. He thanked me very warmly.) And he continued, "And you saw the creeping devils?" I said, "Yes," and...was a little reluctant to speak. Actually, I still wasn't sure if he intended to be literal and refer to the cactus or metaphorical and refer to my vivid imaginations. And then he said, and apparently with much meaning, "Remember that...!"
A long pause followed. During this pause he held my gaze for an uncomfortable duration of time - and smiled. I was shaking my head up and down. I was on the verge of speaking but couldn't find the words...the right words to ask, "remember what, exactly?" I remember reviewing everything that had been in my head that day in the desert. My face must have reflected all my thoughts as he watched and held my gaze.
Finally, he broke the gaze and demonstratively declared, "There will always be creeping devils!" He concluded before I spoke, "Now I want to teach you something else."
Need I say, learnings like that continue?
Erickson made his points like no other. That is what attacted me to return to study with him then and why I am still interested in training therapist about the epistemolgy he presented.
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