I organized the Congress as a tribute to Erickson. He had been my teacher intermittently from 1973 until he died on March 25, 1980. He never charged me a penny. I wanted him to see the impact of his work and visit with his friends and colleagues one more time. I told Erickson my idea for the Congress in March 1979. I gave him a formal proposal. He sat on the idea until June. I frequently asked his decision. Finally, he acceded. Perhaps he was testing my motivation. I personally typed the cover letter of invitation from him to the faculty. We copied it and included it with the formal letter of invitation. Erickson died nine months prior to the Congress but he did get some of the gift. There were 750 people registered for the meeting when he died, and 750 people had never before assembled for a hypnosis conference. Eventually, 2000 attended.
I invited Gregory Bateson to give one of the keynotes but he died in July 1980. I expected that Erickson and Bateson would be the emotional centers of the meeting. Then, they were gone. Suddenly, I had to assume more leadership than I had intended. I was only 33 years old at the time. An unexpected outcome of the meeting was that I grew into a role I had not expected to enjoy.
I remember walking into the faculty meeting prior to the Congress. I got a round of applause before I addressed them. It was most gratifying, but also shocking to be acknowledged by so many teachers and experts whom I admired. It is not that I was completely naive or unknown. At the time, I was teaching Ericksonian methods internationally. I was on the Editorial Board of the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. However, I didn't think that I would ever become a distinguished "Ericksonian."
I did not schedule myself to teach much at the Congress. I only offered a speech and I did not do a workshop or participate on a panel. I left those roles for people I considered more experienced.
I organized the meeting with my then wife, Sherron Peters. We had no experience, no funding and no computer. Sherron typed each of the 40 invitation letters at the hospital where I was working. We had volunteers who helped us hand-sort the flyers prior to mailing them.
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