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The Collected Papers of Joseph Riggio

Beyond Milton Part1


The patterns and patter of Milton Erickson became familiar to a new and much wider audience with the publication of Richard Bandler's and John Grinder's book, "The Patterns of Milton H. Erickson" I and II. This audience was to become known as the devotees of a new technology of communication and change, neurolinguistic programming, or NLP. Prior to the publication of these books and the inclusion of the model of hypnosis that Milton Erickson had developed and utilized in their own model, his work was relatively unknown outside of the psychiatric community and possibly to a small number of practicing hypnotists as well.

The patterns and patter of Milton Erickson became familiar to a new and much wider audience with the publication of Richard Bandler's and John Grinder's book, "The Patterns of Milton H. Erickson" I and II. This audience was to become known as the devotees of a new technology of communication and change, neurolinguistic programming, or NLP. Prior to the publication of these books and the inclusion of the model of hypnosis that Milton Erickson had developed and utilized in their own model, his work was relatively unknown outside of the psychiatric community and possibly to a small number of practicing hypnotists as well.

What made (and makes) this model so unique is the conversational and indirect aspect of Milton's approach. While hypnosis is considered a directive approach to psychotherapy, the method that Milton developed was often seen as extremely indirect. He was a master of language and especially metaphorical language. What Richard and John did was to identify the patterns of language and non-verbal communication that Milton was using with his clients, distill the essential aspects that made it so effective and condense this into an applied model. The basis for this model was Milton's ability to pace and lead his clients into trance. He'd initially start with a description of what was presently true for the client and then begin building in suggestions that they could relax and go inside. Once the client began to respond to these suggestions Milton would introduce suggestions to deepen the trance and convincers to establish that the client was in fact in an altered state. When it was established by both Milton and the client that they had entered into a sufficiently altered state, Milton would further the utilization of this state to promote thinking and behavior associated with the changes he was engaged to prompt in them.

The model of utilization that Milton used was often seen as built exclusively or predominately around metaphor. While it is true that Milton did use metaphor extensively, he just as often used very direct suggestion. In addition he often combined the use of metaphor with direct suggestion, using the metaphor to build the readiness to receive the suggestions he was offering. This was unique in the models of hypnosis employed prior to that time. However he also made extensive use of the pre-existing models of hypnosis and built these techniques into what he did with clients as well. In the presentation of the Milton Model these powerful techniques are often missing as components of the hypnotic model of change work presented.

Beginning to go beyond the Milton Model

What I am referring to as "beyond Milton" is not necessarily new, but rather outside of the Milton Model as it is normally presented. The first aspect that is beyond the model is the use of direct induction. This is the ability to simply get the client to go to an altered state. One method is extremely authoritative (an example of this would be Richard Bandler) and the technique could be as simple and direct as telling the client, "Go inside, NOW!" This assumes that the client knows what is meant by "Go inside." The hypnotist in this case is either working with a preconditioned client or is teaching the client beforehand what they mean by "inside." Another approach is to build a permissive premise where the client is led to feel that they are making all the choices about what is going on. An example of this would be something like, "You may choose to simply close your eyes now and relax completely." This sounds very permissive and yet is extremely direct as well.

These examples are unlike the embedded suggestions of the Milton Model. They can be very effective because they are clearly and plainly understood by the client and there is no need for interpretation. The client can either release themselves to take the suggestions and direction of the hypnotist or they can act on their lead with a sense of willingness and compliance. What these approaches assume are that the hypnotist has established an agreement with the client to lead them and that the hypnotist is sufficiently present and has personal power to be effective. This is where the model begins going beyond the Milton Model.

The Milton Model suggests that the languaging of the suggestions will cause the client to respond as you desire. If you are sufficiently skilled this may be true. It is also an extremely indirect way of working and without a great deal of skill takes quite a long time and can be very difficult to make work with a resistant client*. The model of induction suggested above is based on getting the open, overt and upfront agreement with the client to engage in thy hypnotic process and acting on the suggestions you offer them willingly.

While this structure of hypnosis is designed to be very overt and direct, it is also possible to conduct it very conversationally. This is what puts it both beyond the Milton Model and beyond the models of traditional hypnotic protocol that are most commonly seen. The intention is to build with a client a conversation, better put a "dialogue," that allows them to engage with you by choice and of their own free will and action. This is already half or more of what they most likely want to result from the encounter with you anyway. Most clients don't actually need to be "manipulated" covertly and it is not what they want to be learning for themselves, i.e.: how they can be covertly manipulated.

Imagine the difference between being led into a hypnotic experience using the techniques of the Milton Model in a covert manner (even if you'd agreed to the interaction) and being led to a hypnotic experience where you get to choose explicitly each step along the way the experience you want to be having - on the other side of the experience. After the fact knowing that you've chosen to respond to each suggestion and could take the action required to produce the experience and results you obtained on your own. This is a different premise of work. It is for people who have a sense of what they want, where they are going and desire a life of choice and options of their own. Milton built his model around people who were deeply disturbed and unable to choose for themselves. This is not the profile of most of my professional clients. I like having the choice of models I will work from with clients.

Protocol beyond the Milton Model

So what is this protocol beyond either an authoritative or permissive approach to induction? The basis is to stay very instructive and direct. It also allow you to utilize non-verbal components that would have been difficult for Milton due to his infirmity. The basic premise of the protocol is to first fixate the attention directly. A simple way to do this is to ask first:

"Are you willing to learn about yourself and how you operate on the inside?"

Then after you get agreement (I am not addressing the set-up and techniques for what to do with clients who do not have both desire and a modicum of readiness in this article), you must begin to lead them inside:

"I would like for you to begin placing your attention on the inside, of yourself. Some place inside where you notice your body coming to rest, where it is balanced or centered from. This may be a point as small as a pin head or as large as a coin. Usually you'll notice this place somewhere between your neck and your pelvis - and I want you to tell me when you find a place inside that seems like this point of balance or centeredness for you."

Of course these suggestions are building the sense of the experience you are directing them to notice as you are directing them to notice it. You want to continue with this by increasing the fixation of attention and also continuing to lead them inside with subtle suggestions that continue to build on the first set you've already made:

"You may notice this point as a sense of warmth or coolness in relation to the area surrounding it, or maybe a small difference in pressure, contraction or relaxation, or maybe it will be a sense of literally where you balance yourself from like this."

Regardless of what they actually notice you'll need to be tracking what they are doing and when they respond, before they speak tell them to just:

"Continue to go with this sensation and let it take all your attention to this spot. Just notice how large or small it is and if it changes at all as you continue to place your attention there."

Now if you are good you will actually know where their attention is and you can put a finger or hand over the spot to emphasize your instruction to experience this. The difference you'll notice here is a very direct set of instructions regarding what to be doing. There is nothing vague about these instructions, artful or otherwise. You'll want to continue to build the confidence in the client that they can and have done what you've suggested and begin leading them further inside:

"So as you notice this I want you to decide whether you want to close your eyes or not, and begin to put even more of your attention on this sensation and getting it to spread throughout your entire body, just so that for the moment it becomes difficult to notice where it is and where it isn't yet."

This will begin creating a significantly altered state of awareness of their internal experience. This is the induction phase of this protocol. After this you'll begin to deepen the altered state experience. One way to approach this is to use a physical (somatic) technique:

"I'm going to reach out and put my hand on your arm. (Reach out and put your hand on their upper arm somewhere near the center between their shoulder and elbow.) And I'm going to put my other hand on your hand. (Gently but firmly grasp the meaty part of their hand between the thumb and fingers and lift it up from their body gently, slowly and just an inch or so.) As you feel your hand coming up with mine just let me take it, there is no need to help me, I can take all the weight of it from you and you can just relax. (Continue lifting their hand up further and make sure you do have the weight of it all.) Just let me have the weight and you continue to relax and go inside yourself and experience this. (Lift and lower the hand a few times to let them feel that you have it. If necessary repeat the phrase about letting you take all the weight and just relaxing. If they have done what you've asked the hand and arm will feel heavy to you and smoothly move without any muscular resistance. Continue doing this until you are sure you have all the weight of their hand and arm and they have relaxed these completely.)"

What you've done here is to induce a deeper relaxation and a further deepening of the hypnotic state. You can now give additional direct suggestions of deepening and then begin to move onto the utilization phase:

"I'm now going to place your hand back in your lap. When I do I want you to deepen this experience of relaxation by double it (lower the hand to their lap slowly and steady, letting go only when the full weight of it is resting on their lap) now as you feel your hand against your body." "Good I'm going to do the same thing with your other hand now (pick up the other hand in the same way and repeat ...)"

What you've done is to directly instruct them on how to go inside, relax and deepen the relaxation. While this is not new technology it is a different technology and very visceral. Your clients will have a very deeply felt body experience about this. Once you've developed the relaxed and altered state you can move directly into the utilization. An example of utilization that will allow them to have an experience of an altered state and also know that they've learned to do hypnosis and that they can learn would be:

"Now you've relaxed completely from your hands to the inside, and you can feel this completely." "You know that you can do this and you've learned how to." "And, if you can learn how-to do this, you know you can learn how-to learn because you have." "Now while your on the inside experiencing this I want you to begin to notice something much smaller." "I want you to begin to concentrate on your hand (pause 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ) on the other hand now." I want you to notice where your thumb connects to your hand and in that location go even deeper." "Go all the way to the inside of where this fits and matches together." "Notice the liquid that lubricates the joint and makes the fit smooth." "Now notice the material where the pieces slide together." "Notice how smooth and silky it is." "Notice how perfect the fit is and how perfectly made you are put together." "And, notice the cellular structure, the matrix of life." "Go further, much further in to where the individual cells reside." "Go to where new cells are being born and conceived." "Feel this conception of life as a whole body experience." "Just let it take you completely for a moment." "Notice on your next breath the feeling of being taken completely and how complete this is for you." "A whole form experience of coming together." "You can just let go for a moment to have this sensation of being completely well designed, exhilarated and excited to be alive." "And, coming like this, to an awareness of yourself, you can begin to know what it is like to pulse with life." "You can begin to know that you are perfect and working perfectly outside of your ordinary awareness." "Here is the domain of life itself with even more possibility than you imagine before the realization of the process of conception is the desire to create." "This is the desire pulsing in you now and you can remember this for a moment to moment longer."

You can recognize some familiar patterns here, although I've generalized the suggestions for this example. The specific patterns would depend on the individual elicitation you'd done with the client prior to the hypnosis, so that you could customize it for them. This is the entrée to the next phase. This is an example of leading a client to a significant experience of an altered state using hypnotic protocol that is outside of the standard Milton Model approach. The utilization of this process is potent because they are such willing and active participants in engaging in it with you. Instead of being "done" by the hypnotist, the client is working in conjunction with the hypnotist to create their own experience. This leaves them with the ability to access the altered state on their own as necessary or desired and also to take it further. In addition there are aspects of what your suggesting that remain outside of their conscious awareness which over time will seep into awareness and further the experience of their experience.

I intend to discuss some more aspect of utilization elicitation in the next article of this series.

Until the next time ...

Joseph Riggio

*There is a core group that believes "there are no resistant clients, only insufficiently skilled hypnotists." While I agree, I also recognize that there are clients who are less willing and ready to enter into the agreement with the hypnotist required to use this process with ease. If you are sufficiently skilled you can bypass this hesitation and build both desire (willingness) and readiness with the client. The option presented in this article is a more direct approach where you simply ask them for their agreement directly and bypass the need for the indirect covert application of these particular skills in the service of efficiency and effectiveness as well.

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© 2000-2002 Joseph Riggio / Applied Behavioral Technologies, Inc. - may not be used, reproduced or distributed without prior express written permission by any means including mechanical or electronic.

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