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TitleUncommon Therapy The Psychiatric Techniques Of Milton H Erickson
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Table of Contents
                            Uncommon Therapy
	Contents
	Introduction
	Strategic Therapy
	The Family Life Cycle
	The Courtship Period: Changing the Young Adult
	Character Revision of the Young Adult
	Marriage and its Consequences
	Childbirth and Dealing with the Young
	Marriage and Family Dilemmas
	Weaning Parents from Children
	The Pain of Old Age
	Epilogue
                        
Document Text Contents
Page 1

UNCOMMON
THERAPY

THE
PSYCHIATRIC
TECHNIQUES

OF
MILTON H. ERICKSON,

M.D.

JAY HALEY
W · W · NORTON & COMPANY · INC ·

NEW YORK

Page 2

COPYRIGHT © 1973 BY JAY HALEY

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Haley, Jay.
Uncommon therapy.

1. Hypnotism-Therapeutic use
2. Family psychotherapy.
3. Erickson, Milton H.
I, Title.
RC495.H34 616.8'9'00924 72-12924
ISBN 0-393-01100-3 Cloth Edition
ISBN 0-393-00846-0 Paper Edition

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Published simultaneously in Canada
by George J. McLeod Limited, Toronto

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

567890

OCR by Medea Oblongata

Page 105

He explained that his wife promised each night to have sexual relations, but at his first
move she would develop a severe panic and would fearfully and piteously persuade him
to wait until the morrow. Each night he would sleep restlessly, feeling intensely desirous
and hopelessly frustrated. Recently he had become frightened by his failure to have an
erection despite his increased sexual hunger.

When he asked if there could be any help for either himself or his wife, I reassured him
and made an appointment for his wife. I raked him to tell her the reason for the consultation
and to ask her to be prepared to discuss her sexual development since puberty.

The couple arrived promptly for an evening appointment, and the husband was
dismissed from the room. She told her stow freely though with much embarrassment. She
explained her behavior as the result of an uncontrollable, overpowering terror that she
vaguely related to moral and religious teachings. Concerning her sexual history, she
exhibited a notebook in which the date and hour of onset of every menstrual period had
been recorded neatly. This amazing record disclosed that for ten years she had
menstruated every thirty-three days, and the onset was almost invariably around 10:00 or
a a :00 Ass. There were a few periods not on the scheduled date. None of these was
early. Instead, there were occasional delayed periods, recorded by actual date and with
the scheduled date marked by an explanatory note such as "Been sick in bed with bad
cold." I noted that her next period was not due for seventeen days.

When I asked if she wanted help with her marital problem, she first declared that she
did. Immediately, however, she became frightened, sobbed, and begged me to let her "wait
until tomorrow." Finally I quieted her with the repeated assurance that she would have to
make her own decision. Then I offered her a long, general discourse upon marital relations,
interspersed more and more frequently with suggestions of fatigue, disinterestedness,
and sleepiness until a fairly good trance state had been induced.

Then, with emphatic commands to ensure continuance of the trance, I offered a whole
series of suggestions with increasing intensity. These were to the effect that she might,
even probably would, surprise herself by losing her fear forever by suddenly,
unexpectedly, keeping her promise of tomorrow sooner than she thought. All the way
home she would be completely absorbed with a satisfying but meaningless thought that
she would make things happen too fast for even a thought of fear.

Her husband was seen separately, and I assured him of a successful outcome for the
night. The next morning he reported ruefully that halfway home, seventeen days too early,
her menstrual period began. He was relieved and comforted by my specious statement
that this signified the intensity of her desire and her absolute intention to consummate the
marriage. I set another appointment for her when her period was over.

On the following Saturday evening I saw her again and a trance was induced. This
time I explained that a consummation must occur, and I felt that it should occur within the
next ten days. Furthermore, she herself should decide when. I told her that it could be on
that Saturday night or Sunday, although I preferred Friday night; or it could be on Monday
or Tuesday night, although Friday was the preferred night; then again, it could he
Thursday night, but I definitely preferred Friday. This listing of all the days of the week with
emphasis upon my preference for Friday was systematically repeated until she began to
show marked annoyance. 1

She was awakened, and the same statements were repeated. Her facial expression
was one of intense dislike at each mention of my preference. I saw the husband
separately and told him to make no advances, to he passive in his behavior, but to hold
himself in readiness to respond, and that a successful outcome was certain.

The following Friday he reported, "She told me to tell you what happened last night. It
happened so quick 1 never had a chance. She practically raped 'sac. And in woke me up

Page 106

before midnight to do it again. Then this morning she was laughing, and when I asked her
why, she told me to tell you that it wasn't Friday. I told her it was Friday, and she just
laughed and said you would understand that it wasn't Friday."

I gave him no explanation. The subsequent outcome was a continued happy marital
adjustment, the purchase of a home, and the birth of three wanted children at two-year
intervals.

The rationale of the ten-day period, the coming of the days of the week, and the
emphasis on my preference was as follows: ten days was a sufficiently long period in
whirls to make the decision, and this length of time was, in effect, reduced to seven days
by naming them. The emphasis upon my preference posed a most compelling, unpleasant
emotional problem for her: since all the days of the week had been named, the passage of
each day brought her closer and closer to the unacceptable day of my preference. Hence,
by Thursday only that day and Friday remained; Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and
Wednesday had all been rejected. Therefore consummation had to occur either on
Thursday by her choice or on Friday through my choice.

The procedure employed in the first interview was obviously wrong. It was beautifully
utilized by the patient to punish and frustrate me for incompetence. The second interview
was more fortunate. A dilemma she could not recognize of two alternatives was created
for her-the day of her choice or of my preference. The repeated emphasis upon my choice
evoked a strong corrective emotional response: the immediate need to punish and frustrate
me temporarily transcended her other emotional needs. The consummation effected, she
could then taunt me with the declaration that last night was not Friday, happily secure that I
would understand.

Just as a young woman can have difficulty in consummating a marriage, so can a
young man. A common difficulty is the inability of a new husband to achieve an
erection. Sometimes this can be a surprise on a honeymoon. The man might have
had a history of successful sexual relations, but the act of marriage
creates a relationship that makes him incapable of performing the act. Sometimes
this problem resolves itself; at other times a brief intervention can alleviate the
difficulty and save the marriage.

One of my medical students married a very beautiful girl, and on their wedding night he
could not produce an erection. Yet he had been rather a man about town and had slept
with every chippy in the city. For two weeks after the marriage he could not produce an
erection. He tried everything and could not even get one by masturbation. After two
weeks of a dismal honeymoon, his wife consulted a lawyer about an annulment.

The young man came to me with this problem. I told him to call up a few friends who
knew his bride and have them persuade her to come and see me. She came to the office,
and I had the young man wait outside while I talked to her. She was extremely hitter, and I
let her tell me the whole disappointing story. She thought she was attractive, and yet there
she was completely nude and he was incapable of making love to her. The wedding night
can be such an event to a girl. It is a momentous occasion which represents being
transformed from a girl into a woman, and every woman wants to be wanted and to be
the one and only. It was an overwhelming situation, and so I defined it to her that way.

I asked her if she had thought about the compliment her husband gave her. This
puzzled her, since it seemed to be a reversal of what she had been saying. I said, "Well,
evidently he thought your body was so beautiful that he was overwhelmed by it.
Completely overwhelmed. And you misunderstood that and felt he was incompetent. And
he was incompetent, because he realized how little capacity he had to really appreciate
the beauty of your body. Now you go into the next office and think that over."

Page 209

he had been before. I told her I didn't think there was anything more I could do.

Page 210

EPILOGUE
Milton H. Erickson is reaching the final chapter himself, since he is now seventy
years of age and is in retirement. Quite ill and confined to a wheel chair, he sees a
patient only occasionally. In his later years his approach to human problems has a
simplicity and efficiency that reminds one of the later work of many artists. Picasso
achieves more simplicity in his drawings, Borges turns to a more elementary way
of telling stories, and Erickson has mastered an economy of therapeutic style, per.
haps compensating for his increasing physical weakness, which is like the
strokes of a diamond cutter. He appears to grasp the fundamentals of a human
situation with remarkable quickness, and his therapeutic interventions are simple
and precise, without wasted effort. With old age his wisdom has increased, just at
the time when he has lost the personal strength to put it into effect, which seems to
be one of the inevitable ironies of life.

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