Milton  Ericksonian was arguably the greatest hypnotist in history, and his contributions and techniques were central to the creation of NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming).  Of all the things he brought to the table, his model of “what people want” (similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy or the Chakras), the therapeutic metaphor and the  “Parts Party” loom largest.  The “Parts Party” is a trance that makes it  possible for the mind to create images that personify different aspects of our personalities: rage, guilt, sensuality, regret, creativity, and so forth.  That you can then literally have a “cocktail party” where these different aspects can mingle, and share their resources.  Inner communication.

In the late 90’s  I TRAINED in Ericksonian hypnosis at the Transformative Arts Institute in Marin California.  I got pretty good at it, but after an incident where I helped a gentleman realize he wanted to live, it frightened me how powerful the techniques could be, and how persuasive I could be.  I wasn’t clear enough on my own ethical structure to have such techniques wired into my nervous system, so I stopped practicing them.  Years passed.


A decade later my daughter Nicki was studying singing under a very fine very fine instructor, Sue Henshaw, a professional opera singer.    Every year, Sue had her students strut their stuff in biannual “Showcases”   at a local BED AND BREAKFAST—very posh venue—and generally, a good time was had by all.  However, this year Nicki freaked out.  She wasn’t practicing enough, and I had her come over to the house for a final run-through before her recital.  Tananarive was ready to accompany her on the piano, but Nicki  just couldn’t do it.  She was too frightened.  She just wanted to drop out.


I tried everything I could think of to talk her through it.  Nothing worked.  We tried a technique I’d learned from Tony Robbins’ best friend Joseph McClendon: put her on a treadmill, had her enter a high-energy physical state, and chant positive mantras.  Failed miserably.  She was just suffering internal collapse.  Her fear was ripping her to pieces.  So we came back into the house, and I finally contemplated just letting her drop out of the recital.  Then I decided to dredge up some old skills.  Last ditch effort.


Getting Nicki’s permission for the attempt, I had her lie down on the couch, and dropped her into trance.  This ain’t too difficult: we are in trance all the time.  A good hypnotist just helps you to select the most resourceful “frequency” of trance for a given activity.  Once relaxed, eyes closed, and deeply centered, I had Nicki imagine herself at a cocktail party.  All the different aspects of her personality were there, including Fear, Talent, and Ambition. I said, “Nicki, if the part of your personality that wants to perform in the showcase is there, would you please raise your little finger.”  After a moment, the finger raised.  “Fine.  Now.  If the part of your personality that is preventing you from performing is there, would that part please raise your little finger.”  A longer pause, and the finger twitched.  “Fine.  Now.  If the most resourceful and powerful aspect of your personality is present, would that part please make itself known.”  A pause, and the finger twitched again.


“Good,” I said.  “Now…I know that the part of you holding you back is just trying to protect you.  That is all it wants to do.   But there is another part of you that wants to do this.  I would like those two parts to speak, and I would like the most resourceful part of you to join them.  Would that be all right?”  Again, a positive response.  “Good.  Let’s just have them speak for a couple of minutes.  And if there is a way to work this out so that you would be safe, and know you were safe, but simultaneously be able to do this thing that you want to do, that would be a good outcome, wouldn’t it?”  Again, Nicki answered with a twitch.


I waited a couple of minutes, while I noticed her breathing deepen.  Occasional twitches of her eyes suggested internal strife.  Then relaxation.  I asked if those internal parts had come to an agreement, and she signaled “yes.”  So I slowly had her come out of it, remaining in a highly resourceful, rested, energetic state.  And counted her up to normal consciousness.


I was astonished at the result.  She jumped up, grinning, had Tananarive go to the piano, and blitzed through her practice.  She went to the recital and performed better than I had ever seen her: sassy, confident, excellent.  I was blown away, and Tananarive stared at me as if I was a witch doctor.


Can you grasp what Nicki did?  She merely improved the level of communication within herself.  Desire was at war with fear.  When I acknowledged her fear, thanked it for protecting her, and then asked it to consider the possibility that it could fulfill its directives AND let Nicki have this goal, it could relax and investigate the possibility.  And find a way.  Do I know exactly what the fear was?  No, and it didn’t matter.  Do I know exactly what the internal compromise was that allowed the positive change?  No,  and that wasn’t any of my business, either.  Nicki worked it out for herself.  And that is just another small example of what happens when we improve the QUALITY of our communications.  The power can be absolutely remarkable.


And really, I don’t shrink heads or sacrifice goats, or dance under the full moon.  Well, maybe that last part…


Namaste, Steve



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