Ericksonian Hypnotherapy

Healing & Meditation

Premananda and Prabodhi are experienced hypnosis trainers. We asked them about their successful internationally conducted hypnosis work.

What is hypnosis?

Many people ask this question because they are attracted to the subject, yet at the same time are afraid of it.

In fact, the state of being in a hypnotic trance is a normal, natural and well-known phenomenon, which occurs in all of us many times a day. It is the experience of daydreaming or being in a reverie whilst sitting in a favorite place in nature or experiencing a bonfire at night, watching a movie, reading a book, being absorbed in a task like driving a car, writing an email or being engaged in a creative act. In other words, it is a well-known personal experience.

We can say that ‘trance’ is an altered state of consciousness from our usual everyday waking state. There are two schools of thought about this. One says that hypnosis is a very special technique that is done to one, or one does to oneself, through self-hypnosis; the other says that the very nature of our everyday lives is extremely hypnotic and that we are in and out of different hypnotic trances all day long. We find this second view to be more useful and appropriate.

Where does the word ‘hypnosis’ come from and what does it mean?

James BraidJames Braid, a Scottish doctor, coined the word hypnosis in the 1830s. In Greek ‘hypnos’ means ‘sleep’ and ‘hypnosis’ comes to mean ‘conscious sleep’. The phenomenon of trance and altered states however, has been around since the beginning of mankind. Hypnosis is a very old and basically quite simple art of bypassing the conscious mind and communicating directly with the unconscious.

Freud created the two-mind model, using the metaphor of an iceberg. The smallest part, which is above water, refers to the conscious mind. The much larger part, which is below water, refers to the unconscious mind. There are different names for this part of ourselves, like subconscious mind, or other-than-conscious mind. It doesn’t matter what we call it as long as the idea of two minds is used.

Sigmund FreudThis Freudian model is a useful way of showing the split nature of human experience. But the two-mind model is not the whole truth. Other models have many more layers, or levels of mind, like superconscious, universal conscious, archetypal unconscious, etc. It is a practical way to think about the nature of our experience and a useful way to work with people therapeutically.

We all know the experience of consciously wanting to make changes in our life. We make New Year resolutions only to find that, after a few weeks or even days, those resolutions are forgotten. Or we are unable to sleep and lay awake, tossing and turning, consciously wishing to sleep yet being unable to do so. Or we suffer from jealousy and try hard ‘not to be jealous’ and change this painful emotion.

Why can’t we make these changes consciously?

The reason is, of course, that the unconscious part of our mind fights change. It can also be that there are unresolved issues lying in our unconscious mind that we are unable to perceive. Permission to make changes does seem to lie in our unconscious mind.

Can you talk about the difference between the conscious and the unconscious mind?

Our conscious mind fulfills specific tasks and functions. It is the part of us that makes decisions. It is the part of us that we use to complete various tasks and outcomes. It is also the part of us that Osho frequently talks about as being the ‘watcher’ of whatever is happening.

The conscious mind is the part that knows where we need to put our attention, or where we choose to shine the torch of attention. So if we need to cross the road, we put our attention on whether there is any oncoming traffic. If we are shopping, we look for what we want to buy. To give an immediate example: if you search the place where you are right now for the colour yellow, you may notice how you do this, by dismissing all things coloured blue, green, red or black.

Our unconscious mind is far bigger. As you read these words, are you aware of your heartbeat, the next breath you take, your kidneys filtering your blood, the sensation of your eyes looking at the screen and the next thought that you are about to think? You will probably reply, “Yes, I am aware of all these things when you mention them, but I wasn’t until you did.”

How did Ericksonian Hypnotherapy evolve?

Milton EricksonDr Milton H Erickson was a US psychiatrist (1901 – 1980) who used hypnosis extensively. He was famous for developing what is known as the indirect approach. He is considered the father of modern hypnotherapy and his methods have inspired many forms of therapy. He was the exemplary example of “the wounded healer.” At 18 he contracted polio and for over a year he was almost totally paralysed. His doctor at one point visited him and after the examination called his mother over and whispering to her suggested she move Milton’s bed so he could see the sunset. “It will be his last night. I doubt he will survive till tomorrow.” Milton overheard his comment and thought to himself, “To hell with that idea.” He became determined to live.

He very carefully watched his newly-born sister how she learnt to use her arms, hands, and fingers and copied her, and so relearnt how to find new neural pathways to move his limbs. He recovered well enough to go on a kayaking river adventure all by himself and later went to medical school to became a doctor. At age 52 the symptoms returned and in the last years of his life he was in a wheelchair. He was often in great pain, yet able to live a full and creative life. He is said to have worked with over 14,000 people.

Traditionally, hypnosis was a technique that gave direct suggestions to people in deep trance, such as “you will stop smoking” or “you will relax now.” Erickson, on the other hand, worked much more indirectly by saying sentences like “a person might remember a time when after a long day’s work they sat in a park and enjoyed the sunset.” He was also famous for his ability to connect with people in a way that deeply respected their uniqueness and freedom to develop their lives in the most creative and fruitful way. He also developed a use of language that supported his work.

Osho was clearly interested in hypnosis and often spoke about it. He never mentioned Erickson but there are a number of Erickson’s books in his library. About hypnosis as a technique Osho says that it is a valuable bridge from therapy to meditation.

What are the benefits of Ericksonian Hypnotherapy?

  • hypnosis can greatly support self-healing, mind/body integration and self-regulation
  • you befriend your own unconscious mind and discover that it can work for you in many amazing ways
  • it is valuable in the world of business and sales, law, sports, education, therapy, healing arts, bodywork, creative arts and management
  • it encourages you to focus on resources and competences and what might be possible, rather than problems, difficulties and what doesn’t work in your life

Why has this modality in particular caught your eye? You have been practicing and teaching Ericksonian Hypnotherapy for 30 years.

A particular concern of the Ericksonian approach to hypnosis is the science of communication. Milton Erickson was famous for the deep respect and love he brought to his work. His main concern was to connect people to their own abilities and rich life experiences. The way he specifically used language, and his understanding for how the unconscious mind functions, made his work highly effective and deeply impactful for his clients.

Can you tell us about some successful examples in your hypnotherapy work?

A woman came to us who’d recently had breast cancer. She’d been through chemotherapy and also taken several steps to try and remain cancer free, changing her lifestyle to reduce stress and improving her diet. She asked us for support in this process. We will give her the name Rachel.

Over ten sessions, we worked on a number of issues around the cancer, including the state of her life at the time she’d found the lump in her right breast. Among other things, Rachel recalled having very rigid attitudes and often felt stressed, so we worked specifically on these two issues, with lots of suggestions to her unconscious about healing.

Using what we call ‘ideomotor signals’ we discovered that her unconscious mind knew how to take care of the cancer cells, and communicated that it would continue to do this as long as the client would support the process by adopting a more relaxed lifestyle.

A number of metaphors were also given during the ten sessions. Rachel enjoyed gardening and lived by the Mediterranean. The water at the beach where she loved to go was usually warm and in summer would sometimes become like stagnant bathwater. However, every week or so, a storm would occur and a current of water would come to the beach from far out to sea, flushing out the warm water, replacing it with new, cool, cleaner water. This image helped her to ease her rigid attitudes and understand how freshness, change and flow are healing qualities.

In talking about gardens, it was pointed out that a gardener prepares the garden to plant new bushes and flowers and takes away the weeds. Having prepared the garden it is important to then leave it to do its own thing. You don’t keep pulling up the newly planted bushes to see how their roots are doing. The gardener does the work and then sits back and lets the garden do its own natural process. This helped her see how stress leads to unnecessary ‘doing’, when ‘non-doing’ is more helpful and nourishing.

It was also pointed out in deep trance that a cancer cell was a poor little cell that had lost its way and didn’t know what to do with itself. And that everyone has cancer cells but that our immune system, when strong and healthy, is capable to deal with them and that Rachel’s immune system had been dealing very successfully with them for many years already.

“So, immune system of Rachel, remember that you know how to eliminate cancer cells, you can do it now.” If you say this to a person’s conscious mind they would immediately ask, “How do I do that?” But saying it to a person in a deep trance, bypassing the limited conscious mind, it can be very effective. As a hypnotic facilitator you are always aware to which mind you are talking.

The conscious minds can have the understanding and insights but nothing ever really changes. When you have rapport with a person’s unconscious mind and you give suggestions either directly or indirectly through stories, metaphors or anecdotes, real change can occur much more easily. The power and truth of this can be noticed when I see a client some time later and ask them how they are with the issue that they originally came to me for. They will often say something like, “What issue was that?” and you have to remind them. Clients rarely say, “Thank you for your wonderful work.” However, you know that your work was good because clients make changes and they will often send their friends to work with you.

How does one become an Ericksonian Hypnotherapist? Are there any qualifications needed?

You do not need to become a hypnotherapist to learn this material. As it is all about the nature of communication anyone who works with other people would be greatly benefitted. You learn the language patterns of Dr Erickson so that you can be effective in supporting yourself and others in positive, ecological and creative ways. A hypnosis training in the Erickson model is also great fun and very moving at a deep unconscious level. We are both intructors with the American Board of Hypnotherapy and there is the possibility of becoming an ABH Practitioner of Hypnosis.

How long are the trainings?

Trainings are now rare in Pune, but there the first part lasts about 20 days and the second part 10 days. In Europe we do a basic 10 day training. But we put in more hours per day than in Pune, 10 days is equivalent to 15 days in Pune.

Any books on the subject that you would recommend?

Uncommon Therapy by J. Haley
Therapeutic Trances by Steven Gilligan
Tranceformations by John Grinder and Richard Bandler

Thank you!

Premananda and Prabodhi will be running an Ericksonian Hypnosis Training on 9-18 September 2016 at Gutshaus Parin, Baltic Sea, Germany

PrabodhiPrabodhi, born in Columbia, grew up in Germany and took sannyas in 1983. She has a degree in law and later trained to become a certified trainer of Kelly/Radix and Pulsation, Master trainer of NLP and Ericksonian Hypnotherapy. She is a certified pyschotherapist (ECP). Since 1993 she has been giving workshops and trainings in Pune each year for two months. She has a busy practice in Hamburg, Germany where she lives.

PremanandaPremananda grew up in the UK where he studied Politics and Philosophy and later became a certified psychotherapist (ECP), Master trainer in NLP and Hypnotherapy. He took Sannyas from Osho in 1975, lived in Pune many years and was also part of Rajneeshpuram andhas been running workshops and trainings every year in Pune from 1993 to the present day. He lives and works in Hamburg, Germany.

Featured image (‘conjuring wormholes’) by Bill Brouard from Visual Alchemy © Copyright 2015 –

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