The following ericksonian hypnosis session has been transcribed from an original recording by Milton H Erickson. It is presented here to demonstrate his language use and the atypical nature of his trance inductions. It is also an interesting insight into how Milton Erickson saw the relationship between the unconscious (subconscious) and the conscious mind.
Ericksonian Hypnosis Script
Of course you can be interested consciously in what I say. But even though you may be intensely interested consciously, I would like to have you appreciate the fact that you are infinitely more interested at an unconscious level, and consciously you can just relax, even close your eyes, and let your mind wander at will, from my words to thoughts of photography, to thoughts of the weather, to thoughts of your daily work, to thoughts of what you had for breakfast, any wandering thought that comes into your mind.
There shouldn't be any effort on your part, to try to listen to me, no effort whatsoever, just as you watch a flower open, you can sit and watch it without making any effort of your own, in exactly the same way you can let your unconscious mind open and do its own thinking, it's own feeling, without any effort whatsoever on your part. All you need to know is that your unconscious mind does exist, it is within the you, it is a part of you that you do not really know and never will really know, but which knows a tremendous amount about you.
At the breakfast table you mentioned the matter of portrait photographs and the expressiveness of them and to the oversight of them and yet your unconscious knows when and how and why you developed that interest. You've spoken about your photographic hobby, you have it now for a while, then you lose interest in it, then you resume it, but actually of course, your unconscious mind knows ahead of time when you're going to lose your interest and it knows ahead of time when you're going to develop that interest, and actually of course, it may seem to your conscious mind, that you suddenly renewed your interest in photography because you happen to have seen a particularly good photographic subject, but if you could know what went on in your unconscious mind, you would then realize that your unconscious mind led you to take footsteps in such-and-such a direction that you came face to face consciously with a good photographic subject, or it will lead you to say something to somebody to elicit a response that would invoke a good photographic situation, and your conscious mind suddenly became aware of it, but your unconscious mind slowly built it up, no matter what chance situation you find yourself in, your unconscious directs your behavior in that trance situation so that you suddenly see something, and your renewal of interest in photography comes about because the unconscious enables you all of a sudden to see something that your conscious mind could approve of . And so it is in all of your behavior.
A patient comes to you and says 'I do not know what to talk about, my mind is a blank' and you point to the bookcase across the room and you tell him to never examine the books just go over, reach out with your left had, since you are right handed and just try to pick out the first book which your hand happens to touch, and what book is picked out? One patient accidentally picked out the startle pattern, big book by that title and what was the purpose of that? The patient's startled reaction and panic reactions forever getting startled when the patient reads that title,
I really don't know, whether the patient was interested in the title consciously, so what does it mean about the unconscious, the patient tells you all about his difficulties at work and disclaims any other problems and accidentally picks out a book entitled social problems and yet the patient tells you consciously it's only a work problem, I have no social difficulties, innumerable other instances could be cited because the unconscious mind knows a great deal about the problems but has difficulty in trying to get the conscious mind willing to let it function because the conscious mind says I'm a perfectionist and I must do it this way without recognizing that being a perfectionist enables you to do things in a greater variety of ways, not just one select conscious way.......
Now I want you to go deeply into a trance, and very deeply, not necessarily deeply as you consciously understand it, but deeply as your unconscious mind can understand and I think it should be interesting to your conscious to discover many things that your unconscious mind already knows and is willing to share with you.
You can get bored, indifferent, relaxed, curious, resentful, or antagonistic, consciously in any way that is entertaining to you as a conscious personality. You may go into a sleep consciously if that is interesting to you, what I think is that you should realize that I want to talk primarily to your unconscious and then I'll try to talk in such a way that your unconscious understands a great deal more then your conscious mind does, because your unconscious mind should have many secrets from you, many secrets from the you consciously in order to get you to function more adequately, now what are things that your unconscious can do, sometimes the stenographer can type more rapidly if she chews gum, and chewing gum is no part of typing except for her. Some stenographers can type more rapidly in a room by themselves and others type more rapidly in the presence of others where there is a disturbing noise. We do not judge that this or that thing is necessarily disturbing, we only wonder what use can be made of it in teaching you to be willing to learn how to go more and more deeply into trance.
I think that your unconscious should have the privilege of letting you develop hand levitation whether you know what that means or not isn't really important. But perhaps your unconscious might want you to discover that your hand is numb and feeling less or perhaps might want to bring about a numb feeling in your hands and arms while you were consciously convinced that it did not exist.
You see consciously we learn to deal with concrete reality. Consciously we can shift a table. We put our hands on it, we move it across the floor, we can feel with our feet, our hands, and we can see with our eyes and we can lift the table. We can sense its hardness, its weight, we can appreciate its color, all concrete realities, but in our mind's eye we can still deal with that table, and in our mind's eye we can close our eyes and we can see that table. We do not need to touch it but we can sense the feeling of that table in our hands, or we can sense the feeling of movement in our feet while sitting perfectly still because our unconscious mind deals with ideas, with the memories, with understandings and it is not important that the unconscious mind causes the body to get up and walk across the floor, to pick up the table, to move it, because the unconscious mind can deal with those ideas and these ideas are as concrete as the table itself.
In one's dreams at night, the dream can be very vivid and very real. One can drive a car, one can talk to friends, one can visit with people who have long been forgotten, one can revisit the scenes of childhood in that the dream and it is a very, very real mental experience to have that dream, because the memory images are the realities of the mental life of any person. And in a trance state the essential thing is to deal with those concrete realities of a mental experience. They may not be the tangible items of reality that everybody else can experience. They have to be those realities of individual experience.
The picture that you take and show me is a picture that I see with a different pair of eyes, with a different background, with a different understanding and it is a different picture that I see, only the paper is the same, but I see a different expression in that photograph, I see a different meaning, a different value and it's very real to me, but only I can see that and only you can see what you see. We can agree in certain general terms, but that's all.
I would like to have you, as you sit there, going deeper and deeper into trance, to be willing mentally to find yourself standing before a window, looking out into the distance wondering what you will see, what you will feel, want to think of a landscape, scenes, city scenes, of flowers and trees, of cars, an expanse of water, mountain's, fog, who knows and it would be delightful as a personal experience to stand and stare out of the window and let come to mind whatever visual memory, visual image that wishes, because the unconscious mind can reach back into the past or it can reach out into one's understanding of the future, because one's understanding of the future has to be framed in current understandings interpreted in terms of future times.