Very useful, helpful book for me!
Here is a quote I loved:
"Too many therapists think that they must direct the change and help the patient to change. Therapy is like starting a snowball rolling at the top of a mountain. As it rolls down, it grows larger and larger and becomes an avalanche that fits the shape of the mountain." (p. 56)
And another one: "I think it's very important to take the patient seriously and meet his wishes. Not to exercise cold, hard judgment. And recognize that people need to learn things, that you really aren't competent to teach them all the things they need. That they can learn a lot on their own." (p. 122)
"You also ought to learn that it's not what you do, it's not what you say, but what the patient does, what the patient understands." (p. 154)
"Erickson's attitude indicated his belief that he could deal incisively with whatever situation arose. If the situation called for confrontation, he knew that he could do that. If it called for kindness, he could be kind . . . he had confidence in his ability to handle situations. We are free to identify with this feeling ourselves and to be more assertive." (p. 233)
There are a few stories in there I love either personally or because I know already that I will use them with parents or others. One is called '"Auto"-Hypnosis' - it describes a woman who pays Erickson to sit in his driveway in her car and think through her problem while imagining that he's in the car with her. She's her own therapist - but needs the outside catalyst of sitting in his driveway. Another is called 'Glare Ice' - Erickson teaches a man with an artificial leg how to walk on treacherous ice by confusing his senses and then leading him over the ice (while he doesn't know he's on the ice.)
The idea of initiating a small change to deal with a big problem is powerfully illustrated in a number of stories ('Claustrophobia' for one.)
Joining the patient is an interesting theme, too (well rendered in 'Ruth').
Probably my favorite story is 'Pearson's Brick'. A doctor experiences an accidental skull injury. If only Dr. Erickson were here, he thinks, but since he is not the doctor pulls himself together and gets himself to medical help on his own. Then he dictates the course of his own treatment, and recovers far more quickly than others expect. I know I will use this story with families who are struggling (or whom I think may need to struggle) with who is in charge of their birth: them, or their medical care providers?
There are also a couple of stories that I find offensive. My perspective on sexuality is very liberal and open-minded - but also based in firm values, including mutuality and respect. There are a couple of stories relating to sexual dysfunction in which the (apparently "successful") therapeutic approach does not create mutuality or respectful relationships, and it bothers me. However, I recognize that like everything else, attitudes and values about sexuality are products of the time and place they arise in, and I don't think that Erickson's contemporaries would have had the same reaction to these stories I did.
I had two experiences while or shortly after reading this book that I'd like to share.
I was lying on my bed reading and my middle child (almost 4 years old) came into the room yelling at his brother and swinging a large, heavy bat (don't ask - this sort of thing just happens at our house). More or less unintentionally, but not accidentally, he whacked me on the foot with it. I got up, grabbed the bat & put it away, and told him he was going to be sorry in a "big mama" kind of voice. He ran away and curled up on the couch, hiding his head under his arms. I went after him and sat down across from him. "When is it a good idea to hit someone?" I demanded. "Never," he said in a small, angry voice. "Are you a smart kid?" I demanded, several times, before a despairing, whimpered, "No," came from my child. At this point I picked him up and hugged him and reassured him that I still loved him. And that he is smart, because he knows hitting people isn't a good idea. And that knowing something and being able to do it are two different things sometimes. Within a couple of minutes he was ready to do something else - no fit, as there often is in situations like this. I'm darned if I can tell you why what I did worked. Or exactly how it is related to being in the middle of this book. But I know it did, and it was. I think what this experience shows me is that I do have the instincts or subconscious understanding of how to do this stuff (teaching tales, hypnosis, catalytic therapy) and if I have the confidence to apply it, it works.
The other is that yesterday, I was speaking with someone who's been involved in an uncomfortable email exchange with several others and myself recently. We were talking about how it's hard to convey meaning in email and misunderstandings can occur. I shared a story from the book about Erickson using sub-vocal cues to mislead a psychic to illustrate the point that there is much non-verbal communication that simply can't happen in email, and it was helpful in my conversation.
Finally, this book did bring up a recurring question for me about doing things that seem distinctly therapeutic and counseling oriented as a childbirth mentor and doula. My background as a church professional has taught me to be wary of providing counseling or therapy beyond fairly carefully constructed boundaries because I am not a trained counselor or therapist. I'm supposed to refer to a skilled psychiatrist or psychologist for anything beyond a one-time (or other brief interval) solution-focused pastoral visit. So I'm just wondering about what my boundaries are and should be as a mentor & doula.