Biography of Milton Erickson

Milton EricksonSo many sites now cite same-old same-old biographies of Milton Erickson, and bore you to death with dreary details on how "Dr. Erickson wrote this, Dr. Erickson did that".

Well... Not Us!

Our porthole to the life of the father of Conversational Hypnosis will try to provide an understanding on what motivated this great man and what sparked within him the ideas that would later become Conversational Hypnosis.

Read on, and enter the life of...

The Undefeatable Milton Erickson
Father of Covert Hypnosis

One of the most eclectic and dynamic psychotherapist of all time was the irrepressible Milton Erickson. Always a consummate practical joker Erickson appreciated creativity and resources best-utilized both in his personal life and therapeutic approach as can be seen in Ericksonian hypnosis and his trademark practice of conversational hypnosis.

Even as a young man Milton Erickson would often utilize humor to make a valid point or to set-up a theory for better comprehension. This is just one of the endearing qualities and characteristics of the man that would forever change the landscape of how many individuals not only think of psychotherapy but practice the science of the subconscious. Erickson’s most famous theory, covert or conversational hypnosis was turned into a very real and powerful living practice within a few years of Erickson announcing his findings.

Milton Erickson’s Birthplace

Milton H. Erickson was born in the now ghost-town Aurum, Nevada in 1901. Erickson’s hometown was once a thriving silver-mining town and this is what inevitably drew Albert and Clara Erickson to the dusty, desolate western states of the U.S. Milton Erickson would find himself traveling from east to west back east again and finally would live out his days in the region that he loved and respected for both its natural beauty and thoughtful inhabitants, the Great West. With a penchant for reading at a very early age ‘Pat’ would springboard this thirst for knowledge into a well-respected and well-defined literary pursuit.

As a youngster Milton Erickson dreamed of a career that he found both befitting and courageous, the wise-old country physician of days gone. Before his dreams could be realized young Milton was stricken with a rare but devastating disease, poliomyelitis. Polio was still around in the early 20th century and although unfortunate to contract this paralytic-nerve disease would not be a barrier in Milton Erickson’s life, quite the contrary.

Milton Erickson’s Lemonade (When Life Gives You Lemons…)

Milton Erickson would turn tragedy into vitality and would create one the greatest stories ever told of a young man stricken with this debilitating disease. The stories that young Milton Erickson could weave would provide him with both lodging and sustenance, especially on his most famous trip down the Mississippi River.

While recovering from his medical disorder, Milton Erickson spent most of the days listening to the conversations and hidden messages buried within those put-together words and created a movement. Unbeknownst to Milton Erickson as he lay in his bed stricken with the disease that left unable to walk, the foundation for conversational hypnosis was being formulated in Erickson’s mind. This technique would be the benchmark for Milton Erickson and would prove him more than just an intelligent man with an idea. The methods in which Erickson thought about while listening intently to the many conversations of both family and business associations and friends that would come to the adjacent rooms next to his were also a process of recovery for the young man. Always thinking and unable to sleep for hours at a time, Milton Erickson was able to develop the beginning steps to a movement that is now seen as valid and with great consequences.

Conversational Hypnosis Takes Shape

One of the best stories that Milton Erickson would recite time and time again was the one concerning his planned camping trip, as a young man, down the Mississippi to St. Louis, Missouri. This is where his theories of conversational hypnosis and basically the entire foundation of Ericksonian hypnosis began. Upon a last-minute cancellation it seemed as if this trip of recovery and exploration and self-worth was snuffed out or so it seemed. What would happen during the next six weeks would forever change the life of Milton Erickson and showed him to be as one of the greatest practitioners of both psychotherapy and self motivation of his time. What is outstanding to know of this canoe trip was that Milton Erickson could not walk when he was helped into the boat and made-ready for his solitary journey with only five dollars in his pocket. Erickson knew well before being placed in the boat that he would have to independently and with great intestinal fortitude, learned to develop his muscles to be able to walk again. When Milton Erickson returned after being carried down to the river’s edge by friends and family and deposited into that little canoe he had built his upper-body strength to the degree that he could then walk with only the use of a cane.

Covert Hypnosis Becomes a Steady Force

Milton Erickson used this adventure to spring-forth into his new life with excitement and new-found determination, for Milton Erickson had not only defeated a disease that normally kept individuals chained to a wheel-chair but had created many new therapeutic discoveries that to this day are seen as simply astounding. With his thirst for learning, that was insatiable, Milton Erickson begun understanding that with nature and therapeutic devices of self, a person could heal from the inside out. The trip down the Mississippi introduced Milton Erickson to the many different types of people that lived and received 100% of their needs and requirements from the Old Man River. From those experiences the man would often draw upon the nights where he spun yarns for food and slept by campfires with strangers, which had really, in fact, become friends.

Cementing of Covert Hypnosis

The philosophy of Milton Erickson was undoubtedly shaped by his medical condition and lifelong struggles that would energize his mind and created some of the most fascinating discoveries in the realm of conversational hypnosis. With his creation and introduction of conversational hypnosis Milton Erickson not only got the ball rolling on the possibility of subliminal suggestions regardless of the affiliation and discovery of the individual being hypnotized, yet also solidified his role as a great teacher and lifelong student of hypnotherapy. Conversational hypnosis and Ericksonian hypnosis became one of the most widely utilized tools of psychologists and psychiatrists as well.

Ericksonian Hypnosis

The school of subconscious thought is referred to as Ericksonian hypnosis and is widely received as a valid and viable entity in both psychology as well as psychotherapy. Milton Erickson’s career was constantly in a state of flux regardless of his inability to use his body 100% of the time. Any human being that could accomplish and create so much - such as singlehandedly founding the practices of conversational hypnosis or covert hypnosis - with so little, obviously deserves both respect and honor long after his passing. Milton Erickson passed away on March 25, 1980 in Phoenix, Arizona. Milton Erickson gave immense benefits and contributions to the world of conversational hypnosis otherwise known as covert hypnosis have paved the way for recent explorations into the mind and most importantly the subconscious mind for a plethora of researchers and leading institutions across the globe. As the world opens up to the possibilities of inward thinking to heal, the role of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis owes a great deal of gratitude to the pioneer that was Dr. Milton Erickson.

Milton Erickson was a true pioneer and was often heard reciting tales of his extreme youth crossing the Mississippi from the eastern coastline into the great big open sky country of the Western states. Milton Erickson may have passed away, but his great legacy lives on to this very day. He invented the theory of conversational hypnosis and single-handedly revolutionized the field of psychotherapy.

A Word about Conversational Hypnosis Terminology

While this article deals with the life of Milton Erickson, it cannot be complete without adding a few words about Erickson’s most powerful hypnosis method, Conversational Hypnosis. But first – let’s put some order into the terminology. This article used a few very similar terms such as Ericksonian Hypnosis, Conversational Hypnosis and Covert Hypnosis. You might have also encountered the terms Underground, Street and Black Ops Hypnosis. It’s all very simple, really, as many of these terms refer to the same.

Ericksonian Hypnosis refers to Erickson’s complete school of hypnosis techniques. Arguably the prominent figure in psychotherapy after Freud, Milton Erickson left behind a plethora of knowledge. In his time, Ericksonian Hypnosis was considered groundbreaking, and to this day it is considered unconventional and extremely effective.

The main method in Ericksonian Hypnosis is Covert Hypnosis, also known as Conversational Hypnosis. The method received this name as unlike traditional hypnosis it involves hypnotizing other people without them noticing (hence – covert). Conversational Hypnosis combines traditional hypnosis methods along with NLP and behavioral techniques. Extremely rapid inductions can be performed through seemingly innocent conversation (hence – conversational), through a slight of the hand, a handshake, even a stare. Our members section shows several cases of hypnosis induction through conversational hypnosis.

Conversational hypnosis is covert, and involves placing others without their acknowledgement into a trance-like state and controlling their behavior. It also breaks the boundaries of traditional hypnosis methods. Thus, it also earned the names “Underground Hypnosis”, “Black Ops-Hypnosis” and “Street Hypnosis”. Within small variations, all names refer to the same methods developed and honed by the unique Milton H. Erickson.


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