Picture this, you wake up one morning unable to move, paralyzed and in extensive physical pain, and you are unlikely to survive.

What would you learn from this experience?

This was the situation of Milton H. Erickson.

Having just completed training to be an executive coach with Erickson Training and read extensively about Milton H. Erickson who was a source of much of the approach, last week I had the opportunity to visit the home of Milton H. Erickson which is now a museum.  The fantastic Cecile Gratz a personal friend of Mrs. Erickson gave me a tour of the museum, and it is hard not to be inspired, when you know a little of Erickson’s life story.

As well as being the man who was acknowledged as the foremost expert in Medical Hypnosis, Erickson was a qualified psychiatrist and psychologist. Known for his capacity to help people with unusual and creative approaches, specifically tailored for each person.  Many schools of thought have been influenced by his work, psychology, coaching, NLP and communications, and he was described as the ‘Mozart of Communication.’

Paralyzed through polio at the age of seventeen, Erickson suffered from disability throughout his life.  While paralyzed and bed-ridden, Erickson developed phenomenal observation skills, to master verbal and non-verbal communication.  While daydreaming about playing outside, he realized his muscles started to move, and with great effort, he learned to walk again with the use of a cane, and this ability of the unconscious mind to play a positive role led to great insights in hypnotherapy, and trust in the inner resources of everyone.

Walking around this small, modest house, in a quiet suburb of Phoenix, seeing the rope that Erickson used to pull himself out of bed, and into his wheelchair, it is hard not to be inspired.  After pulling himself out of bed his day would be filled with seeing clients or training psychologists in his little ironwood filled office.  Many of them waited in the family sitting room and played with Erickson’s children, as they were treated as people rather than clients or patients.

A key principle of Ericksonian thought is “Utilization” which is to basically appreciate what you have, and use it in the most helpful way possible, to bring satisfaction and contribution to your life, and Erickson was a master of helping people recognize how to do this for themselves..

In his own life, Erickson turned paralysis into an opportunity to develop observation skills, turned daydreaming into an opportunity for harnessing the unconscious mind which lead to physical improvement, and developed mental freedom, when physically movement was difficult.

The experience got me to think about how we can all learn from our experiences, especially the limiting ones, and use them in the most helpful way possible.

What experiences do you think you can use in a helpful way tomorrow?

[originally published on linkedin]

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