David Fitelson, Ph.D.

A Beautiful Partnership--of Conscious and Unconscious Minds: Whole brain Engagement in Ericksonian Hypnotherapy.

On occasion, Dr. Erickson was ferociously disdainful of the conscious mind. "Your conscious mind is very intelligent," he would say, "and your unconscious mind is a hell of a lot smarter." He frequently claimed there was just one thing to do with a conscious mind: depotentiate it--which was a dressed-up way of saying that it ought to be invited to go for a long walk, or take a nice nap, while the real business was conducted with you know who.

But Erickson would now and again begin a session by saying something like,"You know, you have a conscious mind and an unconscious mind, and I want to talk to both of them." And there were times when he would do exactly that, with near absolute fairness to each of the two minds--as for example in the celebrated disquisition directed to the conscious mind of Joe--a retired florist, riddled with cancer--on the structural and functional aspects of "a tomato plant," which was followed immediately by the even more celebrated sequence of variations in the vein of "A tomato plant, Joe, can be comfortable." (See Bandler & Grinder, "Patterns …," Vol. I)

It's really no surprise that Erickson could go either way. He was, you might say, ambidextrous.

When you listen to my talk on whole brain engagement in Ericksonian hypnotherapy, you are likely to hear me say things not unlike this: "Your dominant hand, in this case your right hand, which is actually controlled by your left cerebral hemisphere--which, in turn, may or may not be the same thing as your conscious mind--has informed me that you consider yourself to be an hierarchical sort of person. Your non-dominant hand, in this case your left hand, which is controlled by your right cerebral hemisphere--which, in turn, may or may not be the same thing as your unconscious mind--has informed me that you believe yourself to be rather an innovative person. I don't perceive any conflict between these two descriptors: in fact, they strike me as an intriguing combination, and I wonder if you've ever experienced yourself as being or having been hierarchically innovative, or perhaps being or having been innovatively hierarchical--or perhaps both. Or perhaps you haven't experienced yourself as having been either of these combinations yet."

The last sentence is, of course, the give-away. it's an Ericksonian locution if ever there were one: a suggestion that one or another (or perhaps more than one) co-mingling of resource-states is likely to occur at some time in the future.

So that's what this talk will be about: allowing, indeed inviting, the conscious mind to stick around for the trance--with perhaps just one stipulation: that it agree to behave itself and not try to push anyone else around, as it has probably been doing for much of its life.

So what will be the result? That will of course depend on you. And on me. And on how we dance together. But it would be lovely, wouldn't it, if we were to emerge with something to test-drive? Something in the nature of a model for hemispheric co-mingling--a beautiful partnership for creating surprising solutions, even where there are no problems.

David Fitelson holds a Ph.D. from Emory University in The History of Ideas. He was a professor of literature at Columbia and New School Universities in New York City before discovering the extraordinary healing power of mythopoetic communication as practiced by Dr. Erickson---at which point he decided to become a dairy farmer and then a psychotherapist.

His primary mentors in Ericksonian practice have been John Grinder and Stephen Gilligan. Since 1995, David has been Director of The New Mexican Connection for Advanced Communication in Santa Fe, where he leads workshops and extended trainings in Ericksonian Approaches to Psychotherapy. He has also presented throughout northern and central Europe and in his ancestral homeland, the former Soviet Union.