Milton Erickson's Gardener

    Almost everyone who is in to NLP andhypnosis will have heard of Dr. Milton Erickson.


    But really you should be studying his gardener.

    I'm not kidding.

    This guy was no ordinary gardener.

    Way back in 1975 he started his professional life as a hippie transpersonal counsellor.

    Then got into NLP, before Richard and John even got a name on it.

    After a stint in school studying family therapy, he landed himself a role as Milton Erickson's gardener.

    [Must of been one hell of a job gardening all those tomatoes that Milton kept talking about!]

    His name is Bill O'Hanlon.

    After being Dr. Erickson's only work/study student for many years he went on to create his own approach to change work, which he calls Solution-oriented approach.

    This gardener did an excellent job documenting how patterns of habit and stuckness can be broken up, to then form new more helpful behaviours.

    You can learn all about them in his book

    Do One Thing Differently.

    Here's one I use all the time.

    When you or someone you are working with has a problem that just seems to hang around and they haven't been able to change, have them...

    Change The Doing Of The Problem

    First you need to figure out when, where, how, for how long, in what context and what does the person (you or your client) do when the problem occurs.

    Then choose one or more elements of how the person does the problem and change it.

    For example a client came to me who had negative repetitive thoughts that were anchored every time he saw a certain type of   
    person on the street.

    He had no record 'how' the negative response got wired up. He hadn't had any kind of confrontation with this group of people. This abnormal behaviour as he called it, just started out of the blue a six months ago and he was feeling terrorised by his own thoughts.

    He told me, when he saw this type of person his inner voice would shout negative slurs against them. This made him feel bad that he   
    inner dialogue was abusive toward a total stranger.

    He felt embarrassed that he had "no control" over it.

    The more it happened the more wound up he became to the point where he woke up anxious about what would happen today.

    Worse; the level of silent abuse was increasing.

    He needed help.

    We discussed his pattern of behaviour and came up with two simple things he would do next time the situation occurred.

    Time to mess with the pattern.

    So I had him:

    1. Break up a previously whole unit of behaviour with conscious intentional relaxation

    Normally when he saw a certain type of person approaching, he would find himself getting stressed. The closer the person would approach him, the more anxious the client would get, fearful of what dreadful things would pop up in his mind.

    Instead what I had him do upon seeing the person was intentionally SHIFT his focus to what part of his body felt most relaxed.

    He held stress in his shoulders so he moved his attention to his  stomach and let that feeling of relaxation grow and grow.

    At first there was a conflicting feeling going on as we practiced this, where he felt stress AND relaxed at the same time, in different parts of his body.

    Then quickly his body began to relax more deeply quicker each time we practiced.

    What was a great surprise for the client; his stressful state dissipated much faster than before.

    Instead of 20 minutes to leave his system, it was gone in under a minute.

    Secondly, I had him...

    2. Introduce Run-on Sentences for his inner dialogue

    When the 'problem person' walked by him and his automatic inner dialogue went into high gear shouting abusive things; I had him extend and change the inner thought... using run-on sentences.

    This is a fun thing to do.

    So if the automatic dialogue was:

         "Look at that lazy bugger, probably   
         hasn't worked a f**king day in his   
         life."

    Rather than let the sentence end there, his job was to chime in and add something that would change the meaning that was upsetting him so much.

    So he'd add something like:

         "... and isn't he lucky if he has.

         Life is easier without stress. And heck,   
         I have no idea what is going on in his   
         life. Maybe this guy works harder than   
         me. Maybe he has had to work ten times   
         as hard to get where he has got.

         If I've learned one thing it's never   
         judge a book by it's cover!"

    This simple change to his inner dialogue enabled him to feel better and 'move on' rather than ruminate on what had just gone on.

    We wanted his brain to get the message:

    Nothing to notice here. Move on.

    Situations that previously he described as "incidences" became "events", which over time became not worth noticing.

    Within a week he was feeling much or in control.

    Within 2 he noticed there were times his brain "forgot" to re-act.

    Within a month he found it "weird" that it "just didn't occur" anymore.

    Solution-oriented therapy has a lot of offer the practitioner of change.

    Milton's gardener is worth studying.

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