Blog Hypnosis

Stephen Gilligan Interview

Recently, I have been learning a lot from Stephen’s Gilligan’s book, Generative Trance, and listening to his audios. In addition, I was lucky to take part in two webinars with him recently and have become very interested in his approach. Gilligan’s approach to hypnosis is highly influenced by his training with Erickson and he is well respected in the mainstream Erickson community.
Like most hypnotists, he believes that the Unconscious has much to offer in changing habits, behaviours, and in generating more fun and useful ways to live life. In traditional hypnosis, the conscious mind of the client is often considered to be in the way and standard inductions can be seen as a way of bypassing the critical faculty of the conscious mind. Even Erickson tended to talk primarily to the Unconscious mind.
Gilligan’s model is a little different. He suggests that we have three ‘minds’: A somatic mind, a cognitive mind, and a field mind. Each of these minds can be in three states of consciousness: primitive, ego, or generative. Ideally, we wish to raise all three minds to the level of generative in order to access all of our own resources. I’m not entirely convinced by Gilligan’s model and terminology, especially when he throws around words like quantum consciousness.
I’d prefer to keep the word ‘quantum’ fully in the sphere of physics until (and if) we establish that consciousness somehow does involve quantum mechanics. It may do, and certainly some have suggested (see the Wikipedia article) that quantum mechanics can explain the workings of the brain better than classical mechanics. The ideas in the Wikipedia article are disputed by many, and to me it would seem more pragmatic to leave out words like ‘quantum’ and to simply talk about levels of trance or something similar.
I’ve read through Gilligan’s book several times and continue to use his style of inductions with both myself and others. They work – I don’t really know why – and I’m continuing to try to figure things out a little better. I always find that it’s useful to have a fairly good understanding of why something works because we can then know what to change when it doesn’t work in any particular case. Additionally, when we understand what is going on, we can deliberately tweak things to make them better. I continue to learn!
And as part of that learning journey, I just came across an interesting interview with Stephen Gilligan on YouTube.

There are some lovely lines in the interview including a description of a radical younger John Grinder.

I met John Grinder who was teaching a course called Political Economy of the United States … long enough for him to espouse the radical  overthrow of the United States Government by whatever means necessary.

Grinder and Bandler had just gotten together and had written The Structure of Magic. Gregory Bateson sent them out to meet Erickson saying:

If you guys really want to know about patterns of communication, he’s the man.

Grinder and Bandler took up Gregory on his challenge and did indeed learn about the patterns of communication of Milton Erickson. They wrote about them extensively in the two-volume series: The Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson. This is not the most readable book, but it laid the foundation for thousands of NLP practitioners to begin to use the Milton model and to get a quick start into the techniques of effective indirect hypnosis.
When Gilligan heard about when Erickson was doing, he says that it “opened up something inside him like a fire.” This led to a period of 5 years for Gilligan learning from Milton Erickson while he simultaneously studied at Stanford University. Interestingly, he did some of his research with Ernest Hilgard who was developing standards for very traditional forms of hypnosis. Then during the holidays, Gilligan would head out to Erickson’s house and learn the much more indirect forms that Erickson was using.
One formative experience for Stephen Gilligan was a Deep Trance Identification (DTI) with Erickson which was facilitated by Grinder and Bandler. Grinder had read about DTI in hypnosis journals and had learned that artists had dropped into a deep trance and been able to learn to paint like Rembrandt or other masters. Through DTI, their artistic capacity was significantly improved. They induced a deep trance in Stephen Gilligan and led him to have a DTI experience where he ‘became’ Erickson. Gilligan says that it was a “really deep profound experience”. He particularly noticed two things:

1. When I opened my eyes, everything was quiet and it was a very different experience than I had assumed that Erickson had. Because you read all these incredibly clever strategies that his mind must have been buzzing a mile a minute with all sorts of manipulation. But what I experienced was that everything was quiet.
2. When I looked around, everybody was already in a trance and that has been one of the most important experiences. It wasn’t that I had to put them into trance. They were already there. It was a great relief to realize that hypnosis is not something you do to people. It is something that you attune to in people and you just draw it out and bring their attention to it.

Gilligan sees ‘utilization’ as the most important aspect of Ericksonian hypnosis. He also learned that ‘life is to be enjoyed’ – a message that he got strongly from Erickson. 

We’ve got this little opportunity and the meter’s running. We could waste it all worrying or trying to be something we’re not and then at the end of our life we would look back and realized what was the point.

Erickson was already old when Gilligan studied with him:

I knew him when he was an old man he had  suffered tremendously – he was in absolute pain every day – he usually had to do four or five hours of deep pain control this was a guy who in a very deep real way enjoyed life.
And when Erickson was sitting cutting vegetables for the family dinner and totally engaged in the activity, Gilligan quotes Erickson as saying “I always enjoy discovering what I can do and I take great pleasure in that.”
There’s a whole lot to be learned from Milton Erickson and the extensions of his work by Stephen Gilligan and others. I have found that it helps me into deeper states of trance than other methods. I still have no real idea how it is achieving this despite reading Gilligan’s books and notes. I could quote him further and will do so in future posts, but there is something going on that is much deeper than the words. Keep learning!

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