To Pick a Raisin

“After walking out grapes on vinethe backdoor, Elizabeth ambled off to the grape patch and decided to sit there on the ground until she could pick a raisin from the vine. Knowing that it might take some time for the grape to completely dehydrate, she closed her eyes, straightened her spine and began to meditate.”

“WHAT?” our rational mind protests. “You can’t just wait there until a grape shrivels into a raisin. It could take days. She can’t sit in meditation for days! That’s illogical.”

But the subconscious mind understood the story as metaphor for delayed gratification and immediately got the message from it. Elizabeth knew what she wanted, was willing to wait for it, and considered the wait-time as soul-nourishing and acceptable. It isn’t meant as a literal interpretation of events; it’s a hypnosis device called an Ericksonian metaphor.

Just to be clear, this brief story isn’t about the “dreams deferred” of Langston Hughes’ classic poem “Harlem” or the amazing 1959 Broadway play by Lorraine Hansberry, called “A Raisin in the Sun.”

This story is about how metaphors, particularly Ericksonian metaphors, access that inner systems program that runs our life—which is our subconscious mind—the behind the scenes controller of almost everything we think and do—from how we perceive and interpret the world around us, to how we react to those perceptions, because sometimes we automatically think someone is referring to one thing, when they are instead talking about another.

I was actually providing my own childhood memory of walking out the backdoor, going over to the grapevine area between our backyard and the garden, and sitting down waiting for the then tart green grapes to ripen to sweet burgundy for eating. My grandmother had come over to me sittingrapes-or-raisinsg there and said I’d be waiting a long time for that to happen—like days; and I said I’d wait.

Of course I didn’t. Kids have no concept of time. But my grandmother also told me back then that if I waited there long enough, those grapes would miraculously change to raisins. I later learned that “miraculously” meant to dehydrate in the sun and shrivel on the vine. But miraculously sounded so much better.

Miraculous is how hypnosis works. I admit that hypnosis and NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) absolutely fascinate me. That’s why I’ve been trained in those techniques.

I’m fascinated with them because so much of our lives we believe the world around us to be one particular way, and seldom comprehend that the world around us is how we perceive it to be. It is our perception of the world that makes it the way that it appears. And our perception is very changeable.

In the last 9 paragraphs I have shown that how you perceive and decipher what is presentemilton ericksond to you can be easily manipulated and refocused toward a desired conclusion. That’s the beauty of Ericksonian metaphors: It’s like being driven around the countryside by your eccentric Aunt Betty, who after hours of wrong turns and harrowing near misses of both stationary and moving objects, she somehow manages to find her way back to your home just in time for dinner.

The desired effect is: early suggestion of delayed gratification, food references as rewards for patience, proposed childhood memories to trigger your own childhood memories substantiating suggested premises; and last effect is to refocus your mind on how your perception miraculously creates the world that you experience.

I mean, seriously, …Aunt Betty was just too erratic to drive anyone, including herself, but it’s strange how she always knew when it was time for dinner at our house. I’d call that Selective Craziness; and it worked for her.

The Hypnotic Power of Metaphor and Storytelling

From the beginning of my hypnosis training, I’ve been a fan of Dr. Milton Erickson, often best known for his prolific use of metaphors and casual storytelling to seamlessly integrate hypnotic suggestions past a client’s more resistant conscious awareness. Those Ericksonian “Secret Ops” techniques were skillfully employed as needed at the time.

In other situations with less-resistant hypnosis clients, Erickson was direct and specific about the requested changes to be made, but fewer people remember him for protocol shock-inductions of pretending to shake a new person’s hand and instead momentarily confusing the client with a quick arm-lift movement followed by commands to drop him into a deep-trance state.

That was more the stage show aspect of his practice. It revealed his total mastery of the medium and wowed his audiences every time. That’s not the aspect of Erickson that I admire.

While it often produced positive results for clients, to me it also violated a basic trust between the client and the hypnotist. You don’t pretend to do one thing and instead shock them into a confused state to easier access their subconscious mind. That’s not my style of hypnosis.

I don’t care for that kind of deception. I find it unethical and unacceptable. So as much as I admire Erickson’s many storytelling techniques, I will not jerk your hands or arms around to “put you under,” as it was then called, but I will talk a lot and do a lot of guided imagery in a hypnosis session because I want clients to feel comfortable and safe in my office, and to naturally relax into their requested life changes, while I simply clear the obstacles from their path to reach them.

Some of you might have even noticed, that most my blog posts are very Ericksonian: full of metaphors and suggestions—some indirect, some direct. But I never try to deceive a reader, because I personally feel that if you once violate someone’s trust in you, that person will never completely trust you again.Image

And if you wrote something with the intention of deception, then how can you even trust yourself?

This alludes back to my previous post of “Baby the Rain Must Fall” on the two NLP books premise about incongruent behavior being a leading cause of disharmony and dissatisfaction in many lives. When our behaviors don’t match our values, we end up fighting with ourselves, and that is not a battle anyone can win.

So, I’ll conclude this tribute to Dr. Milton Erickson post with Shakespearian prose from Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)  :

Juliet:  “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” … and an Ericksonian metaphor: “A rose by its very sweetness smells.”

“Baby the Rain Must Fall”

It’s a good 60’s song—slightly dated, but still lyrically solid with a catchy tune. Sung at the time by Glenn Yarborough, the repeating chorus is: “Baby, the rain must fall. Baby, the wind must blow. Wherever my heart leads me, ….baby, I must go, …baby, I must go.”Image

That was an anthem of the sixties generation: Wherever my heart leads me, …baby, I must go. Funny to think that many of those free-spirited, idealistic, make-love-not-war, folks of the mid-sixties have now become the established autocrats running the world.

How could that ever be? Did their hearts lead them into international banking industries and global exploitation? How do you turn the free-love-hippies generation into world domineering power-brokers? Was it magic, …or just greed? Was that song refrain actually: “Wherever money leads me, …baby, I must go”?

In reality, sometimes our inner values take a hit to external demands. Somewhere, at sometime, our “heart” leading us may concede that direction over to our “head” that prefers living a more comfortable and secure lifestyle. We may cave on our values— pushing aside our ideals for the promise of something more lucrative and predictable.

Sometimes we justify what we do for whatever reason best fits the moment; and we might tell ourselves that we aren’t really giving up our dreams of simplicity and non-conformance—we are just maximizing our present potential to create the best possible future for ourselves and for our loved ones. Now who hasn’t said that same thing?

Why I mention this at all is that I was just reading a couple hypnosis/NLP books on incongruent behavior being a leading cause of why people can’t find a viable solution to their problems: with relationships, in careers, and in feeling that they have no sense of purpose to their lives. Both books’ premise was that these problems occur when people find their behaviors in conflict with their values.

Whenever we pit ourselves against ourselves, even unknowingly, we invite dysfunction and failure into our lives. We set ourselves up for dissatisfaction and unhappiness by failing to be true to who we are and what we believe about life in general.

The books suggested that people should “be true to their values and follow their hearts” to lead more satisfying and successful lives. Sounds like a familiar song, doesn’t it?

But what happens when the rain is falling and the wind is blowing, and your pockets are empty? Are you following your heart to the soup kitchen and the homeless shelter?

That is part of the problem with being true to our values: we don’t live in an ideal world that applauds that sort of thing. So we make choices in the moment. One choice leads to options in one direction, and one choice may lead in the other direction.

It’s that Robert Frost “Two roads diverged in a yellow woods…” dilemma. Which road do you take?

I think that is an important decision we all must make at some time in our lives, but hopefully we at least make it in full awareness of whether our hearts or our heads are leading the way.

However, that also means we must KNOW who we truly are and what we truly want from our lives to be able to recognize the difference between those two choices.

My suggestion: meditate, journal, and spend some quality time just getting to know yourself so you can determine what you DO truly value in your life.