Jane: “March 11th. Dear Dr. Erickson. So direct of you to do away with needless formalities with a mere flick of the pen. I was totally unprepared for the ensuing onslaught. I hadn’t previously been aware of all those games (except for my procrastination game — as evidenced by my excuse concerning Dr. L.) which you so accurately perceived from my letter. Your perspicacity overwhelms me.“There was an understandable tone of indignation (as well as compassion) in your letter. To arouse your ire was never my intent. Apparently you credit me with guile in trying to mislead you, which again, I never intended.“My problem does not seem unfamiliar to you. In fact, I get that you read my letter as somewhat of a ‘form letter’ with the filled-in blanks from my particular history.“Yes, I still do want to be your patient. Yes, my failure neurosis is highly treasured — aren’t they all? I offer my apology for being so presumptuous as to try to place a restriction upon therapy.“I await your response. Yours, humbly, George Leckie.P.S. I don’t usually stutter as severely as I did on the phone with you that day. I was especially nervous and fearful. I still am fearful of you.”
“March 7th. Dear Mr. Leckie. Since your telephone call to me to ask for help when you were unable to ask for help and had to be told how to communicate with me which you should have done without being told to do so, I will summarize your problem for you, perhaps hoping in vain that it may serve some purpose for you advantageously.“Usually such phone calls as you made are not followed by the requested letter. If a letter is sent, there is a delay attributed to someone else — Dr. L. in your case.“Next, there is an account of a long career in seeking help and not accepting it, but occasionally offering a brief token acceptance.“Invariably there is a listing of probable and possible causes of the problem, thus insuring the possibility for the therapist to look in the wrong direction, thereby making more certain the continuance of the long career of diligent search without results. Only by remaining unaware of the cause can a problem be successfully retained.“To demonstrate a consistency in patterns of behavior, other types of failures must be mentioned — for you, music, maturing, making a living, not getting a Ph.D.“The letter would be incomplete without some neatly worded subtle threats. In your case, a promise to mistrust and not cooperate, among others.“Most vital of all is the placing of a restriction, however small, upon therapy. It need not even be rational, just some kind of restriction, even an irrelevant one as was your restriction of Tuesday evenings through April. By what stretch of imagination did you manage to think that you could have any of my evenings?“If you have read this letter to this point, surely the question must arise, ‘Do you want to be my patient?’ Does it not suggest that I might deal with your highly treasured problem, as attested by your seven years of devotion to drugs which at best can only impede speech?”“Do I expect a reply to this letter???? Yours, with what you may consider abominable sincerity, Milton H.Erickson, M.D.”
E: Here is a patient who called me up several weeks previously. I said, “Hello.” And he said, “Ba-ba, be, be, be, be, ba.” I said, “Write to me,” and hung up.Now, several weeks later, he writes this long story about his neurosis and seven years’ devotion to drugs. I thought immediately, getting a late letter in reply to my telephone request, “Here is one of those professional patients who never is going to get well, and who will play me for a sucker to get all my time and energy and have it result in a failure.” So I read that letter and wrote back a letter that I thought would appeal to him and induce him to write another letter that I could use in teaching.(To Jane.) All right.Jane: (Continues by reading the letter of response that Erickson wrote.)
“The pattern of my life has heretofore been as follows: In all of my undertakings, initially there is the promise of dazzling success. Things go well until the going gets a little rough. This is when I usually give up and fail.“I am particularly hopeful to give up the pattern of stuttering, because it really has prevented me from flowing freely with other people and sometimes even being with them. I have also allowed it to prevent my expansive movement in the world. Since it is a childhood trait, to an extent it keeps me feeling like a child.“My life right now is entering upon a period of change, but at present I am still unable to manifest my skills in the world and earn my living. My current situation is wracked with existential guilt. The only jobs presently available to me are semiskilled or unskilled labor jobs. This is painfully unsatisfactory to me in light of my past. I sailed through graduate school (in operations research and theoretical statistics) dropping out before I got a Ph.D. in order to pursue music. I did music for a while — things went well. I was liking to hear what I played and was receiving some recognition for my music. Then I stopped playing for a while, and when I resumed I felt that there was less consciousness and more rigidity in my left side. From that point on my music has been deteriorating, and I no longer consider myself a serious professional musician. With my diminished ability to play music, my self-hate has increased, as did my consumption of drugs. It has only been in the last two years that I have been tapering off drugs (I was taking them pretty regularly for seven years).“I feel like I am in a stronger place now and have an ardent desire to make my life work. I am hopeful about the prospect of working with you, although I am consciously aware of a strong resistance to being healthy, which still continues to haunt me. This resistance is part of my ego- pattern too. Perhaps out of fear or mistrust, I subtly resist cooperating with people.“I hope to hear from you soon. I look forward to working with you if you will take me on. I will be available at your convenience after the first of April (except Tuesday evenings through April). Respectfully yours, George Leckie.”
Now, who has a good reading voice in English? Don’t shout all at once.Jane: I do.E: (Erickson hands her the transcript.) Read that letter aloud.Jane: “February 29th. Dear Dr. Erickson. I am writing in response to your request during our phone conversation of some weeks ago that I write you. I would have written sooner, but I wanted to check with Dr. L. to see if she was interested in accompanying me to Phoenix (if it is possible to see you). She was out of town for a few weeks and hence the delay. It was she who highly recommended you to me. She also indicated that she is interested in coming to Phoenix with me if it can possibly fit into her already overloaded schedule.“Concerning my problem, I began to stutter somewhere between the ages of four to four-and-a-half. I began to speak in the twelfth month of life. The onset of the stutter was pretty nearly coincident with the birth of my sister (my first sibling), and a tonsillectomy sometime early in my fifth year. As to how these events related to my stutter, I have never quite pieced them together. I have made many attempts to unravel childhood traumas, including conventional psychotherapy, unsuccessful attempts at hypnosis (Dr. L. thinks I can be hypnotized), and “scream” therapy with C. D., the Fisher-Hoffman Process. I have tried various “body” therapies, i.e., Rolfing, Lomi body work, polarity therapy, acupuncture, bioenergetics, and breathing techniques. I have tried mechanical devices. I have done EST, as well as many meditative, spiritual, and yogic practices. My stutter still remains. Some of the things I have tried have helped me in varying amounts, but I have the feeling that there still remains some highly charged material from the past which I am mortally afraid to face.“Several Bay Area psychic friends of mine have told me that my relationship with my mother is still unresolved. I am also aware that I have difficulty dealing with anger. Although I am SO years old, people tell me that I am childlike (many people find it hard to believe that I am over 20), and many still regard me as a child. I want to grow up and get on with my life. I am tired of living my life in this emotional soup.