The Story Teller – A Lesson From The World’s Greatest Hypnotist

By Ernest O’Dell

Pull up a chair and sit down.  Relax.  Let me tell you a brief story about the World’s Greatest Hypnotist and how he learned an important secret about writing.

Milton Erickson was a legendary psychiatrist.  He used hypnotism long before it became an acceptable practice in the field of medicine and psychiatry.  He was brought up before the Board of Examiners of the Psychiatric Association and was going to be stripped of his license to practice.

Before the board convened, he managed to catch up with the most influential members of the board—the chief decision makers—who could make or break his career.  He got them off to the side for just a few minutes—and in the short space of a conversation—changed the outcome of his hearing.

Not only did the board allow him to continue using hypnotism in his practice, but officially sanctioned hypnotism as acceptable in the field of medicine and psychiatry.

How did he do that?  How did he change the outcome of his trial?  Because, that’s exactly what it was!  He was on trial.

Without them knowing it, Dr. Erickson hypnotized them and gave them a pre-determined response.

Ethical?  Some would say yes, others would say no.  Effective?  Absolutely!

Could this have dangerous side effects?  In the wrong hands, and with the wrong intentions, I imagine it could be.

For decades after that trial, Dr. Erickson was considered the foremost authority and practitioner of hypnosis and became famous for his unique methods of induction.

It was documented that he could put you into a hypnotic trance with a handshake, or with a calm tone of voice in his conversation.

One of his greatest achievements was using stories to put people into a “waking trance.”  His innovative approach to curing people of various ills have led to numerous books by him and about him.

Erickson himself was one of the three people who inspired the development and creation of NLP: Neuro-Linguistic-Programming, a new field of communications and behavioral study.

It is used by top interrogators in various fields of law enforcement, by many intelligence agencies around the world, and by businesses.

Yes: when you hear, see or read an ad by some businesses, you are being “programmed.”

One day, Erickson had to write a paper about hypnosis and medical treatment.  He had a difficult time getting it down on paper because he wasn’t sure how to write it.

What this colorful psychiatrist did next was brilliant.

Erickson put himself into a hypnotic trance and tapped into his unconscious mind for guidance.  Don’t ask me how he did it; I don’t know.  I’m not a hypnotist.  All I know is what I’ve read about him.

When he came out of his self induced trance, he looked down and found several comic books laying in his lap.  He didn’t know what to think of it and didn’t have time to think about them at that time.  About that time the doorbell rang and he had to leave to go see a client.

But he didn’t forget the comic books.

What did the comic books mean?

What was his unconscious trying to tell him?

What do you think was going on?

What happened next is will totally shock you like a bolt of lightning!

What Erickson finally realized was that comic books are written in a very simple and direct style.  There are very few words, but lots of pictures.  Every idea in the story line gets communicated in a brief, but very effective way.  Everyone understands comics.

I had a friend, yeas ago, in Houston, Texas who was hearing impaired.  We worked together on the same job for several years, and he had been “mainstreamed” in the schools to read lips.  (My “signing” abilities in American Sign Language were elementary, at best.)

However, Mark, would get animated around other hearing impaired people and tell stories in ASL (American Sign Language).  He would draw crowds and they would all stand around in rapt attention “listening” to him as he weaved his story like a weaver working on a loom.

It wasn’t until then that I finally figured out why Mark had such an amazing ability to draw crowds and communicate so effectively: He read comic books all the time!

Now, I only mention this because, at the time, I thought it “beneath me” to read comic books.  Why!  I was just too “above that” to lower myself in my reading standards.  I thought them beneath me because I prided myself on reading scholarly works.

Little did I know that the scholarly approach to writing, and ad copy, wasn’t working.

I learned how to totally rearrange my style by watching Mark, and I went back to reading comic books.  It was then that I realized how much I had been missing by not reading comics for so long.  Now I have a valuable collection of “mint condition” collectors items.

Anyway, back to Erickson and his “Aha!” moment…

Comics were, and still are, written in such a way that even kids can make sense of them.  This doesn’t mean that we have to “dumb down” our work for the masses, but we have to make our writing “riveting” in a way that it will hold adult’s attention, like it did when we were kids.

Like Mark used to do with his fans.

Erickson knew that he had to communicate his ideas so simply that even a child could grasp his meaning.  He knew that if he expressed himself in simple terms, every adult would be able to understand him.

I used to put my work in front of junior high and high school students and have them read it.  I would have them “critique” it for me.  If they could understand it, then I was successful in communicating my ideas.  If they didn’t understand it, then I went back and re-worked the copy.

This is the important lesson to learn here:

If you can imagine a child, or a student, reading and understanding your work, then you have become successful at writing in a way that everyone will understand.

If someone, anyone, doesn’t understand the meaning of what you wrote, then it means you didn’t succeed in writing clear and direct material.

Erickson was a genius.  He learned to write in a way that was like his practice: hypnotic.

You might not be writing for children: your market might be geared to a different market sector.  But you must—you MUST—speak to that “inner child” in your reader.  When you do that, you will succeed in communicating to your reader.

When you speak to that inner child of your reader, you speak directly to his or her subconscious.  You will plant hypnotic triggers in their unconscious mind.  Few people can resist what their inner child likes.  Speak to that “child” and you WILL hold his attention.

Erickson once said in a lecture that “…the unconscious mind is decidedly simple, unaffected, straightforward and honest…”  It’s really not complicated at all.  It’s like talking to a child.

Your assignment?  Read some comic books!

Ernest ODell – Guerrilla Internet Marketing
Dominant Marketing Strategies
(a subsidiary of DMS Group)


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