There is a famous story that Milton Erickson used to tell about the studies of Margaret Mead, Jane Belo, and Gregory Bateson when they went to Bali in the 1930′s. They found the Balinese people can go into a deep trance at a blink and in fact can do things like go to the market, accomplish their shopping, even visit a neighbor–all while in a trance. Autohypnosis is part of their daily life. The three famous researchers actually brought back movies of this occurring for Erickson to examine. Of course it didn’t surprise him; he recognized this is not a culturally specific phenomenon, but pointed out that for all peoples, trance is a rather ordinary everyday experience (My Voice Will Go With You: The Teaching Tales of Milton Erickson, edited and commentary by Sidney Rosen, p.74). Erickson himself was legendary for recognizing hypnotherapeutic opportunities and making lightning-fast use of them.
Rapid Resolution therapists are keenly interested in making rapid connections with our clients and making best use of these naturally occurring states. We could, in the best sense of the term, call this Guerilla Connection. We want the world to drop away for the client, to grab their complete attention, and to create a special kind of joining experience, because it sets up a profound receptivity to our healing interventions. There are subtle changes that indicate a client’s “response attentiveness.” They will vary a bit from person to person but could include a flattening of facial expressions, staring, absence of blinking, and almost complete immobility.
This can be created in multiple ways: as we demonstrate interest and understanding in their situation; as we use appropriate humor and become interesting, even intriguing, to the client; as we provide uplift, separating identity from illness language and using tense changes to locate trouble in the past; as we use voice to create pauses, tonal emphases, or duplicate word choice, rate and volume of speech; as we use our own body to mirror posture and rate of breathing; as we listen to stories from their personal lives and catch certain signs of trance, particularly rich, sensory-laden words that are anchoring an experience that is pivotal for them. I’m remembering one lady who started telling me about being able to smell her deceased mother’s perfume sometimes. In retrospect, I missed that one. I only needed to tell her “That’s it. Stay with that” and she would have slipped into an immediate connection, a connection she had previously been blocked from.
A person’s language can tell a lot about their preferred channel for forming connection. Someone sharing with you something from “the way they see it” or from their “point of view” is likely to favor visual input. But not everyone is visual or adept at creating images in their mind’s eye. Another person may emphasize the verbs “hear” or “say” in their reports of experience, or what something “sounded like” to them; they may automatically assume they must recite large fragments of conversation for you to get what they experienced. Such a person favors auditory input. And, of course, others will “lean toward” being “in touch with” something, or the “feel” of an experience. They will even demonstrate with their bodies through shudders, shrugs, and shifts of posture whether they were “comfortable” or not with something. These are the kinesthetic folk.
Of course, Guerilla Connection works both ways. The other day as I was checking out of a restaurant and paying for the meal at the counter, a sudden sneeze came on me. One of those that tickle for a while and work its way up, that you try your hardest not to have. As my hand went up instinctively to protect others from the spray I thought sure was coming, the cashier mirrored my hand and raised hers suddenly to her own nose while her eyes riveted me. The raising of the hand to cover the mouth and nose is a universal gesture that she recognized and used to join me. While shaking her head “No” she ordered me to say “Watermelon, Watermelon, Watermelon” three times! I looked at her in amazement because it sounded urgent and ridiculous, like the words “Ab-ra Ca-da-bra” before the climactic moment of a magic trick. I obeyed like a schoolboy and said the magic word “Watermelon” three times. And you know what, it worked! Not only no sneeze, but the tickle completely vanished. In about 2.5 seconds she had created a “purposeful communication utilizing connection, credibility, and effective language to get the desired response from the subconscious.” She had done a Guerilla Connection on me and performed a mini piece of good-samaritan therapy.
I’m just amazed by language and all the other ways we communicate and how, as a species, we connect in the everyday to help each other. As you sit down with someone, or even as they walk into your office, keep all channels open and you may find a way to do a Guerilla Connection and make something very powerful happen fast.
Mark A. Chidley, LMHC, Certified Rapid Resolution Therapist, CAP, a fully licensed mental health counselor and certified addictions professional, offers counseling services at his office Kelly San Carlos Executive Center in Fort Myers, Florida.He has been in private practice since 1997. He holds certifications in Rapid Trauma Resolution(2010), Imago Relationship therapy (2001), and now specializes in the treatment of couples as well as individual trauma recovery and anxiety issues. He brings rich experience from a combined 26 years of hospital work and mental health counseling.