Erickson's Stories
"Walking Down the Street"
You, at your present age, walk down the street; you try to walk in a straight line at a steady pace, and you happen to be hungry and you automatically slow down when you pass the first restaurant. If you are a woman you may automatically veer towards a jeweler's window. If you are a sportsman you automatically veer towards a sporting-goods store window. If you have been neglecting your teeth and you know you should get a dental appointment and don't care for that, you automatically speed up when you pass a dental building.

I took up a station where I could watch young women walking past a medical building. When they altered their gait in a certain way, slowed down, and their arm swinging altered and a very soft expression came over their faces as they walked past the medical building, I would cross over and ask, "Was the first frog test or the rabbit test positive?" Unthinkingly, they would say, "The first one was, or I hope it will be."

One young woman altered her walk, arm swing, and facial expression. You could see a fear reaction! You have to be careful--she is not married!

Every person, old or young, male or female, automatically slows down as if the air had become thick and difficult to penetrate. Do you know at what building?--a bakery! That powerful olfactory stimulus slows you automatically.

Again, we are given an example illustrating that most of our behavior is unconsciously determined. Erickson is also inserting frequent references to "automatic" behavior. Thus, this tale is useful in encouraging a patient to allow himself to respond automatically in a hypnotic trance, especially if the words are delivered in a rhythmic way.

Of course, this story can be used diagnostically as well. One can note a patient's response as one mentions the various elements in the story--the jeweler, the sporting-goods store, the dental building. Concerns about pregnancy may emerge in the response to the part that refers to a young woman's concern about being pregnant. The commentary about the bakery may very easily bring a subject back to early childhood memories that are associated with the smells of baking or cooking.

I wondered why Erickson emphasized the fact that "every person....slows down automatically" when passing a bakery. I finally realized that the message he was giving me was "Slow down, Rosen." He is telling all of his listeners to slow down and allow time for learning and for sensory associations.

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