In the American Midwest at the early part of the century a 17 year old boy was strapped in a rocking chair in the centre of his bedroom. He had spent a number of months in that chair during the day. This was because an attack of polio had left him with only the ability to do two things – hear and see. He had been left unable to move. On this occasion his busy farming parents had temporarily forgotten to move him to the window and as he sat there he thought longingly of his brothers and sisters playing outside and the activity of the farm they lived on. He longed to be able to see them play. He suddenly became aware his rocking chair moved slightly. Was this just an accident or did his longing and wondering somehow cause an imperceptible movement in a supposedly immobile body?
In this particular boy this began a process of intense internal activity, self-exploration and the momentous discovery that the idea or thought of movement could actually lead to automatic body movement. The intensity of the possibility of movement to health drove this particular child to begin recalling all his sense memories of muscular activity. He would stare at his hand for hours trying to recall what his fingers felt like grasping a pitchfork. Gradually his fingers began uncoordinated movement. He persisted and as the twitching movements became larger he began exercising conscious control. He explored what his hands would feel like grasping a branch he used to swing from and how his other limbs felt as they climbed a tree.
Later as an adult he clarified the process that took him to rehabilitation. In that it was not imagination but an intense memory. He would recall all the twist and turns as he liked to jump from one tree to another eliciting all the movements associated with working muscles.
This was not the full story of his recovery. Another important element was simultaneously observing in the minutest detail his baby sister learning to stand up. And began copying this. Within a year of this intense self-training he was on crutches and on his way to eventual mobility.
This boy was Milton Erickson and he went on to become the most influential hypnotherapist of the 20th Century. What Erickson discovered for himself was the power of an intelligence that was not just mental or thinking intelligence. He was at pains to point out that it was not his imagination but his sensory memory that was operating. Nowadays we may describe it as cellular or subconscious intelligence. Due to dire necessity he had stumbled upon modern hypnotherapy training. The first hypnotherapy training he developed and administered to himself. This personal hypnotherapy training became the basis of his lifetime’s work.