You tell your patients in the trance state to think over their pain. Maybe they can't cut out the nagging quality of the pain, but maybe they can cut the burning quality; maybe they can cut out the heavy quality. Or maybe they can keep the heavy, dull aspect of the pain, and lose the burning, the cutting, the lancinating, shooting qualities of the pain. And what have you done? You have asked your patients to take the total experience of pain and to fragment it into a variety of sensations; and as surely as your patients fragment their pain, . . . they have reduced it (Erickson, 1986, p. 81).
alteration of sensations. You have aching pains in your legs that distress you very greatly; you are suffering from arthritis. But if you will examine those sensations, you will find, perhaps, a feeling of warmth; perhaps a feeling of coolness; perhaps a feeling of coldness; and now how about extending some of those sensations? (Erickson, 1986, p. 104).
I asked my patient to tell me whether I should take care of the cutting pain next — or should it be the burning pain, or the hard, cold pain, or the lancinating pain? What does the patient do in response to such a question? He immediately divides his pain experience, psychologically, into a great variety of separate kinds of pain . . . (Erickson, 1983, p. 223).
There are certain transformations that can be brought about here. You know how that first mouthful of dessert tastes so very good? And even the second mouthful still tastes good; but by the time you reach the sixty-sixth mouthful, it doesn't taste so good. You have lost the liking for it, and the taste of the dessert has changed in some peculiar way. It hasn't become bad; it has just "died out" in flavor. Now, as you pay attention to these various sensations in your body that you have described to me, I would like you to name the particular sensation that you want me to work on first (Erickson, 1983, pp. 225-226).
I want to know if that grinding pain is a rapid grinding pain or a slow grinding pain. Or, I can suggest an addition to the grinding: "If you will just pay attention to that grinding pain you will notice that it is a slow grinding pain." I have added my own adjective of slow to the patient's grinding pain, and if the patient does not accept slow I can slip over to rapid grinding pain. Why? Because anything that I do to alter the patient's subjective experience of pain is going to lessen that pain . . ." (Erickson, 1983, p. 228).
And I explained to her with profound apologies that even though I had relieved the pain of her cancer by this numbness, I would have to confess that I was going to be an absolute failure in one regard. I would not be able to remove the pain from the site of the surgical scar. Instead of removing absolutely all of the pain, the best, the very best, that I could do would be to leave the scar area with an annoying, disagreeable, great-big-mosquito-like feeling. It would be something awfully annoying; something she would feel helpless about; something she would wish would stop. But it would be endurable, and I impressed that point on Cathy's mind. It took me four hours to accomplish everything (Erickson, 1983, p. 172).
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