Milton H. Erickson was the greatest hypnotist, a medical doctor and a master in the field of metaphor. He was just as much at ease speaking to a client or patient in that person’s metaphoric language as he was in day-to-day conversation with a “normal” person.
One thing he adamantly refused to do, which sharply distinguished him from other therapists, was to “explain” the metaphor to his client or patient.
He was totally unwilling to “interpret” to people what their metaphors meant to them.
He did not translate “unconscious” communication into conscious form.
Erickson always worked within the metaphoric context of his patient, responding in kind.
Whether through the use of stories or parables, by physical interpersonal action, or by subtle direction, Erickson brought about (usually rapid) change working within the metaphors of his client or patient.
He held a firm belief that if he tried to “explain” or “translate” the metaphor to his client or patient, that person’s depth and pace of change could be severely hampered.
And his deliberate avoidance of interpretation applied not only to verbal communication, but to nonverbal communication as well, such as body movements.
Erickson was famous for his extremely adept ability at picking up nonverbal communication. Erickson was able to notice a change in pulse by glancing at a clients ankle.
With all of his astute perceptions, the information he received nonverbal would not be shared with the client.
As an example, a female patient once told her therapist “I’m fond of my husband”, and
she covered her mouth with her hand as she spoke.
Trying to help, the therapist “explained” to her that she had some sort of reservation
about what she said about her husband because of her hand action.
In his mind, he helped her by making her “aware” of her unconscious gesture.
What would Erickson have done instead?
First of all, he would NEVER have made any kind of comment related to the woman’s hand gesture.
He would have simply accepted it as a form of perfectly valid communication.
In his mind, to try to translate the gesture would be “disruptive” and even discourteous.
Even worse, it might grossly simplify what could turn out to be an extremely complex statement.
“Typically, “insight” interpretations of unconscious communication are absurdly reductionist, like summarizing a Shakespearean play in a sentence.” – Jay Haley
To emulate the greatest hypnotherapist the world has even known, and not “mind
reading” your client (through that person’s verbal or nonverbal actions) allow the client to express themselves through their metaphors, and work to affect change within them, without explanation, translation, or interpretation.