An example of this was with one of my medical students who was going to flunk out of medical school, he absolutely and irrationally refused to attend the lectures and the clinics on dermatology. He wouldn't open his book on dermatology. He was warned and called up before the dean and told, You're either going to attend dermatology lectures and clinics and study it or you'll flunk out of medical school. We can't pass anybody who arbitrarily refuses to take one of the courses, Bob said, I can't. The dean said, What do you mean, you can't, you're going to! Bob meant it, however, he couldn't.
Bob came to me very worried about it. I knew Bob was a very good hypnotic subject and I asked him if I could use him as a demonstration subject to the medical class. He said, Yes. I told him that there had to be some explanation for his peculiar behavior about dermatology. I asked him to spend the next week trying to remember what it was he had forgotten.
Bob spent a week trying to remember and then came to the class. In class I asked, Bob, did you remember what you had forgotten a long time ago? Bob said, How on earth do you go about remembering something you forgot a long time ago? You don't even know where to look! You've forgotten it! It's unavailable, it's unreachable, it's untouchable! It's forgotten - it's gone! I agreed and sent him out of the room so I could raise the question with the class. They all agreed it would be an awfully blind sort of thing to try to find such a memory. Then I called Bob back and induced a deep trance. I told him, You know why you are here. You've been thinking for a whole week about remembering something that you'd forgotten. Have you remembered it? Bob said, No. I said, All right, you are in a deep trance. I would like to explain a few things to you. You know what a jigsaw puzzle is? You can put a jigsaw puzzle together in two ways: You put it together right side up, and then you will know what the picture is; you can put it together reverse side up, and there you have just the back of the jigsaw puzzle. No picture on it - just blankness and no meaning, but the puzzle would be together. The picture of the jigsaw puzzle is the intellectual content - the meaningful content of the repressed memory. The back of it is the emotional foundation, and that will be without any picture. It is going to be just the foundation. Now you can put that jigsaw puzzle together by putting two pieces on one corner together, two pieces in the middle together, two pieces in another corner together, two pieces in a third corner, two pieces in a fourth corner, and then, here and there, you can put two or three pieces together. You can put some of the pieces together face up, some pieces together face
down. You can put them all together face down, put them all together face up, but you do what you want to do.
What did he want to do? I didn't know, but that question left the burden of the responsibility upon Bob - namely, that he had a jigsaw puzzle of a repressed memory that he needed to recover and put together meaningfully. I asked Bob, Well, you don't really know what to do. Suppose you haul out from your unconscious just a few little pieces of that unpleasant memory. Bob thought a minute and then perspiration began to form on his forehead. I asked, What is it Bob? He said, I'm feeling sick in a funny sort of way. I don't know what kind of a way. I said, That's fine, so you're feeling sick in a funny sort of way; you don't know in what kind of a way. All right, forget about it. With that Bob developed an amnesia for the material that was making him feel funny. I then continued, Suppose you reach down into your repressions and bring up a few pieces of the picture. Bob did essentially that and said, Well, there is water and there is something green. I suppose that is grass, but that green isn't grass. I said, That is fine, now you shove that down. Now bring up some more pieces of emotion. Bob brought up some more emotion and then said, I'm scared, I'm scared. I want to run, and he was really perspiring and trembling. I said, Shove it down again. Let's bring up a few other picture pieces.
We alternated in that fashion for a while; getting a few associations and then repressing them when the emotion became too threatening. As we got more and more material, Bob began digging up bigger and bigger pieces of emotion so that I would have to bring him out of the trance and let him rest. Bob would take a deep breath and say, I'm all worn out. I don't know what is happening to me. I'm awake, my shirt is all wet, my trousers are wet with perspiration. What has been going on here? I assured him that the medical students in the class were just about as sick as he was of seeing that perspiration spurt out on Bob's forehead each time he'd experience an emotion.
Finally I suggested, Let's put all the blank sides together again and do a complete overhaul. So he put it together again, and you should have seen him trembling and perspiring. He was actually shivering, so periodically I gave him a suggestion to blank it out and rest: Take another deep breath and look at that blank reverse side of the jigsaw puzzle with the amnesic traumatic experience. He said, Whatever is on the other side of that is something awful - it's just awful. I then told him to forget the entire emotional side. We'd turn the jigsaw puzzle over and see it intellectually only, without emotions. He described, Two little boys, about eight or nine years old, they looked like cousins - they're playing in a barn, they are wrestling. Oh! Oh! One is getting mad with the other. Now they are hitting at each other. Now they grabbed some forks, they start stabbing at each other. Oh! Oh! One of them stabbed the other in the leg. That one is running into the house to tell. The one that stabbed him is a little bit afraid. He runs along, too. The boy's father isn't mad; the mother isn't mad; they are calling the doctor. The boy's father makes him sit on a chair to wait. There is the doctor driving in. The doctor is going to stick something in the boy. Oh, my goodness, what a funny thing. Look at that boy's face. He is lying there.
His face is swelling up, his eyes are swelling shut, his skin is turning a funny color, his tongue is so thick, and the doctor is scared. He is getting something else. He' s got - it looks like a needle or a pump of some kind, and he is pumping something into the boy, and now that swelling in the boy's face is getting less, his tongue is getting smaller, he is opening his eyes, and everybody is breathing deeply. The father grabs the other boy and takes him down to the horse trough. The father sits on the horse trough, hauls the boy over his lap, and starts spanking him, and he is really spanking him hard. The boy is looking down into the horse trough and he sees that green slime on the water and he is crying. There is something awful bad about this, and I don't know what it is. There is something awful bad. I said, Well let one corner of the back of it soak through, and then another corner, let the back of it soak through, soak through, soak through. You should have seen poor Bob as he began uniting the ideational content with the affect. Shuddering, trembling, crying out, horrified, he said I can't stand it.
I again told him to develop a complete amnesia. Take a rest Bob. You have a little more work to do. Maybe if you rest five minutes, we'll have enough strength to do a little more of the work. Then about five minutes later I asked him to continue. He dropped the amnesia until he couldn't stand it any longer, and then another amnesia, a rest, and then again another recovery, until finally he said, That little boy that stabbed the other one is me. That's my cousin, and that was the fork we used for cleaning out the barn, and the doctor comes and gives him an antitetanus shot. He gets an anaphylactic reaction with all that edema, and everybody expects him to die including me. Then the doctor gave him adrenalin and he recovered, and then my father took me down to the horse trough and spanked me. I couldn't even stand the way my cousin looked, and there was my father spanking me and that nasty green slime on the water in the trough - that horrible green slime and that horrible color of my cousin's face. No wonder I couldn't study my dermatology. That was the end of that. No wonder he didn't like dermatology.
Taken From Milton H. Erickson & Ernest L. Rossi, Hypnotherapy – An Exploratory Casebook; p. 305. John Wiley Sons, Inc., New York.