Mrs. G., aged thirty-five, married ten years, with one child aged nine, sought a psychiatric consultation. This was in protest to the repeated diagnosis she had received from a half-dozen different allergists to the effect that her chronic asthma, lasting from November through April, of ten years duration, was largely psychological. The pertinent history obtained was that the excitement of her wedding had been followed within two days by the long-expected death of her bedridden mother. The mother had left no will but, as a wedding present for her daughter, had extracted from the father a solemn sworn promise that, when she died, he would dispose of the farm, give the daughter half of the proceeds, and then, if he wished, he could retire on his half.
After the funeral the father told her that his promise to the mother was meaningless and that she would receive only half the yearly income until he died, when she would inherit everything. She and her husband angrily took their departure to live in another section of the country. Within two months the couple became reconciled to the father's actions and initiated a friendly correspondence in late October. The father replied, and his first letter found her in bed with a severe cold. Her recovery was slow, and this was attributed to a pulmonary reaction to atmospheric impurities resulting from the mining industry in that town. Asthma developed as a complication, but with the advent of warm weather this vanished. In June they moved to the San Fernando Valley, but in November, presumably because of the smog, she again developed asthma, which persisted until May. In June they moved to San Francisco, but the following November the asthma reappeared and persisted until May. Further moves were unavailing. Wherever they went, the asthma redeveloped in November and ended in May.
Inquiry about the father disclosed that he had continued farming but in a peculiar part- time fashion. He planted the crops, cultivated them, and harvested them. This done, he turned the entire management over to an employee and spent the winter in a
somewhat distant city in ease and comfort. With the advent of spring, he returned to the farm and worked hard until the last harvest was completed. Immediate inquiry about the frequency of her father's letters disclosed that in the summer he was always too busy to write and that he reserved his weekly letter-writing for the leisure of his winter life. The patient failed to recognize any possible connection between her asthma and her father's weekly letters.
She was asked if she were willing to have the writer prove definitely that her asthma was either psychogenic or organic. She emphatically replied that, in either case, she would be tremendously relieved, but added that it was unquestionably organic since it had begun with a cold, had been aggravated by the atmospheric impurities of the mining town, and only occurred during cold weather. Furthermore it always disappeared with the advent of warm weather. Also, it had to be organic, since in ten years she had never had a single attack in the summer, and she was the same person psychologically in both cold and warm weather. She was told that hypnosis would be useful as a diagnostic aid, and she consented readily to be hypnotized.
She proved to be an excellent subject, developing a deep trance easily.
[…]upon awakening she began to verbalize freely and comprehendingly. Her recollections may be summarized as follows: Her mother had long been bedridden because of paralysis, cardiac disease, and accompanying respiratory distress. Her father had never treated her mother or her very kindly, and he was tremendously guilt-ridden. Shortly before her first attack of asthma, she had received a letter from a friend, hinting strongly about her father's undue interest in a woman known to be promiscuous. Her asthmatic attack followed her father's first letter. Thereafter she dreaded from week to week his next letter, but felt duty-bound to answer each letter. His return to the farm each spring gave her a sense of relief because she knew he would be too busy to engage in undesirable activities or to write to her.
When she had completed her summation, she was asked what she intended to do. Her reply was that she would think matters over thoroughly and decide on a course of action. Subsequent reports disclosed that she had visited her father, discussed the situation with him, engaged a lawyer, and intimidated her father into executing legal instruments ensuring her control over and eventual ownership of her share of the farm, and giving him his freedom to do as he wished with his share. Since then the father has handled her property well, but he has been slowly dissipating his share.
He still writes regularly each winter, but the patient has had no further asthmatic attacks.
Taken from Milton H. Erickson & Ernest L. Rossi, Hypnotherapy, an exploratory casebook; p. 212, Irvington Publishers Inc., New York