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Erickson, M.H. (1939). Experimental Demonstrations of the Psychopathology of Everyday Life. Psychoanal Q., 8:338-353.

(1939). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 8:338-353

Experimental Demonstrations of the Psychopathology of Everyday Life

Milton H. Erickson


The experiments reported below were conducted for the most part in the presence of a seminar of graduate students held in New Haven under the leadership of Dr. Sapir during the spring of 1933. In addition, a few experiments which were performed elsewhere are included.

The subject who was used for many of these demonstrations had frequently before volunteered for similar purposes. He knew nothing, however, of the plans for these experiments; they represented situations which were entirely new and problems with which he had never before been confronted.

In his approach to such demonstrations, this subject customarily reacted in a way which was fairly characteristic for many others. Ahead of time he often appeared to be resentful and anxious, or over-eager about the impression which he and the experimenter would make. Suddenly, however, with the beginning of the lecture or demonstration, he would seem to shift the responsibility completely and to lapse into an attitude of complete comfort with loss of all tension and worry.

Following one of the demonstrations described below the subject told the experimenter that his shift in mood had been even more marked than usual. The night before the lecture he had been unable to sleep and had felt more than ordinarily resentful that on so important an occasion no rehearsal or preparatory discussion had taken place. He had even developed some nausea and diarrhoea. All of this nervousness had disappeared completely, however, as he entered the lecture room on the morning of these experiments.

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