An Ericksonian Teaching Tale for Pain Management

A man came to see Milton Erickson claiming that he was experiencing pain in an arm that had been amputated.

All the doctors and psychologists up to that point had all told him that it was not possible to feel such pain. They called it phantom pain and said it was all in his head.

Milton Erickson

Erickson, however, used a different approach. He sat down with the man and asked questions about the nature of the pain, when and how often it would occur, was it a sharp or dull pain and so on.

After some time, Erickson turned to the man and said, “That’s quite amazing that you have such pain in an arm that has been amputated. Obviously it’s very real and quite painful. However, I was thinking, if you can experience phantom pain, I wonder if you can experience phantom pleasure?”