A young girl was constantly sucking her thumb as form of hostility and rebellion towards others.

Erickson challenged her by calling her stupid because she was not being clever and wasting her hostility on a lot of people that didn’t count.Book cover for "My Voice Will Go With You"

In this way, he applied the principle of joining the patient. He then prescribed the symptom by telling her when and to whom she should direct her thumb sucking in order to cause maximum irritation.

By making the thumb sucking obligatory, Erickson reframed it into something she could no longer enjoy because she didn’t want to be obliged to do anything.

Some people refer to this as reverse psychology.

This tale is featured in:
My Voice Will Go With You – The Teaching Tales of Milton Erickson – edited and with commentary by Sidney Rosen.