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A Chinese Farmer and his Horse


Dr. Milton Erickson, MD, is one of the most studied hypnotists in the twentieth century. He accomplished more through storytelling, metaphors, and similies than many of his contemporaries and even today’s hypnotists. The teachings from China through their stories and Zen koans have a lot in common with Erickson’s change work.

Here is one story that will teach us something about our world and how we perceive it.

A Chinese farmer had a horse, and one day, the horse broke out of its corral and ran away.

The neighbors gathered around and said, “How unfortunate.” The farmer said, Maybe.”

The next day the horse returned and brought four more horses back.

The neighbors gathered around and said, “How fortunate.” The farmer said, Maybe.”

The next day the farmer’s oldest son tried to ride one of the new horses but was thrown off and broke his leg.

The neighbors gathered around and said, “How unfortunate.” The farmer said, Maybe.”

The army conscription came to enlist the oldest son the next day but rejected him because he had a broken leg.

There is a powerful idea embedded in the story. What can you gain from this story?

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