The Man Who Lived in a Tent: A Case Study

By Eleanor Laser

In his theory of utilization, Milton Erickson, MD, says the unconscious is a place of healing. The therapist can access this place though hypnosis, the key to addressing a patient’s unconscious and creating a path to behavior change. Adding "collapsing anchors," a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) technique, enhances the process and helps achieve remarkable results. Just ask my client Larry, the man who lived in a tent.

In November, 2015, Larry, returned home after having his wood floors refinished and topped with a polyurethane sealer. As he slept for nine hours, Larry, 60, was exposed to the sealer's toxic fumes. The fumes produced a severe reaction – so severe that Larry began experiencing more than twentyfive incapacitating symptoms including extreme fatigue, rashes, cognitive issues, and more.* Ultimately, he was diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome which experts deemed impossible to cure. The recommended treatment was total avoidance which negatively affected the quality of life – something Larry found out.

Suddenly, he couldn't enter department, home improvement, clothing or grocery stores, and buildings with carpeting including public spaces. Larry was incapacitated by odors from fertilizers, pesticides, tires and rubber products, air from forced healing and cooling systems, dryer exhaust, gas ovens, charcoal grills, wood fires, cigarettes, adhesives, printed flyers, newspapers, mail, automobile interiors, gasoline and diesel. He couldn't bear the smell of synthetic clothing or clothes washed with detergent and fabric softener. He also couldn’t use air freshener, soap, deodorant and more.

The symptoms were so severe Larry couldn't stay in his house and could only go in for the mail if he was wearing a chemical respirator. He tried living in nine different hotels, but because of carpet cleaners and other smells, his condition persisted. Finally, Larry moved into a tent on his brother's back deck where he lived all of May, 2016. But this was a problem too. Larry couldn’t actually go into his brother's home because of fumes from laundry detergent, candles, and more. In his ill health, the one thing Larry could do was eat at fast food restaurants including McDonald's, Burger King, Taco Bell, and the Whole Foods grocery store. According to Larry, the strong food smells made him feel better. Unfortunately, nothing else did.

Desperate, Larry saw a range of specialists and tried a variety of medications, all to no avail. Finally, an emergency room physician referred him to me. To prepare for his visit to my home office, we spoke extensively on the phone. Larry asked if I had wood floors. He also asked me not to wear perfume so of course, I avoided fragrance and seated him in my uncarpeted living room. We began talking and with Larry’s permission, our intake and other sessions were filmed.

I learned that Larry taught deep sea diving. He also owned a nautical store with a pool in the rear where he held class. Since the store was near my former home, I was familiar with it and had actually shopped there for the fins and goggles I use when I swim. Although I hadn't met Larry, being a store customer helped build our rapport. It also helped me understand that he would rather be in water than anywhere else.

This knowledge plus Erickson's theory that a person’s passion is the route to healing convinced me to try utilization. I hypnotized Larry and took him down deep, a mile under water. Going deep is critical when dealing with autoimmune issues and the water imagery provided the perfect chance to do this.

Larry loved breathing the filtered air from the tank because it felt comfortable, cleansing, and safe. While he was deep down breathing, I tapped Larry's right shoulder and introduced collapsing anchors. This NLP technique rids the body of negative thoughts or emotions. As I tapped, I talked softly, describing the underwater scenery, fish swimming by, and the healing air Larry was inhaling. As I repeated the words and continued tapping his positive right shoulder, I strongly suggesting that the filtered air from the tank was healing Larry’s body and mind. Then I tapped his left, negative, shoulder, releasing the noxious odor from the floor of his house. Finally, I ceased tapping, but kept my fingers on both of Larry’s shoulders.

“How do you feel?” I asked as he came out of hypnosis.

"I feel good for the first time in months," Larry replied. I felt good too, because after just two sessions, Larry was able to return home, live in his house, and resume his normal life.

A Complete List of Larry’s Symptoms:

ELLY LASER, PH D is a medical hypnotist who is also trained to practice Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP); Eye Movement Desentation and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) Hypnotherapy. To learn more about Elly's work, please see her articles on LinkedIn and

Eleanor D. Laser Ph D