The internet is filled with wise words from various people, some familiar to me, others not. I’m often curious about those whose name I’m encountering for the first time, and I realized that with the quotations I use on my Happiness Cards and Facebook posts you might be curious about the people behind the words as well.

My blog post from January 18 was an image of a dahlia from one of my Happiness Cards and a quote from Milton Erickson. “Life will bring you pain all by itself. Your responsibility is to create joy.” He was a real inspiration when I was working in the field of psychology, but he’s not well known by the public.

Erickson was born into a large farming family in Wisconsin in 1901. At 17 he was stricken with polio that almost killed him and left him paralyzed, unable to talk or move anything but his eyes. For months he was confined to bed.

With nothing to do, he developed keen observational skills by watching and listening to the actions and interactions of his family members. For instance, he noticed when his sisters would say one thing and demonstrate by body language they meant the opposite. His own body-memories returned slowly and were incorporated in his amazing recovery.

In order to attend college, his doctor recommended his young patient build up his upper-body strength. Still unable to walk, he set out on a 1,000 mile canoe trip by himself and returned able to get around with a cane.

He became a medical doctor and practiced as a psychiatrist. His observational skills, developed as he lay in bed, served him well in his professional life. The aftereffects of the disease left him in constant pain and eventually confined him to a wheelchair, but he practiced psychiatry for over 50 years. His innovative ideas in family therapy and hypnosis are used today by therapists around the world. He died in 1980.