NLP articles that are written by working professionals in the Neuro Linguistic and Hypnosis fields.

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Mindset and Creating a Compelling Future

There is a relationship between the prerequisite patterns for creating a compelling future and the concept in psychology of a growth mindset.

The previous article introduced a process for creating a compelling future. We considered developing ideas, outcomes and intentions that attracted and engaged our attention. The intention was to identify activities and qualities that would contribute to making the future compelling, enjoyable and rewarding.

Exploring desirable outcomes is predicated on a person holding the belief that such things are not only possible, but possible for that person. One of the most important aspects of creating a compelling future is believing it is possible to have dreams, realise them and change the present circumstances to facilitate progress. This is similar to the idea of a growth mindset, which is gaining traction in the business community courtesy of Carol Dweck, the author and researcher of the concept.

According to Dweck’s findings, a fixed mindset assumes intelligence and talent are innate and probably fixed. Therefore if a person is intelligent and talented, they should be successful, learn easily and make continuous and outstanding progress in life. Any failure can become a matter of shame rather than feedback. Children told they are clever or bright can experience huge pressure to live up to their labels and those who identify as being ordinary or less bright can assume they will never do more than just survive.

Conversely, a growth mindset not only allows for mistakes without shame, after all they are a natural byproduct of learning. It also enables people to consider mistakes as feedback and explore them to find what could work better in future. Without feedback, how would we know to do something different? People can become good at anything, provided they engage, learn, practice and take the time to develop skills. Skills, talent and knowledge are products of time and consistent attention, and available to anyone who chooses to apply themselves.

These are not black and white categories, unless you are operating from a fixed mindset in the moment. Some people identify with being of a fixed or growth mindset, but in reality, most people carry a blend of both characteristics with their associated beliefs according to subject matter. For example, someone who knows they can learn any new software they choose to master, may also believe that learning a musical instrument requires innate talent which they do not have. Some people profess an interest and facility in engaging other people and keep learning new soft skills with alacrity. Yet the same people run in the opposite direction if someone takes the back off a television or opens the bonnet of a car.

As well as holding growth oriented or fixed beliefs about their capacity for learning different subjects, people can hold different beliefs about the same subject, though usually not simultaneously. This simply indicates that people change states, experiencing different takes and even opinions on the same event at different times. It is quite common and is a form of state dependent learning, which relates to remembering specific knowledge when in the context where it was learned or where it is relevant and being used.

What this indicates is that most people carry a blend of fixed and growth mindsets, creating a context where even the most enlightened can identify and change beliefs that limit their capacity to learn. This is despite the common belief in those familiar with fixed and growth mindsets that they “are” one or the other. For anyone operating in a fixed mindset moment, the idea that beliefs are changeable is contentious. In a fixed mindset, truth is black and white, unchanging and may be worth fighting and dying for. In a growth mindset, everything is open to question and even the most expensive mistakes can lead to something worthwhile.  

When it comes to creating a compelling future, it helps to approach the possibilities with a frame that anything is possible, and possible for you. If that it too far fetched, the minimum flexibility of thinking needed to engage you in considering what you want is that change might be possible, even if you suspect it is unlikely. If you are certain you cannot have what you want and it is too unbelievable to contemplate, you will not even discover a dream. That is is a major downside to bringing a fixed mindset to the process. If that is the case for you, start simple. Consider the proposal that any belief can be placed in question. When you do that, you become open to the possibility of finding evidence or support for both or all options.

When you begin exploring your creation, do it with a sense of possibility, not requirement. If you find it is not what you thought it was, change it or create something else. Treat your creation as a work of fiction for as long as that allows you to dream it up. If you were writing a story of someone who wanted a future you cannot dream of, your character can. You can create the context for them to imagine what they want and then make it happen. You are not restricted to rule bound, compliance ridden 21st century conditions. Your story could be set in a steampunk world or modern urban fantasy, sci-fi or outright magic. Whatever it takes to enable the characters to have the experiences you want to create for them. As a minimum, you will have a collection of short stories. Ideally, you will hit on something really attractive to you and grow it.

Check our course Creating a Compelling Future

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

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Creating Compelling Futures

Creating futures that are compelling

Creating compelling futures is a topic of ongoing interest, yet a large number of people operate from the assumption that they have no chance of living the life they want. Others believe they are stuck in an ongoing and unsatisfactory present with no way out short of a miracle, while some can’t wrap their minds around determining what they want in the first place. Creating anything seems to be a chancy business. What is the difference between a creation that succeeds and one that disappears without trace?

Successful entrepreneurs come to our attention when their businesses take off, after they have had an idea, researched and realised it and marketed it in a manner that got the attention and customers they needed to succeed. by the time we know about their endeavours, it looks like a TV chef taking a completed example of a complex dish out of the oven with the words; “Here’s one I prepared earlier”.

Rock musicians who make it seem to appear on the scene fully formed, but with some of them, there are stories of the years of effort, practice and day jobs they lived before the song that first got the public’s attention. For example, that the Rolling Stones were just another London rock group playing the college ball and pub circuit until their first hit made them famous, apparently overnight. That gave them the start to success that continued for decades.

A casual observer might be forgiven for thinking talent, skill, planning and execution has less to do with creating a stellar future than luck, given so many examples of someone breaking into public awareness suddenly and apparently overnight. How does one author’s book make it onto the best seller lists when another, at least as worthwhile, sinks into obscurity? What makes a mediocre teacher wildly popular while a skilled and knowledgeable teacher struggles to survive?

Elite athletes compete for honours that mean a lot to them. The differences in capacity and performance at the very top are reputed to be minimal. The difference we hear about is; “You have to want it more than anyone else does”. This proposes that those who want to be first most, push that little bit more and maintain the desire consistently and for longer than everyone else.

The capacity to do that is predicated on the athlete’s beliefs, their state and how they imagine their future in the short to medium term. They have to believe it is possible and possible for them. They have to generate continuing motivation to train, refine and practice their skills to peak at the right time. They have to produce the quality of attention that will enable them to train effectively over time and perform at their best on the day and the next and the one after that.

Cathy Freeman and Elon Musk are household names. They both rose to prominence for having ideas, dreams, the ability to engage appropriate skilled help and unwavering belief in themselves and their capacity to realise their creations. The biggest difference between them is not subject matter, gender or intellect. It is that Elon Musk always has a dream beyond the current project and Cathy Freeman had nothing in place to motivate her beyond the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

According to the publicity, Elon Musk’s dream beyond the dream is to create a colony on Mars. Earlier iterations include building the transport and infrastructure to take people to Mars safely and enable them to stay there long enough to make a permanent habitat and renewable resources. He wants to create a back up for humans in case Earth becomes uninhabitable.

“I think the most important thing is to create a self-sustaining city on Mars, That’s, I think, the critical thing for maximising the life of humanity; how long will our civilization last.”
– Elon Musk

Musk’s current endeavours include Tesla, making fast, responsive, long range luxury electric cars and battery packs for storing electricity, Spacex, which manufactures and deploys cost effective rockets for commercial applications, Sun City solar energy and now the Boring Company for making tunnels deep underground for transporting vehicles. All of these align with Musk’s desire to increase sustainable resource use and infrastructure on earth as well as contributing to the likelihood of his Mars project. No doubt, as the Mars project becomes closer, Musk will extend his dream beyond the dream.

For Cathy Freeman, the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games represented the pinnacle of her ambition as a runner. It took place in front of her home crowd, she was at the top of her game and there was nowhere more important to race after that. Training and preparation took up all her attention for several years and somehow, what would happen next or later was overlooked. In a runner’s career, there is always another event to prepare for. Until they retire from racing, the future is handled. At the Sydney Olympics, Freeman won gold and was given additional honours. She was picked to carry the flag in the opening and closing parades and to light the stadium Olympic Flame. Then nothing.

How to create a compelling future

Creating a compelling future is a process and it starts with discovering or determining what you want in your future. It is important to be willing to consider any options that really attract you, even if you think they are impossible for you at this time. The turn on factor is vital. You do not want to pursue something that leaves you cold, however worthy. 

If you know what you want, you are ready to consider what you want it for. This is something people often leave out. Yet the intention for having what you want can increase the compelling nature of the desire. It also opens up more paths to achievement. If you don’t know what you want, “I wish I could be, do or have something” may be a useful starting point. Even if the wish is not that good on closer inspection, there is an intention for having it. That intention is probably worth having in its own right and the intention for something with a turn on factor will also have one. Another starting point is; “If I had this resource, I would be able to have that experience”.

As an example, let us consider financial independence. This will involve different sums of money for different people, but it works as a concept. Financial independence can provide peace of mind, a sense of security, freedom, choice and access to a range of experiences without reference to anyone else. Do you want your own house, or a new car or a boat? Would you like to retire from work with a comfortable income stream? Would you like to travel for extended periods in comfort? If you had any or all of these, what would that do for you? What other experiences would open up through having financial independence?

Do you immediately discover objections to achieving financial independence? What if you believe on reasonable historical grounds that your earning capacity is not up to it? What if your normal way of creating income is being eroded through structural changes in the economy? What if you have fallen foul of government intervention that wrecked your prospects? This is where discovering the intention for having what you want can be valuable.

Back to the example; if financial independence initially seems too hard, go to the intention. Let us say you want financial independence to experience freedom in your life. If you believe you can only have freedom through financial independence, that will dictate your next move. However, if you are aware that freedom is a sense that comes from within, that is not predicated on external circumstances, you can approach it through this class of exploration. At this point, you can argue that if you continue to live life as it is currently, and you have not been experiencing a sense of freedom, then to experience a sense of freedom in your current context would be delusional or require resources which would take years of self discipline to obtain. Not so; it requires access to internal resources of which you are not aware yet, combined with the capacity to suspend your disbelief for a few minutes.

The intention for exploring financial independence and freedom as above is to flush out some common, very plausible limiting beliefs that stop some people from even considering the possibility. In the Classic Code of NLP, the obvious next step would be to change the beliefs directly. This is not a good idea. What we do is create an experience as if you had financial independence. You can explore your outcome as if you were there for real, standing in it with the context unfolding around you, life size in all senses. The experience is; “This is what it is like to live financial independence”. From this you can refine it, discover longer term benefits and any costs you might have overlooked and find your own intention for having it.

The exploration process is called, “Outcome, Intention and Consequences” and it enables people to discover what they really want, to have a living experience of it and then to explore the intention for having the outcome. You can repeat the process with higher levels of intention to discover a broad, overarching intention that will support all the lower levels. Then, when you return to a practical outcome, which may be different from the original outcome, you will have something you can plan, believe in and find very attractive. This is the first stage of creating a compelling future.

Check our course Creating a Compelling Future

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

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Coaching for Personal or Work Place Change; A process Approach

About Coaching

Coaching takes place when one person uses their expertise to assist another person to improve their performance, learn something of value and, or make changes in their thinking and behaviour that translate into a better quality of life, work, sport or interest. The term “coaching” can be used to refer to subject matter expertise, as in swimming coach or maths coach. It can also be used to mean someone who works with individuals and small groups to assist them become more able, resilient, and in tune with their lives.

“The term “coaching” can be used to refer to subject matter expertise”

In the world of personal change, there is a continuum, with psychotherapy and psychology at the most serious end, some dealing with severe mental health issues as well as less debilitating situations. These people normally have graduate or post-graduate training in their fields and rely mostly on research and evidence based skills for their therapeutic intervention tools.

In the middle is a range of therapists and coaches working with moderate to lighter issues, some of whom work to enhance functional situations as well as solving problems. Their training can range from a blend of informal non-accredited programs leading to membership of private, non-accredited professional style bodies, up to rigorous, post-graduate qualifications. Life coaches operate at the least debilitating end of the range of clients and may only have three or four weeks training or a Certificate IV qualification.

If you consider consider consulting a coach to help you solve a problem or create a future outcome, there is a wide range of offerings available. Currently, coaching is similar to the Wild West: It is unregulated, freely available, priced from a few dollars per session to thousands. Each coach has a different idea of what questions and problems are appropriate for coaching.

The questions you might have for a prospective coach are of course subjective, but the level of qualification they hold, as opposed to non-accredited training, is likely to indicate the potential quality of their work. It is also important to discover if they intend to put you through a specific program, regardless of what you present, or if they expect to tailor what they are doing to fit your responses as the session or set of sessions progresses.

You might be interested in how long a coach has been in practice and if they get good results with their clients, but do not rely on client testimonials. Many clients prefer a confidential service and giving a testimonial might not be in their interest, so an absence of testimonials cannot be equated with incompetence. Equally, a flood of testimonials does not mean you have found someone who does lasting, high quality work. You may be able to ask your prospective coach if you can talk to a client to get a reference. That is different from testimonials and can often be arranged.

The form of coaching we teach at Inspiritive in the Graduate Certificate in NLP and apply in our private practice uses patterns of thinking, communication and behaviour to offer change to clients. We attend to clients’ current patterns of thinking, communication and behaviour and work with them to provide more functional options for them to create what they want. In our opinion, coaching does not offer advice. It guides clients to learn different ideas and new perspectives so they can access the internal and external resources they need to make their own choices and decisions according to their own values.

To give an idea of how process based coaching functions, here are some frames to consider.

When a new client comes for coaching, there is information we need and there is information that many clients imagine we want, but which, for us, simply offers more detail than is useful. If a client has consulted a coach, psychologist or therapist before, or read about therapy sessions, they may assume we want to know the entire background history that led them to their present situation. Some people hold the view that the telling of their story is beneficial to them and some want to make sure we know everything possible so that we can work with them.

This is not the case with process coaching. It saves time and creates a direction to explain how we can be most useful to a client right at the start of the first session. We can tell a new client that the most effective way to work with them is for us to ask specific questions and for them to respond to those questions. Some of the questions may seem unusual and we may not ask the questions the client might expect. This is because we are working with how the client responds to their situation, not the situation itself.  

We are here to identify clients’ outcomes and change limiting patterns of thinking so that the client can learn what they need to achieve their outcomes. This is different from talking about problematic events in depth. We use the clients’ own language and thinking patterns to teach them generative skills. This enables them to become independent,  self directed people who make satisfying choices and create their own lives. To do this, we need the freedom to ask unusual questions that lead clients to think differently about their situation, often without their having to tell us what that situation is.

Coaches do not have the legal privilege of confidentiality that psychologists enjoy and even psychologists are required to report admissions of illegal activity by their clients. Our approach can offer an effective substitute for privacy. Process coaching can be entirely confidential, because we do not need to know where, when or with whom specifically, an event took place. Nor do we need to know what the event was, just the client’s internal response to it. For example, a client may say; “I have a situation at work with a senior person. It recurs roughly every week. When the senior person uses a particular voice tone or has a particular expression on their face, I feel as if I were six years old and about to be reprimanded and I don’t like it”.

A description like this tells us everything we need to begin the session and nothing to identify the kind of work, the workplace or the senior person. It provides a wonderful opening statement for change to unfold as we ask additional questions. Most new clients are not that succinct naturally, but with clear instruction and assurance that this is the quality of information we want, they discover that we can work fast and effectively and without exposing them to unpleasant memories.

A coaching session is conducted within the frame of a well formed outcome. The well formed outcome is a set markers that define and elaborate an outcome to the point of taking action if it works out, or changing it to something else that does a similar job if it fails the tests. In coaching, the coach’s outcome is to assist each client to get the best quality outcome in terms of the client’s values and choice.

“A coaching session is conducted within the frame of a well formed outcome”

The stages of a Well Formed Outcome

  • Establish what the client wants; this is an outcome
  • Establish the evidence they would see, hear, feel that proves to them that the outcome has been achieved
  • Establish what they want the outcome for, or what they want the outcome to do or provide for them; this is the intention for having the outcome
  • Establish that the outcome is physically possible to achieve
  • Identify the resources, internal and external, required for obtaining the outcome
  • Identify the costs and benefits associated with obtaining the outcome
  • Identify the consequences of having and keeping the outcome
  • Identify the appropriate time frame for achieving the outcome

In terms of a coaching session, a client is presumed to have a problem, a question or an outcome that they want to pursue with the assistance of a coach. Either way, there is a difference between their present state or situation and their desired state, or outcome.

The coach’s function is to assist the client to identify and clarify their own outcome and identify what has been preventing the client from having their outcome. Then the coach will lead the client to make changes that are consistent with the client’s values and the client meeting their outcome and intention, or having a result they find more generative and that supersedes their original outcome. With process coaching, the coach’s function is to facilitate the client’s process and the client’s choices at all times. Advice is not offered and is not part of the coach’s responsibility. This is important to remember, especially if a client seeks advice.

The beginning of a session is for introductions, describing the flow and the process and determining the present state and outcome. This sets the stage for discovering what has prevented the client from having their outcome and how to approach proposed changes. The coach will ask specific questions to gather enough sensory specific information to identify the present or problem state without going into it in detail and to develop an outcome that fits the client’s needs and wishes. The skill is in identifying the non-verbal, sensory specific elements in the client’s experience that have been making it difficult for the client to pursue their outcome successfully.

With this approach, it is rare to take a complete NLP process and use it from beginning to end. The use of process questions and directed information gathering enables a coach to keep pace with the client’s process and direct their attention while accommodating and guiding the client’s own patterns. The coach directs the process by attending to non-verbal shifts and language patterns in the client’s responses, while the client applies the coach’s questions to the content of their situation without having to say anything identifiable.

Most of the change work takes place by way of information gathering. Clients become aware of subtle signals in their experience and beliefs that have been deeply presupposed that have been directing their attention and behaviour away from their outcome. As they learn how their own process has been functioning and bring additional resources into their attention, their experience changes. In addition, there is the option of using all or parts of formal interventions in combination to facilitate clients’ changes.

This form of coaching is applicable to resolving problematic situations and generative outcomes. It works equally well with long standing and recently manifesting issues in  personal, sporting, business and workplace matters and relationships. All interventions are tailored to the client, their values and their preferences and are aligned with each client’s life and working contexts to preserve and enhance their ongoing experience.

All change work is done with the client, for the client and towards furthering the client’s outcomes. Clients are made aware that a coach cannot change them directly. It is the client who makes their changes, with guidance from the coach. Also, neither coaches nor clients nor parents nor bosses can force the other people in their lives to change. It is a fact of life that we cannot change another person. Leverage involves inducements and pressure, but even then, the subject of the inducement or sanction has to find it meaningful to them, or they will not comply. In coaching, we are dealing with freely chosen change in service to an equally freely chosen outcome.

“All change work is done with the client, for the client and towards furthering the client’s outcomes”

Where a client’s problem is apparently created by someone else, the client may start the session with certainty that someone else needs to change. However, interactions and relationships are systemic. This means that when a client changes their own state so they become comfortable and able when they are with a problematic person, the client’s presentation is different. Therefore the other person is bound to respond differently and sometimes it appears as if that person has changed. The base line outcome for a client who feels disadvantaged or unsafe when they are with a problematic person, is for the client to become naturally competent, comfortable and able in themselves, with a sense of choice; plus whatever additional outcomes and intentions they may have for themselves in those contexts. This is possible, however unlikely it may appear initially, provided the client is willing to trust that the coach is competent.  

Process coaching is made safe for clients by the frames that govern it. The absence of identifiable history and disclosure protects clients’ privacy. The absence of advice protects clients’ right to choose and decide for themselves and the coaching process is pure process. Questions and instructions are given to enable clients to attend to their own situations differently from their normal ways of thinking, to help them identify and apply resources and ideas that they would not have found by themselves. Every coach appreciates a client who is willing to learn to do something different in the privacy of their own mind. When a client is willing to explore their own process with a well trained coach, the results can be impressive.

Learning: unconscious uptake or conscious effort.

Unconscious uptake and hypnotic trances

Learning by modelling or unconscious uptake as described is different from a hypnotic trance. Whereas most trances take a person’s attention inwards, modelling specifically requires the modeller’s attention to be external, so they can see, hear and feel everything unfolding in front of them and take it in directly. While not a hypnotic trance, this state is sometimes called an uptime trance, denoting full sensory attention to the outside world. External attention only uses sensory input through eyes, ears and body. Ideally there is no internal dialogue; minimally, internal dialogue is reduced to the best of your ability. There is no use of internal imagery or sound either. One of the most effective ways to reduce learning is to make internal images, sounds and dialogue during a presentation or lecture. Internal representations use up the input channels at the very time they need to be clear for input and the quality of learning is enhanced if they are kept to a minimum during the class. Understanding can be sought later, in private, over suitable course materials. , 

“Learning by modelling or unconscious uptake as described is different from a hypnotic trance”

Unconscious uptake is the kind of learning we advocate for becoming expert in the use and application of NLP. It facilitates natural acquisition of the patterns with the ability to use them to respond to others with appropriate questions and instructions. There is no requirement outside the classroom to adhere to a complete process if other patterns fit the conversation and context more closely. In the classroom, learning complete change processes has several functions. A complete process can be used like training wheels on a bicycle. It provides a framework to carry a subset of NLP patterns to which students need to be exposed. It provides an opportunity to work with others with sufficient constraints to allow students to practice the new piece with previously learned patterns, such as rapport, sensory acuity and calibration.

  • Rapport is the willing engagement of the other’s unconscious attention.
  • Sensory acuity is observation and listening for language patterns and non-verbal responses without attributing meaning.
  • Calibration is observation of patterns previously seen and heard in that individual and known to be associated with particular states and response potential for that person.

Unconscious uptake enables students to engage with patterns in different combinations as the course progresses, so they build up schemata or representations of increasing complexity as the course progresses. This creates a collection of known patterns which can be mixed and matched by the unconscious to suit different conversations and contexts and becomes more accessible with practice. In due course, the student acquires conscious understanding, often some time later.

“Unconscious uptake is the kind of learning we advocate for becoming expert in the use and application of NLP”

It takes trust in the trainers and the training organisation for students to be willing to engage in unconscious uptake. It often feels unfamiliar and does not provide immediate conscious feedback that one has acquired knowledge. To reduce the level of discomfort commonly associated with uncertainty before students discover that unconscious uptake is extremely effective, we provide them with the opportunity to discover that it works with minimal risk.

We advise prospective students to research carefully before enrolling, to assure themselves that we know what we are doing. In line with government policy, if they are not finding class useful, we allow anyone who wants to withdraw to do so before the second day of their next unit. We also provide students with reading material to which they can refer after learning a particular piece. Students who have completed a unit of study satisfactorily are invited to repeat that unit for a nominal fee at any time during the next two years if they want to review it. These measures are all designed to give students the assurance that they can take the time they need to familiarise themselves with unconscious input so they can give their full attention to learning. Then they can develop trust within themselves to learn that way. We also offer them reliable material to help facilitate conscious understanding after their experience, should they so wish.

Yet in this world full of diversity, (which makes it interesting) many people have been taught that conscious, deliberate learning and wanting immediate understanding is the right way to learn. The most extreme examples insist on taking notes, talking to themselves and visualising during presentations. They may ask very precise, literal questions that take their attention away from the patterns unfolding in front of them. By their very activity, they make a great effort, engage their conscious resources and miss the frames and patterns that make a new process memorable, effortlessly functional and ecological to use.

Ecology is preserving the client or subject’s long term wellbeing with reference to the contexts of their lives, relationships and circumstances which could be impacted by their outcomes with an exercise or change process.

People who espouse conscious mind learning, especially if they get results from it, say they are not learning if they are not taking notes and if they cannot have exercise instructions to read. They become agitated and naturally subject themselves to loud internal dialogue and intrusive internal images as they imagine wasting their opportunity and not learning. This response is precisely what stops them learning. If they can stay the course and attend externally, eventually they, too, discover that unconscious uptake works well in the context of NLP. It just takes a little longer at the beginning. Otherwise, these are people who leave training with a collection of notes and recipes and a limited capacity to work with NLP in their lives.

Conscious mind learning is used by the majority of people who have experienced formal education and it is the culturally accepted norm. Therefore it is not surprising that much of the material modelled by Bandler and Grinder has been written up in the form of techniques and scripts. When students attend exclusively and consciously to verbal instructions and specific comments and questions, the demonstrated piece is taken down verbatim and used in the exercise with the exact words in the same order as they were offered in the demonstration. When the words survive and the non-verbal elements in the communication are missed, a format is created. The format becomes the standard for general use. No one remembers it expressed patterns for a specific interaction and is not a complete model ready for generalisation.

“When the words survive and the non-verbal elements in the communication are missed, a format is created”

A prime example of an over specified NLP process for creating change is the Swish. It is variously described as a method or a technique and is normally presented as a recipe to be memorised or as a script to be read.

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NLP change processes; What you need to know

NLP change processes; technique or pattern?

Many practitioners focus on the acquisition and use of NLP techniques as examples of NLP change processes without an understanding and appreciation of the difference between a technique and a pattern. First we need to define NLP.

Bandler & Grinder’s Definition of NLP

Richard Bandler once defined NLP as “…an attitude of insatiable curiosity about human beings with a methodology that leaves behind it a trail of techniques…” Bandler, R., DeLozier, J., & Cameron-Bandler, L. (1981). Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Info-Medix.

Bandler, himself, does not use unchanging techniques when working with different people. He asks questions, observes non-verbal responses, listens to verbal and non-verbal responses and uses his body to communicate. He changes what he is doing to fit the other person’s ongoing shifts in behaviour as they unfold in front of him and he uses his own behaviour to facilitate the change. 

One of John Grinder’s definitions reads: “NLP is a meta-discipline which focuses on the discovery and coding of patterns which distinguish the most capable of the practitioners of some particular discipline (managerial practice, medical practice, sport, therapy…) from the average practitioner. These distinguishing patterns are the substance of NLP.” – John Grinder (The NLP Field Guide, Collingwood & Collingwood).

Grinder’s definitions of NLP suggest that applying NLP in daily life is attending to the patterns of organisation that produce excellence when expressed in the world. Bandler is attending to something similar.

“Applying NLP is attending to the patterns of organisation that produce excellence when expressed in the world.”

NLP Change Processes; The Difference Between Patterns & Techniques

When NLP change processes are performed by someone with refined pattern detection and utilisation skills, the consultant works in relationship and response to the responses of the client. Well trained and experienced consultants are not limited to using NLP formats in full, as they appreciate the patterns that frame different parts of a process. Each question or instruction is offered with intent to assist the client to think differently and more productively. Then the client can access, arrange and learn information about their matter, with a view to obtaining systemically satisfactory resolution.

An able NLP consultant’s skills include but are not limited to their sensory acuity, capacity to detect and recognise patterns in themselves and others and their ability to articulate questions, suggestions and requests in terms the other person’s conscious and unconscious minds can appreciate, follow and use. This presupposes that each change work conversation will be unique as the consultant and client communicate with each other and each of their responses is predicated on the previous delivery of the other person.

This approach is quite different from someone repeating a list of questions and instructions they have been told will shift a specific problem. However, Bandler’s choice of the word techniques had an unfortunate effect on the field of NLP training and on the large number of trainers who became comfortable with teaching techniques.

Most people who learn NLP do not have the opportunity to study with Bandler, Grinder, or the small handful of others who teach the patterns of excellence that frame an NLP syllabus.

Therefore the majority of students of NLP learn formatted procedures (techniques). The nature of techniques is such that a technician has learned to perform a particular technique when a specific criterion for using it is apparent. They do it the same way every time, regardless of differences in context, available materials or differing patterns of organisation of the person in front of them.

An NLP technique is a written version of a change process used in the NLP community, which probably came from patterns of excellence modelled or demonstrated by Bandler and or Grinder initially. A change process is an example of one or more patterns in action. The point about patterns is that if you can detect patterns unfolding in front of you, for example in a client’s comments and behaviour, you can respond with functional examples of patterns of excellence that mesh with what you are observing and lead the client’s own process towards a useful conclusion for them. This is personalised change work as opposed to formulaic work.

In its first iteration and certainly before becoming a technique, any change process would have been demonstrated by a practiced NLP trainer or consultant. It would have been that trainer’s expression of a combination of patterns of excellence used on a specific occasion with a particular individual. The change process would have been crafted from patterns of excellence held in the trainer’s neurology, either as a result of extended modelling of someone like Grinder or Bandler, or deriving from in depth training and practice in pattern detection and implementation.

The exact patterns used on any occasion would have been selected unconsciously from first principles. The selection would have been made in light of information gathered from the demonstration subject and the language and behaviour patterns of that specific person in that specific context. There would have been framing and metaphor preceding the change process, to set the scene and engage the subject’s unconscious mind.

Any observers or students would have been expected to model the trainer’s entire presentation, including non-verbal patterns and observations without taking notes, so they would acquire the underpinning unconscious skills and knowledge to work with NLP patterns from first principles.

To have made the shift from modelling and learning first principles into written formats and conventional learning, someone present at such a training program missed the point. They would have ignored the framing that proposed modelling the demonstrator and attended to the exact words only. They would have written the questions and instructions in the change process verbatim and later disseminated that writing as a literal format or technique. Then they passed that version on to others and the others applied it as written. 

A Recommended Way of Learning: Use Your Unconscious Mind

In the education system, people learn by attending consciously to the content of a lecture and taking copious notes. They read relevant material before and after a topic is presented and use conscious attention to engage with the material. If anyone suggested they silence their internal dialogue, open their peripheral vision and soak up the experience directly to the unconscious mind, they would be horrified. They would imagine that leaving a lecture with no notes and little conscious awareness of the material would place them at a severe disadvantage.

Unconscious uptake can feel as if one is not learning in the early stages. Yet the material is available for application, even though someone learning this way may not be able to find and access it consciously until some time has elapsed. When learning NLP this way, the evidence that learning is happening is in the practical exercises and future experiences when the student hears themselves say something that expresses a pattern learned in class.

“Unconscious uptake can feel as if one is not learning in the early stages.”

A student described the experience of using unconscious uptake in NLP training very clearly. She said she appreciated the framing and metaphors that carried the patterns without trying to understand them consciously. Then she modelled the demonstration, again without trying to record or understand consciously. When the exercise was given, she had no idea what to do, so she sat with her partner and allowed her unconscious mind to run the exercise. She found that she had all the right questions in a functional order to accommodate her partner’s responses and fulfil the intention for the exercise.

We teach a postgraduate program in NLP accredited within the Australian Qualifications Framework. Find out more about the 10250NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

By Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer

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How the NLP Swish Pattern began

The NLP Swish Pattern

The NLP Swish pattern uses an individual’s own submodality changes at high speed to shift that person’s attention from the content they have to see, hear or feel each time they initiate an habitual act. The sensory representation of the memory of performing the start of their chosen behaviour shifts instantly into a highly attractive and dissociated representation of the person as they would like to be at some time after they have changed. This creates a shunt that diverts the person from the act they wanted to change before they do it.

  • Submodalities are the components of each representational system.
  • Representational systems are the systems of sight, hearing, feeling, taste and smell that we use to remember and imagine, creating trains of thought and emotions.
  • The senses are sight, hearing, feeling, taste and smell used in real time as we access external events.
  • Visual submodalities include size, brightness, location, distance, depth of field, focus, hue, rate of motion (think photoshop editing).
  • Auditory submodalities include location, volume, pitch, timbre, bandwidth, distortion, rate of motion (think sound mixing desk).
  • Kinaesthetic submodalities include temperature, pressure, location, rhythm, amplitude, moisture, volume, area, motion.

Submodalities provide and create the meaning we make of the content of our representations, (images, sounds and sensations) and the meaning of a representation changes when we alter the submodalities with which it is represented. A NLP Swish changes both the meaning and the content of representations attached to the act we want to change. For the purposes of using a Swish to break an habitual act, we use two analogue submodalities in representational systems of the person’s choice. These should be driver submodalities that change the intensity of the experience simultaneously with their direct action on the initial representation.

“Submodalities provide and create the meaning we make of the content of our representations”

  • Analogue submodalities alter in a continuous flow, increasing or decreasing in smooth increments, like the dimmer on a light switch or the volume control on a sound system.
  • Digital submodalities alter in discrete steps or have an on-off switch.
  • Driver submodalities alter the meaning or quality of the content of a representation while simultaneously altering additional qualities of the experience by changing at least one submodality in a different representational system. This change is linked to the change in the driver submodality.

The principle of the NLP Swish Pattern is to create an automated shift of the person’s attention to their highly motivating and self chosen representation of themselves in the future after the change.

The story of the Swish

Christina Hall is one of the founding owners of the Society of NLP and has been an NLP trainer since the early 1980s. She was working with Richard Bandler, the co-originator of NLP, as a blend of executive assistant and associate trainer. She also had a life partner called Peter, who played a central role in the development of the Swish.

“Christina Hall is one of the founding owners of the Society of NLP”

One evening, Christina was driving home from an NLP training seminar. Peter was with her in the car and they were discussing Bandler’s demonstrations. During the conversation, Peter experienced a sudden shift in his internal images and changed state. The new state was markedly resourceful and Christina’s attention was alerted. She asked Peter what he did and he described his experience as follows:

He had been thinking about something in life size, moving, associated images close in front of him. Suddenly the image shifted from its life size movie configuration and dropped down to his left side while it shrunk to a black dot at the bottom left of his field of vision. Simultaneously a (different) black dot rose up from the same place at the bottom left and enlarged and placed itself across Peter’s field of vision, where the previous image had been. This was a dissociated lifelike image of who he would be or how he would appear ideally, after making a change to the content he was first thinking about.

Christina took this information to Bandler and they experimented with it. In due course it became what is known as the Standard NLP Swish Pattern. It worked well for some people, notably those who include size, location and brightness in their analogue driver submodalities.

The swish created a shunt from the present state image with its unique components of the unwanted behaviour, directly to an idealised dissociated image of the person after the change is established. This produced a state that was sufficiently resourceful and different from the state associated with the habitual behaviour to break any link with the unwanted behaviour. As a shunt, any residual link would be broken each time the person was exposed to the initial stimulus.

Some people found it difficult to shrink an image and move it sideways while darkening it and others found it did nothing for them. These people use different driver submodalities. Bandler discovered that a large number of them work well using size and distance. For them, the initial associated image pulls away as if on a bungy cord, while shrinking down to become a dot in the far distance. Simultaneously, the desired state image starts from being a dot in the far distance and rushes forward, enlarging to occupy the position formerly held by the first image. This is known as the Distance NLP Swish Pattern.

Finally, for those who do not include any of these options in their own driver submodalities, or who prefer to work in the auditory or kinaesthetic representational systems, Bandler chunked up from the two formats above to describe the patterns that guide them. In the Designer NLP Swish Pattern, the individual subject’s use of submodalities is elicited and a swish is created for that person, using two of their own analogue driver submodalities. This is the most accurate description of the NLP Swish Pattern.

The Standard, Distance and Designer NLP Swish patterns are taught as part of the syllabus on our postgraduate qualification in NLP, the 10250NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

By Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer

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Prerequisites for an effective Swish.

Christina Hall is one of the founding owners of the Society of NLP and has been an NLP trainer since the early 1980s. She was working with Richard Bandler, the co-originator of NLP, as a blend of executive assistant and associate trainer. She also had a life partner called Peter, who played a central role in the development of the Swish.

Teaching and Learning the Swish

Christina’s story is not well known in the NLP community. Most people learn the Standard Swish first, as a stand alone format. They learn to use the Distance Swish separately, to accommodate subjects who find it difficult to use the Standard Swish. At most, students may be told to ask which format a subject prefers and use that. The frame is generally restricted to presenting a pre-packed format of a standard or distance swish so that students can follow the recipe and get a result. In this impoverished model, students are not given the whole pattern, nor are they invited to begin the process with a submodality elicitation to establish their individual subjects’ own analogue driver submodalities.

In order to learn the Swish effectively and safely, with ecology for the subject, there are some essential frames and prerequisite skills and knowledge.

Prerequisite skills and knowledge:

  • Students should be competent in rapport, sensory acuity, calibration and the use of visual, auditory and kinaesthetic representational systems.
  • Students should be familiar with eliciting submodalities and submodality changes in visual, auditory and kinaesthetic representational systems.
  • Students should routinely check for ecology in all their work; that is ensure that any changes they propose to facilitate fit with the subject’s values, life style, choices and relationships.
  • Students should be competent in routinely applying first, third and second positions to facilitate high quality information gathering and support their calibration of subjects’ responses to questions and instructions.
  • Students should be able to elicit subjects’ outcomes and intentions for having the changes they want.
  • Students should be able to elicit sensory specific information from subjects about their normally unconscious thinking processes.

“In order to learn the Swish there are some essential frames and prerequisite skills and knowledge”


  • The Swish is a submodality change process and therefore has no inherent ecology. You will need to provide an ecology frame and ecology checks throughout the process.
  • There is no information gathering process to establish outcomes, intentions and possible consequences of making a change using the Swish. You will need to gather sufficient information to ensure that the subject creates an ecological outcome that fits into a suitable intention frame.
  • The Swish works to stop unwanted behaviour in its tracks by creating a different representation and state. You will need to establish that any intentions the subject has for continuing the unwanted behaviour are incorporated into the change or satisfied by other means.
  • The Swish has no requirement for engaging the subject’s unconscious mind in the choice or creation of change. You will need to elicit engagement with the subject’s unconscious mind to approve and ratify their choices and possibly to contribute intentions and choices for the change.
  • The Swish is a process model.
  • It uses two analogue driver submodalities to reduce the present state representation while simultaneously using two analogue driver submodalities to bring in the desired state representation. Examples of analogue driver submodalities include, but are not limited to analogue shifts:
    • top to bottom,
    • icy cold to steaming hot,
    • dark to very bright,
    • barely discernible to heavy pressure,
    • nearly silent to very loud,
    • distant and barely there to close and very obvious,
    • from tiny to occupying all available space,
    • left to right.
  • The Swish can be performed using the same representational system for the present and desired state representations or two different representational systems, one each for the present and desired state representations. Alternatively it can be done using driver submodalities from two different representational systems for the present and/or desired state representations. On each occasion, use the combination that you have discovered fits best for the subject in front of you.
  • The present state representation is always associated and requires content which can only be present and is always present when the unwanted act is about to take place.
  • An associated representation is life like. It is as if you were there, in the scene, seeing, hearing and feeling live action.
  • The desired state representation is always clearly discernible and dissociated to keep it slightly in the future and therefore drawing the subject towards it.
  • A dissociated representation is like seeing an image with yourself in the image, hearing sound through a window and feeling yourself as an observer, not as a participant. It is like watching and listening to yourself in a video, seeing a photograph of yourself or hearing your voice recorded.
  • Every Swish is a Designer Swish. People have their own driver submodalities and some of these are analogue. Different people use different sublimates to make meaning of their experience. Therefore any submodality intervention requires eliciting that subject’s submodality applications before creating the change process.

When I teach the Swish, I use the frames above. I tell Christina’s story to provide the history and illustrate that the so-called Standard Swish is Peter’s Designer Swish. For teaching purposes, the visual system is graphically illustrative. Most people can see and shift their internal images with some facility, so I find a demonstration subject who can comfortably perform a Swish using visual submodalities.

I gather information from the subject and engage their unconscious resources until they know what they want to change (problem), what they want instead (outcome) and what having that would do for them (intention). I also establish what keeping the problem does for them (intention for doing it). The intentions we use may be intentions for intentions to make sure they are well formed and attractive to the subject.

A well formed intention is:

  • Self initiated; I want to be X, have, do or experience, not I want to have X done to me by others or I want to be.
  • Phrased in the positive; I want to be, have, do or experience, not I don’t want to experience.
  • For oneself; I want to be X, have, do or experience X, not I want someone else to be, do, have or experience.

It is acceptable to keep exploring higher levels of intention until the subject spontaneously offers one that is well formed and attractive to them. , That may be three or four levels up from the outcome. Even an ill formed and unpleasing intention has a higher intention which might be more useful.

The information gathering usually identifies potential changes to be made to set the subject up for the best quality results from the Swish. Given that the Swish only changes the desire to perform specific acts, additional work is often needed to safeguard the ecology and intentions associated with the desired change. When this is done, I give the subject frames for the Swish, (using visual submodalities if possible for the first demonstration) and elicit the subject’s analogue driver submodalities for use in the process. At this stage I would be ready to run the process, but for the reader, there are other questions to address first.

Creating a Designer Swish is one of the topics in the 10250NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming curriculum, the postgraduate qualification in NLP.

By Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer

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Swish stories and formats

Running the Swish Successfully and Otherwise

Many people in the NLP community are willing to use the Swish as a stand alone process. They claim success using the Standard or Distance Swish by itself with a variety of habitual acts. Given the importance of protecting subjects’ higher level intentions and ecology, I wonder about the time frame in which some of these results hold up.

Here is an example of typical consequences of a stand alone Swish. During a short conversation with someone at their workplace, they mentioned that they bit their nails and had done since childhood. Was there a quick fix that would take less than 10 minutes? They were made aware of the lack of ecology but wanted to try it out. One Swish later, they stopped biting their nails. Three weeks later, the same person observed that since stopping biting their nails, they were aware of an uncomfortable state. The state went away if they brought their nails to their mouth. There was time to explore the state and do a full piece of work, so the person kept their nails and sorted out the underlying state.

Some years ago a student wanted to experiment using the Swish to find out if it was sufficient for him to stop smoking with no other intervention. This was an interesting idea. Usually, smoking is associated with lots of intentions for doing it, for stopping it and for participating in social and business milieux in which it does and does not take place. This is one topic where it is extremely useful to gather high quality information and make a systemic approach to change. The Swish can be an excellent end piece after everything else has been addressed.

The student who wanted to experiment chose the visual system for both representations. He chose separate images for a cigarette in the left hand, in the right hand, lit and unlit, in each case with the hand approaching his face. Then he ran the Swish separately for each image. He reported a few days later that for the first day he had been unable to extract a cigarette from a packet, but he still felt a strong desire to smoke. This is not surprising. When the student explored the rest of his own system and made changes with reference to smoking, he was able to give it up comfortably and congruently. He lost the physiological and state based desire, when the intentions for their presence were addressed. This complemented the initial Swish and he remains a willing and easy non-smoker.

Provided the Swish is used ecologically as part of a suite of interventions, it can be applied usefully to any unwanted recurring behaviour or state. It is best known for breaking unwanted habitual behaviour, but unwanted states can be construed as behaviour and will respond to a Swish. A Swish is a form of shunt, where one state is shunted directly to another, using representations with specific submodalities shifted at high speed. , 

“Provided the Swish is used ecologically it can be applied usefully to any unwanted recurring behaviour or state”

Some say the Swish supersedes the N-Step Reframe – Not So.

The N-Step Reframe used to be called 6 Step Reframing, but Grinder changed its name. This is Bostic and Grinder’s N-Step instructions from p. 155 of “Whispering in the Wind”.

Identify the behaviour(s) to be changed

  1. Establish a reliable involuntary signal system with the unconscious
  2. Confirm that there is a positive intention(s) behind the behaviour(s) to be changed
  3. Generate a set of alternatives as good or better than the original behaviour(s) in satisfying the positive intention(s)
  4. Get the unconscious to accept responsibility for implementation
  5. Ecological check

“The N-Step Reframe used to be called 6 Step Reframing, but Grinder changed its name”

There is a belief in the NLP community that anything the N-Step Reframe can address, the Swish can change more quickly and with less effort. They claim that the Swish supersedes the N-Step Reframe and is therefore the process of choice for that class of problems. To address these opinions:

  • The N-Step Reframe contains ecology, consultation with the unconscious mind, access to and use of intentions. It requires a large enough frame to address any systemic elements that impact the proposed change. All the essential elements for a high quality, lasting change are inside the process. Of course it takes longer than a stand alone Swish. This is the difference between a complete intervention and one piece of an intervention.
  • If the comparison is restricted to personal change, and the N-Step Reframe is compared with a Swish performed inside an ecological framework as above, you are comparing apples with apples. Then the choice can be, what best fits this client, now?
  • Within the personal change context, the N-Step Reframe can accommodate a greater range of topics for change than a stand alone Swish. So can a Swish inside an ecological framework.
  • The N-Step Reframe was developed by John Grinder, directly from his unconscious mind and first published in “Frogs into Princes”. The story of the N-Step Reframe is told in full in Bostic and Grinder, “Whispering in the Wind”. The Swish came later, but to supersede the N-Step Reframe it would have to fulfil all the same functions. The N-Step Reframe has many more applications than the Swish. It lends itself to the creative process, facilitating ideas and designs, to business and commerce, managing people and projects. The principles can be applied to organising thought, teaching and learning and to anything where it is useful to work at the level of intentions, which includes most of life.

“The N-Step Reframe contains ecology, consultation with the unconscious mind, access to and use of intentions”

Now that the framing for the Swish is in place, examples are given and common views are discussed, it is time to describe the Swish itself. This the model:

Instructions for using the Swish Pattern from First Principles (also known as the Designer Swish):

  1. Identify the behaviour to be changed
  2. Create an associated representation at the point of no return for commencing the behaviour
  3. Create a dissociated representation of the subject in their desired state
  4. Identify two analogue driver submodalities to intensify each representation
  5. Associate into the first representation
  6. Apply driver submodalities to reduce intensity of first representation to zero and…
  7. Simultaneously, apply driver submodalities to increase intensity of desired state representation to optimal intensity
  8. Return attention to the outside
  9. Repeat steps five to seven inclusive AT SPEED, two to five times, with a break between each cycle.
  10. Test and future pace.

Formats go into more detail and constrain the average user to following specific instructions, which may or may not suit the subject in front of them. The advanced user will be aware of the frames and extrapolate to the description above. They will routinely gather information and vary the details of the process to suit their subject.

Format for the Standard Swish:

  1. Identify the behaviour to be changed
  2. Create a large associated image at the point of no return for commencing the behaviour
  3. Create a large, close, dissociated image of the subject in their desired state
  4. Apply submodalities of size and brightness to intensify each image
  5. Associate into the first image
  6. Shrink, darken and move the first image down to one side until it is a black dot and…
  7. Simultaneously, from a black dot to the side, enlarge, brighten and move the desired state image to the centre of the visual field so it occupies the whole visual field while remaining dissociated
  8. Return attention to the outside
  9. Repeat steps five to seven inclusive AT SPEED, two to five times, with a break between each cycle.
  10. Test and future pace.

Format for the Distance Swish:

  1. Identify the behaviour to be changed
  2. Create a large associated image at the point of no return for commencing the behaviour
  3. Create a large, close, dissociated image of the subject in their desired state
  4. Apply submodalities of distance and brightness to intensify each image
  5. Associate into the first image
  6. Darken and move the first image far away until it is a black dot in the distance and…
  7. Simultaneously, from a black dot in the distance, enlarge, brighten and move the desired state image to the centre of the visual field so it occupies the whole visual field while remaining dissociated
  8. Return attention to the outside
  9. Repeat steps five to seven inclusive AT SPEED, two to five times, with a break between each cycle.
  10. Test and future pace.

A cautionary tale

Two of our graduates who attended our Trainers’ Training and became skilled trainers, decided to experience a different description of NLP. They each attended a second Trainers’ Training program with different organisations. Each of them, separately, reported the following event.

They were assessed on their training skills by Master Practitioners who were not trainers themselves. In each case, the Master Practitioner assessing ordered them to demonstrate a Standard Swish. Each candidate tried to find a demonstration subject for whom a Standard Swish would sit well. There were none in the available group. Each candidate framed his intention and found a subject who could work with a Swish in the visual system using other analogue driver submodalities. Each candidate presented his intention for using a Designer Swish in the visual system and explained, as if training a group, the ecology of his decision.

Each candidate was failed for not doing a Standard Swish. The Master Practitioners in question demonstrated a lack of awareness of the frames and context of the Swish, disregard for an ecological approach to demonstration subjects and an adherence to the content of procedures over utilisation of models that is deeply disappointing. Several years on, the two trainers remain confident in their own knowledge and do excellent work, one in NLP training and the other in arts and academic applications.

“The function of learning NLP is to apply flexible models in varied contexts”

The function of learning NLP is not to collect a sheaf of paper with single application formats on it. It is to learn to apply flexible models in varied contexts, while working from first principles. If you re-read the N-Step Reframe and the Swish Model descriptions, it will all make sense in light of the framing and recommendations for the rest of an intervention earlier in this e-book. That is the class of information that students need in order to learn to work from first principles. It takes longer than collecting formats, but is infinitely more lasting and rewarding for the future. Formats are like recipes. You can make one dish from each. First principles can be applied together or piecemeal in conversation, at work, in the bank or on a boat. First principles are learned through a combination of framing and exploring multiple patterns through their models. The hands on experience of using them is like having a new format for every subject. You choose.

By Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer

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The beginner’s guide to working with the unconscious mind

Definition of the unconscious mind

In NLP we define the unconscious mind as representing those physiological and cognitive processes that occur outside of conscious awareness. Physiological processes include respiration, hormonal response, etc. Some examples of unconscious cognitive processes include dreaming, ideomotor responses, and learned unconscious competences such as letter recognition, word recognition and grammar processing involved in the skill of reading. Much of our perceptual processing is unconscious; there is an incredible amount of sensory processing that precedes conscious awareness.

“Unconscious mind: those physiological and cognitive processes that occur outside of conscious awareness.”

Creating change through NLP

Arrangements can be made with the unconscious mind to create changes in behaviour and states (including our emotions). These include such things as reviewing and sorting of patterns of experience that can be used to reduce pain, integrate new skills and develop new understandings; a few examples from a very rich set of possibilities. The processes developed in NLP for making these arrangements are, in my view, some of the most liberating applications yet developed.

Personal change takes place in a particular context. Context is when, where, with whom, and the overall conditions within which you have a problem or an outcome. It’s the context within which behaviour occurs that gives the behaviour meaning.

Using our conscious attention to define the context and the parameters in which we are considering having a change is a process called ‘framing’. This is a necessary prerequisite to involving the unconscious mind in accessing or developing resources for change.

John Grinder, in Whispering in the Wind, states that ‘… the unconscious is capable of enormously complex and creative acts when the proper framing and context have been established and the lead is released to the unconscious …This statement also applies to the contexts of personal change and performance, which can be construed as complex and creative acts.

Working with the unconscious – preparing the ground

There are additional patterns identified through NLP that can assist in negotiating between conscious and unconscious minds. One such pattern is arranging a formal involuntary signal system with the unconscious.

Our unconscious communicates, that is, gives us signals, in a variety of different ways. For many people these naturally occurring signals are framed as intuition, a loose term from our perspective. Sometimes the unconscious will communicate a pattern or learning for our conscious minds to attend to through a dream. A signal from the unconscious may be in the form of an image, a sound, a sensation or even a smell or a taste.

“A signal from the unconscious may be in the form of an image, a sound, a sensation or even a smell or a taste.”

The most reliable signals from our unconscious are involuntary responses. A thought may just pop into awareness out of the blue. A person may have an involuntary movement or other sensory response. Having a response that you can’t replicate consciously, supports an integrity in the system of conscious/unconscious communication. If your conscious attention knows when you get a signal from the unconscious, then by implication, it can attend to the communication.

“The most reliable signals from our unconscious are involuntary responses.”

It is useful to have an involuntary response for yes, an involuntary response for no and, for the more advanced student or client, an involuntary response for I don’t have enough information yet.

Having a formal signal system with the unconscious mind is just one example of a signal system. We have multiple signal systems with the unconscious mind already. An example is a class of experience that we have all had: knowing that something was ‘right’ for us, or conversely we just knew that something was definitely ‘not right’ for us. This type of signal, often felt somewhere in the mid-line of the body, is called a congruency signal in NLP. In a context with a proposed outcome you are either congruent or not, about the outcome. If a proposal seems and sounds fine on a conscious level, yet you are incongruent about it, I suggest that your unconscious mind is giving you a signal for you to attend to.

Our emotions are forms of communication from the unconscious mind. Exploring and working with the unconscious intent for a particular emotional response can lead to the development of new responses for that context.

“Our emotions are forms of communication from the unconscious mind.”

For some people, simply learning to use their conscious attention to be sensitive and responsive to the communication of their unconscious mind can make a world of difference. It is the first step to being able to engage the unconscious in promoting high performance, developing greater emotional choice, enhancing learning and other projects that you may create.

The roles of the conscious and unconscious minds

The unconscious mind has access to representations of experience that are often outside conscious awareness, yet the unconscious is relatively unorganised. The conscious mind is superb at organising informationthough poor, in comparison with the unconscious, in finding and accessing resources. When working with the unconscious mind to create change and the development of improved performance, or to propose projects in other contexts such as business, learning or family, we perform different tasks with the conscious and unconscious minds. The role of considering context, possible outcomes and framing is assigned to the conscious mind while the role of identifying resources to support the outcome is assigned to the unconscious mind.

Preparing the conscious mind for working with the unconscious

Before working with the unconscious mind, we begin by considering both the context within which we want a change , and the outcome and intentions we have for creating change. What is the intended result that we want to propose to the unconscious mind?

For the context under consideration, what do I want? How would I know if I had that result? What would I see, hear and feel as evidence of a desired change? What do I want that change for? What is my intention for having this change? If I had this change, what would be the flow-on consequences in my life?

Next, it is useful to have arranged some form of signal system with the unconscious mind, some involuntary response for yes and another involuntary response for no.

Now we are ready to make a proposal to the unconscious. In a comfortable relaxed state, having reviewed the prepared outcome and the context within which that outcome is desired, simply ask your unconscious mind: ‘Is this proposed outcome acceptable to you, my unconscious?’ If you get a yes response, simply invite your unconscious to begin the process of searching and sorting for ‘… all suitable resources to be applied in support of the outcome in that context’. If you get a no response, thank your unconscious and request that your unconscious please communicate the nature of the objection to that outcome, and/or propose back to conscious attention an alternative outcome for that context.

This is the beginning of a dialogue between conscious and unconscious minds in which a suitable outcome is selected, resources are arranged and a negotiation made.

That is the general framework for working in partnership with the unconscious mind to create change and healing. Within this specific application of NLP there are many strategies and refinements that can be used to facilitate communication and the development of an excellent relationship between conscious and unconscious minds.

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

By Chris Collingwood, NLP Trainer at INSPIRITIVE

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