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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”

Frames:

  • 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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