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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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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Create a close and productive relationship with your unconscious mind

The Function of the Unconscious Mind

The function of the conscious mind is to deal with daily life and provide framing and direction to facilitate the unconscious mind’s search and processing functions. It might choose an outcome or frame a desire to fulfil and propose the outcome to the unconscious mind for support, ideas and options to get there. Developing a relationship with the unconscious mind will support a mutually beneficial collaboration between conscious and unconscious functions for the person.

If your starting point is reservation about the existence of your unconscious mind, consider the involuntary responses that keep us alive. When we eat, our food is digested without our conscious input. Our hearts beat and our blood flows round the body. If we had to walk consciously, it would be a slow and rather ineffective task. If our hair stopped growing a bad haircut would be more than a temporary disaster. If someone asks a question we can answer immediately, the answer is there, regardless of what we were thinking about a moment earlier. When asked a less obvious question we may have to search for the answer before it presents itself, but the search is not conscious.

Given the invisibility of mind conscious or otherwise as opposed to the brain, it is entirely possible that the unconscious mind is a metaphor for some other form of automation. However treating it as an able and well-intentioned part of us allows fruitful communication between conscious and unconscious to take place. The unconscious has more than one function. As well as running things it acts as a library for all the experiences we have had including the ones we do not remember consciously.

“It is entirely possible that the unconscious mind is a metaphor for some other form of automation.”

It has a search function and like a search engine the quality of the results it produces are directly proportional to the quality of the search criteria it is given. For example you can offer your unconscious a clearly visible movie of yourself achieving an outcome and ask if the unconscious will support you in having that outcome. If the movie is sufficiently detailed your unconscious has enough information to search your library for relevant data. It can determine quickly if it is ecological and useful for you to have that particular outcome. If you need help creating a prospective outcome the exercise Outcome, Intention and Consequences is designed to help you develop clear representations of your outcomes as well as ensuring they are well formed. Your unconscious can use the products of Outcome, Intention and Consequences as search criteria.

(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).

The unconscious has a form of wisdom, in that it is not limited to seven plus or minus two chunks of information and it works in relata and systems. However it can respond somewhat literally with language use. It can miss nuances and respond literally to questions and requests. In most cases it deletes negatives. If I say; ‘Don’t drop that cup’ your unconscious mind will represent that cup then represent you dropping the cup in order to make sense of my statement. Don’t think of blue is a common example. You have to think of blue in order to know what not to think of. Then you can delete blue.

Yet at the same time, the unconscious mind has fun with the spoken word and appreciates the hidden patterns in metaphor. It can make multiple meanings of words with the same sound and phrases with more than one meaning. In writing sale and sail look different but when we hear them the context tells us which one it is. “The sun shines out of my ask anybody if I’m a good Premier” is attributed to Joh Bjelke Pietersen, the late fearless leader of Queensland, Australia. This is an example of language use designed to engage the unconscious. What is not said is picked up when the presuppositions surrounding the statement give it direction. Presuppositions frame what is stated and the definition of a Presupposition is What has to be true for a sentence, paragraph, comment or text to make sense.

The unconscious mind not only stores representations of experiences, or schemata, it groups them, relates them to other experiences, develops elaborated sets and makes meaning of them. It will prompt us to go searching in the world for more information on matters of interest to us, provided it is not offered definitive closure on a topic. For example most people who learn NLP do so from choice because it is a fascinating area of study and has so many practical benefits. Thorough immersive training in the patterns and principles of NLP offers the opportunity to continue to learn and develop generatively, long after the event. Students find they are using NLP to explore itself and other patterns of excellence in the world. Unconscious minds enjoy playing with life enhancing patterns and there is endless opportunity to do that with no closure on pattern detection and utilisation in the world.

Contrast that experience with being handed a book of scripted formats that map onto specific problems. In that world life and change is presented as problematic with a linear one tool to fix one problem mindset. There is low grade closure at every turn. The conscious mind crunches the numbers avidly and the unconscious mind’s desire to explore is constrained. Worse still at the end of a short period of training using the book those students return to the world clutching their book of recipes with a sense of having done NLP and ruled it off. That is sad.

Establishing Communication Between Your Conscious and Unconscious Mind

Communication between conscious and unconscious is natural and continuous. The unconscious gives signals which we may or may not notice consciously. Often we become habituated to our own signals and ignore them. While this is very common in extreme examples this does not promote good relations between conscious and unconscious. For some people, when they get back in touch with the unconscious initially, the relationship has to be re-established.

First, we can learn to detect our unconscious signals by attending to our senses and exploring small shifts in light, sound and sensation. To facilitate this process there are at least three excellent practices for communicating with the unconscious mind. Here we shall explore one of them in detail.

Using natural signals to communicate with the Unconscious Mind

The simplest way to detect and apply unconscious signals, which we all possess, is to remember a time when we had an instant and engaging certainty that something was right for us. Did someone make you an offer you could not refuse? Did you have an opportunity to do something very appealing? When you find an example that gave you a very clear signal of Yes, I want that, re-live it and re-experience that clear signal. Note every sensation and any internal images or sounds. That is your natural signal which the unconscious uses to indicate Yes, I want or support that. It is usually a clearly detectable, felt sensation centred about the vertical midline of the body, in the chest or abdominal region. There may be an involuntary move or lean forward, towards what you want.

You also have a signal that fires when something is utterly unacceptable and you would move heaven and earth to prevent it. Can you find an example of that? Has someone suggested you do something distasteful, unacceptably dangerous or even abhorrent to you? This is the signal that lets you know that. It is you natural signal for No. This is also usually centred around the vertical midline of the body, but feels radically different from the Yes signal. It may include an involuntary move backwards, away from the unpleasant idea.

When you have identified the Yes and the No signals by finding examples where each fired naturally, you are ready to engage the unconscious and start to communicate with it. At this stage, you are restricted to asking questions which can be answered with Yes or No, known as Closed questions. Framing for your questions is essential to facilitate the unconscious mind’s search function.

First, you need to establish communication, so relive or replay your Yes signal and simultaneously ask your unconscious mind (by asking inwardly or out loud) ‘Unconscious, if you are willing to communicate with me, please repeat this signal’. Then you wait for the signal to repeat. When you get the signal, thank your unconscious mind. Then ask,  If you are willing to use that signal (replay the Yes signal) to answer Yes to my questions, please do it again. When you get a Yes response, thank your unconscious.

To set up your No signal, relive or replay your No signal and simultaneously ask your unconscious; ‘Unconscious, if you are willing to use this (No signal) signal to answer, No to my questions, please repeat the signal I am demonstrating now. When you get the signal, thank your unconscious mind. Then confirm the No signal by asking: Unconscious, if that is the signal to answer No to my questions, please repeat it now. When the signal fires again, thank your unconscious. You are now ready to start some meaningful communication.

You may be wondering about the frequent thanks I am recommending to offer the unconscious mind. Having worked with many unconscious minds and discussed this subject with John Grinder, we have observed that unconscious minds appreciate and respond well to a high level of courtesy. This seems to be true, even with consciously discourteous clients and students. It is highly amusing to watch a churlish conscious mind’s unconscious begin to communicate and insist on clear framing, polite requests and thanks articulated after every answer.

If you would like your unconscious mind to support you in achieving and having something you want, create your outcome in as much detail as you can muster. Make a clearly visible internal movie, with a sound track and sensations of being there. Play it for your unconscious mind and ask the question: Unconscious, will you support me in having this? If you get a Yes, you are in business. Say ‘Thank you’. If you get a No still say Thank you. Now you need to ask more questions or provide more information.

How do you know what to ask next? What would you want to know before you could offer informed comment to someone requesting your input on their plan or situation? This is the kind of information your unconscious may need.

You could ask if you have provided enough information.

  • Was your movie sufficiently detailed to enable a thorough search?
  • Are there consequences attached to the outcome that you had not considered consciously?

You could pursue your intention for having the outcome. The intention is what you want to experience through having your outcome fulfilled. It is the answer to the question; What do you want that for? Or, What will having that do for you?Notice the direction is quite different from the answer you would give to; Why do you want that? In this context, reasons and excuses are not helpful.

The intention for having your outcome might be more acceptable to your unconscious mind if the outcome itself is not. If you are unsure of your intention, ask if your unconscious will share it with you. If it agrees, the idea will spring to mind in the familiar manner of your regular ideas, connections and realisations.

Regular communication with the unconscious mind, using Yes and No signals, facilitates the relationship between conscious and unconscious. As the connection develops, the conscious mind becomes able to see, hear and feel information offered by the unconscious in the form of ideas and representations or thoughts. When we ask for the support of the unconscious in achieving our outcomes, the unconscious may want us to do something specific consciously. For example, someone wanted to remain alert and fully functioning until a particular task was completed. This required working for a 17 hour period that stretched far into the night. The unconscious agreed, subject to the person promising to sleep late and take the following day off, with an early night at the end of it.

If the unconscious stipulates a condition for facilitating an outcome and you agree to that condition, you are advised to keep the agreement. Unconscious minds can lose trust in their person quite easily if agreements are not kept and they develop trust by collecting evidence of trustworthy conduct. Through no fault of our own, there is a long history of people ignoring unconscious signals they have received without recognising them as such. Eventually the unconscious has stopped trying to get their attention. In extreme cases, sincere apologies are called for.

A student once described losing an excellent relationship with her unconscious mind. When she was an undergraduate, she and her friends thought one of their lecturers was very attractive, from a respectful distance. At that time, her unconscious mind was working with her conscious mind in a co-operative and effective arrangement. One evening, she went to the relevant department to hand in an essay. The building was almost empty and the attractive lecturer invited her up to his office. Her unconscious mind said No, very clearly and directly. She ignored the signal and the lecturer tried to rape her. She managed to get away from him, but her unconscious mind stopped working with her. She came to the Grad Cert NLP 10 years later and told the story, saying her unconscious mind had not communicated with her at all since then. Arrangements were made, using signals for Yes and No, combined with profuse apologies and a promise to honour all signals, advice and arrangements. Her unconscious agreed to reestablish communication provided the student kept her agreements and the relationship started to improve.

“Communication with the unconscious is an integral part of the New Code of NLP.”

Sensitivity to our own unconscious signals is not a normal part of our upbringing and education, at least in the west. Therefore we may need to spend time learning to detect quite subtle signals from our unconscious minds so we can create or enhance the relationship. Later on, when the relationship is well established, we can move on from formal communication to faster and more comprehensive interaction, using internal images, sounds and sensation as we do with more conscious thoughts.

Communication with the unconscious is an integral part of the New Code of NLP. It is possible to engage the unconscious to participate in NLP work with less explanation than is given here, but for the reader, depth of framing makes an appreciable difference to the quality of your experience, especially if you want to do this by yourself.

(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).

Article By Jules, Collingwood, NLP Trainer at INSPIRITIVE.

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Use your unconscious mind to set ecological outcomes

The Development of Formal Anchoring

Formal anchoring as a skill in NLP was developed by John Grinder and Richard Bandler in the 1970s, first as a skill for assisting people to choose and change their states and also as an influencing piece. Originally, Grinder and Bandler did not specify that the quality of choices people made was vastly improved when the unconscious mind was included in the process. Thus in the Classic Code of NLP when anchoring is taught, students are usually encouraged to think consciously when finding states they want to anchor. The result is often an improvement on the student’s previous experience, but it may not be as good as it could be, nor necessarily in their best interest in the greater scheme of things.

When the unconscious mind is included in a process, provided it is adequately informed, the results are not only more fitting, but often quite surprising and routinely supportive of the person’s whole system and life. In the New Code, the unconscious mind is an integral element to engage at all stages of any change or exploration. When given high quality information on the context for a change and the intention for having the change, the unconscious mind, like a search engine, can find supremely fitting resources that make change effortless and lasting. Also and equally important, the unconscious mind is best at identifying the consequences, both desirable and otherwise, of having a particular change. If the consequences do not work well, the unconscious mind can provide a higher level intention from which to work.

“When the unconscious mind is included in a process the results are more supportive of a person’s system.”

The Concept of Ecology and the New Code NLP

Awareness of all possible consequences of a change is essential and built into the New Code. This is called Ecology, as it refers to the ecology of a person’s life system, that is, who and what is important to that person. Given that it is possible to make far reaching and lasting change with NLP, it becomes important to consider how the change could impact the person’s ecology, including its effect on people, animals, activities, and work that matter to the person. Class members learned the hard way in the early days of NLP. John Grinder remembers watching people getting their outcomes using NLP, but being deeply unimpressed with the quality of outcomes many of them chose. This was a result of trying to apply NLP with just the conscious mind and not considering the ecology of making that change. Therefore, when Grinder started working on the New Code, ecology was built into every piece, along with including the unconscious mind.

(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).

Engaging the Unconscious Mind

When engaging the unconscious mind in anchoring, it is appropriate for the conscious mind to nominate the context and turn the choice of resources over to the unconscious mind. If the unconscious mind agrees that it is a good idea to have resources in that context, it will provide high quality, apposite resources for the process.

When Grinder started developing the New Code of NLP with Judith DeLozier, as well as bringing in ecology and the unconscious mind, he wanted to create a system where change could be created via live experience shaped by a defined context. One of his preferred personal activities is technical rock climbing. This is an activity in which you will die if you do not maintain an aware, resourceful state while doing it. Grinder’s NLP training classes do not require his students to place their lives at risk, but the principle of using context to shape state and learning runs through the New Code and is a great facilitator of change.

“When Grinder started working on the New Code, ecology was built into every piece.”

In line with engaging the unconscious mind and preserving a person’s ecology, Grinder utilised context to develop an activity called a Task in the New Code. A task is a tailor made intervention which is offered to someone in the form of a set of instructions. The instructions require the person to follow a particular course of action, which may be framed as a job, a favour or simply a beneficial experience. What is not stated is that in order to follow the instructions, the person has to enter a context that will shape their experience in the exact manner needed to elicit the change they need to achieve their outcome. The person’s conscious attention is on following the instructions and performing the apparent task to the best of their ability. The experience they actually need takes place naturally and spontaneously without conscious attention. The unconscious mind is free to discover the patterns and integrate them without interference.

Grinder tells the story of a young man he worked with once. The young man came from a wealthy and protective family. He had been diagnosed with a mental disorder some time earlier and found interacting with people, especially women, very difficult. He had never had a job, which did not concern him and he wanted to be able to interact with girls. Grinder told the young man he needed work experience first and that he had arranged for the young man to have a temporary job. The job was created by Grinder for the purpose of the intervention. It required the young man to stand outside Victoria’s Secret with a clipboard containing a long list of rather personal questions about customers’ purchases. (Victoria’s Secret is a lingerie shop which at that time sold a line of racy undergarments for women). He was instructed to approach people leaving the shop and ask them if they would be willing to participate in a survey for market research purposes. If they agreed, he was to ask them the questions on the clipboard and note their answers. He was told to complete at least 12 surveys a session and to do this every Saturday for six weeks.

The young man only managed two surveys the first day and was roundly berated by Grinder, who was actually very pleased he had managed to collect any at all. By the end of the task, the young man was approaching strangers with ease and guiding them fluently through the survey. The real intent of the task was to create a repeating experience of approaching people (the majority being young women) and engaging them in conversation comfortably and naturally. The choice of merchandise created a context where the task was potentially more difficult than it would be with social conversation. The intent of the task was to gain the skills and experience and generalise them into ordinary life. The work experience frame was the carrier for the task and engaged the young man’s conscious attention.

(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 at INSPIRITIVE Pty Ltd.

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