Problem Solving Strategy (II)

This technique helps a team of two or more people resolve a problem by creating a shared experience of an appropriate resource. The idea here is that if all involved persons are aligned with each other, any conflicts they may have had between themselves are no longer a factor in their effort to solve a given problem. This technique is not only for business teams; you can use it by working with members of the same family or even couples. When there’s a problem to be solved by more than one person, their shared interest and alignment alone might give all of them a stream of creative ideas for solving the issue. Using such a strategy might also help to mediate conflicts.

Identify a resourceful experience.

Think back to a recent time in which you’ve had an experience you could define as resourceful. It should be an event in which you were fully congruent and competent, you’ve been acting like a master and you have achieved your outcome. 

Associate into this memory. See what you saw, hear what you heard, feel what you felt and notice how this acquired resourceful feeling actually feels like. Feelings can be expressed in terms of movement, so where and from where does this feeling go/come from?

Pre-mirroring a shared resource. 

Stand up facing your partner. Demonstrate the movement of your resourceful feeling to your partner. 

Show him or her how it feels. 

Do not speak, just move your body to illustrate the feeling. Stay associated with the memory. 

Post-mirroring a shared resource. 

Remain in the 1st position (associated) and mirror your partner’s response to your movements. That is, mimic your partner’s movements. 

Move to 2nd position.

Exchange places with your partner. Move to 2nd position and act as if you are him or her. Be sure to notice the movement you’ve elicited from yourself in step two, it will change. 

Move to 3rd position. 

Move to the observer position (third position), and carefully observe the both of you. What is similar? What seems different? Note the similarities and differences in the expression of the resourceful feeling’s movement that you and your partner show to each other. 

Back to 1st position, facing same direction. 

Move back to the first position, fully associated with the resourceful memory. You and your partner should now face the same direction, standing side by side. Now both of you begin again the resourceful feeling’s movement (each their own), and continue until you find a similar move. It can be anything, long or short, rapid or slow. This is the “we” zone. 

For teams: repeat with pairs.

If you’re doing this technique with multiple teams, work in pairs and then combine them. Repeat in the same manner so that all four, six, or eight, and so on, are eventually aligned with a shared movement that gives each his or her own subjective resourceful experience, but at the same time it is a shared one. 

Testing is easy. It involves the solution of the problem at hand! Team up and work on the problem; every time you face a conflict, re-group the same direction format and use the shared movement maneuver. If you feel a sense of “we are going to solve this one together,” you have accomplished this exercise successfully. If not, it needs to be repeated, perhaps with a stronger subjective resourceful experience of each team member. When working with teams of people that you don’t know personally, work hard first on establishing group rapport with them and establishing your position as a leader. Even if the team’s current leader (a boss, a manager, a supervisor) is present, make sure that he or she knows in advance that you’re taking this approach in order to help the group come together and not to take over his or her responsibilities or authority. The best way to initially establish leadership is to use the one-up-man-ship concept. 

That’s a concept that has been in use by churches for years. Notice how the priest is standing always higher than the public, always in fancier and special clothing, always looking calm and in control, always moving with intention, and always speaking with confidence. 

You can do the same in any setting. In business situations, dress as if you own the place and you’re the richest guy around. Walk in a consistent rhythm, not too fast and not too slow, look around and speak to mere strangers with confidence and never ever apologize. Even if you’re late, do not say “I’m sorry I’m late, but I had this or that….” Say something like, “I know I’m late so we’d better start now.” 

Problem Solving Strategy (I)

This technique is the first of a series of innovative problem-solving strategies. This one uses the power of metaphor. You will need to have a good handle on metaphor in order to do this pattern.

Select the problem, step into the problem position, associating into the problem.

Consider a problem that you feel you need to approach in a fresh way. Choose a location in front of you to step into, that you will anchor to this problem situation. Step into that position and associate into this problem, experiencing how it happens in first position (through your own eyes).

Step into a meta-position.

Select another position that will serve as your meta-position, where you will view the problem from a transcendent or distant position. Step into this position. 

Experience a rich resource from a resource position. 

Think of a resource situation that is unrelated to the problem. The situation should help you access a very rich and compelling resource state. For example, it could be an activity that gives you a strong sense of self, mission, creativity, or passion. Step into a new position that will now serve as your resource position. Fully associate into the resource experience.

Create metaphor for the problem, but that is based on the resource position.

Come up with a metaphor for your problem situation. In other words, create a new, fantasy problem that is a symbol for your real problem. Your new, fantasy problem should be inspired by the resource activity, its context, and your resource state. For example, if skiing was your resource activity, then a real problem such as difficulty concentrating could be symbolized by getting your skis crossed up. The ski problem is now a metaphor (symbol) for the concentrating problem.

Imagine solving the metaphoric problem. Observe the resulting changes in your experience.

Maintain your distance from the problem situation, and imagine solving the metaphoric problem. For example, you would come up with a solution to crossing up your skis by developing good coordination for parallel skis by focusing on controlling one of the skis so that the other naturally follows. Notice how this solution calls forth any changes in your physical state, internal strategies, TOTEs, and so forth.

From your meta-position, apply the metaphoric solution to the original problem.

Now step back into your meta-position. Explore how you would take the solution that you just created (for that metaphoric problem) and think metaphorically in order to translate it into a solution in the actual problem situation. For example, focusing on body language and controlling one of your skis to get parallel skiing is like clarifying your goals and reasons for focusing your mind on your studies. 

Step into the problem location and check for results.

STEP into the problem situation location, and see if you have dissolved your impasse. 

Repeat, using other resource states.

Repeat this process, using other resource states applied to the same problem. This brings in a variety of your resources so you approach the problem from very different angles.

Recognition Expression

Naturally, it’s important for clients to feel that you “get” them. But among the most important things for you to get are the serious binds and traumas that they experience. When a client mentions something that is profoundly important such as that, you should draw upon your life experience and flash a sign of recognition that shows your client that it registered and that you are not judging them or becoming defensive in some way.

First, you must be on the lookout for these profound disclosures. Many times, a client will mention something without an emotional emphasis. Still, they are likely to look to see how you respond. If you missed the content, that look should signal you to tune into the profundity of what they just revealed. When you notice a profound disclosure, here are some excellent ingredients for your response:

1) Inhale while slightly extending your upper back and tilting your head up with your mouth part way open and eye brows slightly lifted.

2) Exhale fully. When half way exhaled, acknowledge this in a way that conveys an, “oh that…” quality.

For example:

“Ah, attorneys…”


“With years lost, right?”


(slightly shaking head) “It’s just scary how many people are going through this now.”

or my favorite:

“Isn’t that some-thing?”

You don’t want to be dishonest, of course. If you really don’t know what the experience is about, convey how important it is to you to know more about what it involves and what impact it has had. Either way, you’ll probably need to be learning more about what the experience means to your client, as in how it colors their challenges of today.

Relationship Clarifying

This technique helps you identity characterological adjectives (CA’s). CA’s encode basic characteristics of relationships. Each CA implies a counterpart. For example, the CA of “victim” implies the counterpart of “victimizer.” Getting to the essence of a dyadic relationship opens the gateway to understanding the dynamics of the relationship and how the two parties contribute to enduring patterns, including patterns that are dysfunctional.

Select a difficult person or situation.

Come up with a person that you have trouble communicating with, or a situation that gets in the way of you being creative and productive in getting desirable results. In such a situation, you would feel stuck.

Get a typifying word from third position.

Imagine that you are observing the situation from a seat in a movie theater. Allow your mind to come up with a word that captures the essence of the situation, such as “obstructive” or “narcissistic.”

Place yourself onto the screen and into this situation. 

Observe your own behavior and come up with a word that captures the essence of your reactions and involvement with this situation or person. For example, “reactive” or “gullible.”

Isolate the CA’s

Think of the two words or phrases that you came up with, such as “obstructive” and “reactive” or “narcissistic” and “gullible.” 

Notice how these two words or phrases are counterparts to one another. You have gotten to the essence of the dyad by isolating the characterological adjectives. 

Satir Categories

“I am Me. In all the world, there is no one else exactly like me. Everything that comes out of me is authentically mine, because I alone chose it —I own everything about me: my body, my feelings, my mouth, my voice, all my actions, whether they be to others or myself. I own my fantasies, my dreams, my hopes, my fears. I own my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistakes. Because I own all of me, I can become intimately acquainted with me. By so doing, I can love me and be friendly with all my parts. I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me, and other aspects that I do not know — but as long as I am friendly and loving to myself, I can courageously and hopefully look for solutions to the puzzles and ways to find out more about me. However I look and sound, whatever I say and do, and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time is authentically me. If later some parts of how I looked, sounded, thought, and felt turn out to be unfitting, I can discard that which is unfitting, keep the rest, and invent something new for that which I discarded. I can see, hear, feel, think, say, and do. I have the tools to survive, to be close to others, to be productive, and to make sense and order out of the world of people and things outside of me. I own me, and therefore, I can engineer me. I am me, and I am Okay.”

– Virginia Satir

Virginia Satir was one of the first family therapists. Like Erickson, she was modeled for NLP purposes, and her work is one of the three fundamental models of NLP. She was born in 1916 and became a noted psychotherapist. Her best known books were: Conjoint Family Therapy and Peoplemaking in which she describes her family therapy work to a popular audience. Satir wrote the book Changing With Families: A Book About Further Education for Being Human with Bandler and Grinder. She developed the Virginia Satir Change Process Model through clinical studies. This model has also been applied to organizational change. Satir found that people fell into five categories, each of which had its own body language, attitude, and communication patterns. They are the Blamer, Placater, Computer, Distracter and Leveler. NLP has incorporated these styles into its trainings. 

The Blamer

Blamer’s externalize blame, and appear to be always ready to place the blame in a harsh or judgmental way. When things go wrong, the blamer starts blaming. The blamer also pushes their thoughts and feelings onto everyone else. In NLP, you may see blamers referred to as skunks, because they spray their criticism outward. 

Blamers, like all the categories, have their own body language. When they’re in blaming mode, they point their finger at people and have a firm, controlling style of body language. They tend to use confusion tactics to make it easier to get the blame to stick without too much resistance from others. They do this with meta-model violations such as over-generalizing, connecting ideas that don’t belong together, and making claims for which there is no proof. Blamers can end up being pretty lonely, because their behavior is alienating. They do best with very like-minded people and stay at peace with them by focusing their blame on the same people or groups. This forms a kind of bond. Inside, the blamer may not be nearly as confident and secure as they appear. Blaming can serve to compensate for vulnerabilities such as the fear of judgement, and feeling so small as to need to align with a larger authority that justifies being blaming in service of that larger authority. 

Blamers generally blame in the name of a system such as family, church, employer or political cause. As an employer or supervisor, they may blame in the name of profit. Blame can be a strategy for office politics. Blamers use general statements, complex comparisons and missing proofs to confuse the other person, and then place the blame. Such people usually end up alone, since nobody wants to be at the receiving end of the blame.

The Placater

The placater is also one for displacing blame, but they do it more diplomatically. The placater is much more concerned about how people view them, so much of their behavior is an escape from conflict or unwanted attention or blame. A blamer will fight fire with fire, but a placater blows the fire onto someone else’s house and shares their neighbor’s upset over the fire department being slow to arrive. Their body language tends to be palms facing up and shoulders shrugging, they may tend to slouch.

Placaters hide their approach with meta-model violations such as cause and effect, modal operators and unspecified verbs. They may get your sympathy with a poor-me attitude. When there is conflict, they go into hiding, at least by becoming noncommittal. Placaters may be found firmly sitting on the fence.

The Computer

The computer style can be pretty unemotional. They cover up possible emotions with extra words. They may sound academic or scientific. When someone else becomes emotional, they act like they are trying to become a counter-weight, by acting even more cool, calm, and collected. Computers hide from their own feelings and invalidate other’s feelings, because they have not learned to cope with feelings, whether the feelings are their own or someone else’s. 

Neuro Linguistic Programming training materials have referred to them as Mr. Cool, or Mr. Spock, a science fiction character from a planet where everyone aspired to be perfectly logical. They may tend to fold their arms, especially when things get too personal for them, and they are often seen in a neutral posture. Some fit the nerd stereotype, and may be physically awkward or make gestures that are a bit eccentric or un-self-conscious. It may seem like they are drawing their energy up in their head, and that their body mostly serves to support their brain.In relationships, the computer can harm the intimacy by being too far removed. Many computer style people are considered to have an autism spectrum diagnosis such as Asperger syndrome. In terms of meta-model patterns, computers hide out by using generalizations and omitting references. 

The Distracter

There is another style that can be a chameleon. They are seen as a mix of blamer, computer, and placater. But there is a common thread that runs through their style, and that is to manipulate through distraction. They may induce confusion or simple fatigue in the other person. They train others not to hold them accountable by making it very difficult to have a straight conversation with them. They are intuitive about escalating the distraction as needed. They can be quite exasperating, especially if they are not very socially skilled or if they are cognitively impaired. They may tend to gesture a great deal in an attempt to communicate their thoughts and emotions with their body, but subconsciously, this can serve to further fill up other people with excess stimuli for adding to the confusion. From a meta-model point of view, they switch topics too much, overgeneralize, and omit references.

The Leveler

Finally, there is the leveler. The leveler has high congruence and does not blanch at being factual. They do not over-dramatize, so if there is blaming to do, they are objective and fair about it. When confronted by the other styles, the most evolved levelers have a special ability to stay in touch with reality and their own agenda and self-interest. If they upset anyone, it’s because their style interferes with manipulation by the other styles. What upsets people more than someone getting in the way of their attempts to manipulate? The leveler may have their hands facing down, as if they are trying to calm things down and encourage level-headedness. This is because they often end up in a mediator role because of their own level-headedness. Their ability to see both sides of an argument makes them good mediators.

Utilizing Flexibility

An important part of the Satir model is that people need to develop flexibility in their styles, so that they are not locked into one. With more flexibility, people can adapt to more situations, and can solve more interpersonal problems. They can certainly create less personal problems with that flexibility. 

So while the leveler sounds like the best style, it can be a problem if it is the only style you are comfortable in. A good mediator knows that having various styles can make the difference between success and failure in a negotiation. The same holds true for anyone, really. 

For example, being a blamer may help knock someone off of their stream of thought, because it is a real state interrupt. It may help level the playing field when someone else is being too high-handed. 

Category Rapport-Building

Done properly, you may actually win the respect of a blamer by acting like a blamer, but this is advanced. You have to be in that style without putting the blamer on the defensive, so pacing the blamer style means adopting that kind of critical attitude and intensity WITHOUT causing the blamer to feel that they must fight with you or otherwise defend their vulnerability. Being upset about the same thing as the blamer is an excellent strategy. Remember that after pacing comes leading. The blamer is much more open to your input once rapport has been established. 

The problem for most people is that they are too shaken up or angry to want to establish rapport with a blamer. Since blamers may hold a lot of power in an organization, this can be a fatal mistake. It’s best to see it as an opportunity to practice NLP rather than to practice your vulnerability. Which do you love more?You can gain rapport with a placater pretty easily, since they really crave attention and understanding. 

The trick is to get them connected with their real responsibilities without losing them. Starting with their higher values, that is, at a more general or abstract level and working down into the specifics is an excellent strategy. 

Distracters are more open to rapport-building than you might think. As with most rapport-building, you must start out being non-threatening. Being non-threatening with a Satir category means not directly confronting the way the style acts as a defense against internal vulnerabilities. In the case of the distracter, you do not rub their face in whatever it was they were trying to distract you from. 

As a Neuro Linguistic Programming practitioner, you are getting used to juggling different ideas and even using confusion as a technique yourself. The trick with the distracter is to lock firmly onto the facts, position and agenda that are important to you, and then take a detour. Go all over the place with the distracter, but keep dropping in points about how it is in the best interest of the distracter to do what must be done. It’s a bit like breaking a horse. 

While the distracter tends to fatigue others, you are fatiguing the distracter because all of their efforts bring them back to the same spot, your agenda. On one level, you are pacing them, on another, you are kindling a state of compliance. 

Add Ericksonian language to the free-wheeling conversation and you will be the distracter master. Since levelers respect other levelers, and your NLP skills help you see both sides to any debate, you will have the easiest time establishing rapport and understanding with the leveler. 

If there is a disagreement, make sure that you have a good mastery of the facts and a concise knowledge of the agendas of the players in the situation. Of course, you can use everything you had already learned about rapport-building. But now you know even more. 

By learning about the Satir categories, you know not only more about what to do, but also about what to avoid doing. But if you aren’t sure where to start in an interaction, being the leveler is best. That’s because the leveler always understands their side of the issue. The only concern is that the leveler may be persuaded by the other side. This creates an incentive for the person you are talking to want to create rapport. If they are not skilled, or if they are stressed, they may fall into their more un-evolved category style, but that means that they will be more obvious as to what category they belong to. You will be able to take your cues from there. It is very important to remember that when you see someone in a more stereotypical, manipulative, or irrational state, that state may not be where they are most of the time. 

Don’t limit yourself by assuming that what you see is all you will be dealing with in the future. This insight makes it easier for you to bring out the best in people. This makes their lives, and yours, a lot easier.

Nested Loops

Influence and persuade others merely by telling them stories. This is one of the best, if not THE best, method of conversational hypnosis. It involves no induction’s, no snapping fingers, and no need to get an approval for a hypnotic session. It’s also very easy to learn and practice. It can be used for almost any situation where you would want to implant hypnotic suggestions without being obvious (which also means almost certain failure), and without the need to induce a person into hypnosis. You can use this method to talk with your kids before bedtime, and install some positive suggestions that will benefit them and the family.

  • You can use it to talk with your boss about a raise (or to be precise, tell your boss when he’ll give you a raise).
  • You can use it to talk with your employees to motivate them and to inspire creativity. 
  • You can use it in training (just like Bandler has been doing for years and years with his stories). 
  • You can use it in writing, like I do from time to time. 

There is no end to the ways you can use The Nested Loops method. 

The Nested Loops method is another classic method that Milton Erickson has created and used successfully for many years. By using this method, you’re building tension, just like they do in regular storytelling. You create five stories that are interesting to your audience (which you should know, of course). You open one story after the other, and on a cue point you switch to the next story (the graphic below demonstrates it). Once you open the fifth story, you include your hypnotic suggestions in it and then you close story number five, and continue to complete and close the stories in reverse order. That’s the classic application of this method, and it is thoroughly explained below. There are a number of reasons why this method works so well to influence people: 

1. Our mind doesn’t like loose ends, so your mind begins a TDS (Trance-Derivational Search) in order to close the open loop. Your mind looks for the completion of it, and while it waits for it, more stories are opened, overloading the mind’s attempts to keep track. It is all done subconsciously, of course. 

2. Concentrating on the content and entertaining details of the stories will confuse the listener, and will cause his mind to drift from the structure to the details; chunking down, in other words. By the time you get to the fifth story, your listener’s mind has less tendency to resist suggestions and these will most likely be accepted immediately. 

3. There is no “watch out” sign. When you induce hypnosis, some people will go into a defensive position, guarding their subconscious mind as though it were a precious fortress. Hypnotherapists work long and hard at bringing down these defenses, and it takes a lot of energy and time. By telling a story in a casual conversational style, without even mentioning the word “hypnosis” or snapping your fingers, the defenses are down (unless that person has a good reason not to trust you). 

4. The loop is habitual. Our mind picks up patterns quite fast. Once one loop has been closed (story number five), the listener’s mind expects that the rest will be closed too, and it is much more alerted to pick it up. When an additional one is closed (number four or five), it forgets all about the suggestions and lets them sink into the subconscious with the stories. It is much more important for the mind to close the loops than to deal with the suggestion that has been “slipped” in between them. 

Create a well-formed outcome.

You must firmly decide what you want to accomplish and with whom. You need to know your outcome as well as your audience’s needs, wants and desires. By knowing this information, it will be easier for you to construct your stories and suggestions in the most effective manner. 

Ask yourself questions such as:

Who do I want to influence?

What do I want to suggest to them? (Don’t write the suggestions yet, just your outcome.)

Who are they exactly? Is it better if I work with only one at a time?

What are their needs? What do I know about their needs, wants and desires? If I could sum it up in one word, how would I name what they want themselves? 

What type of stories would be most appealing to them? (You’ll know the answer once you answer the previous questions.)

When would be the best time to sit down and talk to them without interruption?

Have they already trusted me, or do I need to establish trust (and rapport, of course)?

Come up with an indirect suggestion.

Since we’re talking about a conversational hypnotic method, it would be much more effective to use indirect suggestions. Saying something like: “and you would find yourself passionate about cleaning your room,” is a very direct suggestion. Saying instead, “and you know, I felt great after cleaning my room, just like you do with yours…” provides an indirect suggestion. Since it takes time to master this method (as with every good thing), start with only one suggestion. Later on, once you learn to go through these steps without planning too much, you can use more suggestions. 

Build the five stories and cue points.

There are very few rules for these stories:

1. They must be entertaining, since we’re using five of them. If they are boring, you’ll have a sleeping audience. 

2. The method will work better if you use real-life stories from your own past. Do not use stories that involve the person you’re trying to persuade; they have their own version of this memory. Don’t even include their role, as that is too obvious. If you must, you can make up your story. 

3. Learn to tell those stories in an interesting way. 

Record yourself before you try it out on someone else. 

Fine tune your story telling until there is nothing in the content, or in the delivery, that is likely to annoy. 

Craft it into an engaging, thrilling tale. 

4. The length of your story shouldn’t be an issue, but don’t say 100 words where five would be enough. 

Say it in short but say it all, and in an interesting manner. You can repeat some key points if needed. 

Once you’ve chosen your five stories, break each into a Cue Point; a place where it would be appropriate to cut the story, but that does not give away the end of the story. 

Introduce the beginning of story #1.

Now comes the tricky part; how to get them to listen to you. It’s hard to advise you exactly what to do, since every situation is different. The easiest situation is when you have control over the environment as you do when you’re a presenter in a training or a father putting his kids to bed. In a business meeting, where there would be normally several interactions between you and the listener, you can still use this method, but keep in mind that you will have to let the other party speak from time to time. I always introduce the beginning of story number one by saying, “You know what, I must tell you something that just popped up in my mind and reflects almost exactly what you said…” Another option would be: “Let me tell you a story…” or even better: “Did I ever tell you about the time I jumped from a bridge…” The first sentence is crucial because it is used to initiate the momentum of listening to your story. The more completely you occupy their conscious mind with interesting stories, the better you will maintain the momentum. 

Tell the stories, open the loops.

 It’s a good idea to remember the order of the stories as you tell them. I do so by using my right hand fingers, and tie each story to a finger. I start with the thumb, and in my own imagination, I picture a keyword from the story tied into my thumb. For example, if story number one involves a monkey, I see that monkey biting my right thumb. If the second story involves a diaper, I can see my index finger covered with a diaper, hitting the monkey who’s biting my thumb. That ridiculous image will definitely remind me of the order of my stories. You tell story number one up to the cue point, and then you use some linking phrase to break it and go to the beginning of story number two. You can use almost anything here: 

“And the police man asked me about my uncle, who you know is a carpenter. By the way, I never told you, but I have worked for him for a couple of months when I was 17. In fact, in that summer, just after my birthday, he felt so sick that I had to do all of his work. In one client’s house…” and they have the policeman story unfinished while hearing about your sick carpenter uncle. When you get to story number five, that’s the time for the next step. 

Embed the suggestions within story #5.

That’s where the juice is. You tell story number five from beginning to end. While you’re in the middle of it, right after the Cue Point, you slip in a few suggestions. It is so easy you won’t believe me unless you try it. “And you see, at that exact moment, What would you have done? I bet you get a feeling, a good feeling about doing it, and just like you would do your homework as fast as possible to get it done the same day you get the assignment, just like when I went through that mission of…”  Your listeners won’t even realize what is going on. Your previous stories have already overloaded their minds; now they are not analyzing your suggestions. Now, complete story number five smoothly, as though you had never interrupted it. 

Close the rest of the loops.

Don’t leave their minds hanging there, searching for the end of the loops. Close each remaining loop in reverse order. After closing story number five, you have a way to go back to close story number four, because the Cue Point of story number four is what initiated story number five. Continue closing these loops until you reach the end of story number one. You may want to add a couple of questions to encourage time distortion. After finishing story number one, ask questions like: “By the way, you told me before that you’re interested in XYZ, tell me about it.” Of course, XYZ has to be something that the person told you before you initiated the Nested Loops method.

Meta-Model Therapy

The founders of motivational interviewing have created two very helpful elements that can be used in meta model responses that are quite therapeutic, and that protect the therapeutic relationship between a therapist and client. Coaches can use this as well. This approach causes the client to make progressive, mature statements instead of the therapist. This eliminates resistance, and creates healing momentum within the client. 

The first technique is what we call negative spotlighting. When a person says something that violates well-formed syntax, you can exaggerate this to highlight it so that the other person will model their world more effectively. For example, if a drug addict says, “I don’t need to be a purist. I can have some cocaine once in a while.” 

You can say, “So you are now totally in control of cocaine.”  

If the person has been in a recovery program, they know this is ridiculous. They have to say something like, “Well, uh, I guess that’s just the addiction talking.” Notice that the other person said it, not you. You only used the motivational interviewing technique to mirror back what they said in a way that they could not support. Although the practitioner’s statement is kind of an exaggeration, it is not done with the least bit of sarcasm. It has to be done in a completely straight-faced and gentle manner. It is said in a factual tone. Not, “Oh, so you think you can control cocaine now, huh?” 

It’s a flat statement of fact. “So, you are now totally in control of cocaine.” 

You say it smoothly and plainly, maybe as if it’s new information. This way, the client can correct you and enlighten you. That tells the client that she is insightful and has something to contribute. It gives the client the experience of coming to her own conclusions, and a sense of controlling her own thoughts to change her direction in a positive way. This creates more flexibility in the client’s thinking. 

This is very helpful because now the client owns the enlightened statement; they do not feel compelled to resist you, because you are not trying to shove it down their throats. Any time you feel like you are pushing a client or customer, you could probably benefit from a motivational interviewing technique. The original book on this is called Motivational Interviewing.

The other motivational interviewing technique that is a great meta model response, we call positive spotlighting. Here, you highlight something very constructive or adaptive that the client says. This reinforces the constructive way of thinking, and gives them credit. If the person says: 

“I realized that my wife left me because I was abusing drugs.” 

You could say, 

You have the kind of insight that shows real courage in the face of a tremendous loss.”

Isn’t that much better than saying, 

“So you’re finally realizing what a schmuck you’ve been!” 

This positive approach reinforces the best qualities of the person and creates hope and strength that could make the difference between sobriety and relapse, perhaps even life and death. This is not to say that you bear total responsibility for every choice a client, customer, or employee makes, but I say it to remind you of what an important contribution you can make to people’s lives when you learn the powerful insights and methods of Neuro Linguistic Programming.


Here is the biggest secret of persuasion: intonation. This is one technique that nobody can detect, because it is a covert persuasion technique disguised as normal conversation.

In NLP we recognize 3 patterns of intonation:


When you form a question the end of the sentence is usually expressed in a rising pitch. 

Express out loud any question and you’ll notice how the whole sentence might sound in your normal pitch, but the end of it, right near the question mark, is always higher in pitch, isn’t it? 


When you form a statement, however, the whole sentence is usually expressed in the same pitch. 

You might have “ups” and “downs,” but whatever you say can be easily distinguished from a question or a command. 

For the purpose of persuasion, you ought to begin using only statements before moving on to questions and commands.


The biggest mistake people make when they want to get another person to do something is to form a command in an authoritative voice. That’s the wrong approach simply because nobody likes to be told what to do! When you form a command, the end of the sentence usually drops in pitch. 

To make it effective, use the “polite” hypnotic command forms, such as: “Could you please…?” (regular pitch) + “sign here” (lower voice).


Disjunction is a lot like linking, but it makes a contrast or choice while it slips in an embedded command or leading statement. For example, “I don’t know whether you will give your full attention to this section, or think of some other useful information about your experiences, or even relax and learn while in a deeply relaxed state.” 

In this example, all three options are desirable. But it starts out as if I would say, “I don’t know whether you will give your full attention or not.” The implied “not” can bring up any feelings of resistance or self doubt about one’s ability to focus and pay attention. As a result, we now have some transderivational search contributing to the trance and open-mindedness. 

But we also have the unexpected shift into a very different statement (“…or think of some other useful information…”) 

Instead of causing alertness, this unexpected shift can also contribute to trance, because it, too, elicits transderivational search. 

The stable pattern of the wording also facilitates trance, as it continues to simply take the form of choices that more or less pace the person’s experience. And embedded in the last two choices in the statement is the Ericksonian technique of utilization. In this case, utilization of the mind’s tendency to wander. We remind the subconscious, since it is going to wander, to bring up useful experiences, or to learn while the conscious mind is distracted. 

You can try this with volunteers among your friends. Afterwards, ask them if they recall any of the three choices that aren’t exactly choices. It can be a game and they can learn with you.


This technique helps resolve conflict while generating commitments to fulfilling higher-order goals and values.

Clarify the issues in terms of their polarity and logical level.

Think about the key issues of the conflict. Think of them as polarities in which there are two sides in opposition. At what logical level is the conflict primarily occuring? For example, money is a common topic of conflict in relationships. This is usually argued at the behavioral level, because what to do or not to do is the question.

Elicit a meta-position.

Get into a meta-position that transcends the conflicting positions.

Determine the positive intentions underlying the polarity and get them in touch with them.

a. Determine the positive intentions driving each party in this conflict. 

You should find that it is at a higher logical level that the more obvious issues of the conflict. Often, the underlying intentions turn out not to be in opposition, particularly when viewed in terms of their benefit on a systems level. Systems-level concerns would be about things like managing everyone’s stress and having a happy family. Longer-term thinking also tends to refocus onto a higher logical level. The child’s college education is, in part, an appeal to the parents’ identities as good parents. 

b. Have each party recognize and acknowledge the other party’s positive intentions. 

Help them understand that this does not mean that they endorse the other party’s logic or conclusions, or compromise on anything that they are uncomfortable with.

Get agreement on a higher-level intention.

Continuing from your meta-position perspective, chunk up until you uncover an intention that both parties can agree to. 

The Meta-position is easily achieved by moving to the 3rd or the 4th perceptual positions. 

Generate alternatives to fulfill the higher intention.

Explore with them what alternatives to the conflicting positions might exist that would fulfill their higher intention. 

Generally, the breakthrough ideas are better than a mere compromise or middle ground. The idea may or may not be highly innovative, but was usually obscured by the conflict. 

Once, a couple realized that they had the same long-term vision, but that they lack structure for realizing it. They saw that they would be able to agree on even the most painful spending restrictions if they were less vague about what had to happen. They decided to set more specific goals and determine a monthly savings goal that would be necessary to achieve their long-term goals. 

In order to meet the savings goal, they would make whatever short-term sacrifices were necessary.

Get commitment to a plan.

As in the example above, help them commit to specific choices that are aligned with their higher-order values and plans. Help them specify the means for making these choices and plans happen. Mitigate for any ecological concerns. You can certainly use the Ecology Check pattern to get out of the way any possible disturbance to agreement. 

Follow up with them to see how well their new commitments and agreements are working out. As always, attend to ecological concerns. See what additional higher values and roles might help to inform their decisions and follow through.


A compulsion is an irresistible urge to behave in a specific way, most likely and especially when it’s against a person’s conscious will. Compulsions are different than habits. Habits can be somewhat consciously controlled, and there are productive habits as well as non productive ones. Compulsions are not within your conscious control (therefore we say it’s against your will), and they are all non productive. This technique desensitizes compulsions that range from fingernail chewing to obsessing about being jilted.

Select the compulsion.

Choose a compulsion that the person wishes to eliminate. It should be one that has some kind of external trigger. Even nail biting has an external trigger. It is the sensation of fingernails extending to a certain length, or just existing.

Identify the primary trigger.

Determine what circumstance or factor triggers the compulsive behavior.

Identify the two strongest sub-modalities of the trigger.

Review the various sub-modalities of the rep systems involved in the trigger. For example, with nail biting, there are usually very specific sensations that are related to fingernails, but are much more subtle and specific, such as a tingling or pressure felt inside the body in connection with sensing the fingernails or even being conscious of them.

Intensify the sub-modalities to an extreme.

Have the person use their imagination to increase the sub-modalities to the highest possible level. 

If there is a sense of the nails sticking out, imagine them protruding very far. If it is a feeling of pressure in the body, imagine being closer and closer to exploding.

Repeat until there is significant desensitization.

Take the sub-modalities back to normal, and increase them to an extreme. Do this until the person shows signs of feeling that the process is boring, trivial, or otherwise not triggering.

Recommend additional help.

Do not attempt to replace treatment for a psychiatric problem such as drug addiction. Recommend that a person with potentially harmful behavior get an appropriate assessment for possible treatment.

See if the person reduces their compulsive behavior, is more open to additional work, or exhibits other signs of improvement. Repeat this process as needed.

You can add other approaches and NLP patterns for compulsive or obsessive behavior. Interruption is another approach. When the person feels like carrying out the behavior, they engage in an incompatible behavior that disrupts the impulsive drive. An example would be tightening the stomach while pressing the palms together intensely. Thought-stopping is another method, where the person substitutes another thought that is very “loud” and distracts from a compulsive thought. An energy therapy such as emotional freedom technique or a cognitive somatic therapy such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing may help. People with obsessive compulsive disorder may benefit from understanding the disorder and experiencing therapy that helps them understand that their compulsion is fueled largely by a brain dysfunction that can be seen graphically in a brain scan. Seeing such a brain scan is part of this treatment.


Improve your ability to observe and respond to the physiological and behavioral cues of others. “Calibration” involves linking behavioral cues to internal cognitive and emotional responses. Ask your partner to think of some concept that your partner feels she or he knows and understands.

Download the PDF – NLP Calibration


Observe your partner’s physiology closely (as if you were Sherlock Holmes for a moment). Watch your partner’s eye movements, facial expressions, hand movements, etc.


Then ask your partner to think of something that is confusing and unclear. Once again, watch your partner’s eyes and features carefully.


Notice what is different now. Observe changes in appearance and patterns of behavior.


Now ask your partner to pick either concept and think of it again.


Observe your partner’s features. Look for changes in appearance or behavior that match the understanding or confusion states that your partner has shown you.


Guess whether your partner chose the understanding or confusion concept. Check with your partner to see if you were correct.


Ask your partner to think of other concepts that she or he understands or finds confusing, and see if you can guess which category they fall into. Confirm your guess by checking with your partner.

Explain and observe.

Explain a concept to your partner. By observing his or her features, determine whether your partner has understood the concept. See if you can determine the moment they understand your concept.

Beliefs: Dis-Identification

Gain new freedom and capacity by dis-identifying with limiting beliefs. Sometimes we over-identify with some facet of our life experiences-our beliefs, body, gender, race, etc. This is limiting in itself, but we may also over-identify with even more seriously limited aspects of ourselves. For example, we may identify with behavior or thought patterns that construct a victim, dependent, or otherwise unsuccessful self. Terror organizations are known to be very thorough in their propaganda, leading individuals into a state of over-identification with the organization’s distorted values, perspectives and beliefs. No wonder that young somnambulistic individuals are willing to strap a suicide bomb to themselves and kill innocent people only to keep their learned deformed identification in tact. This technique serves to correct over-identification.

Supporting Belief

Try this belief on for size: “You have a self that is beyond your circumstances, your familiar abilities, behaviors, creative expression, speech, strivings, and even your thoughts.”

Dis-Identify with language.

Change the frame for all the things about you, such as those in step one. Use this phrase, “I have (say the thing about you, such as “talent”), but I am not (the same thing, e.g. “talent”). Include thoughts, (“I am not my thoughts.”)

Dis-Identify through trance.

By accessing a deeply relaxed state, sense yourself as bigger than the things in step one. “If I lost (fill it in), my core self would remain.”

Alternate Self and Function

Notice how you can think about these traits of yours as being functions; a way of getting a result or making your way through the world. Notice how you have a sense of self that transcends functions.

Transcendental Identity

Tune into your sense of a greater self that exists beyond the things that you identify with. Notice how you can sense a state of pure consciousness, as you have in trance or meditation. Represent this with a word or phrase that captures the essence of that experience, or see what symbol comes to mind. The words or symbols that emerge spontaneously may be the most significant.

Amplify in Higher Self

Notice the sub-modalities of this sense of higher self and amplify them in any way that enhances it, and strengthens your connection and identification with it. Move it to the center of your existence and place your consciousness in the center of this higher self. Imagine what it’s like to live and express yourself from this sense of higher self.


Give and receive support for awakening through personal growth in this dyadic (pair) exercise. Enhance your vision, mission and spirit through this support for awakening. 

With your partner in this pattern, you will bring out the best in each other by taking turns in the role of Awakener. Express your integrity and congruence to enhance the Awakener role. Align and connect with your own vision and mission as a catalyst for others to experience their vision and mission. Transcend the old-fashioned style of morality and judgment that neutralizes personal expansion. Instead, maintain your perception of the other person’s limitless possibilities and their innocence in doing the best that they knew in their past. This way, you keep the channel of communication open, inspiring them toward fresh insight, resourcefulness, and constructive personal power.

Get into Awakener and Explorer roles, and give your partner instructions.

Start out in the role of Awakener, with a partner who is in the role of Explorer. Give your Explorer partner the following instructions: Think about an unproductive “self pattern.” What is its basic structure? Notice any unproductive beliefs that are attached to this pattern, such as, “Oh, I have to put on a happy face and pretend I’m confident until the next big disappointment. This kind of success is for other people, not me.” 

Think of as many examples of this self pattern as you can. There are probably many throughout your life. Some of them may be subtle, or comprise a string of many little iterations that turned into a bigger pattern of loss, missed opportunities, or failure. 

Make sure you understand the consequences of this pattern. How has it affected your life? 

Continue with these instructions to your partner: 

What would it be like to be free of this pattern? What kind of results might you expect to see in the future? On the other hand, what does this technique do for you? Is it helping you in any way? 

Be sure to consider any “sneaky” ways that it is helping you, that is, dysfunctional ways. For example, see if it is helping you avoid any challenges, fear, or responsibility. Even consider any way that it might be helping you to manipulate other people or avoid criticism. 

Does it simply give you a feeling of having a familiar self that you really don’t need to be? 

Now have your Explorer partner share with you, the Awakener, what he or she is discovering. As the Awakener, listen from a state of respectful openness, fully accepting the Explorer.

Set up and ask the Why question.

As the Awakener say to the Explorer (still from a respectful, validating place), “You have the full support of my being to freely explore, because this expands and strengthens you and your meaning in the world. You are completely free to do what you will with this pattern. You are free to continue it, but, as the Explorer, you also ask why you would continue such a pattern.”

Get the Explorer’s reaction to the question.

Have the Explorer notice its inner reaction to the question of why. Have the Explorer share any reaction with the Awakener.

Repeat step two.

Repeat the statement and question of the Awakener to the Explorer as in step two. See what response the explorer has this time. Do this from an open-minded space that allows the Explorer to have a fresh response each time. Different aspects of your experience are likely to emerge from this, expanding your knowledge of yourself and of your potential.

Continue repeating step two.

Do step four several more times, at least three times. 

Switch roles.

Switch roles, becoming the Explorer with your partner taking the Awakener role.

In the coming days or weeks, notice some new ways that you experience this pattern, including any ways that you let go of it or innovate. See if you get any better results in life from this new perspective and resourcefulness that comes from these parts being more harmonious and able to exchange knowledge. Have a time set aside to discuss this with your partner in this exercise.

Dealing With Manipulative People

D.V.P stands for Distillation Plus Vision Plus Passion. This process allows you to take a cloud of reactions and ideas, and turn them into very tight talking points, like the ones politicians and sales people have, in order to communicate in a compelling way. This is an excellent way to prepare for a situation in which you feel that you have to deal with a manipulative person, or you have many emotions to manage and desire a route for clearer communication.

Select the situation, and fully express your thoughts about it.

Think of a situation such as those mentioned in the description of this pattern. Run everything that you think about the situation through your mind, or write it down, or say it out loud by yourself or to a friend who can help you with the exercise. Especially include those thoughts that you would like to communicate, whether or not you actually should.

Repeat the thoughts with better organization and priority.

Do this again, but allow your thoughts, now that you have run them through your mind, to fall together in a more orderly fashion, with a better sense of your priorities.

Distill the thoughts by leaving out unnecessary detail. 

Do this again, but this time leave out any unnecessary details.

Distill the thoughts further.

Do this again, but leave out more details that aren’t absolutely necessary for you to say what is most important.

Continue distilling until you end up with a slogan.

Keep doing this “distilling” process, until you have boiled it down to something that resembles an ad slogan, such as Apple’s “Think Different,” or Dolly Madison’s “Nothing says lovin’ like something in the oven.” It’s okay to risk going to far, since you’ll have no trouble beefing up the message with more details.

Practice improvising off of your talking points.

Imagine the situation in which you will want to communicate your message. At first, make it easy. After you are comfortable with this, try bringing out various aspects of your message, improvising off of the key points that you have boiled your message down to. Remember to limit yourself to only the most important and compelling aspects.

Continue, but with more of a challenge.

Imagine the person you need to communicate this to. Have them try various manipulative gambits to throw you off. This is how they manipulate you and abuse their power, most likely. Improvise from your key talking points, no matter what they say. You probably know them, or people like them, well enough to imagine a good variety of distracting, intimidating, or simply irritating comments that they might make.

Add vision and passion.

Get in touch with the positive vision and emotion that you have in connection with each talking point. Really get in your mind the outcomes and values behind the talking points, and how you really feel. You have positive emotions driving you to care enough to communicate about this. Even if it was a negative situation and set of emotions such as being fed up with intimidation or other boundary crossings, you can work your way back to positive vision, such as respect for boundaries, human dignity, and productive relationships toward whatever your common goal is. Be sure you are only connecting with the positive vision and the positive, inspiring emotions that flow from that connection. Infuse your voice with this, and practice speaking from this emotional place. Practice until it comes out in a smooth, compelling, grounded manner. If this is a challenge. It’s good to sleep on it, since your subconscious will be working with this technique in your sleep.

Have more practice sessions on this material in the coming days. 

Sleep will do wonders for this. After doing this pattern, your subconscious mind will be working to extend your intimacy with these talking points, and your ability to improvise in communicating with them. Keep practicing in the coming days when you get a chance to fantasize, such as while doing dishes or driving. Practice out loud now, because good muscle memory, and actually experiencing your own voice and vibration in this technique builds your personal power and ability. In between, listen to some of the great speeches by people who were good at putting compelling emotion and vision into their voices.

As you take this skill into the real world, notice how people listen to you and respond to your vision, emotions and talking points. Continue to use this technique for other important communications. Any conflict or leadership situation is a good one for this pattern. Any sensitive communications with difficult people are good for practice.

Additional Advice

When you are practicing in your mind, you can show your subconscious mind that it can be confident. For example, you can imagine the other person being just one in a crowd of a thousand listening to you up on a podium with a microphone. Then accept a Nobel Peace Prize after your speech. When you hear ad slogans, think about how much work went into boiling down a rich message into it. Notice how the commercials, and many nuances of the product and its presentation are aligned with this.

Eliciting Subconscious Responses

Become a master communicator by learning to recognize and utilize subtle changes in others’ physiology. This pattern involves the valuable skill of eliciting subconscious resources, a skill that serves you best when it, too, is subconscious. This skill deserves serious study, so resist any temptation to treat it like a magic trick. We recommend that you practice this pattern with a partner until you find yourself using it unconsciously.

Get your partner to think about a pleasant memory in the first perceptual position.

Find someone who will allow you to practice this exercise with them. Ask them to think about a pleasant memory. Encourage them to do this with eyes closed, and in the first perceptual position, as though they are experiencing it first hand.

Have your partner focus on the visual rep system.

Once your subject has a pleasant memory in mind, have your subject focus exclusively on the visual aspect of the memory. Note all of your subject’s reactions, including changes in posture, facial expression, changes in skin color, pattern of breathing, and so forth. 

Have your partner clear their mind and focus on the auditory.

Have your subject clear their mind and open their eyes. Have them bring up only the auditory aspect of the memory. Continue making your observations.

Have your partner focus on the kinesthetic.

Once they have done this, have them bring up the kinesthetic aspect as you continue to observe. 

You might want to record your observations on a form that you prepare. Use three titles to divide your operations into 

“Visual Reactions,” 

“Auditory Reactions,” and 

“Kinesthetic Reactions.” 

Once you have done this exercise, you can improve your powers of observations “in the wild,” by being aware of subtle physiological signals, and how they are influenced by factors such as primary sense mode, emotional arousal, rapport, and anything else of importance. This power of observation will be valuable in many NLP patterns, even the ones you don’t know you’re using. 

External Stimulus Threshold

A threshold is a line between two states of mind: bearable and unbearable. Sometimes, in order to change a behavior, you have to induce the triggers and resourceful states at the same time, making sure that the resourceful states win in each “threshold battle.” This is a pattern to do just that. It involves two practitioners and one client. The reason you want another person helping you performing this technique on a client is that you could concentrate on your client’s abreactions (strong emotional reactions) while firing the anchors, and your colleague will role-play the undesired behavior’s triggers. 

Identify the un-resourceful state and its most influential stimuli. 

You should work with your client ahead of time to recognize exactly the series of events that take place right before they find themselves already engaged in the undesired behaviors or states. 

When questioning your client on internal events, make note of their eyes accessing cues. 

Your colleague will need those to induce the states later on. 

In addition, write down verbal communication scripts if they are important for the induction of the undesired states. 

For example, if your client has presented a problem of non-proportional or inappropriate anger towards his son, check if it’s something that the son is saying verbally and write it down. If hearing the words, “Dad, are we there yet?!?!” is a trigger, note the tonality, but also the syntax of the words themselves, digitally. Focus on one habitual state or behavior, not more. 

Break state.

Ask your client some neutral questions to break the state. 

Ask them to walk around for a bit or do any other physical movement to forget about 

Anchor resourceful states and stack them.

Now work with your client and anchor as many resourceful states as possible. 

Use the problem state as a guide—

What could be a good contradicting state to the negative one? 

Include comforting states such as “composure” or “gratitude.” 

Stack anchors by using one master anchor for each one of the positive states. 

Stacking anchors simply means that you anchor the same way while inducing different states each time. What happens is that eventually, when you fire the master anchor, your client gets a rush of all the positive states “stacked” on that trigger. 

Be careful when you choose the location and manner of the master anchor. You want to make sure that this is not something that can cause an inner conflict later on in the session. Do not use popular anchoring locations, such as the back of the hand or the shoulder or knee. These are known in Neuro Linguistic Programming, but you never know what has happened in your client’s life and body until they met you. 

Anchor the master trigger where you are certain there is no way for disturbance by any other internal process. 

Test the stacked anchors a few times by firing a master anchor, breaking state, and repeating. This is a step you do not want to hurry up. Work slowly and thoroughly, maintain a high level of sensory acuity and take note of every abreaction you get from your client. 

Take special care if the abreaction appears when you fire the master anchor. If it does, you were too careless in choosing the master anchor! An abreaction at this stage means that the master anchor is also inducing some conflict in your client. When that happens, go back to step #2, stay there for awhile, talk with your client about anything other than the subject of the session, and then work on this step again. 

Do not worry, even the best NLP practitioners get these challenges, and as a flexibility test you should welcome these challenges and work through them. You’d be a much better change-maker because of such incidents. 

Role playing the un-resourceful states.

Allow your colleague to step in and work with your client to recreate the scenarios which hold triggers for the un-resourceful states and behaviors. 

Give your colleague the eye accessing cues worksheet and any other useful information that could be used in the role playing. 

Trigger the stacked anchors. 

As your colleague keeps the role playing going with your client, fire the anchors! 

Do exactly what you did at the end of Step #3, when you tested the stacked anchors, and fire them all. 

Stay focused and maintain sensory acuity because this is a hard and long process for all of you. 

Continue until no abreaction is present. 

Abreactions are those minute subconscious “hiccups” that signal you, the practitioner, that your client has some emotional reaction to whatever is going on in the session at that time. 

When you cease to notice these abreactions, it means that your client has passed the threshold point and his mind is now pretty much set on using the resourceful states as a reaction to the events that used to trigger the undesired behaviors and states. 

Future Pace the resourceful states.

First of all, break state. 

Let your client rest for a few minutes, and then fire the anchors again and Future Pace for upcoming opportunities.

Reprocessing & Time Line Therapy

In this section, we will look at Time Line Therapy™ (created by master trainer and genius NLP developer, Tad James) from the perspective of reprocessing. This will show us how reprocessing experiences along the timeline can help people refine their thinking and respond more effectively. We will also draw from cognitive behavioral therapy. This structure can be good for expediting personal growth, processing the little “t” traumas in our lives, or working with more challenging issues. People can become much more successful and at ease from processing a good number of small traumas. First, we’ll run through this process without specific examples. Then we will do the full process for a case example. You’ll notice that this is a summary of Time Line Therapy™ that shows how to integrate reprocessing. If you don’t already know Time Line Therapy ™, I encourage you to learn it in depth. 

Bad Code

A cognitive therapist might call it a dysfunctional or irrational cognition. And EMDR therapist might call it a negative cognition. We like to call it bad code, because this highlights the fact that we make decisions about the world and ourselves when we go through experiences, especially intense, traumatic, or otherwise overwhelming experiences. Most of us have “encoded” some of these experiences in an immature way, because we weren’t ready for them. Unfortunately, these decisions about the world or about ourselves become part of our reality, like water to a fish; unquestioned. Just as a computer doesn’t question the code that runs it, we are driven to some degree by irrational decisions made under duress. The place where these decisions reside is called implicit memory. We call it “sticky memory” because implicit memory is unconscious and unquestioned. It is simply the “truth.” In essence, bad code is the unwise perspective that you get from an experience that you weren’t ready for. If you had been fully ready for the experience, it would already be wisdom and you wouldn’t be in therapy for it.

Good Code

If you learn from an experience, then you have made “good code” out of it. When you reprocess bad code into rational or functional thinking, then you have converted bad code into good code.

Code Triggers

You know about triggers. In this approach, we are talking about triggers of bad code. This can be any situation that bears some similarity to the one that generated the bad code. It may not look like the situation; it need only have similar implications or meaning.

Source Event

As in Time Line Therapy™, reprocessing may have its best impact when we go back to the situation that occurred first in causing you to create the bad code. At the most simple level, you would reprocess the experience using whatever reprocessing tools you felt were most appropriate. You would help your client move from bad code to good code, using whatever cognitive therapy skills where applicable. 

Echo Events

These are things that resemble the source event and that reinforced or compounded the bad code. They are more influential than mere trigger events, because they are more overwhelming or happened at an early enough age to help form and strengthen bad code in important ways.

Future Success

These are what I like to call imaginary memories of the future. That is, future imaginings that help to build the client’s sense of hope, meaning, and ability.

State-Initiated Reprocessing

Sometimes, with reprocessing, this happens as if by magic, with little intervention at a cognitive level. The greatest share of the work might be in helping the client know what and how to target, rather than how to refine their thoughts about it. In other words, the things you do to trigger reprocessing may not need to include cognitive therapy in order to get a profound cognitive shift. It depends on the client and the issue you are working on.


Whatever skills your client needs to learn to enhance relationships, self-care, etc., they are best learned after their source and echo events are reprocessed. This is because trauma and overwhelm cause lasting shut downs of parts of the brain. This affects learning and memory, especially where touchy issues are concerned.

Bad Code

Your client tells you that her relationships are not very satisfying. Somehow, she stands back. She finds herself judging people, even though she doesn’t really feel that she wants to be a judgmental person. It doesn’t feel like a choice so much as a temperament. As you help her clarify things, she realizes that she doesn’t really trust people. You have explained to her that the best bad code examples are the ones that are irrational, and you help her come up with the bad code of her mistrust, which is pretty basic: “I can’t trust anyone.” She sees that it make sense that she would have various ways of keeping her distance from people if she can’t trust them. Judging them helps her maintain that distance and refrain from the risks that trust entails.

Good Code

The earliest memories that she has in connection with not trusting people were from her childhood. She has always been a pretty independent thinker, but her parents were very religious and they judged her thinking, which was anything but doctrinaire. This leads you to think that her good code will have to do with being able to trust her judgement about people, and being able to fully own the fact that she is an adult and no longer under the scrutiny of her parents. As you help her come up with the good code that she would like to take the place of her bad code, it seems too simple to just say, “I can trust people.” After all, she is a skeptical person, and she knows that you can’t trust everyone. Perhaps, you say, it should be something like, “I can trust myself to create meaningful relationships.”  This touches something in her, because it brings her closer to the grief that she has buried regarding the betrayal of her childhood by her very rigid parents. She decides that this is pretty good, and she understands that she can refine this as she goes along. You like this good code, because it represents success and flexibility. 

Code Triggers

You have her look back over her timeline and identify some of the more recent events that have triggered her tendency to distance and be judgmental. She realizes that part of the pattern includes her having difficulty expressing her most vulnerable feelings from a powerful place. This results in rarely exposing herself. This has really affected her primary relationship, in particular. You make a mental note that this is an important skill that she will need to learn in order to really make her work with you translate into a better life. You’ll certainly want to have her practice the Vision Communication Protocol from this book.The triggers that she comes up with don’t seem to have much of a theme. As she said before, it’s more like a state of mind that she carries with her into most situations. But she is most judgmental of people she does not know very well, and of people who are making bad judgments, especially if they are inconsiderate toward her. But it isn’t being judgmental that is the problem so much as being preoccupied with judging people and carrying around a feeling of distance from people that is salted with mistrust. 

Source Event

Now you have her go back through her timeline and identify the source event. You might use timeline visualization for this. As she thinks back through her life, she gets to her earliest memory of feeling a lack of trust. She realizes that the ongoing pattern of judgmentality in her own mind is what she absorbed from her parents. She is carrying on the reality that she grew up in. But she is able to remember a harsh interaction with her mother that left a strong impression when she was very young and starting to ask too many questions for her parents’ comfort. This is her earliest memory that has the themes of judgmentality, mistrust, and betrayal. She was precocious and developed abstract thinking that her parents could not understand. As a child seeking the truth, her trust was fundamentally violated. 

Echo Events

Your client sees that there are many situations that came along after this, though none of them had a strong impact. The strongest echo event happened when she was a teenager, and realized how important it was for her to get out on her own. She didn’t just need this for her independence, but for her own sanity. At least it felt that way to her. 

Future Success

She defines future success, so far as this issue is concerned, with being at peace around people, and appreciating her own power and ability to exercise realistic judgment about others. A lot of it is just about accepting the truth that she has good judgment about people. She describes feeling confident and at peace in various situations. She imagines how she would be flexible and not distracted by people who are inconsiderate or quirky.


Knowing all this, you are in a good position to reprocess the source event. You will target this, along with her feelings of judgment, betrayal, and insecurity. As you go, you will bring up the bad code and target that as well. If the process is simple, you will find that the bad code has less and less power, and the good code makes more and more sense at a gut level. Unless you have training and supervised experience in reprocessing and cognitive work, you will want to only do reprocessing with situations that do not involve serious dysfunction, substance abuse, or dissociation. 

Working With The Time Line

An NLP practitioner familiar with Time Line Therapy™ will find countless ways to integrate reprocessing into this work. In fact, they will probably recognize ways that it is already in play and can be enhanced. The visualization of the time line that occurs at the same time as more conscious, verbal processing creates a kind of bilateral stimulus that promotes a reprocessing state. We believe this is a key reason that Time Line Therapy ™ works for so many people. 

From the reprocessing to the timeline work: 

Let’s say that you have directly reprocessed an issue. You may have gotten to it in doing the timeline work, or it may have been a presenting problem. You can do timeline work from this point through means such as sophisticated future pacing. 

From timeline work into reprocessing: 

You can travel back into the timeline to find additional echo events. In Time Line Therapy ™, source and echo events are addressed through means such as bringing in the client’s adult self to contact the child, or imagining resources being in place. An alternative is to directly do reprocessing, and then see what additional timeline methods are necessary. This can greatly expedite timeline work and make it more consistently effective with a broader range of clients. 

More integration with cognitions: 

Now that you know how negative cognitions work in reprocessing, you can integrate this into timeline work. You can identify how a negative (or limiting) cognition has played out through the timeline and recalibrate the timeline as a result of reprocessing that allows the client to fully accept a positive cognition. 

As you help the client undo their bad code, you need to know how powerful it is. You can ask the client to tell you, on a scale of one to ten, how true the code seems. You must make sure that the client understands that you are talking about how true it feels. They must not rate it by how logical it is. You are, after all, working with illogical code. But you can do the same with good code. When the client begins working with good code, they will tell you that, although they understand that it is true, it doesn’t “feel” very true. 

When they think of it, something at gut level signals them that they cannot completely accept it on a feeling level. Again, they can help you know where things are by rating its gut level power on a scale of one to ten. 

You can even focus your targeting more effectively by having them target the feeling between this rating and a ten. If they only give it a six, what are the feelings and impressions that are holding it down to that level? Target those for reprocessing. 

Tracking and processing source event power: 

The source event is disturbing in some way or ways. Ask the client what is most disturbing or upsetting about it. That is what you target. To track the power of the source event, ask them to rate those disturbing feelings on a scale of one to ten. When reprocessing is working, the number will go down. As you’ll recall, we have talked about identifying feelings and helping the client cooperate with processes through “economy of speech.” Those elements are very helpful with reprocessing. 

Reprocessing Challenges

Reprocessing is a deep subject, so we really cannot cover every aspect in depth, but we do need to go over some challenges that can come up.

The most common problems that come up are these: 

1) The client does not get a reduction in the power of the source event or bad code. 

2) They do not get an increase in the power of the good code. 

3) Or they may have progressed, but ended up cycling through similar material, showing that they are not really reprocessing it and getting anywhere.

When these problems come up, these are common issues to address:

1) The client needs work which will prepare them to tolerate more advanced work. Clients who carry a painful childhood trauma or dissociation usually need this. Specialized treatment should be recommended. 

2) You need additional training or supervision.

3) The client needs a referral to a specialist

4) You need to improvise with your other NLP skills to address the issues that are challenging the reprocessing.

5) You need a breakthrough concept. This can be a better target, a better formulation of the positive and negative cognitions, or some other way to break out of your current paradigm. 


Introducing Reprocessing

Reprocessing is a very powerful ingredient for bringing out more of the potential in coaching and therapy. It’s very important to understand reprocessing, because it is a key to the success of many therapy techniques, including a lot of NLP processes. In fact, once you understand it, you’ll realize it’s been hiding in plain sight. Reprocessing happens when we take a badly encoded experience (or set of experiences) and re-encode them. As a result, we can be more successful, and less reactive. Symptoms such as panic, anxiety, sleep problems, and compulsive thoughts, are alleviated.

At its simplest, you could say that reprocessing helps us eliminate symptoms and become more successful after overwhelming experiences. 

People naturally turn experience into success, and we naturally regain our balance after an overwhelming experience. We do a lot of that during REM sleep.

It’s a natural process. However, when this does not happen, we can be in serious mental health trouble. When an experience is too overwhelming, our bodies may not be able to encode it properly. Dysregulation of brain functions may result along with poor sleep. This can lead to worsening breakdown into full-blown posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You already know that NLP can help people change how they represent things so that they can experience them and respond successfully. Perhaps the best-known NLP process for doing that with past experiences is Time Line Therapy ™, Source the famous NLP master trainer, Dr. Tad James. Throughout the history of psychotherapy, there were occasional experiences of dramatic reductions in anxiety or trauma symptoms, but it was not until EMDR came along that the field of psychotherapy as a whole came to think of rapid resolution such symptoms as being fairly commonplace, and that took a good number of years to take place even then. There were other techniques that were available prior to EMDR, but they had not gained widespread acceptance. The NLP phobia cure and visual kinesthetic dissociation are examples from NLP. Thought field therapy (TFT) is another, and was an early energy psychology technique. 

Deconstructing reprocessing: 

Once you deconstruct reprocessing, you can find it in other traditions such as religions. Some of the “tech” from Scientology causes reprocessing. If reprocessing happens in a religious experience, the credit is given to the religion (or God) and can be used as an indoctrination tool, and when it happens in energy psychology such as TFT or emotional freedom technique (EFT), energy flow and balance are given the credit. As brain science progresses, scientists are getting a better understanding of how this happens from a physiological perspective. Understanding reprocessing is kind of like knowing the combination to a lock. For a very long time, therapists have worked with processes such as emotional catharsis, visualization and hypnosis, occasionally triggering reprocessing, but not realizing how to go about it systematically for a more consistent result. The goal of this section is to help you not only recognize it, but to tweak the techniques you use so that you can trigger it more effectively. We call this “reprocessing on purpose.” 

Reprocessing in the field: 

Reprocessing can be done in a very stripped-down way, using its most core elements. EFT is a self-help technique that fits this description. Reprocessing can also be done through a much richer, well-rounded psychotherapy process. EMDR fits this description. And, finally, Reprocessing can be achieved as part of a process that is not as focused on reprocessing. This happens when you are doing a process with a client, and you sequence it in such a way as to trigger reprocessing as part of the process. Sometimes, experiences hit us in such a way as to trigger reprocessing. Sometimes, it just takes time for us to heal from an experience enough to start feeling like our old selves. Most likely, though, reprocessing on purpose would have helped to restore us faster and perhaps with more wisdom as well. 

Turf wars: 

We should point out why you haven’t heard more about it. First, many developers of techniques have come about it intuitively, and don’t fully, consciously realize that they are using it. Of course, this is not a new kind of observation. From the beginnings of NLP, modelers were able to show therapists technical aspects of their work that the therapists were not conscious of. Milton Erickson famously said that he did not consciously understand a lot of what he did. Virginia Satir did not realize how much she depended on mirroring to establish rapport. Similarly, many technique developers focus your attention on other elements of the technique, and fail to give credit to the reprocessing aspect. Yet another is that many developers are tempted to draw a moat around their techniques, name the technique, and “own” it without recognizing what it has in common with other methods that get similar results. 

What’s it Like? 

Reprocessing doesn’t necessarily feel like something is happening, even when you’re wide-awake. The best way to know if you have experienced it is if your symptoms go away and you find yourself responding to trigger situations in a balanced way. Otherwise, what would be the point? 

Sometimes, the material being re-processed is intense, and the person experiences an emotional catharsis. Some people are convinced that they met a deceased person and it was profoundly healing. Others experience it under hypnosis. If you know what to look for, you might notice that your thinking is more fluid. Many people experiencing reprocessing are able to see connections between their experiences and their issues more easily. They may feel the emotional charge of an issue dissipate. The therapist may direct their attention to what is going on so that the experience has more validity for them. More importantly, tracking the before and after is important. During the assessment, collect information such as the frequency and situations of panic attacks or whatever the symptoms are. 

Think Physiology

NLP is known for thinking about physiology. Usually, when NLP tells you to look at a person’s physiology, it is telling you to get clues about their state, their congruence, and their unconscious. Since the beginnings of NLP, we know a great deal more about the nervous system and what causes people to become dysfunctional. This a very important area of knowledge to add to our skills. This is not just for academic interest, or for convincing clients of anything. Along with our burgeoning knowledge of neurophysiology, we are also refining and even developing techniques based on this knowledge. We are able to assess the effectiveness of techniques now by how well they “switch on” brain regions that have shut down. This is not only very persuasive data; it also allows researchers another avenue for vetting therapy methods that is less costly than extensive assessments of functioning over time (although, ultimately, functioning and feeling good are the bottom line factors). So I’d like you to consider a few brain regions that get affected by trauma, and how a person is affected by these shut downs:

• Memory problems resulting from shrinkage of the hippocampus. 

• Problems with forethought and problem solving resulting from reduction in frontal lobe functioning and excessive limbic system reactivity. 

• Reduced medial prefrontal cortex response means there is less control of fear responses with the prefrontal cortex exerting less control over the amygdala. This can also mean less efficient thinking and intrusive memories.

• Excessive activation of the brain that interferes with REM sleep resulting from hormonal and other effects upon the adrenal-pituitary axis. REM sleep is essential for brain integrity. Without this, there is loss of coordination, reactions, anger control, mental clarity, and, eventually, life itself.

Traumatized people tend to tell their story in a chronological order. They don’t tend to have it put together in terms of the big picture or in terms of philosophical meaning. When they do, it tends to be in a crude and troubling way. They can be very boring, because they have to work through stories step by step, without the aid of the big picture. These brain issues are the cause of this kind of problem.But after successful treatment, brain scans show that the affected brain areas are switched on or toned down, depending on the imbalance. The resulting behavior, life successes, and ability to communicate that we see from people treated successfully are priceless.

The moral of the story: 

Whenever you assess a client, think physiology. You’ll have a much better idea of what you’re dealing with. It is not enough to just think in terms of behavior and thoughts to wave your magic wand of NLP over. Many of the clients that NLP practitioners give up on or consider to be poor participants are those who most need help because of brain shut downs. We must not give up on or judge people whose brains are not functioning properly. These people need us to have the proper skills, or the integrity to refer them to the appropriate specialists.

Active Ingredients of Reprocessing

Once you know the active ingredients of reprocessing, you’ll begin to recognize it in various NLP techniques and elsewhere. 


Targeting means focusing awareness on something. In reprocessing, this may be a memory, thought, physical feeling, or emotion. Depending on how in-depth the reprocessing work is, an extensive assessment may have preceded this first step into reprocessing. In psychotherapy, many clients will need to do preliminary work in order to tolerate the work. This is most likely to be true for people with dissociation or serious childhood trauma histories. In EFT, this happens during the initial set up.

The State Shift

Once the person is focused on their issue, they experience a shift into a more relaxed and positive state. This can be accomplished in various ways. In EFT, the person taps acupuncture points and does eye movement patterns while maintaining the targeting. For more challenging cases, there can be added complications that challenge getting to this more positive state. For these people, a stripped down version will not typically be sufficient. However, people have used EFT for some surprisingly difficult problems. 

Alternating bilateral stimulus: 

One of the ways to help a state shift take place is to use a bilateral stimulus such as EMDR’s eye movement (also used in EFT and TFT), sound or touch. Basically, it directs attention from side to side. 

Mindfulness or distraction: 

Cultivating mindfulness, in which the client is able to just notice without feeling like they have to do anything, can help them shift into the positive state. EMDR therapists use language such as, “Follow the light back and forth… go with that… where does that take you?” In EFT, the client is occupied with tapping and a more complicated eye movement pattern that occupies their mind. 

Cognitive Work 

For many problems, working on thought patterns seems to be optional. For a psychotherapist, this is a little hard to swallow. But it appears that our states can affect our thoughts as much as our thoughts can affect our thoughts. It is remarkable to see how much thought patterns can change after a process as simple as EFT. However, it can be very productive to do cognitive work in the course of reprocessing. In EMDR, the client is helped to find the negative cognition that represents their poorly encoded experience. For example, the client may realize that they have been carrying around the feeling and unconscious belief that they are helpless, because of how they felt in a traumatic situation. They are also helped to create a positive cognition that represents recovery from the negative one. 

That might be, “I am an adult now, and the bad person is gone.” The transition into the positive cognition may be as simple as noticing how much more true it feels as various targets (such as traumatic memories and the negative beliefs themselves) are targeted and reprocessed. 

Body Scan and Future Pacing

In some reprocessing, including EMDR, it is typical to have the person scan their body with their mind so that they can fully experience what it is like to have a positive state. Also, this may help them find additional imbalances to reprocess. Future pacing is a way to project into the future how the new thought patterns and feelings will manifest. This can help to reinforce a more confident and masterful identity, as well as help the client create more meaningful goals. 

Recovery (Longer-Term Status)

This is the most neglected phases of reprocessing in the methods that I’m familiar with. It is very important to remember that many clients have endured physical problems as a result of PTSD, drug abuse, head injuries, and other problems with medical consequences. Consider sleep issues. If the person is not able to sleep effectively, they will not be able to fully recover, and may relapse into symptoms. A person can sleep eight hours a night without sleeping effectively. Because of traumatic material that is to triggering, they may not make it through enough REM sleep. That’s because REM sleep is where we try to reprocess that material naturally. If we were always able to do that, we might not need these reprocessing techniques.

Sleep normalization is a high priority.

Other physical areas may be medication stabilization and monitoring, coping with medication side effects, and cognitive rehabilitation that helps restore the client’s ability to think effectively as they recover from brain injury. Brain injury may be caused by poor sleep, sleep apnea, strokes (even so-called “silent strokes” that may go undiagnosed), and seemingly slight impacts to the head. The need for cognitive rehabilitation is currently one of the biggest gaps in mental health care.