Let’s suppose you went to an instructor to learn how to paint with a brush. Not artistic painting — more like how to paint a wall. The instructor says, “Let’s get right to it. Open up the paint can, and dip your brush into the paint. Use the edge of the can to wipe off the excess paint. Hold the brush to the wall, and use your wrist to create a fluid motion, like so.” (the instructor demonstrates)
One student raises their hand. “Excuse me. How do you paint a board?” The instructor replies, “Dip your brush into the paint. Use the edge of the can to wipe off the excess paint. Hold the brush to the board, and use your wrist to create a fluid motion.”
Another student raises their hand and asks, “How would I paint the side of a barn?” “Dip your brush into the paint. Use the edge of the can to wipe off the excess paint. Hold the brush to the wall of the barn, and use your wrist to create a fluid motion.”
Understand A Technique, And You Can Use It Whenever It Makes Sense
Perhaps you can see where I’m going. The students are stuck in content. They see painting a wall and painting a board as two separate things. The instructor is teaching them concepts that work across contexts. You dip the brush in the can to get paint on it. That will be the same whether you are painting a board, or a wall, or a barn. If you understand the concept of dipping a brush into a can, you can use it in many different painting contexts.
If you focus too much on the context (whether it’s a wall, or a board), you will have to learn dipping the brush anew for every painting situation.
In NLP and hypnosis, there are many techniques. Beginners tend to try to match the techniques with particular types of issues. “OK, we’ll use 6-step reframing for smoking cessation, and parts therapy for weight loss.” Their questions tend to reflect that perspective. But if you want to increase your skill level, and flexibility — if you want to level up, there’s another way. And it’s actually easier.
Stop (for the most part) thinking about the issue, and strategize about what a client needs on a process level.
Level Up With NLP & Hypnosis
What do I mean by a process level?
Well, here’s an example of process thinking. A client comes in with an issue (I’m not going to say what it is). In a particular situation, they get bad feelings, and because of the way they feel, they’re not performing the way they want to. What technique do you know that can reduce bad feelings, and/or replace them with good feelings?
If you know NLP, you could do an anchor collapse. Or you could rewind a memory associated with the negative feeling, to reduce the feeling. With hypnosis, you could suggest that whenever the situation occurs that used to make them feel bad, a more positive, resourceful feeling automatically flows through every cell of their body. Or you could regress them to the first time they felt that feeling, and add resources there. You can do timeline work without content, too.
The idea is, instead of tying a technique to what issue it’s good for, you think about what a technique does, how it works, and then apply it logically to any situation where it makes sense.
In fact, it’s a good exercise to work with someone without knowing what their issue is. If you can get this down, your work will be much faster, and much more effective. And you’ll be strategizing at a higher level.
Just a caveat here. You typically need to get at least a little context information to check ecology. But for the purposes of the exercise, skip it, for now. Work with another hypnotist, or NLP person.
Here’s the exercise
- Ask your ‘client’ to tell you about a problem they have, or a response they don’t like, without telling you what it is. Have them replace the problem with “X”, and context information with generalities. Example: “Whenever I’m in a particular situation (generality), I X (have a non-specified problem).
- Ask your client to get an idea of how they would like to feel and respond, and call that “Y”.
- Proceed with a technique or intervention.
Here’s how it might work for an anchor collapse, and hypnosis
Ask the client to mentally go to the last time when they experienced X. When you see what you interpret as a negative emotion, anchor it. Break their state. Ask them how they’d like to respond or feel, but not to tell you, but to call it “Y”. Ask them to mentally step into the last time they successfully did Y, and anchor that, when you sense they’re there. Then collapse the anchors.
It’s similar for hypnosis. Ask them how they’d like to respond, and to call that “Y”. Induce trance, then suggest that any time X happens, they automatically Y.
Now, I wouldn’t recommend working completely without content all of the time. It has its traps. What if someone has a goal to become a better sharpshooter, so they can assassinate someone? Or, what if they have a goal to exercise 16 hours a day? You typically need a little context to make sure they’re not doing something you morally disagree with, or that might have ecology issues. But for this exercise, work without content.
Working this way keeps you from getting bogged down in content, and the story. It forces you to think conceptually, rather than being stuck in low-level, issue-based thinking. Once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll find yourself thinking differently when you work with content. Your work will be faster, and more effective.
PS: Why do I write so many articles on process thinking? Because I still see issue-based thinking in hypnotherapists questions, and approaches.
Brilliant article Keith, that was a reminder worth being reminded about!