how to be slow and ineffective

How To Be Slow, Ineffective, And Cause Needless Pain & Suffering

How To Be Slow, Ineffective, And Cause Needless Pain & Suffering

How do I work with anxiety about social situations? How do I work with someone who is having trouble getting over a breakup? How about nail biting? Smoking? Phobias?

I think those questions lead us in a not-so-useful direction. I understand why people ask them though…

The Diagnosis/Treatment Model Is Broken

Slow Snail

All around us we are encouraged to name what is wrong with us. We think we can’t “treat” unless we “diagnose.” Well, guess what–unless you have specific training in diagnoses and treatment, as a hypnotherapist/hypnotist, you’re not qualified to do either of those anyway.

But that’s OK. It’s even an advantage if you think about it. Personally, I think it’s one of the main reasons why sometimes NLP and hypnosis can be more powerful and more effective many times more quickly than some standard approaches. We can be more effective because we can’t diagnose! Or rather because we don’t focus on the issue, but the process a person goes through that creates the behavior they don’t want.

So, I’m going to say something a bit dramatic here. And you don’t have to believe me or take me at my word, of course. It’s just my experience.

If You Are Focused On Issues, You’re Probably Not Going To Be Fast & Effective

If you think, “How do I work with _________ (fill in the issue here)?” you’re probably thinking about it in the wrong way (according to the mighty and all-powerful Keith).

I get it all the time. How do I work with social anxiety? How about nail biting? Smoking? Phobias? For me, it’s the wrong approach.


The Dangers Of Issue-Based Thinking

1) You think that one issue is different than the next and you focus on the differences.
2) It’s easier to get caught up in content.

The Benefits of Process-Based Thinking

1) Quicker
2) You don’t listen to as much “story.” Most stories about problems are depressing and useful only in gathering some bits of information about the problem.

When I teach classes, I often work with someone as content free as possible, as a demonstration. It might go something like this…

Content-Free Work

Me: Hi. I understand you have something you’d like to change, is that true?

Them: Yes.

Me: So, you have a behavior or response you’d like to change? What do you feel right before or during the behavior you’d like to change?

Them: Powerless.

Me: Ok. Powerless. Shake that off. What would you have to feel for that behavior to change in the best way possible?

Them: What do you mean?

Me: What emotion would completely transform that experience for you, in a way that, if you were in that same situation but feeling the new emotion, it would come out completely differently for you? You wouldn’t have the old behavior or response and the new behavior/response would be just what you wanted?

Them: Oh, empowered.

Me: Anything else?

Them: Calm and confident.

Then I move them physically, get those positive emotions up and running in their bodies, anchor them and say something like…

Me: OK, having these positive emotions (fire off the anchor) as a way of being, how does that transform that experience (step them back into the space they were occupying when we talked about the problem)? How is it different now?

Them: Uhm, well, it doesn’t really change it. It just doesn’t seem to matter much any more.

Me: Do you do the old behavior or have the old response?

Them: No. Instead, I…

Me: Wait. Don’t tell me what the new response is. I just want to know if you’re satisfied with it.

Them: Yeah, it’s cool now.

As A Demo, For A Reason

Then I ask my students what the presenting problem was. They don’t know, of course. They might have been talking about wanting a cigarette or feeling put down by their spouse or being afraid of clowns or being anxious in social situations or wanting to get over a breakup.

I ask the students if it’s necessary to know what a problem is in order to change it. No, of course. I ask them how long it took. Usually a few minutes. These are the advantages of working as content free as possible.

I also point out that we don’t have much information about what we’d call ecology in NLP. For all we know, that person might now be planning on going home and kicking their dog and we helped them feel pretty good about it.

So, I don’t typically advise people to work totally content free.

But being able to work this way is key. And I advise any student to work as content free as possible until they’re comfortable with it (on small issues with other students).

So, if you send me a question about how to work with a particular issue, I might send you to this article 🙂

How Do I Work With…

The biggest part of the answer to any questions about how to work with a particular issue is this…

Find out what they’re doing in their mind that leads them to the response they don’t want and help them change it.

The smaller part of my answer is related to the specific issue. Smoking cessation sessions have a tendency to be a little different than weight loss, for instance. But don’t focus on those differences until you can work content free — that’s my advice.


About The Author:

Keith Livingston is the main instructor for Hypnosis 101. Keith has been studying hypnosis since he was a boy and doing hypnosis & NLP training since 1997.

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  1. hello Keith. I’m glad I purchased a tape awhile back that you and Sean Michael Andrews did together. Your voice has a specific cadence and tonal quality, which by the way is very friendly, calming and with a touch of humor. So when I read your info pieces I am hearing you; you write like you speak. “this,” as Martha Stewart would say, ” is a good thing”. (I advise anyone to buy at least one of your tapes if for no other reason than to hear you as they read you.)

    lots of Questions: about a few sentences
    “Shake that off” 1. is that a physical procedure? and if so 2. how does that present?

    “Then I move them physically, get those positive emotions up and running in their bodies, anchor them ”
    . 1. Move? (where) (are they sitting standing?) 2. emotions up? 3.running in their bodies? ..4.anchor them?

    “(step them back into the space they were occupying when we talked about the problem)? How is it different now? ” 1.step? they were occupying 3. did you move them again?

    I need a bit more detail. thank you Keith. Kathy

  2. Nice article Keith. I feel touched, psychologically speaking, by the unconcious tug towards wholeness. You should write a book. A top to bottom expose about how to hit 10,000 miles of clear sky. Thanks man, I enjoy your work.


    Patrick in Vancouver

  3. Hi keith happy new year to you. Thanks for the article I totally agree with your article. As a solution focused hypnotherapist I use the same approach . It is a positive experience for the client as they aren’t dwelling on the negatives allowing and they are coming up with their own solutions to their problems, thanks for all your messages through 2012 very interesting and thought provoking thanks Debbie

  4. Hey Keith, thanks for this article. I just finished a certification course in NLP and my brain is fried. Tons of new info and techniques bouncing around in there. Anyway, I really needed to be reminded of what you said here, it’s the old K.I.S.S. approach (Keep it simple stupid!). I appreciate your down-to-earth approach to dealing with this nutty thing we call life. Thanks again.
    Jeff in Pa

  5. This is a groundbreaking revelation for me, as I tend to take a long time and get caught up in the process. It was like a light bulb going on over my head. Focusing on the issue and becoming obsessed about how to fix it is getting in the way of helping others. This was great!

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