The Wright Way

The Wright Way

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Resisting the Blame Culture

One of the many enduring images from my schooldays was in the school's own "mock" General Election. During assemblies, in the run up to polling day, each of the 3 main party candidates (all fellow 6th formers of mine) got to make their "pitch" to the pupil electorate in "hustings" style, which was good fun! One morning the Liberal party candidate was in full flow when, from the body of the hall, someone threw a paper aeroplane at him. There were muted sniggers as it flew through the air, hovered a couple of yards from his face and then stalled and fell to the ground. "There - look!" he said. "Another failed Tory air defence project!" It brought the house down.

I first discovered at that GE what a blame culture we live in - how everything that is wrong with the country is all "their" fault and that is the overriding reason for voting "us" in. In politics it lives to this day and, due to the nature of our political beast, will probably go on ad infinitum.

The blame culture pervades our entire lives, however - both for external factors and (in a more pernicious way) for internal factors.

"This happened because of xxxx"
"I'm behaving this way because xxxx made me"
"Something (xxxx) made me do it"
Sound familiar?

I reminded the team I coach last evening that the responsibility for everything they do as individuals and in the name of the team is theirs and theirs alone. If they blame the referee, or if the opposition cheated, there has to be no culture of whingeing - THEY are responsible. If anyone misses a tackle or drops the ball - it is the TEAM's error. Just the same way if they all enjoy the pleasure of victory then it is a TEAM victory. And that applies to little victories through the game as well as the end result.
And if that's been down to hard work or brilliance by one or two individuals, then the rest should show their appreciation openly.

Collectively and individually we do not give enough credit where credit is due, show enough appreciation, give thanks for positive things that we take for granted.

The media have a lot to answer for - the spicy and interesting 'News' is bad news. Who wants to see endless reports of good stuff? It's boring - doesn't sell papers - doesn't make 'good copy'.

As coaches, therapists, changeworkers, mentors, we face this in every client and we face it in ourselves. I replied today to an online comment that read "If we keep waiting for perfection then we will never complete any task". My response was "I spent 50 years under the shadow of that kind of personal strategy - now I spend all my time trying to liberate others from following the same path."

Just acknowledging ourselves where we are right now is a REALLY great place to start. It puts behind us all the stuff we've brought with us to this place. It ignores ANY blame culture that is part of that stuff - and it allows unfettered forward movement. And that's real freedom.

And when we hear all the negatives, and the comments of a blame culture, we just need to acknowledge them as well - and hand them back to whoever or wherever they came from, labelled "Not wanted", "Not necessary for me to keep", "Of no use", "Toxic thought waste", plus a miriad of others.

Now, you can choose to accept what I say - or reject it. I would just ask you to listen to your thinking, and if you say "BUT" at any point then you need to sit on that thought.

And then let go.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Muscular rehab revisited - cultivating a positive Mind-Body Link for healing!

In an earlier post I wrote about how a change in mental attitude had started to bring about a physical improvement in a long-standing knee problem.

Last week I had occasion to make two visits to my rehab specialist - the first was a knee and thigh massage and then the following day an exercise session on the Reformer.

I explained to her about my change to a more positive, emotion-free, attitude and how it had come about and she said that she noticed some physiological imrpovements in certain muscles surrounding the knee. These were borne out by her observations on day 2, as I worked through some exercises on the Reformer.

She just kept saying "Amazing!" - and we both underlined our beliefs in the fact that the human body is a wonderful thing and that positive mind-body links are crucial to the healing process.
I now run (it's a jog at the moment to be honest) in occasional short bursts, and find it (a) manageable and (b) not detrimental in any way. It all seems to add to recovery by usage which is building and strengthening muscle.

More future bulletins are likely!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"Should've gone to......"

There's an advert featuring an old couple walking at the seaside who take a rest and "it's good to take the weight off your feet." So they sit down on what they see as some 'free seats' and she reaches inside her picnic bag and gets out some sandwiches. He asks her "have you got a cheese one?"
And at that moment, the bar comes down on the roller coaster and it slowly sets off gathering speed.
And before they know it they're being whisked hither amd thither, surrounded by other people who are squealing, getting their faces pulled out of shape by speed and g-forces, and rushing through a water slide - interestingly neither of them ever close their eyes!
Eventually the roller coaster comes to a stop and the last scene is we see them walk off down the promenade and he says "what kind of cheese was that?"
It's one of a series of adverts for Specsavers, where people with less than perfect eyesight blunder into amusing action.

So what are some of the subtle learnings, insights and presuppositions here for the rest of us? Here are a few notions that come to my mind - you may have some others that are particlarly stimulated by the experience - either remembered or constructed.

There is a presupposition that vision is important for safety.
That thrills and excitement are only there for those who anticipate it.
That eating certain cheeses can bring about curious events and happenings.
That there is an inner reality and an outer reality and the deeper we are in either the less we notice about the other.
That we are never too old to do anything, only thinking about it makes us scared.
That we should trust the unconscious, as it keeps us far more safe than we can ever realise.
That what we see is only our perception of reality and not what is actually there. In other words, we are making it up - from thought.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Minor miracles and cosmic conjunctions!

I've had one of those discoveries this last week - a discovery where you feel that celestial bodies are in alignment and that cosmic forces have combined to give you a nudge!

Here's the background -
About a year ago I was running one of our rugby training sessions - it was a dry evening and so instead of changing into boots I just wore trainers. There was a hint of laziness in this! As the evening wore on the grass got dewy - and, in the course of the activities my right leg shot out in front on the wet grass and I hyper-extended the knee, exacerbating a 34 year-old injury.
In the time since then, on and off, I've suffered somewhat - and in spite of remedial treatment, I often felt that nothing was getting better. In fact there have been days when things were decidedly worse! Running has been impossible - sleeping or sitting in one position for a length of time makes the act of standing up awkward and painful. So driving, getting out of bed etc is a bit of a trial. Even though I've always taken the view that walking as normal as possible is a good corrective way of recuperating from leg injuries, my limp is getting more noticeable (so people tell me).

With the people I coach, I talk a lot about living fully in the Now - playing in the Now. Now is where it matters - yesterday has gone - tomorrow never comes. And once the importance of the Now is accepted and fully engaged, then perceptions and beliefs and lives begin to change. I've talked to people about accepting themselves as they are "right now" and noticed some really fundamental changes in their physiologies - changes that signal some real shifts for them on the inside. However - when it came to applying-to-self with respect to that knee I've been stuck.

Until now! Until the "cosmic" line up began to impact....

1. In the course of studying, reading and listening to interviews by those involved with The 3 Principles (Mind, Consciousness and Thought) I have come to understand that Thought has been getting in the way with regards to my sensual experiences and perceptions about this injury. Day by day I have been adding emotional content to the pain and discomfort - and this has been the cause of the lack of healing.
2. I was watching an interview on DVD with Tim Hallbom and Robert Dilts called "Journey into the structure of your beliefs & how you create reality". Fascinating and engaging as this was, I really paid close attention when Robert Dilts began talking about his mother (Patricia Dilts) and her life after the recurrence of metastatic breast cancer. Hers is a powerful and inspiring story (related in My Pathway to Wholeness - 1992), and resonates with those of some dear people I have known also.

One of the things I particularly remember in the 1999 eclipse was how the birds fell silent and then re-awakened once the eclipse had passed. Watching Robert Dilts relate the story of his mother rather silenced the birds for me in the run up to event number 3.

3. I have a number of Twitter accounts, and as is the case I often get sent messages or read postings that have a link to what is often quoted as "something useful" or "a gift". Without the benefit of endless free time, I rarely follow these up - but on this one occasion I did. Was it random or providence? It turned out to be a 10 minute guided meditation by Jim Kitzmiller called "Perfect Self Meditation".
The essence of this particular meditation is that from here (and every) moment of NOW, we just need to notice and acknowledge that what we are is perfect - nothing more, nothing less. This is really so very simple, that it is easy to take forward into everyday consciousness. As such it transcends Thought and becomes Consciousness, and just needs to be noticed and affirmed.

After first listening to the meditation I just stood up straight and walked to another room, rather amazed that there was no period of leg straightening, no initial or residual limp. It felt curious and liberating. I then re-listened with particular focus on some aching and very sensitive teeth in my upper jaw. Again, the pain dissolved and I was able to drink various hot and cold items without any recoil!
From that evening I have re-listened a number of times and the continuing and ongoing results are equally positive.

I'm not a person particularly prone to miracle cures from the outside, but I do know that the Mind knows no bounds. And in that, we are all capable of far more than we ever think we are. Certainly, for me, the conjunction of these events - the arrival of these three trains of thought in the station at the same time - has set in motion something significant.
And this will - going forward - be something I know will be of use to me and many others I come into contact with in the coming weeks, months and years.

The message is -
We should never under-estimate the relevance of anything we do, no matter how unconnected or random or pointless it may seem.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Losing my car keys!

Last Saturday afternoon I watched our 2nd XV rugby at home. In the bar after the game, I became aware that my car keys had gone - no longer in my various pockets.

I went out to the pitch and proceeded to retrace as many steps as I could, remembering where I'd walked in the course of watching the match. I was confident at this stage I would find them, and I engaged in some conscious-unconscious dialogue to pool all resources! All to no avail!

I left the car at the club field and got a lift home. Next day was pleasant and sunny, so I incorporated walking the dog with re-searching the relevant areas of the field. Again, no joy. I then went to the police station to see if they had been handed in. This turned up nothing either!
At this stage I was beginning to think the best method was to use a metal detector - without really applying some of my own previously used methods.

Monday came,and it was another sunny day - so I set out once more to search.
Only this time I decided to be meticulous in (a) my walking the search areas and (b) my close attention to those areas.

In the course of a lot of my technical sports coaching, I tell players to REALLY watch the ball, study rather than just look at it. I concluded that in the course of my previous searches I had been looking for something small enough to be covered by leaves and hidden in lengthy grass. I wasn't giving it my 'best shot' in other words - I was guessing, and not even best guessing.

I duly found the keys, and with it came a surge of feeling of success and freedom - rather akin to how I felt when I passed my driving test many years ago!

Apart from the obvious - what learning opportunities has this presented for me?

* Was the losing of the keys unconsciously noticeable?
* Heed my own advice and use ALL the sensual resources available to me.
* Avoid guesswork when quality information is easily available.
* Is this kind of search an analogue or a digital process? When I know the answer, act accordingly.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010


This post is inspired by two random yet, for me, synchronous posts by colleagues on Facebook.

The first was a quote by the artist Paul Cezanne:-
"For an Impressionist to paint from nature is not to paint the subject, but to realize sensations."
This reminded me of a recent conversation with my mother about her own method of painting when she sets out to paint a copy of a Great Master. Her best work in this field comes not from the perfection of the copy itself but her representation of the original in style, form and depth. And in the execution of that representation, she (too) is realising sensations - both hers plus also, and moreso, the originating artist.

The second was a mention of an album by Ludovico Einaudi, composer and pianist - a particular favourite of mine, and whose music inspires for me a whole range of experiences and evocations, on many neurological levels.

These two posts, read one after the other, sparked a chain of thought that led me to go onto YouTube and play a piece by Ludovico Einaudi set to a video someone had filmed in the Canary Isles of two sunsets. Now I have played this clip many times and am quite familiar with both the film and the music. However - THIS time I came to watch and listen with the quote by Paul Cezanne very much in my mental foreground.

Here is the address:-

The experience was transforming, and transcended all previous experiences of this particular clip.

You may need to play it several times - but I invite you to pay close attention to the following:-
* Allow your eyes to focus on the light source of the film (it is the setting sun)
* Allow your auditory attention to first follow the melody line, mostly played by the cello - and then next time follow the bass line, played by the piano.
* Finally allow the focus of your eyes to rest (converge) at an infinite point beyond the light source.

Notice your sensations as you do these actions. Notice how your experience changes, each time. And finally notice all the changes in your overall state.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Dealing with your "Bulls"

We all encounter dilemmas - and quite often we encounter a number all at once. At these moments we are in danger of overwhelm, emotional overload. As we struggle to pull each one into perspective, we lose perspective on the others - our "bandwidth" of coping and resolving is not broad enough.

One definition of a dilemma is - "state of uncertainty or perplexity especially as requiring a choice between equally unfavorable options". The phrase "The Horns of a Dilemma" seems to have originated from Roman times from the Latin phrase argumentum cornutum or "an argument with horns". In modern parlance this is finding ourselves "Between a rock and hard place", and it leads us to "Not being able to see the wood for the trees".

Focussing on the metaphorical horns for a moment, we often anticipate dilemmas as charging bulls.

When I was young I spent quite a lot of time out walking in the countryside. Because I was an only child, this activity was mostly enjoyed in the company of parents, aunts, uncles, older cousins - in fact, I was almost always the youngest there. One of the features of being in older company is they are more mindful of the dangers surrounding them, and especially those relating to a small boy! A prevalent danger when the footpath entered a new field was perceived as "is there a bull here?" In the mind of small boy, EVERY field might possibly contain a BULL - whilst the percentage is (in reality) very, very low. Couple this perception with an over-active imagination, and the bull - and those HORNS - is a perpetual and clear and present danger!

Looking at the metaphorical parallel - one dilemma is probably something we can deal with. Two dilemmas - becoming difficult. More than two - panic, overload!
With one dilemma we can choose to either RUN for survival to a place of refuge, or confront the bull and be a matador or just plain smart. And that's how we all cope to a greater or lesser degree. With two or more dilemmas we now have horns coming from multiple directions.

So how do you deal with your Bulls? Do you stand firm, or do you run for cover? If you are being charged by multiple Bulls, what then?

There's a shift we can experience in this metaphorical landscape, which can be really useful in throwing open some more windows on broader perspectives for us. It's the Disney effect - the cartoon representation of what is happening for us. How would a Disney cartoon character deal with the Bulls? What options are there? Some immediately spring to mind...

Jump on a bull's back and control the horns - wait and wait until they are really close then jump out of the way so they crash into each other - become a charger yourself and chase after the biggest bull - PLUS the more you think about it, the more examples will spring up for you.

The thing is - by looking at reframes and alternatives you are presented with multiple options - plus by looking at them within the framework of a metaphorical landscape you are presented with an inner, unconscious representation of what the problem(s) mean for you and how you can resolve them. The "trick" is to translate the best metaphorical outcome back into real life terms. And this is where you need to trust your unconscious to guide and present you with the most favourable choice.

All the answers are there within you - you just need a strategy for dealing with your Bulls!


Monday, September 6, 2010

Tennis - Insider Nuggets or the continued quest for the Holy Grail?

In the course of watching Andy Murray's demise at the US Open 2010, I heard something mentioned from Peter Fleming on commentary that rather made my jaw hang limp.

He was talking about tennis players at this level just having to "...allow their subconscious to run the show once they are in matches. If they try and think their way through a match then they're lost..."

Firstly I was delighted to hear a former top flight player acknowledging the role the SUB(or UN)conscious plays in sporting contests. Psychology is a crucial factor in all sport, and there are a number of sports where psychology plays an enormous part in players' success or otherwise. Also, away from any of the martial arts, in heads-up one-to-ones, tennis is just about the best sport there is for us to see this in action. Even golf, where psychological approaches are well considered, it is still more about the player v the course, than player v player.

Secondly, Peter Fleming and fellow commentator, Mark Petchey, went on to talk about confidence, and "wouldn't it be great" if players could have this installed for them at an unconscious level.

Now I moved to the edge of my chair, thinking that they were about to reveal some "insider nuggets" about what is one of my stock in trade processes - Sports Hypnosis. Instead, I was almost falling off the chair when I heard this:-
"I know there are people who can do this, but there aren't that many in the world - and I've never heard of it's use by anyone in tennis."
Can this be for real? Surely at the top level, there are enough SP's** working in tennis to be able to extend to their clients an efficacious and beneficial use of changing states, and an ability to utilise hypnotic phenomena within those state changes, to instal and anchor confidence and a whole range of other desirable resources. Surely?

Or perhaps this IS a case where the only thing a pickpocket sees, when in a room full of saints, is their pockets. The familiarity of rocket science to a rocket scientist means that what is a straightforward and everyday process to him, is seen as amazing, bizarre, wonderful, off the wall, complicated and insoluble to everyone else.

I have watched crumbling sportspersons from the absolute beginner to those at the very, very top of their chosen sport - knowing that I (and countless colleagues) would be able to guide and effect in them the changes they most require.

The thing is - (and here there is just a hint of cynicism), we seem to be more accepted by, and accessible to, the beginners and learners!

My perception is that "Insider Nuggets" are UNCONSCIOUS processes, while the "Quest for the Holy Grail" is a distinctly CONSCIOUS process!

** - (SP's: Sports Psychologists)


Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Shortest Distance

On occasions when I'm discussing with clients about reaching their goals, there are a number of instances when I need to use the idea of "The Shortest Distance". This idea presents itself, conceptually, when some arbitrary barrier comes along to halt the passage towards achieving THAT goal.

In these cases I always use the illustration of the world record for running the mile, and the "myth" that had grown up around breaking the 4-minute barrier. It was finally broken by Roger Bannister back in May 1954 - and it appeared that once the 4-minute barrier had been broken, that further sub 4-minute performances were being reported from all over the world. Mankind had surpassed that (almost) unbeatable barrier!

In reality the march towards breaking the barrier was relentless - and it was the dearth of timed running activities during the 2nd World War that halted the steady progress and reduction of all timed athletic performances for various distances.

For those outside athletics, it became a popular notion that "4 minutes" was a well rounded figure and a watershed in man's advancing prowess - rather like the previously unconquered Mount Everest up to 1953!

A study of Bannister's running career from 1948 onwards shows that his exceptional talent was considerably enhanced once he added serious training into his regime; plus there were regular planned assaults on the mile record using pacemakers and measured lap times within the breakdown of the distance itself.

The timed logical argument is this - in a run taking 240 seconds (or 4 minutes), the SHORTEST DISTANCE between 241 seconds and 239 seconds is 2 seconds - or less. Divide that by 4 laps of an athletics track and it becomes less than half a second per lap. And less than half a second per lap for 4 laps is utterly achievable!

In terms of goals, there is no such thing as an arbitrary barrier - save that installed by a person's belief that it cannot be reached or surpassed. If we think we cannot do something, then we are right - and every attempt has the built in safety net of being able to say:-
"See I was right," upon failure, and therefore reinforcing my belief OR (in the event of success) "Well how lucky was that?"

Limiting beliefs and arbitrary barriers are only mental constructs.

Plus, if you are moving towards achieving a goal and find the "final push" hard to achieve - look at the structure of your achievements to date in this journey and reframe your perception of the SHORTEST DISTANCE required to arrive at your destination. Take a more calculated and unemotional logical view, and you'll soon discover that in terms of "seconds" you only need a less than 1% overall improvement.

Small increments are always achievable.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

First Match of the new season - How good was the Prep?

Excitement - anticipation - nerves aflutter -

It's the first matchday of a new season for the team I coach. There's been ten pre-season sessions in which we've addressed their fitness, strength and conditioning, re-awakening personal and positional skills, playing patterns and organisational aptitude.

So this afternoon is the 'moment of truth' - are they under-cooked?

Well, for me, this is the first port of call in laying down some mental approaches for the season - and in playing down the pitfalls of today's encounters; not so much versus the opposition, but rather for my players versus themselves.

There is always the expectation that I am going to unwrap some pearls of wisdom in a pre-match talk anyway - and today will be no exception. However, the focus I want them to bring is twofold.
1. Sowing, cultivating and nurturing a winning mindset.
2. That today is still part of preparation, still a step along the journey. There is NO finished article, because even if they reach the standards they aspire to and I envisage they will achieve, then that is not the end of the story. There is the next level to go for, and then the next, and so on in an inevitable drive towards being the best they can possibly be. Everything in those terms is "Work in Progress" (and I have used that perspective earlier this year with wonderful consequences for the young sportsman concerned.)

When all is said and done, my players are all capable of far, far more than they think they are - and once that is embedded in their mindset, then it is far easier for them to focus on PROCESSES and not OUTCOMES. Getting the processes right will lead to achieving the outcomes we all want. In order to win any prize in the Lottery the abiding essential is the buying of a ticket - it doesn't work any other way!

I will report back on a later blog on how everything progresses!


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Don't Think of a Black Cat!

The human mind does not process deletives.

If I say "Don't think of a black cat," you have to first of all think of a black cat in order that you can try and carry out the instruction.

So for a place kicker in rugby or gridiron, or a free thrower in basketball, "I mustn't miss this kick" or "Mustn't miss this throw" will be more likely to lead to a miss - as the player's internal dialogue focusses him towards the positive element in what he's saying - "miss.."
He'll most probably be also considering the consequences of missing the kick or the throw, and piling the pressure upon himself, and his physiology will start to reflect this and tighten up. He'll be consulting the MAP of his kicking or throwing world and remembering the previous instances when he missed, what happened, how he felt, how everyone else felt, the responsibility, and so on. This map is now also highlighting all the hazards and difficulties. Suddenly it seems he's trying to kick a concrete ball into the smallest of target areas.

Negative instructions bear a particularly bitter fruit when the stakes are raised. Playing a wrong note or missing a catch in practice is no big deal after all. But the same process in context on stage or in a packed stadium adds an entirely different set of pressure variables.

They placed a piece of gymnastic apparatus, the beam, on the floor and invited a group to walk along it. At four inches wide it posed no internal or external problems, no physical or mental difficulties. The same beam was then suspended between two tall step ladders and the group was again invited to walk along it. Reluctance spread like wildfire as the consequences were significantly raised. Falling off was now an issue as there was a prospect of pain and injury. Small losses of balance would (they thought) be magnified and lead to unsatisfactory outcomes. If that same group had been taught to walk blindfold perfectly along the beam, would height above the ground have been an issue?

Many performance shortcomings can be laid at the feet of our internal dialogue, where our thoughts and words echo around the chart-room where we keep our Maps of the World.

At times like this it is vital to have a strategy to deal with physical and mental distractions, and internal dialogue, in a positive way.

* Establish a habitual thought pattern to lead into the skill or performance process.
* Perform deep, abdominal breathing which gets a good supply of oxygen to the brain and around the body, helping more rational thought processing, relaxing joints and muscles so they can function properly within the requisite technique.
* Set up a set of anchors to be fired at particular pressure moments. Anchors that elicit a beneficial state of mind and/or body.
* Use localised trance to activate or close down certain areas of the body.
* Use momentary visuaization to focus or override input from the five senses.
* Use an internal dialogue inhibitor such as a) a floor to ceiling eye-roll or b) a dampener for micro movements of the tongue by resting it delicately close to the upper set of gums.

Some of the above are routines, some are emergency 'tricks'. The routines can be built into a more complex strategy that you know will work for you. Set it up and test it out in practice. Practice is your "beam on the ground" scenario after all! The more you set it up in a "blindfold" kind of way, the more control you will have when the real situation comes around, when you are "2-3 metres above ground without any safety net or landing below".

Dealing with stressful and pressure moments in performance, which you know will always be there, is your key to mastering the process and getting the outcomes you want - with or without a Black Cat!


Monday, August 16, 2010

Light at the end of the tunnel

I was talking with a client the other day who was "sick and tired of failing."
This was very broad-brush so I metaphorically held up for her one of the cue cards to break down generalisations - "always??"
She laughed, "No, not really. I'm really angry and depressed about a venture that failed about nine months ago."
"Ah, so it was the venture that failed - not you?" I asked.
She smiled and nodded, adding, "but the way I'm feeling has started me comfort eating and drinking again, and it frustrates me big time 'cause I've no perseverance or self-discipline. Things were going so well before."

So her train of wellness was happily chugging along until an external factor derailed it, which is the kind of scenario we all encounter from time to time. Except that for her, now, she's so intently looking back in anger and self-judgement that she's actually "walking backwards" into the future. Since by it's very nature the future is somewhat unknown, walking backwards into it is likely to be full of pitfalls, trip-ups, tip-overs and a whole load of things to keep derailing that train.

"Picture this," I said,"you're running a bath and the phone goes. You go to answer and get engrossed in conversation. Suddenly - OMG - the bath is overflowing! What's the first thing you do?"
"Pull the plug?" she asked.
"What's the FIRST thing you do?" I repeated.
She thought, then lit up like there'd been a dawning. "Turn off the taps - THEN pull the plug."

"So this anger," I said, "is it with some thing or some one?" It transpired it was someone, who was pretty much responsible for the venture problem. However it also turned out that steps had already been taken to expunge the anger issues (rather like turning off the bathtaps.)
"Frustration, then..." I asked next. "Can you tell me about it it?"
It appeared to be a generalised frustration that 'life was on track but now off track and although it'll be ok in the end I don't know when that'll be, and things will probably get worse in the meantime because...' etc etc.

PW: "So is there anything else about that frustration?"
CL: "Like being in a long, dark tunnel. I can see the light at the end but it's so small so I don't know how far away it is."
PW: "So that light - what kind of light is that light?"
CL: "It's a ray of sunshine."
PW: "And is there anything else about that ray of sunshine?"
CL: "It's bright and warm and all around. But just a long way off, and I don't know how far."
PW: "And considering tunnel, what kind of tunnel is that tunnel?"
CL: "It's very dark and I can't see what's there or anything around at all."
PW: "And is there anything else about that tunnel, very dark and can't see?"
CL: "Well I suppose it's like I'm stuck in it right here and now. And I want to be where the light is but can't see where I'm stepping."
PW: "What needs to happen for tunnel so you can see where you're stepping?"
CL: "Need to put up a few lights."

Now things were on the move!
She'd need to get in an electrician to rig up the lights, because she'd always ask an expert. Where from? Back at the other end of the tunnel, where she'd come in. So the tunnel has an entrance (behind her and quite near.) Is there an electrician there? Oh yes - but actually he'd need a lot of wires and a lot of lights. So what else would work? She'd get candles, lots of them, from the candle shop! And how would she light them? "I've got a lighter," she said gleefully.

We both laughed at this stage and she was getting quite animated as she worked with this 'tunnel' metaphor of hers. I asked about what sort of light she'd get from lighted candles, and she said it was a warm glow, like you'd get at parties. So I asked her about parties, and how she felt at parties and gatherings, and just got her to elaborate on THAT kind of experience.

Pretty soon she was moving down the tunnel towards the 'Ray of Sunshine', using candles to light the way, having parties, gatherings, times of good mood, and just generally being able to see where she was going.

"And where is frustration now?" I asked
"That is so helpful - can't say I notice any, as we speak."
"And I'm not advocating that you have endless parties as you move along the tunnel, you understand. It's just that you can make all the right choices about using the candles as you go."

In conclusion, I did invite her to leave around at home, in her handbag, other relevant places, some visual and kinaesthetic anchors that linked to this whole elaborate tunnel-and-light metaphor.
Candles and a lighter seemed appropriate.

She went away happy as a sand-girl!


Friday, August 13, 2010

Can you put it in a wheelbarrow? Beware nominalizations!

I was working with a group of young cricketers yesterday and we were talking about hitting various types of shots and what to do with our hands and feet in order to best play these. Finally, I asked them the question that actually stands for ALL ball sports. "What is THE most important thing you need to do when batting?"

There was a thoughtful silence apart from the sounds of brains in action until finally a very bright 9 yr old, probably the most talented young player I've yet encountered, blurted excitedly, "Concentrate!"
"Getting warm," I said, "So what is concentrate? I have a carton of fruit juice here with me. It says on it MADE FROM CONCENTRATE. Is it like that? Better still - Can you put it in a wheelbarrow?"
You know how kids tell you non-verbally when they don't understand and yet remain curious to know what it is you are talking about?
So I repeated, "Can you put it in a wheelbarrow? You can with concentrate for fruit juice - yes? So what about YOUR type of concentrate?"

There was a bit of laughter and someone mentioned 'trick question' - and yes I suppose it is a trick question in a way. However this lad had already been tricked into thinking he knew about concentrate until some linguistic NeLPer like me started to redraw this particular 'Map of The World' for him! The fact he failed to come up with an alternative definitely meant he was echoing "coach speak" or "adult speak" without a full understanding of meaning.

Then one of the others said, "Watch the ball."
"Exactly," I said. "Watch the ball. For us in cricket concentrate MEANS watching the ball, AND paying attention to other important things so we can best decide how to do what we want to do. If we don't watch and pay attention then we are guessing. Sometimes we'll guess OK, sometimes not."

As sports coaches (and in life in general) we often nominalise a set of collective actions into one word - which we understand as "code" for that set of actions. However danger lurks in that nominalisation because we can't "put it in a wheelbarrow", because (as it is) it is intangible. Think about words like concentrate - confidence - focussed - stressed out etc.

So how many nominalisations do you use, without REALLY fully understanding what they are code for? Have a ponder and notice what you notice - then ask yourself "Have I got the REAL and FULL EXTENT of what this is about?" You may make some interesting discoveries! You'll certainly help broaden your perspectives and perceptions. And that's part of what NLP DOES - not what it is IS!


Monday, August 9, 2010

Weaving spells with localised 'trance'

Weaving spells: hands and arms, legs and feet

For some time now I have been using ‘localised’ trance to coach the technical side of batting in cricket. Now this isn’t trance in the sense that those that I’m coaching are hypnotised or ‘put under’ – perish the thought! Clearly this wouldn’t work – no, this is using trance from the premise that for every conscious experience we are in a particular state (frame of mind, balance of consciousness), and as that state shifts throughout our waking experience then each change of state involves moving into an ‘altered state’.

Previously I have used this methodology in the course of coaching a number of sports, and it was only once I became a practitioner of hypnosis, did I fully understand the nature of states and the opportunities available when those states are in a process of flux or change. More recently I have been (and increasingly am) fascinated by the work of James Tripp and his advancing work in an area he calls ‘Hypnosis Without Trance’. This paradigm shift opens doors to endless opportunities – because now that coaches have a ‘label’ for what is taking place in terms of both micro-techniques and macro-techniques, then exploration into taking this process forward can start to gather pace.

Educating the body

The ‘mechanics of batting’ in cricket is all about educating the body in understanding and executing both major and minor motor movements with the head, hands and feet. These mechanics are then used, in conjunction with critical judgement of the characteristics of the ball in flight, to bring about the execution of any particular shot.

This is actually the structure used in any sport involving striking and catching a ball (or any object for that matter). In football for instance, these mechanics are executed by kicking, chesting or heading the ball; in bat or racket sports the ‘striking implement’ becomes an extension of the hand or hands, and the education here involves the hands manipulating the implement to best effect.

A particular session

I had a session with a 10 year old player primarily in order to help loosen her wrists, elbows and shoulders thereby freeing-up her ability to strike the ball with better control.
I started by asking her to swing the bat and play some imaginary shots. Her ‘top’ hand (the hand at the top of the handle) started off in a good position but at the moment of striking and the follow through afterwards this hand in particular looked extremely out of position and uncomfortable. I got her to play the imaginary shots one handed with a lightweight plastic stump. I asked her to “notice in your starting position you can see the back of your hand. Watch the back of that hand as you are playing in slow motion, and as you do, pay attention to what is happening to the back of that hand at every point along the way.” I then got her to watch me doing the same thing in slow motion. “Pay attention to what you are doing compared to what I am doing. Now gradually speed up what you are doing, still noticing the back of that hand and just allow your other hand to gently hold the stump and start to work in partnership with the other hand. Notice how different this now begins to feel compared to before.” Very soon she was swinging smoothly and freely from the hands and wrists, and the elbows and shoulders just appeared to have opened up automatically and now also had much more freedom of movement. I exchanged the lightweight stump for her bat and the action continued to work well.
I then laid a row of static balls on the ground and asked her to step forward and hit each one in turn. Her foot movement was bizarre, as she lifted it in the style of a prancing horse! I then asked her to show me how she walked down the street – noticing as she did how high her feet came off the ground. “Now, when you step towards each ball I want you to step only as smoothly and comfortably as you do when you are walking down the street.” This nailed it – and the end of the exercise was to go about 15m away and throw some balls down for her to hit and see now how she was doing it both in the step of the foot and on the movement of the hands.

Setting up and using a chain of small state-changes

Now this is a fairly standard approach I make for players who have issues with either their hands or feet. The thing is that this method sets up a chain of changing states, very localised, in the hands and feet. Added to this is the instruction to “notice” and “pay attention” to what parts of particular limbs are doing in the course of some slow motion action. Part of the noticing instruction involves the visual, part involves kinaesthetic, and the RAS* is focussed to gather this sensual information. The player is now building an experience of competence at an unconscious level by my guiding them to utilise these altered states by getting them to focus on what is happening on both the inside (kinaesthetic) as well as the outside (visual).
Using the ‘walking down the street’ analogy as a means of correcting this player’s ‘pranced step’ is again far more effective than most other methods. Firstly it gets away from any “don’t do that – do this” instruction, which I always avoid because of the “DONT”; secondly I’m getting her to engage with a relaxed and natural process – just walking down the street. In order to show me how she does it, she has to go on an inner search for a long-embedded and now autonomic process, and then ‘get into a state’ of walking down the street. So immediately she experiences an alteration in state. While she is passing into this altered state, she is noticing by focussed attention, how her feet are moving relative to the ground and the rest of the body. Here too there is visual and kinaesthetic sensory input. It is literally one small step from this experience, to replicating it when stepping towards and striking the ball. I have found that in most instances this method of correcting the biomechanics of stepping towards the ball works once and forever. Why? I think it is because, once again, the correct action has been installed unconsciously while the player was in (or entering into) an altered state.

Farewell to conventionality

I could of course coach this conventionally by getting the player to perform endless repetitions of the motor actions. And in doing so, yes the actions would pass into muscle memory and eventual unconscious competence. However, using localised trance and the nature of altered states, means that players can advance quickly through laborious processes and start to get down to the REALLY important part of striking the ball – timing; through the development and improvement of judgement using hand-eye co-ordination.
I have even used this methodology on players with dyspraxia and achieved excellent results. It seems that because the programming that runs the motor movements has been installed unconsciously, the brain is able to run the programme in a much better way.

Another benefit I have experienced by using this way of installing technique in the unconscious is that part of this seems to become ‘hot wired’ into autonomic functionality. I have seen dramatic changes in players from one week to the next, knowing that they haven’t spent time practising the technique in the intervening days. Their unconscious mind seems to have done all the background processing necessary to raise the level of competence quite dramatically. What might be deemed as unconscious learning without practice.

There is clearly more to unconscious learning than meets the eye – (and hands and feet!).


* - RAS - the Reticular Activating System. The brain's perceptive filter.

Remember to breathe!

Our cricket club's Under 15s side had a match last Sunday morning. It was warm, pleasant and sunny and our side had batted particularly well and there was little possibility of the opposition matching our score. This type of match situation gives our skipper the opportunity to involve the less regular bowlers in the game.

One of the lads at the end I was umpiring was struggling to relax and bowl with consistency. In amongst the good balls were wides and his control was teetering on the very edge!

Earlier in the season he'd been in this situation before, but on that occasion I'd been watching from off the field of play so could only remark about it afterwards. I told him then about how much composure helps his accuracy when bowling and about how important breathing helps composure.

Back to this Sunday morning, and all I could hear from behind me as he came round to bowl the next ball was short and shallow breathing - almost panting - with an open mouth. After the next ball I caught his eye and said "Remember to Breathe!" He knew exactly what I meant and as he smiled his shoulders immediately relaxed. Everything went fine for him from then on and there was no more anxious panting.

Was this coaching while the game was in progress - something we frown upon as officials? Yes it was - though it wasn't coaching in terms of anything to do with the game. So my three little words said almost in passing had exactly the desired effect for him, and I had my excuse ready!

Breathing is so important in performance for relaxing the body and clearing the mind. When you are doing anything "under pressure" check your breathing first. Control it and it will then help control all that you are asking your body and mind to do.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Using carbon-fibre 'cheetahs' metaphorically!

"I want to sort my head out" said a recent client.

In athletic terms she needed to maintain standard timings for specific runs, and she felt that although she was physically capable in fitness terms, that a self imposed barrier - a kind of defeatist voice within - was telling her "you're losing ground, you're off the pace, you're not good enough". The end product for her was a kind of "can't do, won't do" scenario.
PW: "Has this always been the case for you? Always like this?"
CL: "No. I used to be well up to pace and put in good times"
And then she explained how someone had got on her case, critical, unfairly judgemental and prejudiced, and this was when things had started to go off the rails.
PW: "So how would you describe this situation as it keeps occurring for you?"
CL: "It doesn't happen when I'm playing other sports like rugby or lacrosse, all which involve running. These sports have a purpose. Only when just plain running, where the purpose is beating the clock."
PW: "So you're detached in other sports which have another purpose to them and fully engaged with this issue in ordinary plain running. So, what do you feel is happening?"
CL: "I'll tell you what it feels like. I run up against a brick wall and I can't get over it"
PW: "What can you tell me about this brick wall?"
This 'barrier' had a familiar ring to it and so I seized upon the metaphor she'd presented and decided to run with it.
CL: "It's sort of pinky red bricks and pretty high." I invited her to elaborate further on her pinky red brick wall."It's about 8 feet high, and 6 or 7 feet wide and about the the thickness of a brick in depth."
PW: "And is there anything else about this 8 foot high, 6 or 7 foot wide pinky red brick wall that is one brick thick?"
CL: "It's important to know what's on the other side. But I can't see over."
PW: "What needs to happen for you to know what's on the other side?" Quite a pause here.
CL: "Well I could go round but that would be cheating and would mark my time down. I can get over six foot walls like on assault courses, but not eight foot ones."
PW: "What needs to happen for you to get to the other side without cheating?"
CL: "I'd need a set of foldable steps...but they'd be really awkward to carry while running," and there was another pause and she chuckled, "a pickaxe would be very but that would be awkward to carry too." And then I waited for almost half a minute, when there was a totally physical response of realisation. "I could use sprung legs, using those blade things - whatever they're called." I think she meant carbon-fibre 'cheetahs'. "They would work brilliantly."

I invited her to visualize how to clear the wall using her 'cheetahs', going through the process, reaching up having sprung off them, vaulting almost and using her hands to pivot over the wall and landing the other side, and continuing with her run to the finish.
PW: "Make a film of this, enhance it on your mental video-console, add a soundtrack, make it as compelling as it needs to be for you. And how does this now feel for you?"
Her physiology had changed, she seemed animated, excited. Plus her head seemed somewhat 'sorted'.
CL: "Is that it? Is it really that simple?" she asked.
PW: "If you can see yourself doing it, then there's a high probability that you will do it in reality. Your unconscious has found a great solution for you - utilise it!"


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Nothing is ever nothing at all

Early one day recently I posted a link to a clip on YouTube from Blackadder 4. It was the one called “I Spy” and related to Blackadder and Baldrick playing I Spy which started thus:-
Blackadder: "I spy with my bored little eye something beginning with ‘T’."
Baldrick: "Breakfast. My breakfast always begins with tea. Then I have a little sausage. Then a boiled egg with some soldiers."

Some hours passed by and then, quite unwittingly I had 2 boiled eggs for lunch – with soldiers! I posted about making this discovery as well, by saying:- "Was this self-persuasion, self-induction or something even a little deeper? Or perhaps nothing at all?" And then I replied to myself – "No! NOTHING is EVER Nothing At All"

This got me thinking about how much there is in that phrase –
"Nothing is ever Nothing at All"

First up I looked on Google –
There was nothing specific, just a lot of arrows pointing to Ronan Keating’s song "Nothing At All".
Then I found a reference to Canon Henry Scott-Holland (1847-1918), Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral. He is most well known for ‘The King of Terrors’, a sermon on death, that starts:- "Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away into the next room."
Next, I remembered someone once saying that in Mozart’s compositions EVERY note has a purpose, and that no note he ever wrote could be deemed as "Nothing at All" or insignificant, without significance. Here, I felt, I was getting warmer to the argument of "Nothing is ever nothing at all".

Then I looked at the ambiguity between saying "Nothing is ever Nothing at All" and "Nothing is Never Nothing at All". It’s one of those phrases where emphasis on each of the words is key, and the tone of voice in which it is phrased also changes the meaning around the pivot of 'EVER' and 'NEVER'.

So, is "Nothing At All" an entity here, an argument where No Thing has a different meaning from Nothing. Is it like Disease – which is dis-ease? Or is it more like seminate and disseminate? And there’s also "Never", which is meant as "not ever".

This is all rather like the linguistic argument I propounded in the preface of "Don’t Think of a Black Cat" – where I took Shakespeare’s "To Be or not To Be – that is the question" and applied it loosely to the NLP presupposition "The Map is not the Territory" (where the ambiguities around the verb To Be are exposed). The Map is only a partial representation of how to navigate the territory – it’s not the reality of the Territory. I’ve done something stupid doesn’t mean I AM stupid. In the end I concluded that "If To Be is not To Be, then is THAT the question?" Whereupon at least one much respected friend and colleague who was totally baffled, summed up the whole book as "That kind of stuff leaves me stone cold I’m afraid. Does absolutely nothing for me."

So what does it really mean, "Nothing is ever nothing at all"?

You know when you are in a conversation and the person starts to say something and then stops. We might say, "What were you about to say?" and often their response is ", it doesn’t matter..." or "Oh, it’s nothing." We all have that unconscious knowledge that it DOES matter, but there is something in their conscious mind holding back the saying of it. It may be they are still grasping at being able to express it properly – or rather, express it in a way that they feel might be best appropriate for us, or for the current circumstances – or rather express it in a way that still hides their true intent – or rather.....and so on. I find there’s a really useful conversational tool that allows them to keep that reticence and yet also allows them to express themselves in a way satisfactory to them. It is to invite them to say it metaphorically. It means they are opening up, and in a way that is not the black-and-white unshadedness of abrupt bluntness.
Or perhaps their use of ‘Nothing At All’ is actually a metaphor in their unconscious language for "I’ve placed what I really want to say behind a curtain – so you can’t see it" in a magician’s-style ‘sleight of thought’. By responding metaphorically both you and they are now communicating at an unconscious level far more than consciously. And the significance of that unconscious communication is all bound up within ‘Nothing At All’.

So, nothing IS EVER nothing at all.
• Every note in Mozart’s compositions has significance. Every note has a relationship with the other notes and with the silences that surround those notes. The very meaning of his music EXISTS in the often conscious nothingness of its appearance.
• Not many things may EXIST in a vacuum but a vacuum has properties, and therefore a vacuum is not "nothing" but is a relative state of nothingness. It does have EXISTENCE.
• In Ronan Keating’s song, "You say it best when you say nothing at all" - the implication is that unconsciously you express yourself to me in the most significant way without the need for words. And that the meaning of your expression EXISTS in that "Nothing At All".
• Canon Henry Scott-Holland’s "Death is nothing at all", in my perception, alludes only to the non-existence of a state of aliveness and not to a closure of the timeless nature of EXISTING. The ‘nothing at all-ness’ of death is therefore best understood at an unconscious level.

And what has this all to do with Blackadder, Baldrick and boiled eggs?

Why absolutely nothing at all! .....Or has it?

Monday, August 2, 2010

"I'm turning into my mother!" - Behavioural models

I went out earlier and our neighbour's dog was barking continuously though not in an annoying way. A couple of 6 yr olds were walking towards me and as they passed by I heard one say in his deepest voice,"That is a baaaad dog."
I chuckled and then thought about which of his close family members he was modelling with that voice that was clearly not his 'own'.

In our formative years we spend so much time modelling behaviours from those nearest to us - starting with parents, siblings etc and then as we grow, and our circle of 'known people' in our world gets bigger, we start to model more and more people.

Parents still remain the biggest influence, however. And for many mothers with young children, there will come that day - that defining moment - when they say, "I caught myself saying something to my child that my mother once said to me. I can't believe I'm turning into my mother!"

Of course for some this recognition comes as a startling experience, though it's as well to remember that these are what go to make up family traits and idiosyncrasies. They don't mean that she THINKS like her mother. or has every one of her beliefs and values, necessarily. They are behaviours and responses.

We have a family photo of myself, my father and my son (when aged about 5), on the beach and all looking at something in the distance. We are all side by side, standing the same way, holding the identical physical pose. Amusing, yet predictably understandable.

Specialised traits:
My father never used to mimick or use different accents when he spoke, but I can remember discovering (at about 7 or 8) how much people would laugh at impressionists and also discovered that with practice I could do it quite well. (Peter Sellers and Peter Ustinov have a lot to answer for!) The older I became, the better I got. Its now just another part of what I am in behavioural terms. However my son got to model me from a very early age - and consequently he is a master of accents, mimickry and impressionism.

My daughter, although she lapses into 'other voices' from time to time, has done far less modelling upon my behaviour. No, her behavioural model has been more her mother - and I guess as time goes on she will continue making occasional discoveries that lead to her saying "I'm turning into my mother!"


Thursday, July 29, 2010

NLP and Sensual Understanding, the 3rd dimension in Coaching?

Open yourself up to the possibility....

In the course of my sports coaching I teach cricket to primary school children in curriculum time. Now, not all the pupils are going to view learning cricket with much enthusiasm for a variety of reasons – from not liking any PE per se, to it being a “long and boring game” (an acquired critical judgement), to “I’m no good at it” (another acquired critical judgement), to “I’m a girl and cricket’s a boy’s game”.
We were warned about this in our coach tuition module, that highlighted the differences between a) coaching at clubs where everyone wanted to be there and had a common purpose and b) coaching in schools where this diverse disinterest level was going to be prevalent.

There are things to help break these barriers – being outdoors in the summer sun and air sure beats being in the classroom; girls’ and women’s cricket is a fast growing sport; are two that immediately spring to mind as undeniable presuppositions.

So what else can help break the barriers?

In the tuition module we watched a rather cheesy and occasionally amusing DVD of a coach approaching, planning and delivering a curriculum session on cricket, and then had to comment on various aspects of it. Helpful as it was in a conceptual sense in providing a framework for execution of the task, the parts we all found equally amusing and uncomfortable were areas where we couldn’t see ourselves doing it THAT way. So - this now brings a coach’s individuality into the equation. Now, there is ‘coaching by the book’ and ‘coaching by personality’ – and it’s generally assumed the most effective way is going to be by managing the shifting and changing balance of the two.

To my mind there is a third dimension here – and the nearest I can get to a short description is ‘coaching by sensual understanding’.

If a coach has an awareness of ‘sensual understanding’ then suddenly the whole activity is transformed into 3D. And seeing, hearing, feeling ANYTHING in 3D brings the whole experience to life!

What do I mean by ‘sensual understanding’?
I see it as an understanding that
• Communication, both outwardly and inwardly, in language, both verbal and non-verbal, should be sensory based.
• Because we are designed for a world of experience through our senses, our technical coaching makes more impact if we pay attention to sensual or sensory-based learning.
I firmly believe that the more coaches encounter and have an understanding of NLP, the more they are drawn towards using it to enhance their ‘coaching by sensual understanding.’

So how have I found using NLP beneficial and leads to this ‘sensual understanding’ when coaching, particularly in schools?
1. Preframe the term and each session
2. Assume, through positivity, that the presuppositions of NLP are expressed to the children in ways they can understand
3. Allow them to gauge their experience of batting, bowling, fielding not in my terms but in terms that are REAL to them
4. Allow performance of how they have learnt and understood through that experience to be expressed in a free and unconscious (intuitive) way

Here are some examples of the above:-

Though it may sound a bit wacky, I tell every new group that they are geniuses – and that they don’t yet know what they are geniuses at, and they need to open up to the possibility that some of that genius can be expressed in their playing cricket.

There is no failure only feedback - If it’s possible in the world then it’s possible for me. It’s just a matter of How – There are no unresourceful people, only unresourceful states – People are not their behaviours, and for things to change first I (or they) must change – Every action has a positive intention. Children very soon understand where you are coming from if these presuppositions are part of your core beliefs.

Get them to listen to what their bodies are telling them, and gain a greater understanding of what is happening, what they are doing, and through that gain better control, and to try different ways to gain even more experiences. Remembering always that this is their perception of their experience and not anyone else’s. Communicate with everyone bearing this in mind. Use their language, their calibrations.

Provide sufficient ‘game’ or performance opportunity to allow expression without conscious technical thinking. The more exciting and fast moving the game, the better the likelihood of amazing expression. Some of the most astonishing feats and personal moments of absolute quality has been in this type of game play. Take away rational and critical thinking and the body is allowed to express itself truly ‘from the inside-out’. Sometimes beyond the generally accepted acquired technical level for that individual.

So the kids I coach in schools love what cricket allows them to do and feel and be. They believe it is what it is through the way it is presented to them. They now believe, through sensory discovery, that they are capable of far more than they think they are. And if that’s true for their cricket, then it’ll be true for other things as well. They understand the presuppositions of NLP without knowing what they are; and now they have a better view of the world, a better map of the world; and know that they are not that map and that they can be their true selves whenever they want –
just by allowing themselves to open up to the possibilities......

This model should be true for all of us, all of the time.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Extra-ordinary rewards.

Someone asked me recently which I preferred - coaching or therapy. And I found it particularly difficult to give them a straight answer. Each involves communication, rapport, understanding, influence, instruction, guidance, correction, revelation, patience, humility, honesty, clarity....well, I could go on for there's a lot more besides. Oh - and being positive. That's very important.

To be fair, I love doing both, since the common thread here is about making a difference for people. Life's too short after all!

There's a lot of giving of time and attention in what I call my working process, and the rewards are:- satisfaction at helping to make changes and advances for people - and yes I also get paid for most of it as well. The payment is just for my time though, and not the outcomes although I might earn more if I was paid by results - but then again I might not!

There's the human and personal side of rewards as well, which are beyond satisfaction and beyond monetary considerations. I don't feel the need for testimonials, although I can see the benefit this brings for those who do. I prefer to get affectionate thanks from those I've coached, sometimes greetings in the street years later, which says so much. I also get sincere thanks from parents, who have seen their child grow in stature as a consequence of my work with them. Plus I have enjoyed the success of teams and individuals who have discovered they are capable of achieving far more than they dreamed of.

And then there's the rewards it's just too hard to describe.....

In SATS 2010 there was a section called "Simply the Best" where pupils had to write a piece to their local newspaper recommending someone to be nominated for an award.

In one of the primary schools I visit to coach cricket in curriculum time, the Year 6 teacher gave me a copy of the piece one of the girls in her class had written. Bear in mind this teacher has seen many school years and taught both my son and daughter! She was rather moved to give me this short piece of work - as indeed I was to receive it. So in spite of what I said earlier about testimonials - yer tiz!

"I am recommending Mr Wright for a Simply the Best award.

I am proudly recommending my cricket teacher Mr Wright because I think he is brilliant.

Even though I'm not really a fan of cricket, Mr Wright still makes it fun for everyone. When you need help, he is always there. Also he is very honest. So if you need an opinion, I bet he will tell you the truth. I'll even bet you money if you don't believe me!

Most of my friends are not very confident playing cricket. Good thing Mr Wright has a positive attitude to keep them smiling!

Mr Wright is simply the best of all. He truly is. He has the 'wright' to win it!"

Sunday, July 25, 2010

So what was it you wanted to see me about?

This is Part 2 of my initial interview with the client who writes and performs comedy.

....having pointed out to this client that unbeknownst to her she is a 'hypnotist', she ploughed on with her journey of discovery!

“So what is NLP?” was her next question.

I explained it in a way that was most appropriate for her and actually showed her that she was also an NLP practitioner in a number of ways.
By the way comedians use reframing, by the way they use analogue marking, by the way they use anchors (especially linguistic or vocal anchors), by the way they use state management, rapport, pacing and leading. This actually makes them highly skilled practitioners.

“What actually is ‘timing’ in terms of a comedy performance? What is your understanding of it? How do you perceive it? ” I asked her.
There was a momentary pause as she collated her references in her ‘mental in-tray’. This too was interesting, and I used it a bit later to illustrate something for her.
“Timing is knowing when to say or do the next part of the script or sequence to maximum effect. That’s probably one thing that defines it for me.”
“And that ‘knowing’ – is there anything else about that ‘knowing’ - like that?” I asked.
“It’s like being totally in tune, in harmony. Like finding the most comfortable part or the most resonant part, where everything feels just right.”

Then I asked, “Can you see anything else about timing that is like that ‘knowing’?” Not very subtle I grant you, but I wanted to shine a light on a rather unexplored corner, and she was going with the flow here after all! There was a longer pause as she searched for more detailed references.

“When I try things out for myself first, I have an idea about how the script might work best – or even at all! Visualising, reading aloud, positional practising. But I don’t know for sure until I go out on stage. Every audience is different, so getting an understanding of them soonest helps the most.”

“So your performance is a dialogue, where you are unconsciously reading their responses and body language to help build rapport. You use non-verbal pacing and calibrate their state, and then lead them into your act by altering that state and guiding it where you want. You use all these techniques unconsciously and these are the very elements of the comedians performing art. And timing is that innate understanding where the pause is only as momentary as is necessary as revealed to you by the audience and your own intuitive and unconscious knowledge.”
She nodded, thoughtfuly and repeatedly.
“To my mind," I said, "that constitutes a master NLP practitioner!”

I’m happy to conclude that she now realises that, in addition to being a good comedienne, she is also an excellent hypnotist and NLP practitioner. That it is also OK to smile, chuckle, laugh, indeed express anything in a hypnotherapy session since that is indicative of an altered state and is there for the hypnotic guide to utilise, or not, as the case may be.

My final question was, “So what was it you wanted to see me about?”
Seemed apposite!


Consciously, everything is an altered state - isn't it?

I met a new client who is a comedy writer and performer. This blog is what happened in Part 1 of my initial interview with her.

In the course of chatting with her I asked if she’d ever had hypnotherapy and if so how was the experience for her.

“Only a couple of times. First time I just got a fit of the giggles. I work in comedy and listening to the therapist’s voice going deeper I just saw the funny side and couldn’t stop laughing. I don’t think it was a very effective session because of that. The second one I was pretty tired so I didn’t ‘resist’ as much and that may have been more useful.”

An interesting perspective! And on a number of levels.

The preconception among many is that hypnosis requires a trance state, however they define that to be (perhaps involving their being something rather akin to sleep), and so if that isn’t happening, or they feel ‘conscious’ or ‘wide awake’, then it’s not working. The nominalisation, whether hypnosis or ‘IT’, implies that a spell is cast or you put something on and it changes you (as in the films The Mask, or The Tuxedo). In each of these examples the conscious is ‘shut down’, memory fades and ceases, and we become under the control or influence of the hypnotist. This preconception bolsters the fearful, the resistant, and those predisposed to expose. “Maintain consciousness – stimulate the critical faculty – and this stuff won’t work!”

Now we’re back to the story about the pickpocket in a room full of saints – all he sees is their pockets. But what if the pickpocket is also a saint – do the other saints see him as a pickpocket or as one of their own? What if it is a room full of pickpockets dressed as saints. What if it is a room of ordinary people at a Come As a Saint party? Do all saints have pockets? Do pickpockets have pockets?

Why am I rambling here? The point is about perspectives, preconceptions and understandings. I’ve mentioned in the past about asking people at a gathering, session or meeting “How many ways can I get out of this room?” They look around, count the exits (doors, windows etc) and then each come up with an array of answers. I then show them the different ways of getting through just one door by walking forwards, backwards, sideways, crawling, hopping etc – until they realise there are thousands of ways of getting out of the room. Some say “Ha, trick question” to which I reply “No, just perspectives, preconceptions and understandings. I merely asked how many ways can I get out of this room. The rest of it YOU made up.” Here they disappear into quiet thoughtfulness.

However – back to my client.
If you start from the perspective or understanding or preconception that hypnosis, trance - call it what you will – comes from the manipulation of changing states of mind then everything starts to open up. Every moment of every day we are in some particular state or other. There is a chunk of the 24 hours when we are asleep, or in a state of unconsciousness. Things are still going on in the body – we are still breathing, heart is beating, numerous other autonomic functions are chugging away in the background. When awake we move through the day in a continuous variety of states that are altering all the time. Amongst these altering states there are some contemplative, some reverie, some of total focus – and others with an almost infinite mixture of conscious and cognitive levels. Each change involves us moving to another state. Altering our state – our state is ALTERED. And if we view hypnosis as being “in an altered state of consciousness” then it is easy to see that something hypnotic can happen to us all at ANY time.

And so it is, if you think about comedy and our reactions. Laughter is symptomatic of an altered state. And as I told my client at this point, “When you make your audiences laugh, you induce in them an altered state. You are actually a hypnotist – and the better the comedian is, the better a hypnotist they are.” She understood perfectly what I meant, as she went through a range of internal references to prove or disprove this statement. “So what was happening when you got the giggles in that first hypnotherapy session? Laughter (and a fit of giggles is almost unconscious laughter) which is an altered state. The hypnotic guide will use this to good purpose even in a therapy session. On stage, if a member of the audience is having a fit of the giggles, what do you do?” She replied immediately, “Exploit it. Laughter is infectious. That fit of giggles will spread through the audience, without me having to say very much more except heighten the moment.”

It is interesting here that she used the word ‘heighten’, because another perspective of heighten is ‘deepen’ and this is also part of the hypnotic process.

I pointed out to her that rapport is also very important in the hypnotic process, as rapport opens up channels for dialogue on all 3 levels: Conscious-conscious, conscious-unconscious and unconscious-unconscious. Once it is realised that this is going on, the possibilities for influence expand dramatically. I asked her about rapport for comedians – “On stage you are looking to get rapport with your audience as soon as possible? What happens when you’ve got it?” She replied, “Everything goes great. It flows. It’s an all round wonderful experience.” “And when you haven’t got it, what happens then?” “You bomb,” she said.

"Exactly my point," I said. I could see she was beginning to treat this meeting as something of an education, quite forgetting why she had come to see me in the first place.

Distraction and absorption, leading to temporary amnesia and probable time distortion; my initial interviews and chats do tend to go down this network of roads. I've even had a colleague tell me that the consequence of reading my online postings is that he spends hours buried in a thesaurus.
However, the point is that states metamorphose like shifting sands, and by noticing and understanding these shifts, by cultivating rapport, pacing and leading we become artfully persuasive and influential. We are all doing this - all the time - to a greater or lesser degree. And some of us wear our tuxedos all the time!

(Part 2 of the interview will follow shortly)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What happens when we have too much choice?

This is a great and meaningful TED talk by Barry Schwarz on the paradox of choice.

In essence he concludes that the more choice we have, there is a finite point beyond which we actually become miserable and disaffected by this so-called "freedom to choose". A kind of law of diminishing returns.
And endless choice, he avers, is paralysing. When faced with so much 'opportunity to get just what we want', the downside is that we blame ourselves when it doesn't come up to expectations. And it is these levels of expectation that make the choosing so difficult, and so paralysing, because the responsibility has been handed down to us. If the product is inferior it somehow becomes our fault, because we should have (could have) made a better choice. Making decisions often degenerates into "But what if I choose the wrong thing? Why can't this be easier?"

I remember hearing a joke years ago about a foreigner arriving in an English town, but hardly able to speak a word. He was hungry and noticed a cafe was well frequented so he went in an joined the queue. He overheard most of the customers ordering ahead of him "Cuppa tea, chunk o' pie." So when it was his turn he copied them and asked for "Cuppa tea, chunk o' pie." It duly came and he ate and enjoyed. Weeks went by and he would regularly go down to the cafe and ask for "Cuppa tea, chunk o' pie". After a while he grew tired of the same old fare and thought he'd try something else he'd heard asked for. Next visit it was "Egg and bacon, cup o' coffee." The reply was "How d'ye like yer eggs? -fried, scrambled, poached, coddled, sunny side up, hard, soft, runny. how d'ye like yer bacon? -back, streaky, rind on or off, crispy, how d'ye like yer coffee? -black, white, frothy, milky, with or without sugar....."
He stood for a while and said "Cuppa tea, chunk o' pie."


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Not really a re-launch!

I'm on something of a publicity drive on my book "Don't Think of a Black Cat" at the moment. It's not really a re-launch though, more (in recorded music industry parlance) along the lines of re-issuing "back catalogue".

What's different?

Well the price of both the paperback book as well as the download version is slashed. The book you can get from AMAZON, direct from my publishers LULU or order it up in your favourite nearby bookshop. LULU also do the eBook download version. For UK based clients only you can also get personally signed copies direct from me.

Will it be useful for me?

The book is aimed at bringing a level of understading NLP to the uninitiated, the burgeoning beginner, the curious layman. The countless millions who wait for each day to "happen" to them; who perform to "the best of their abilities" without realising there is a whole heap more they themselves can bring about to improve their every experience; who suffer, often for years, events and conditions that blight their lives in varying degrees.

It is not...

It is not an academic tome, nor is it a revealing textbook. There's nothing here you won't find elsewhere in other books or online. It is more of a chronicle of my perspectives, my discoveries as I made my way in to NLP. It's written in a conversational style with plenty of "live" interventive descriptions and some occasional humour too - my first tutor and mentor liked the narrative and said it made him laugh and smile, which I took as a huge compliment. There's practical exercises too designed to allow the reader to open up to begin their own usage.

Interested, curious, tantalised, want to know more.....?
Then my work is done - the rest is down to you!

Did I get what I wanted with NLP?

Normally my interaction on sundry forums involves short posts, but occasionally I am more expansive. Recently, on NLP Connections, there was a thread which questioned "Did you get the results you were after when you first connected with NLP? Were you overjoyed - disappointed - surprised?"

My reply was thus:-

Being a lifelong student of everything, especially NLP, I'm going to have to frame my comments in the present - since in terms of what I know there's more to come and it certainly feels as though I've come a long way as well!

Am I getting the results I was after?

Yes, geometrically, exponentially. It started off slowly and gathered a momentum of its own as I moved from all the 'apply to self' scenarios into using it in a sports context with people I coach, into using it specifically with clients in mainstream and therapeutic contexts.

Am I overjoyed-disappointed-surprised?
To be fair - none of the above. For me its more like enthused, enthralled, curious and investigative.

Within the last 3 years and especially the last 18 months my view of NLP has moved from it being an entity in itself into it being a perspective of thinking, being, viewing the world, communicating with that world and the people in it. That has accelerated my enthusiasm, enthrallment and curiosity and level of investigation.

What I once viewed as the 'core' of NLP seems now, in my understanding at any rate, to have more body of material outside it than inside. In that there is more and more to be discovered beyond the confines, as this 'way of thought and action' spills over into neighbouring disciplines and newly emerging processes. Its rather like broadening one's vocabulary when learning a language whilst, all the time, that language is also expanding.

Many clients ask me what NLP is, perhaps expecting (from how it has been described to them) that I will be 'doing it' to, with and for them. Every answer I give is different, probably tailored by my unconscious understanding of how the answer might be most useful for them. This isn't from some arrogant standpoint being that 'I know what's best for you'. Its more from the point of giving a natural, interesting and revealing answer in a natural, interesting and revealing way. I'm not expecting to be "right" with these answers, and for some the answers may be so far from the 'defined norm' that I might appear that I don't know what I'm talking about! In a lot of cases I am deliberately (and artfully) vague - which is particularly disarming for them and thus permits a level of unconscious dialogue that may not be possible in other ways.

I have some wonderful gurus and teachers who accompany me on this journey of discovery. Most of them are not aware I hold them in this status! I am particularly fortunate in that by having to pay for all my tuitions myself, that I have trodden outside the borders of training-for-trainings-sake. I suppose I've been lucky in that financial constraints have made me take the better route to choosing courses and trainers since, as you say Chris (Chris Morris, forum moderator), there is an element of the 'less than honourable' out there in the marketplace. However - there are many in our 'community' who do what they do for the greater benefit of the community - and one of those great benefits is a this particular web forum. I have gained much help, information and stimulus by my involvement here.

To conclude - I know that had I NOT studied and started using NLP over the last 15-18 years that (a) I wouldn't be the inner person I am now, (b) wouldn't be capable of doing the things I am doing now, (c) wouldn't be as effective a coach or therapist as I am now. I also know that I will never arrive at the 'temple of knowingness' and rather everything is just a step along the journey of knowledge. That way, tomorrow I will be more effective, thoughtful, creative and fascinated than today.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Meaning, the Words and Music

An online friend posted this quote today which got me musing and contemplating:-

The fish trap exists because of the fish. Once you've gotten the fish you can forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit. Once you've gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning. Once you've gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can talk with him? ~ Chuang Tzu

Here's where I've reached thus far...

The words are the vehicle for the meaning -
When a man has forgotten the words, does he retain the meaning?
If he forgets the words through lack of attention (and retention) has he ever had the meaning in the first place? -
If I have found the meaning and someone seeks me out to talk with me, in order to convey the meaning to him will I need words to transmit or convey that meaning? -
If this is so and I have forgotten the words, where will I find them?

And so it is thus, there are more questions than answers!

In applying the Chuang Tzu quote to music, we realise that the meaning is hidden in the relationship between the notes, the silences, the rhythm, the tempo.
And if the meaning is thus hidden, can we always re-generate that meaning using the same exact relationships? Or are those identical musical notational relationships also dependent upon our perceptive filters and interpretations and state of mind?
Furthermore this leads to the performer of the musical notations, and HIS understanding of the meaning, and also his changing states of mind.

So my conclusions (at this moment in time you understand!) are that - for an understanding AND conveyance of meaning, words and music are equally important. And, the better we use them, the more meaning we can receive and impart.

I genuinely feel that music is a non-verbal language, and actually conveys more meaning at higher levels than words do.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Working Life Balance & Harry Chapin

In the course of one of my consultancies I see many people - usually somewhere on the corporate ladder - whose weight and food related issues pretty much all stem from lifestyle/work/stress areas.

It doesn't take much knowledge of statistics and extrapolation to realise that probably 85% of the corporate working population are affected by this in some way or other, and are NOT taking steps to deal with it in a helpful and appropriate way. There are always excuses - and these flag up instantly as showing that the person(s) concerned are at EFFECT rather than CAUSE. They are victims.

If you watch this 10 minutes talk by Nigel Marsh it will surely resonate with you.

I laughed and cried as I watched. It is meaningful, relevant and poignant. Classic scenarios such as "I'll have a life when xxxxx happens..." abound.

I was talking to some people really close to me last weekend about the song "Cat's in the Cradle" by Harry Chapin - and of course it is a cautionary tale about aspects of Working Life Balance.
There are many versions of the song but Harry's means the most to me because of the level of special vocal nuance he had in performance.

The beacon of responsibility shines brightly in the messages from Nigel Marsh and Harry Chapin - being reponsible for and taking charge of our own lives, for if we don't then someone or something else will steal it from us. And, as I see regularly with clients, it is quite a battle to get it back.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

People will change only IF THEY want to!

One of the enduring features from my previous blog post is that People will only change if they want to and are ready to.

I hear alarm bells and see flags waving whenever I hear "My xxxxx says I should see you because of my yyyyyy," or "I'd like you to see my xxxxxx because they've got these issues and would like help with them." In each of these examples the ACTUAL person with the issues has not taken responsibility for them and therefore always sees the way they are feeling or acting as being something OUTSIDE of their influence, as if they are a victim, possessed, powerless, leading to an "IT comes over me..." or "these things happen to me" situation.

I was in a social gathering one time and a lady whose boyfriend, having discovered what I do, told her that she should talk to me because I could "fix" her. Almost in an effort to please him (and shut him up) she started to chat with me about her phobia of spiders. It was clear, however, that (a) she had come to terms with the phobia in her own way, (b) was not driven to distraction by her phobia so much that she felt compelled to deal with it.
Clearly at an unconscious level she was tolerant of it and not ready for change.

Smokers who think they want to quit need to first explore areas where they have secondary gain - ie something they experience as a result of smoking that they would lose if they gave it up. This is manifest in a number of ways; personal, social, chemical for example. At an unconscious level they are not ready to give up. (Plus - I always chuckle when I see ads for nicotine patches or gum when they add the proviso "requires will power".

The 'depressed' client from my previous post is clearly not ready for change at an unconscious level, until she ackowledges her anger and takes responsibility for it and her other actions. The only outcome will be that her casefile grows bigger and fatter.

Irrationally, I previously had a tendency towards rage behind the wheel of a car until I took responsibility for my "shadow" (see an earlier blog). Since then I have driven with a mild manner, and an inside-out understanding of the nature of my own thoughts, feelings and actions. Here I noticed a message from my unconscious that allowed me to take conscious responsibility in a proper way.

If someone makes an enquiry for another person, then I always leave it until they speak to me or contact me THEMSELVES. That way at least they have been personally responsible for the enquiry. Referrals are more difficult - although here again, I always ask the referrer to get the person to contact me direct.

Another case I had was where a father asked me to "see" his daughter because she had failed several driving tests and HE thought this was what she needed to help her composure and confidence. When I arrived to see her, she was clearly petrified because she thought I was going to "control her mind". We just chatted and once she realised I wasn't Svengali, or was going to make her behave like a chicken, then the session became meaningful and helpful.
In her case, while she herself was ready for change, her father had 'pushed her' into seeing me even though she was old enough to make her own choices. Hopefully, her understanding of what she is responsible for and capable of are now much clearer - plus her fear of hypnotherapists is laid to rest! One thing I'm sure of - that she is now a fully qualified driver.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The rapport-busting greeting! No Failure only Feedback...

Over 99% of my clients want to make changes and are looking for guidance. There's always the exception - and I'm happy to share this with you all!

"This client has depression" - I was informed by the person who made the referral, and also by the client when I met them for the initial interview. I gathered the client and those nearest were at their wits end, and that, in terms of therapists, I was something of a 'last resort'.

We talked; I explained what I could do and areas we might work on; she had a morbid distrust of hypnosis; however, NLP and other approaches would be fine; so we proceeded, I led her through a number of techniques which might be useful for her and then she booked to see me 9-10 days later.

First appointment proper she reported that following my initial interview she had 4-5 great and non-depressing days which were rather scuppered by a train of events she did not react to very well. Good news - on the face of it.

The session continued and early on I am told that she is now feeling impatient for re-discovering some more of those good feelings that had recently lifted her spirits. Next,
halfway through the session, she tells me its not as good as the first one and she's getting nothing out of it. I remind her that halfway through the first session she also had no idea of the positive effects our conversations might be having until AFTER I'd left. Session finishes and we arrange the next one.

Next session day comes around. I ring her doorbell and she greets me with, "Oh its you. I was going to ring you to tell you not to bother to come because in the last session you were a complete waste of time."

I perceived the thunder of hooves as the horses of rapport bolted through the stable door and off down the road...

Now this is supposed to be a client with "depression" and all the associated feelings of low confidence, self esteem, pointlessness etc. So where is impatience, annoyance, rudeness (perhaps) and criticism coming from? This client is definitely angry about a lot of things, but doesn't want the world to see her anger, so she hides behind depression. The thing is - the more people come into contact with her depression, the more they twig that its a facade. The exceptions are her nearest and dearest - oh and perhaps her other therapists.

Having taken the trouble to make the journey to the appointment I gave her some more time, and laid it on the line for her that everything she does and feels involves her choice. She can choose to feel the way she does, or not - because (by her own admission) when she wakes up in the middle of the night she chooses to feel "OK". I realise now, of course, why this is!

Suffice to say, I knew she would not be looking to see me again - however, I am grateful to my various gurus for examples and insights that have cushioned whatever professional misgivings I may have had through this experience.

"There is no failure - only feedback."

Monday, May 31, 2010

Totally covert NLP?

Normally for some of my consultative client sessions, I am asked what is NLP? Never following a script for this, I tend to go with what I intuitively feel might be the best explanation for each particular client. Remembering of course that the % of people who have even heard of NLP, let alone have an inkling of what it is, is really quite small.

In a recent client session, a lady explained how she was affected by boredom and loneliness and how, at particularly vulnerable times of her day, she would 'comfort' eat. This was followed by remorse and upset at having succumbed to doing something that she knew was not doing her any good.

She didn't ask me what NLP was - so I surmised that she either knew or had an idea, and continued on the path of casual chat I'd outlined at the beginning of the session.

Conversationally we explored some areas for her that might lead to more positive outcomes, without even a hint of the mention of food. In fact the bulk of the conversation centred around music, singing and her (future) involvement with that. We talked about that in particular because at the mention of the topic her whole physiology lit up! Along the way I encountered the usual 'put-me-down' phrases such as "I'm too old", "I couldn't do that", "What people are thinking about me" - and I challenged these, reframed some things, examined strategies and structures of behaviour...and so on. It was engaging and absorbing and she had clearly quite forgotten all about the issues and sentiments that had brought her to see me in the first place.

At the end of the session she said "Thanks so much - that was really interesting and useful - and we haven't even done any NLP!" When I replied, "Haven't we?" she looked really puzzled. "But I thought - isn't it to do with ..." and she listed a whole range of NLP techniques she heard about and was probably anticipating my using in a food-related context. I pointed out that NLP is all these things and much, much more besides - including all of how we'd explored things in the session.

She was even more interested and surprised thereafter - and is looking forward to seeing me again. Totally covert? Not really - I did let the cat out of the bag after all - albeit right at the end of the session. And those of you familiar with my book "Don't Think of a Black Cat" will understand exactly what I mean by releasing the feline from the sack.