The Wright Way

The Wright Way

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Hypnotic Reality

One of the things I've come to realise about the Hypnotic Reality, is that there are some really useful things to know about how to best interact with it. In experiential terms this relates to both our own experience and also that for others.

It is well understood of course if I have guided someone into an altered state of reality for therapeutic or changework purposes, or am even helping them to experience the amazing power of their own imagination through displays of progressive hypnotic phenomena.

However, if I encounter someone in an altered state (what I describe as a Hypnotic Reality) who I might need to guide to a place of greater comfort or safety, then the best way I have of interacting and getting their compliance is for me to actually step into their Reality. It comes from one of the first things I learnt when working in the hypnotic domain - the need to "go there myself first".

So when might we encounter such a person in an altered state? It's when certain hypnotic phenomena are displayed by the subject, such as time distortion, catalepsy, anaesthesia, amnesia, positive or negative hallucination, sonnambulism, age regression etc. Even post-slumber disorientation can be described as an altered state because it is a transition between an unconscious state and a waking consciousness. Once we realise the reasons for these displays and also the usefulness of them, then to be able to navigate around them for the subject can be invaluable.

The Sleepwalk

After my mother had suffered a number of strokes she could only walk consciously with the aid of a wheeled walker or a Zimmer frame. She could also move around enclosed spaces by holding onto walls, rails etc. but there was always a concern that her hand(s) might slip and cause her to fall. Her bedroom had an en-suite bathroom, so once she had gone to bed there was no need for her to emerge from her room until the next morning.

However there was one occasion, in the middle of the night - about 3am - that I became aware of some sounds of movement in the passageway outside my bedroom. I got up and went to look and found her about to go downstairs and she was obviously sleepwalking. We had a conversation - as you do with sonnambulists - and I discovered she was going down to get the breakfast ready. I said it might be a better idea to do it later in the morning when everyone had got up and that it was ok for her to go back to bed and get a bit more sleep until then. She acquiesced, turned around and went back along the passage, through her bedroom doorway and got back into bed. I wasn't aghast, although I was fascinated by what I saw. She did not hold onto anything as she walked along - and actually walked in the way she had always walked, as if she had never had any strokes.

Conversations in Trance

Recently my Dad had fallen asleep in an armchair, and was in slumber for a couple of hours. During this time his right hand and wrist had become wedged around the chair arm, in such a way as to eventually cause cramp. However, I didn't notice this until he started to stir and was talking in German. He was clearly associated into a wartime experience in POW Camp (hence talking in German) and that whole right side of his body was both numb and cramped and presumably felt 'frozen' - something he must have endured many times in the course of 5 harsh winters.
I talked to him, and took his right hand and arm and manipulated them, entirely in a way I might do with any client who I was guiding into and around a Hypnotic Reality. His spoken responses were first in German and then half in English, and then completely in English. In sound terms they were all in in the style of "a hypnotic conversation". I knew our dialogue was taking place at an unconscious level and that the best way for him to come back to the 'here and now' would be by gentle guidance. This I did for him, and once 'back in the room' we then set about massaging the cramp out of his right hand and arm which took about 15-20 minutes.


In both these instances it doesn't need much imagination to contemplate what might have happened (a) if I had not been present and more to the point (b) I did not have an understanding of negotiating the highways and byways of the Hypnotic Domain.

For me it was both a fascinating and a learning experience - and broadened my experience of the mind-body link in a very powerful way. And for my parents? Well, to be honest, they had no idea of what had actually taken place for them. The Hypnotic Reality was not imprinted in their conscious memory!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Never Assume....

A dear, and now departed, friend and former work colleague had a number of catchphrases - one of which was:

Never Assume

This of course is SO true, and yet we all have a tendency to fall into the trap of "knowing what's coming" because we've either seen, heard, felt, smelt or tasted it ALL before. Even if we haven't we have, because we are so very good at distorting something we don't know into being like something we do know.

"How did you find X?"
"Yea, it was nice - a bit like Y, to be honest. And I love Y, so I was comfortable with it."
Recalibrating 'new' experiences in terms of old ones is a very common mental trait by coding events using metaphor after the event.

However, to do it before the event, is to actually start to close the Mind to being fully in the moment and really experiencing something completely new, and - more often than not - totally rewarding!

This last month has found me out in terms of my knowledge and love of the music of Beethoven.
I assumed I had heard all there was to hear - and loved it all from the very familiar (5th Symphony, say) to the less well known piano or chamber music. I admire his humanistic qualities, his musical language and stunning level of invention. I believe he is one of the greatest creative artists of all time and this, it would seem, allows me to assume I know everything about my experience of Beethoven.

The turning point for me was watching a programme called "In Search of Beethoven" that went out on the Sky Arts channel. It was a lengthy programme and, to be fair, was just interesting by virtue of its familiarity. Until I heard one particular comment late on in the programme:-

"What makes every piece he ever wrote sound different? It is because in sketching out and crafting every work he chose a particular soundscape for it."

Chose a particular soundscape

Now this wasn't just about instrumentation, key signature, tempo, melody and counterpoint and interpretaive markings. This was beyond the fundamentals of his musical language.
This is ALL about the meaning he wanted to convey to the listener and how, in creative terms, he preframed it.

Then I extended my thinking on this, as to how might we carry this into the art of living our own lives.

For what purpose. you may ask?
Purpose inasmuchas we are all capable of greatness, to be genius, at some part of our life.
Come on - not everyone can be a Beethoven though can they?
Perhaps not in musical terms - but there is more to man's existence on the planet than conveying YOUR MESSAGE through the expressive medium of music.
Beethoven was pretty ordinary at loads of other things, and probably woefully inadequate at some as well. We are just mighty fortunate that he found his genius and expressed it for posterity.

There must have been for him instances where he assumed things, such as the true nature of the intentions of Napoleon Bonaparte for instance! However in music there was never any assumption. As a passionate musical revolutionary he left no room for assumption.

Are you a passionate revolutionary?

So what are you a passionate revolutionary about? If you don't know then I invite you to never assume that you are not one or cannot be one! If you are able to express your true message in life then therein lies fulfillment. The life you were meant to lead!

How often do we bring the meaning of our communication, our deeds and actions, to truly bear upon our world and the people in it in such a way? Given that everything we say and do has an impact on THE world - not just our world - then surely we can really bring meaning into our lives through bringing more gravity into the things we say and do.

So - Beethoven's 5th Symphony - that much played and well known old 'war horse'. I've just heard a brilliant and very 'fresh and new' rendition by a conductor who revealed much in an interview afterwards about how he saw the work. He said,
"This work has become so popular over the last 200 years that there has become an almost overwhelming expectation about how it should sound. And in and through that expectation it has lost its original meaning, the meaning Beethoven must surely have ascribed to it, given the nature of the man and his art."

In other words, the world has assumed the music and the soundscape that the piece occupies and has played it that way ever since!

So, what about soundscape and meaning Beethoven wanted to convey here in part of the Missa Solemnis - a work that I was in danger of never knowing until now, by virtue of my foolish assumptions? For me it is an expression of wonder and joy at the whole of creation.
I leave you to decide for yourself however - far be it from me to ever assume again!!

Gloria Part 1

Friday, November 25, 2011

"Now - Before Your Very Eyes...!"

There are occasionally times when I sit opposite clients and begin to notice changes taking place for them within minutes of the start of our conversation. Whatever is happening for them, I have to say that this is quite a moving experience for me also.

Curiously there are times when I find myself perceiving their changes at an unconscious level, prior to their noticing it for themselves, at a conscious level! Early on in my practice I would find this quite mind-boggling, whilst I now have a better understanding of the power in a 4-way Conscious-Unconscious dialogue.

Recently I met a returning client, the professional lady who featured in my article “The Psychic Screwdriver” (see archive). She is a person with a very heightened sense of her own conscious-unconscious dialogue and this time she began our conversation by saying that things are continuing to work well in the areas covered by our previous session, and that this time she’d like to explore two new areas of concern.

As she started to outline the first new area (which was strengthening her motivation for doing more work on core exercises) – before I’d even said a word she was suggesting possible scenarios and solutions for herself. When she paused I said, “Looks like I just need to sit here and listen while you talk out all your solutions!” We laughed as she added, “You’re the catalyst, so just stay there - please!”

Every session is a blank canvas and I had no idea where this was going as she began to elaborate on her second 'new area'.
"I’d like to move forward with confidence and trusting myself, especially in the area of relationships."
A little bell rang in my mind at this point as she said, "I need to trust myself." I didn’t closely look at my notes from the previous session, although I knew she was familiar with the I-me-self-you of the 'pronounscapes' paradigm.

We explored and elicited some basic data about her pronoun personas and it was rather like drawing the curtain back to reveal the stage scene of this part of her life. It transpired that her "I" was aged three and the trust issues related to early life events. Not only did she find the reason for her wanting to trust herself, but also, quite fortuitously, she also discovered the reasons why core exercises have been the subject of some mental reluctance for an "I" aged 3 - until now!

Now, because of her inner self-understanding, all the changes she wanted to make began to unwrap and unravel before my very eyes. It was quite breathtaking to witness this, as her physiology was transformed into a place of total grounded relaxation, warmth, comfort and – most importantly – trust. She literally embodied the new perspectives this magical inner revelation had brought about.

I’m never surprised at how rapid change can be sometimes, and it is spellbinding to observe. But most of all, it is an absolute joy to be there for people when they find new ways of changing their lives for good.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Perfect Partner

“If you were told you can meet your perfect partner in exactly one month only, what would be your next actions?”

This was the question posed by a friend in an online post on a social media website. I found the question fascinating on a number of levels so I launched into a short snappy reply which, as I was writing, became longer and longer and then opened out onto a vast cosmic canvas.

My immediate reply was this:-

The pivotal word here for me is "can"! This presupposes possibility rather than probability, and also "only" presupposes some sort of deadline. The whole question implies I might need to effect some change in myself.
However - with my meagre though growing understanding of making order out of cosmic chaos, I'd view this from the perspective of my "perfect partner" - which could very well be ... ME!

The Linguistic Angle

Taking the presuppositions first; “CAN” implies no certainty but more possibility than probability. There’s also an implication when it is coupled with “ONLY” that, whilst there is a deadline – one month – that the chance of that meeting taking place after that time is zero. Also, with “EXACTLY” in there as well as can and only, then there’s a clue, a pointer, as to the very day this meeting can happen. It’s not as if it might happen within the next month either. So between the lines of this part of the question is a possibility that in 30 (or 31/29/28) days from now “you” meet your perfect partner.

The second part of the question asks about next actions, given this possibility of meeting. This could mean doing either something(s) or nothing. With “actions” in the plural however, the presupposition is that there are several things that might be done – thus ruling out doing nothing! Going a stage further, there is an implication that there are some imperfections present right now – either “you” has an imperfect partner, or “you” is without partner and is less than perfect. So, the overall implication is that “you” needs to take actions to make some changes in either themselves or their situation.

Whilst this argument is by no means totally explored here, you can see what the questioner is trying to tease out from the readers by placing subtle boundaries and covert implications.

The Personal Angle

The next perspective I took in my answer was the personal one. What if the whole question is about me being the perfect partner for myself?

It then becomes a question about personal discovery, finding oneself. After all, surely the MOST perfect partner for anyone in life must be themselves? This takes everything from being outside, to going inside and taking actions to learn and discover more about oneself. The inference drawn from the question now becomes the fact that it will only take a month from NOW for you to reach a point of being your perfect partner.

Now, I’ve written now there in capitals for a very specific reason. The thing is, if we take what’s presupposed here, then you is in a state of “not perfect” in the present, i.e. NOW. Since the only things that ever exist, exist NOW – then whatever changes you might make, there’s always the conclusion that you will always be imperfect. Even in a month’s time – when that comes round to being NOW, you will still be imperfect (given that it is presupposed in the question that you is imperfect.)

What if it is decided that ‘you’ is perfect right now, and that through each successive point of NOW you will therefore continue to be perfect?
Now, this seems to be a better notion – a better angle to view both to and from. It bears out the fact that in a month from now you not only can, but will, meet your perfect partner!

So what actions might be taken in that month? Whatever actions (or inactions) taken will be the right ones, it would seem, since the outcome will not change the state of perfection ‘you’ enjoys in every moment of NOW.
To shorten what might be a very lengthy development of an exposition, in other words just live for every moment, and enjoy living with yourself as the perfect partner. For if you attempt to be anyone other than who you really are, then you are not living your own life. Be yourself – you are already perfect right NOW.

The Cosmic Angle

This is the perspective I found most fascinating from going through the process of answering the questioner’s conundrum.

Let’s assume an outside partner, and a partner being another person - for argument’s sake.

So the ‘you’ in question has been informed of a cosmic possibility in a month’s time of crossing the path of another person, a person who will be a perfect partner for ‘you’.

What action(s) does ‘you’ have to take?

Well, the only action needed is for ‘you’ to remain open to responding to whatever is happening at an intuitive, or unconscious, level.
If ‘you’ is not someone who is already open to taking action and making decisions based upon intuition, then ‘you’ needs to become aware of this and to set in motion a chain of events. A chain of events that will culminate in one month’s time with the crossing of paths with ‘your’ perfect partner. Be open, and take intuitive action!

Take intuitive action

Taking intuitive action plugs each of us into what is going on at an unconscious level – and this unconscious level for us is in tune with unconscious levels for many others.

People, places, events, are seemingly thrown together at random – at a conscious, everyday level there is no kind of collective synchronicity, save for what we might call “programmed communication”. This might be close personal interactions, group activities etc that are in some way “planned” or programmed.

However you view events and places, man-made or otherwise - how our lives flow in, through and round these events, places and other people is random, Brownian in nature and is “cosmic chaos”. Or so it seems – from the outside looking in, or perhaps from the inside looking out? It’s not so much about comparing the detail with the overview, though – but more about acknowledging the part that each one of us can play in bringing some order out of the chaos.

If you want to bring some cosmic order into your life, then having an open mind, a curiosity, an understanding of what operates at an unconscious level, a fearless fascination, a grounding in knowing that everything is not quite what it might seem to be – is a great start! And that’s only the start of it. All these faculties need to be utilised all the time to a level of unconscious competence. We need to notice the difference between the order and chaos of things, people, places, events because there is a steady stream of relevant messages in there for us. We need to notice the messages.

We need to act intuitively where it is appropriate to do so, for if we ignore our intuition then random or chaotic things may happen to us, and elements of order already put into place for us go unnoticed and do not get acted upon. If we get a gut feeling about something or someone, then if our head (or conscious intellect) chooses to ignore that feeling there will be consequences.

Trying to ‘force’ or contrive cosmic order is not going to yield positive results. Yes it will yield results, but these will further agitate and randomise the chaos. Forcing or contriving is, by nature, interfering at a conscious level. Operating at this level is rather like turning a tap on and expecting electricity to come out.

If you operate at an intuitive level, then you understand that every action you take and every event that impinges upon you is there for a reason or purpose. You “go with the flow” of those events and actions rather than attempt to withstand or ignore them – and things just seem to work out. If they don’t work out the way you want, then there is a reason for that. You need to also consider the fact that your wanting was not operating at an unconscious level. (This may well apply to those who would visualize ‘ordering up a Porsche’ and being disappointed when it has not appeared on the drive the next morning!)

Back to the Future

So if the intuitive message was that a month from now some order would emerge from the chaos, then the first part of any action has already been taken – you’ve noticed the message! Now what heed needs to be paid?
There will be alignments between now and when the time comes round. The importance of everything you do between now and then will become increasingly relevant. There will be things you do not notice that will be re-ordered. For order to come into being for you, you need to notice the messages and take intuitive action. If you continue to not notice then the random chaos will continue and the time will pass with no result.


You can consider yourself as a leaf being carried afloat down a river. If you remain mid-stream then the river will bear you along to a downstream destination – if you drift to the edges of the stream then you may end up in a backwater or on the riverbank, away from the intention the stream of the river may have had for you. The part you can play in this is to understand the river and what it can do for you.

The other conclusion here is that “perfect partner” can be something else such as a place or location, a house, a job, a calling. The same rules and laws apply in terms of making order out of the chaos.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Storming the Citadel

"There's isn't person on earth who has ever choked after a mouthful of something to drink," the psychiatrist said to me. This was well over 25 years ago and a good while before I began to discover the power of being able to change our mindset through altering our perceptions and reprogramming patterns of behaviour.

To cut a long story short I'd become blighted by instances of taking amounts of any liquid I was drinking "down the wrong way" in the course of swallowing. The worst instances involved my having no conscious idea where my next breath was coming from - and the associated gross anxiety leading to panic when this was happening to me. Each 'attack' was pretty scary and another layer to the fear was if (and when) it were to happen when I was alone, with no one there to thump me between the shoulder blades!

In a protective sense my cognitive counter to this was to take smaller mouthfuls, which over time became sips. This meant I could consciously control the volume of this potential danger to life - which led to a reduction of my daily intake of fluids. The thing was - this whole thing was not a problem when I took on solids AND liquids such as soups, cereals and milk, etc. It was liquids only and, I discovered over the years, the thicker the liquid the easier it became and the less the underlying feelings of fear were manifest.

The Barium Meal

Before referring me to a psychiatrist, my GP had covered a number of bases in terms of this presenting problem. This included making sure there was no physiological reason for the swallowing mechanism being affected this way. Being x-rayed while drinking a barium meal was quite traumatic to say the least. I found myself alone with a glass of foaming liquid in a leaded booth and being repeatedly shouted at to "drink and swallow" by a technician who clearly had no idea what torment, torture and level of fear I was going through. In the end I can remember thinking, "Well if I do choke on this stuff at least I'll have half a chance of surviving as I'm here in hospital already." As waves of relief came over me after the event I can remember him saying to me, "Mmmm, he seems to have trouble in initiating the swallow," as if the "he" he was referring to was some distant 3rd party entity. Clearly the detachments in his working life extended beyond protecting himself from xrays!


As I started to study psychology, NLP, the power of hypnosis and a whole array of pathways to dealing with this issue, I learnt a lot of new ways of protecting myself - though not a lot in the area of self-reprogramming. I discovered what would be most likely to create the mental conditions for an 'event' to happen, and built further layers of protection here as well.

So, in the end, I had a great array of physical and mental strategies for protection - cut down swallow volume by sipping, controlled abdo breathing, avoid stressful and anxious build up, instal anchors and triggers. All these were hidden or I'd casually explain my "condition" whenever I found myself in a social environment where a drink was present.
In essence I got to be very good at the whole pattern of behaviour.

When one gets this good at dealing with something, then it might be simple to decide "I'm comfortable with this now, and can tolerate it for the rest of my life." Many people get resigned to obsessions and phobic responses for these very reasons - when the 'deal' is no longer such a big deal.

When you are an "agent of change" for other people however, it makes good sense to really spring clean your own cupboards when the opportunity arises. After all, there shouldn't be too many drunk driving instuctors, smoking doctors, fat nutritionists, angry yoga teachers or obsessed, phobic mind therapists out there, should there?

Grasping The Nettle

The opportunity came along when I was working with a colleague in a 'personal breakthrough' session and I presented my condition for us to examine in depth. Depth here in particular is all about things at the unconscious level as well as those intellectual understandings and beliefs which can be oh-so deleted, distorted and generalized!
The session was lengthy and investigative, and I'm indebted to my friend's sensitivity, thoroughness and diligence. A number of things got 'dug up' as a result - some expected and some unexpected. There were two crucial discoveries which were both astounding and pivotal. One was that a chunk of residual emotion over a particular event was nothing like as relevant as I had been making it - and the other was concerning an accident that happened to me when I was 2, about which I had no experience in recalled memory, just some anecdotal evidence my mother had told me.

The first thing I felt after our session was a notion that the 'cupboards' were now dust free and also that there would be a period of time where I would be re-familiarising myself with how the unconscious is able to best run the autonomic function known as swallowing. When there is an underlying and lifelong unconscious competence, that has been overlayed with another acquired and learnt unconscious competence then (for me at least) the release is taken in steps.
I remember posting up this message to my friends and followers on social media a few days after things 'had happened' - "It's so nice after 22 years to be able to finish a cup of coffee before it has gone cold!"


There are many more cups of hot coffee to be drunk I am sure, as well as glasses of un-flat beer! And whilst there may be more to life than enjoying beverages at their best, I can honestly say that there is a huge learning from the metaphors embedded in there.

When life serves up an opportunity to make it better - then grasp it with both hands, swallow whatever is stuck in your throat, drink the experience deep into your very soul and notice how much sweeter, satisfying and more meaningful everything can be. You'll be mighty glad you did!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Nature's deafening silence

I was stood alone by a bus stop - it was very early and there were no sounds of traffic. A light breeze wafted through the air and a sense of chill in the atmosphere made the end of my nose somewhat itchy.
It was a very, very quiet moment.

And then, in the midst of this almost ethereal stillness, I heard a chorus of tiny morsels of sound - so miniscule so that if there had been just one morsel it would have been unnoticeable. I had never experienced this chorus in nature until this moment - which was why I had no experiential reference for what was happening.

This year our autumn leaves have been on the trees for much longer, which allows their changing colours to be much more noticed and appreciated. And, to be honest, I'd always seen autumn as this - something seen in all its beauty. Once the leaves have fallen they take on a different state on the ground as they gather in multitudinous quantities and continue their metamorphic cycle. This we also see and, if we walk on paths or in gardens, then there is an underfoot sense of what the carpet of leaves feels like. Our senses are further awakened by the smell of the fallen leaves. Finally when the trees are agitated by wind, then we can also notice the leaves when they are airborne - swirling at times like a decaying blizzard.

However, in terms of leaves I now have another sensual experience to add to life's library. And it is this is...

The sound of the falling leaves, carried on the breeze, as they land.

The more I heard each tiny sound, the more I noticed each landing. There was a steady stream of leaves alighting upon the earth in their short journey from branch to ground. And this symphony of nature ebbed and flowed in volume and intensity and for me it felt as if time was standing still. For all I know maybe it did!

The characteristics of the leaves in flight was equally fascinating. Some fluttered like feathers, some spun and rotated, they all fell in a random manner though never straight down.

The whole experience was utterly magical and was a sheer joy. The guiding hand of nature's beauty reaches out to us all the time, and speaks to us through the words like the sound of the landing leaves.

There is a significance here that is perhaps lost for most of us - for if we do not hear, how can we ever know whatever is the real meaning of the communication?

Thursday, November 3, 2011


I am privileged to have a voluntary coaching role with my local rugby team. The privilege for me is on a number of levels:

The players ages are spread mainly from 18-30, with the average age being around 21 or 22. The privilege in this for me is working, connecting with and being part of the lives of young men emerging onto life's stage. It keeps me young, sane, grounded and in touch with their world which is an ever-changing world.
The second privilege is working in my local community and feeling very much a part of that. The club is also very much part of my playing roots, and there are always great opportunities to spend time with people I played the game alongside 35+ years ago. There's a deep sense of belonging here that's really important to me.
The third privilege are the benefits and learnings for me in terms of enhancing my coaching, mentoring and changework elsewhere in my 'working' life in a more professional context.
The fourth privilege is just on a personal and pleasurable level - and this can take many, many forms.

Playing intuitively

One of my guiding principles for the players is to get them (a) to understand what I mean by playing intuitively and without thinking and (b) to be able to do that whenever they want. Its the way I strive to get ALL the players I coach, in whatever sport, to play. We condition ourselves, we practice the processes, we play without thinking. Tactics, in this regard, are part of processes.

It's a concept that, for some, falls on stony ground. These are the players whose presupposed thinking won't allow them the freedom to ever get beyond playing sport in a 2-dimensional way. Sport is a part of life - it is not a compartmentalised thing we go and "do" and when we're finished close the book and put it back on the shelf. It's part of who we are. So it's right to really immerse ourselves in the experience and get the most out of it - rather like what we should be doing in the rest of our lives?
Isn't it?

The glorious feedback

Last evening we ran a particular drill we first looked at about 3 weeks previously, and the underlying principles of which we have looked at a lot more than that. Three weeks earlier the drill was riddled with errors, muddled execution and poor processing. This time there was very little of that - which allowed us to look at finer points of detail to make things work even better.
When I paused and asked for some feedback from the players as to how different this was for them, what I heard was music to my ears and I received the golden nuggets of reward bound up with Privilege number 4.

"Its so much better because we don't seem to be thinking about what we're doing, we're just doing it, " said one. "We're seeing what's in front of us and listening to each other more clearly," said another. "It's working because we aren't trying too hard or forcing it. There are mistakes but no one minds. We all seem to be on the same wavelength."

No one minds - I liked that too. As a person who licks his lips at the prospect of linguistic tinkering, I really savoured this one!
No-one minds. No one-minds.

When the mindset changes on the inside, wonderful things start to happen on the outside.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mind The Gap #2

The train pulls in...the tannoy message booms out,
"Mind the gap between the train and the platform edge!"
People get off...people get on...The train pulls out.
Its a process that's taking place at every station along the journey.

The Train of Thought

The railway and the train has not yet been with us two hundred years, and yet it has become the vehicle for a enormous array of common phrases, puns, metaphors and other linguistic artifices, that fill our lives at every turn.
From a very young age I've been captivated by railways, trains, and everything around and associated with the whole domain. This spills over from the external realities of this mode of travel, the people encountered along the way, right down to all the atmospheric, internal, metaphorical and other worldly stuff that abounds around railways and everything therein and thereof.

In terms of examples - where to begin?
OK - coaching and learning is about trainers, being trained and being a trainee. We have a station in Life, living on the wrong side of the tracks, we've reached the end of the line, we get sidetracked, letting off steam, there are buffer zones, we go off the rails, on completely the wrong track, we're on the wagon, just chugging along, get up a head of steam, have tunnel vision, changing tracks, stepping up to the plate, that's just the ticket, passing through the barrier, staying on track, being railroaded into something, he has a one-track mind, a whistle-stop tour, jump the train, going over the points, the permanent way, there's light at the end of the tunnel...

There are oblique hypnotic references like arriving through the station entrance, things around being transported, a transport of delight, rails resting on sleepers, going into a deep tunnel...

and that hypnotically ambiguous one that has inspired this set of blogs -
Mind The Gap

In literature, poetry or song, trains keep appearing.
Whether from the rhythm of W.H.Auden's 'Night Mail' :-
"This is the Night Mail crossing the border, Bringing the cheque and the postal order..."

to the timeless moments captured in Edward Thomas' 'Adlestrop':-
"Yes, I remember Adlestrop –
The name because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June..."

From "Last Train to Clarksville", "Chattanooga Choo Choo", "Morningtown Ride", "Take the A Train", "Night Train", "City of New Orleans", "Rock Island Line", "Midnight Train to Georgia" and many others through to Flanders and Swann's 'The Slow Train', a wonderfully wistful piece of nostalgia:-

or the hugely romantic notion of Finchley Central:-

Agatha Christie was particularly fond of trains as settings for some of her mysteries - "Murder on the Orient Express", "4.50 from Paddington", "The Mystery of the Blue Train".

In film, there's a catalogue of examples where trains play a major role - Murder on the Orient Express (again), Brief Encounter, Strangers on a Train, Dr Zhivago, From Russia with Love, Back to the Future 3, Von Ryan's Express, Throw Momma from the Train, The Taking of Pelham 123, Under Siege 2, right back to Buster Keaton's legendary "The General".

There's also some oblique examples of trains as metaphors as we can hear with Elton John's changes in his subject's life:-
"I used to be the main express, all steam and whistles heading west..."

So where am I going to with all this? Into a siding, off on a branch line, or non-stop into the terminus?
It's for you to decide what the meanings are here for you. Trains and railways - even if we don't travel on them physically - have quite a significance in our lives. Perhaps it's to do with the route of life the rails are marking out, perhaps it's to do with the resigned air of captivity around the passengers being shipped from A to B through a station called NOW, or perhaps it circles around the metaphor of trains of thought.
I can only say that physically travelling on trains with my curiously charged mindset often leads me to interesting experiences and conclusions.

All I will say in this conclusion here, is -
Take a 4 minute trip from London to Brighton...

Monday, October 31, 2011

Mind The Gap - #1

The train pulls in...the tannoy message booms out,
"Mind the gap between the train and the platform edge!"
People get off...people get on...The train pulls out.
Its a process that's taking place at every station along the journey.

One of the things I've encountered in all my activities this autumn is that processes of learning and change are best left "in progress" and at the unconscious level - rather like leaving a kettle to boil in its own time, or a laptop to boot up in its own time.

"OK - so how do I know if I've learned or changed something? By Testing it?" Is often one of the responses I get.

Evaluation, judgement is going on all around us and it is very difficult not to get drawn into what it is, what it means, and what it does both for and to us - directly and indirectly.

The things is - Educators, trainers and coaches are always looking for the positive information on the feedback loop, not just for the good of their pupils or clients - but also for themselves. Its part of their job satisfaction, or its one of the ongoing boxes they are required to tick in their job, or it is somehow linked to their perceived quality as a coach or trainer. Winning things, in a sporting context for sure, is a sure pathway to being deemed as a "good coach".

The key about 'testing' is to make it an integral part of the learning process, rather than the end goal of that process.
One of my mathematics teachers (admittedly years ago) would put a problem on the board for us to work through and when we'd completed it he'd work through its stages backwards to see where each of us matched his workings, or where we went wrong. Curiously though, by doing it back-to-front, answer-to-question, we all got the processes so much better. And since maths is all about processes, we got an inside-out understanding of those processes. For this particular teacher (the only one I ever had who could and would teach this way), the "testing" was an integral part of the learning.

I was chatting last evening to a guy who I first coached around 15 years ago. He is now interested in getting on the coaching ladder, "However," he said, "I feel a bit selfish because I only want to coach those who are good or who are showing potential."
"Oh they ALL show potential," I replied.
"Oh yea I know THAT," he said, "but you know what I mean."
"I think I do," I added, "and its in all our coaching natures to feel that way inclined. However, there's as much satisfaction to be gained with whoever you work with, regardless of age and ability. The keys are (a) that THEY want to change, learn, get better, (b) they are doing it for themselves and enjoy what they are doing, (c) they have the freedom to do it at their own pace."
I don't think I put him off wanting to enrol for some coach education, and I know that, if he allows it, his perception of coaching is already taking on a much broader base.

One of my tenets as a coach is around the whole area of results, both for individuals and teams. For me, a result is not so much their winning a contest against someone else - but is more in the area of winning the contest against themselves.
Our biggest competitor is ourself - and those that become succesful performers have defeated (and continue to defeat) the distractive parts of themselves that get in the way for many, many others.

This doesn't make them superhuman and the rest of us mere mortals. It just means that they've grasped the key to easy learning, accelerated learning, learning that works compared to learning that doesn't work.
And that key? Its allowing ourselves to engage the unconscious in this learning or change process and getting our thoughts well and truly out of the way of that.

"Mind The Gap between the Train of Thought and the Platform's Edge!"

So does the next station of life start at the Platform's Edge? And is our Mind the Gap, or is the Gap a danger, or is it a distraction?

Friday, October 21, 2011

"....And are you ready to make that change?" ~ Part 2

Clasp your hands together with interlocked fingers. Do you have left-over-right thumbs or right-over-left?
Whichever it is, now unclasp your hands and re-clasp them the other way. Notice what you feel, what that makes you feel and where you feel that particular feeling. Plus - how do you describe that feeling?
Responses tend to go from "nothing" to "horrible", with a mid point somewhere around the range from "different" to "weird".

How we measure up to the "unfamiliar" is something I like to invite everyone I work with to explore. The thing is - how we describe it through re-presentation gives quite a clue as to the way we confront sensations and feelings that are "different".

For us to accept "change" we have to be comfortable with the embodied feelings. If we want to step out of one behaviour, or way of thinking, into another then we have to totally embrace change for that step to be effective. Leaving a comfort zone is one of the hardest things for us to do, even if that comfort zone is populated by a behaviour we want to stop. Its in the very nature of what comfort is for us. Comfort is familiar, warm, reassuring, a "now" moment of pleasure, there's a certainty to it that 'all is well' - even though intellectually we know that may not necessarily be the case.

Noticing what we are telling ourselves

In order to be comfortable with change then we need to begin to look at how that impacts upon us in terms of embodiment. And this is where the clasped fingers play their part.
For the lady whose answer to what it felt like was "horrible", I took her on an exploration of what her language was (and wasn't) doing for her.
"So if that's horrible," I said, "then how would you describe cutting one of those fingers with a knife?" She smiled and realised what she was doing here. I went on, "Horrible is quite a powerful word, like Hate. Look at the way children use 'Hate', especially towards a parent or loved one. If they really DID hate them, then they'd find it hard to express themselves because their inappropriate usage of the word has devalued the real meaning of it."
The other thing for the lady who used "horrible", is that by associating anything different or unfamiliar with such a word, for her (internally) there is an undoubted link between CHANGE and HORRIBLE. She was, for sure, comfortable with the notion and process of No-CHANGE. And so if she can be guided to recognise a variety of softer ways to describe the unfamiliar, then she can enter a state of readiness to understand what Change can feel like.

For most of us, through becoming familiar with something new or different we eventually place it into a new comfort zone - it becomes habitual. The other thing is - the more we embrace change, the more we develop a curiosity for it as well. And curiosity has a tendency also to replace anxiety.

So there's a frame of mind, a mind-set, around the whole area of change, that is bound up with noticing what our bodies are telling us AND processing what we notice in the most useful way for us to take forward into the rest of our lives.

Spatial significance in embodied feelings

Moving on from the clasped fingers, once we are comfortable with the unfamiliar its really useful to start to notice the power of spatial location in terms of our own conscious-unconscious dialogue.

One of the most curious notions geographically is that of the person standing at the South Pole who is told to "Go North". It doesn't matter which way he steps, because every step will take him North.

Now the parallel I want to bring in here is that whatever changes anyone wants to make in their lives then this, too, will involve moving away from where they are NOW. The thing is we also have an embodied spatial sense of TIME, where the future and the past may be in front/behind us or off to the sides at some particular angle. This means that in terms of Change and moving on then we will, ideally, orient ourselves towards the future.
However, if we see ourselves at the South Pole, then there is something else we need to bring into play so that we "know" that when we take that step to go north we ARE actually oriented towards where we perceive our future is!

The Power of Geography

When I'm talking with clients about their making changes, unburdening themselves, or leaving certain things behind, then there is an enhanced effect upon the work we are doing when I also make changes in their geographical location in the room.
Ideally I would have a room containing a number of chairs, and when they come in I'd invite them to "take a moment to allow your body to consider where now might be the right place for you to sit in order for you to feel comfortable right now."
This can be as revealing as the clasped fingers - plus it calls upon them to search for their embodied feelings of comfort in a distracted current state.
At some stage in our session I would get them to walk around the room and stop at some representative point where they'd know and feel comfortable with all the changes they're wanting to make. Their body would give them the sign, through a feeling, maybe a 'stickiness' in the feet, maybe an inner word, maybe a 'flashed' vision, that this was the right place. It may be that there is the need to do this several times - meaning that each place needs to be marked and then they would need to make a final choice between those marked places. Everyone's perceptions are different - and they intuitively know which is THE right place.
Once our bodies know where our future comfort zone is, then the journey of change comes into view in a multi-dimensional way, and with a clearer understanding of what things we need to take on that journey and what we need to leave behind. And I will explore in the next part just how we might arrive at best judging what those things can be.


The journey from NOW to ME can be as short as the time it takes to unclasp and then re-clasp our fingers, or step towards north from the South Pole. Its all a matter of becoming comfortable with the unfamiliar, and first recognising the unfamiliar from the horrible. We are what we think and say to ourselves, and therein ourselves lie all the seeds for our change.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"....And are you ready to make that change?" ~ Part 1

"I want to, I must, I'll give it a go, I need to, I'll run through it and see what happens, I hope to, I'd love to be able to, I have to, I'll try to, I'm going to give it my best shot because if I don't..."

Whether its in coaching or changework these are the types of answers that wave a whole variety of flags - and none of them are green!
Even "I will" doesn't really fit the bill either. And its all down to the language that's being used and what's presupposed in the answers.

So what do I mean here about their language and what's presupposed?

The Archetypes

There's the "hopeful tryers" from semi-committed to assertive;
there's the "away froms" who are going to do it because of something else;
there's "future placers", ones who place it into the future with I will.

The hopeful tryers are good at employing the safety net of limiting belief - "Well it might work, but if it doesn't then I'll be able to say I told you so which'll prove I was right all along which says I haven't really failed because I know myself and what I'm capable of."

With the away froms there's an implication that by doing Y or making a change from X to Y is to choose the lesser of two evils, because if Y was a good and worthwile thing to do then they'd already be doing it. Committing to something we don't like doesn't really embrace compliance and can always lead us back to "better the devil you know..." plus we're seduced by the uncomfortable comfort zone merely because it is familiar to us.

The future placers are like the workmen who'll "be round Tuesday to fix it" but who never say which Tuesday that is. By placing their "commitment" into an unspecified place away from NOW there's built-in lack of commitment, uncertain doubts about doing it, pre-ordained failure, etc.

And there's a recurring theme with all these types and their answers which is this:-
They haven't listened to, and therefore totally understood the question! Its not a trick question either, and so its always useful to repeat the question several times since this is a question full of keywords and phrases!


The thing is, this is SUCH a loaded question!

A state of Readiness

When we're learning or practicing how to catch a ball there's a state of mind and body called "ready" or "the ready position". And readiness doesn't just apply to ball sports either, it's right across the sporting spectrum. And as in sport, so in life - there's a ready position for everything we do. This comes right down to being awake - which is a conscious state of readiness for thinking.

You ... Make That Change

Its you who's making it, and its something you are fashioning for your benefit. You are responsible for everything about it, so therefore it belongs to only you. Plus its not just an unspecified change either - its THAT one. Or it could imply that whatever you've been doing up to now, THAT is what you're changing.

Are ... Make ... Change

Everything in these words is in the present, the NOW. There's no ambiguous Tuesday here! It all about doing and doing now.

There's embedded commands such as are you ready, ready to make, make that change, ready to...change and more.

The other thing about asking the question several times is that you can place a different emphasis on different words and phrases each time using voice tone, tempo, pitch. The words are just the words and in the right order they are powerful enough - and when you enhance them with nuance they become enriched.
So - ARE you ready to make that change sounds different from are you ready to MAKE that change.

Whichever way you look at it, however it sounds, is nothing compared to how it feels - which is something I will be exploring in Part 2.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Cosmic Faculty - Order or Chaos?

The Way to the venue

I've recently been away on a 4 day training block and have travelled to the venue via public transport. On the first three of those days I went via route X and because of traffic issues affecting the "bus" part of the journey always arrived between 5-10 minutes late.

For the fourth day I decided I would try a different route. This involved taking the same initial train for the bulk of the journey, then changing at a different station for a different second train, and then finally walking and/or bussing the last stage of the journey.
There was a lot of conscious "prep" for all this such as looking up train times, bus stops etc.

Unconscious Preparation

So what about the unconscious "prep"? Now I'm a person who generally hands a lot over to unconscious processing especially where journeys, new and used, are concerned. Its worked for me in the past and I've found that intuition can play a huge positive part - if I let it. And, you may find yourself asking, how do we do unconscious preparation?

Its a kind of cosmic ordering that is linked to trusting the outcome of each step along the way as being beneficial, no matter what that might seem, and to not interfere consciously with the process in a non-intuitive kind of way. Some people might refer to this as "Trusting to Providence", or "Trusting God", or "Letting Fate take its course". However you may describe this kind of trust, it becomes something you might understand at a point in your life - after which knowing its power can become very useful for you. You might call it your "6th Sense", and it is 100% intuitive.

The New Journey

So my 4th day journey started out as usual, and the train came to the station where I was making the new "change" procedure. As I stood up to make my way towards the door the train was still moving - and there was a standing passenger blocking my path. Now, normally when you are leaving a train, people tend to let you pass - however this particular traveller decided his first action was to grab the seat I'd just vacated. He moved towards me, causing me to step back - and in the act of taking that step, and as I was momentarily on one leg, the train lurched. I fell over backwards in the aisle between the seats. I eventually got off the train in a bit of a flustered state, but there was going to be a 20 minute wait so I'd have plenty of time to recompose myself!

The thing was - when I got off the first train, there was a train on the adjacent platform that was going to the destination I wanted! It was sitting there waiting - waiting, as I later realised, for me!
There was my cosmic order, sitting neatly in my in-tray; however, such was my flustered state that I failed to notice it immediately, and by the time I did - the doors had closed and it was about to leave.

Keeping a lid on my inside reaction

On the face of it, "Grrrr - what a lost opportunity, and all because of the selfish idiot who wanted my seat." In my re-composed state, I pondered this and let any negative thoughts pass. I couldn't bring the train back, and there'd be another along anyway, so I just enjoyed the sunshine and waited.

Time passes and my (expected) train arrives and I get on, and the next part of the journey passes uneventfully. I arrive at the station and set out on my walk to the bus route. I have about 10 minutes to get to the venue, the sun is out and its a very pleasant morning. I'm walking along, thinking that even if a bus doesn't come in the time I can always walk. I'd been told it was a 20 minute walk, so I was resigned to being about as late as I'd been on the previous days.

And then as I'm walking a car pulls up alongside...and I just think the driver is perhaps on a mobile phonecall, or maybe consulting a map or something similar...and I continue walking. Then comes a toot of the car horn and I stop and look to see who it is. It is a fellow colleague from the course I'm on.
And here's the second instance of some very persistent processing in the cosmic orders "despatch department".
As I get in and we chat on the way to the venue, I discover she would normally go by another route but today that particular road is gridlocked with traffic - and so she took an alternative road, and was now feeling a bit lost. As she did, she encountered me - briskly walking along on my own alternative route.
Our mutual outcomes were that we both arrived early at the venue and proceeded to tell our colleagues the rather curious tale of how we "found" each other!


"Some things are just meant to be", you could say.
However, given my unconscious preparation for the journey, I was trusting in events panning out fortuitously and working to my benefit. I never asked for any outcomes - I just trusted that "things would happen" in some way, shape or form. And so they did; and even though the first "ordered" event wasn't accepted by me, then some more "ordering" took place for the second to present itself.

If you ever think "something or someone up there is looking after me", then the chances are they are -
and if you tap into AND DON'T INTERFERE with that process, then interesting, useful, curious and often vital things happen.

Acknowledge them and be thankful for them and you will almost guarantee other opportunities coming to pass in the future.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

NLP latest! ~ The Headlines are not The News!

Many years ago a colleague and I became fascinated in the contents of press billboards and headlines, and what were the promptings for those particularly involved in the usage of this branch of 'journalese'.
We started out by noticing actual ones we'd seen that were worthy of recollection and recounting - and we noticed that certain types of newspaper used certain types of wordings, certain types of impact upon certain types of readers, and so on.
As time went on and we gained a lot of 'anecdotal' references for headlines, billboard posters etc - then we started to play around with and experiment with doing our own.

We developed a game which involved a box full of little pieces of card with headline-style words and phrases on - and the game proceeded by taking a handful of these cards and making up meaningful headlines from that handful. The more we played the game - the better and more intricate, subtle and complex became our own hypothetical headlines.

Over a period of time this whole exercise bore some big fruit:-
One immediate one was that it broke up the repetitive boredom of working in an accountancy practice poring over the books and invoices of a multiplicity of small businesses.
The other, much more substantial and long term fruit, was that it not only gave a regular daily practice within a particular genre of linguistic usage, but it also gave us an unconscious background of understanding and practice with preframes; the art of the meaningful 'overture'; or the art of how to use the distractive and attention grabbing nature of what, for us, began as "SNOW CHAOS DISASTER HORROR", and ended up as "BANK GIRLS SOB AS HEADLESS CORPSE EATS PIECE OF CAKE".

Over the years the effect of headlines and preframes has spread to all forms of media and advertising whether they are written or spoken or audio-visual context.
"Coming up later on News at 10..." is used daily through TV evenings, to attract people towards watching the news programme later. And even here there is still a kind of "Read All About It!" clarion call to Joe Public (often with appropriate music in the background) that raises our expectations for discovering something dramatic, life-changing or earth-moving, after the next dull and far less exciting programme.

The trouble is that there is an element of "Cry Wolf" in all this, because in order to grab our attention there is a tendency to amp up the drama over and above what's really necessary. Eventually, the real news is not as dramatic as the headlines - the product is nothing like as useful as the advert - the book is not nearly as good as its cover suggests.

There are many of us trying to live our lives in a succession of headlines, and getting really upset, bored, angry, sometimes depressed, when nothing comes up to our expectations. And where next does this push us to? A quest for that Holy Grail of one long never-ending thrill?

In order to get a life we need to understand what makes up the Quality of those special Peak Moments, and re-calibrate what really is the difference between ORDINARY and SPECIAL.
And to help that understanding, a good place to start is to devalue the Headlines and look deeper into the real content of the News.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dementia Diary #3

The Appeal Letter

A letter came for my Dad from the church for their annual 'Gift Day' appeal. Over the years this was always something my mother had dealt with - so when this year's letter arrived I explained to my Dad what it was, all the background etc, and checked with him that he would like to make "the usual contribution."
As he was happy to do so I got him to sign a cheque and "did all the necessaries" by way of preparation. However - the Gift Day was not for at least two weeks, so I attached the gift envelope to the appeal letter and left it in a prominent position so that when the time came it would serve as an aide memoire to go and hand it in.

The Tidy Mind

One of Dad's daily activities is to work on his stamp collection, and this is something he gets completely absorbed in. It provides him with many links with earlier times in his life and allows him to be fully engaged and totally in the moment. He also has a very tidy mentality, and at the end of every day before going to bed he always puts away all things he has been working on and anything else that his eye may come to rest on.
This does occasionally present some "awkward" moments, in that he tidies certain things into places that he cannot locate in short term memory.

He regularly cannot remember where 3 sets of nail clippers and a nail file are kept - and even though they are always kept in the same place he'll always tell me he's been looking for them and can't find them anywhere! I always take him to the place they are kept and show him, and he's always agreeably surprised at their being "found" once more. That is, until the next time he needs them!

And so it was with the Gift Day envelope. For 14 consecutive days it was on view in the place I had put it to remind me when the time came - and when the time was gone. My Dad had put it in "a safe place", and now I had to search, knowing that he wouldn't have the vaguest idea either where he'd put it or indeed what on earth it was I was talking about.

Getting Warm

I did a 'cosmetic' search in all the obvious places he may have put it - but to no avail. Do you remember the game "Hunt The Thimble"? Well this was hunt the envelope except I wouldn't know if I was getting warm or not as there was no one who could tell me - or so I assumed.

Casually, I asked my Dad if he remembered doing the cheque for the appeal, or seeing the letter and envelope attached. We both looked to see if it had fallen down behind the cabinet which I'd left it on top of - no joy.

And then he started looking through a particular pile of documents. At this point something told me to take notice - and so I held the first few things on the top of that particular pile as he looked further down.
And as I slowly opened a notebook on top of the things I was holding - there was the letter and gift envelope, neatly folded.

I told him it had been found and that all was well, and he was really pleased that the 'lost' item could now be handed in to the appeal.

Unconscious Signs

It would seem that in the midst of his dementia, he unconsciously recalled a large bit of information about where he had tidied the letter and envelope to. He could have actually looked in a whole variety of places - but there was a trigger that made him look in this particular place. Then it was down to MY unconscious to act upon my noticing this information - a kind of "getting warmer" message if you like - and look deeper in the right places.

There's a large amount of dialogue going on at the unconscious level for us all; and the more sensory acuity we have, added to the acknowledgement of trusting our unconscious, means that often those channels of communication that might seem (on the surface) to be 'clogged' or even closed, are actually still functioning fairly well.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Quality of Pleasure and your Hurt Threshold

In terms of the excesses or compulsions in our lives - those instances when we can't say "No" to temptation - those instances when we are already into the next drink, the next mouthful, the next light-up, when we haven't even mentally closed the door on the previous one - there seems to be a common thread.

These are all things we like doing.

And with things we like doing, we become really vulnerable to NOT JUST doing or consuming them for what I'd call Route 1 pleasure (pleasure for pleasure's sake), but also for Route 2 or secondary pleasure. This is reward for something good we've done, some achievement that carries elements of celebration. So this is "having a good time because" rather than just "having a good time". Finally there's Route 3 or tertiary pleasure. This is the TOXIC one - the comfort, the solace, redressing the imbalance of something unpleasant, something awful that's happened to us, that makes us feel so down so that we have to add to our own depleted "feeling good" inner resources with something external - something that we know we LIKE, or something we know will grant us release from those "down" feelings.

The excesses and compulsions generally seem to be yielded to incrementally, and these increments are small, in themselves. There's a huge difference between a holiday and a bar of chocolate or a bottle of wine - both in terms of pleasure and unit cost - and the incremental influence also relates to cost. But for those who can afford to take a holiday every month (say) then the quality of pleasure in those monthly holidays is very diluted - rather in the same way the second bottle of wine, or third bar of chocolate is diluted in quality of pleasure terms. The graph of quality of pleasure plotted against level of indulgence will be certain to take a nose dive!

Plotting the Graph reveals the Hurt Threshold

In this particular graph there is a built-in amount of even greater pleasure on the first few repeat actions, whereas by the fourth/fifth instance the pleasure is now less than the first time, and drops rapidly with each repeat thereafter. The quality of pleasure once the downward slide starts is falling away towards the "Hurt Threshold" - HURTLING - some might say!

And what of the "Hurt Threshold"? It could be anywhere after #4 depending on the nature of the pleasure being indulged, and certainly once into negative the effects can be very toxic indeed.

As already said, though, with the smaller excesses and compulsions - they are small enough for us to accept the incremental yielding with the excuse "This'll be the last," or "I'll just have the one," or "One more won't hurt." Or, as in the film "The Meaning of Life" when Mr Creosote is tempted by a waffer-thin mint!

The thing is, at this stage we never take stock of the situation - the excuses and our justifications are almost fused together. It's as if we are stupefied in a kind of trance and the "devil" on our shoulder is running the whole show. The somewhat "distant" internal dialogue might develop along these lines, "The STOCKTAKE isn't for a while yet, and I'm in control - aren't I?" - which begs the question: What part of us specifically might the "I" be talking to here?

When the STOCKTAKE comes - as it inevitably does - there is always that same part of us that's incredulous as to how all these compulsions and excesses have added up over a period of time. The TV series Secret Eaters shows only too well the amazement on peoples' faces when they see the results of their covert consumptions.
"I never knew it would be this bad!"
"Well Sir/Madam - we've done a stock count of all the 'just the ones' or 'one more won't hurts' and you're way over your hurt threshold. And that's why it hurts, funnily enough!"

For Route 3 tertiary pleasure, the above graph hardly exists - because there is barely any true pleasure involved in our action. It is all really for anaesthetic purposes - for comfort - for masking a whole raft of other "hurt". And in terms of all that tertiary pleasure, what happens is we trade the hurt of all the 'feel-bad' times, for a new hurt related to excesses and compulsions. The new hurt now contains guilt - and has all that stress and other 'feel-bad' stuff gone away?

Is life really better for having this new kind of hurt?

The 21st Society's take on responsibility

Modern society's perception of the dangers to personal control are somewhat warped.

For instance, with tobacco use the dangers are clear and proven - so we assume people have a low level of self-responsibility and we take away people's "rights in the public domain" by banning smoking in premises. We also plaster the product packaging with impact phrases like "Smoking Kills", and we make public smokers stand around outside in all weathers.

However, with alcohol, the same self-responsibility is deemed to be much higher, and so those same "public rights" are permitted. People are invited to be "Drink Aware" while, with the exception of driving, people are deemed to be more responsible and aware. The drinkers are in the same category as the gamblers - "We gamble responsibly!" they keep reminding us. After all, there's no such thing as passive drinking or gambling is there?

Finally with food excesses, society leaves people to their own devices. Eating food doesn't pollute the air, or turn people dangerous or unpredictable, or gamble away the housekeeping on a legless horse with no name - so we have no right, rhyme or reason to restrict what they do. There's no emotive language or warnings on cans of fizzy drinks and processed foods. The sugar, fat or salt content is hidden away in the small print. The request to "go large" or "supersize me" is never responded to by the person serving saying, "Really? Come on - don't you think you've had enough already?"

Re-calibrating our Quality of Pleasure

Being out of touch with our Quality of Pleasure in terms of food and drink for instance, impacts hugely upon our lives.
If we ignore the warnings, as well as our lack of self care, then we move through a variety of stages where the plummeting nature of the graph represents a plummet in other parts of our lives.

In terms of our wider relationship with food and drink, fitness and health tend to be the first to deteriorate. Often with this comes issues with self-esteem, confidence, and an increasing dysfunctionality of performance in other personal, social and work-related areas.

Interestingly, on all products designed to assist people with quitting smoking there is the caveat "requires will power". There is no mention of will power in terms of gambling, alcohol or food - although we all know that the ability to say "NO" to any of these things is "Ours and Ours Alone."


If we can really get in touch with what pleasure means for us as individuals, then we can start to re-evaluate and calibrate our Quality of Pleasure. The phrase "Moderation in all Things" is a very good mantra for everyone, and it can be linked to every point I have already made here. The thing is, what about our perception of that word "Moderation".

Ask yourself what it means for you when you hear that word "moderation".

For most of us I think the answer would probably come out on the side of phrases such as "enjoy yourself less", "be boringly prudent", "don't let your hair down", "spoil the party", and so on. There is this understanding that moderation means LESS pleasure, therefore we should make pleasure only a thing of quantity. Moderation is boring. Moderation is the very antithesis of pleasure!

My point, however, invites us all to have the same amount of pleasure - but to enjoy it in terms of QUALITY not quantity. And then start to find new ways of enjoying pleasure, so that the quantity grows that way - rather than over-indulging in a few pleasures.

Savour the quality of the things we would label as pleasures. Become familiar with what pleasure really means for us. Evaluate the things or actions that give us pleasure, and look at whether they are indulged as primary, secondary or tertiary pleasures - or indeed a combination of all three. Decide what might be a better way of dealing with the impact of tertiary pleasure - because tertiary pleasure merely devalues the pleasure you get from that self same thing when you are supposed to be enjoying it in secondary or primary mode.

Next time you are doing something you enjoy ask yourself these questions, and maybe stop yourself for just long enough to hear the real answers.

We all have a relationship with our pleasure. We also all have a tendency to prostitute that relationship by devaluing its true quality for toxic reasons.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Keeping it "Simples"

It was the eve of the 2nd Cricket Test Match England v India, and I was watching some televised interviews and film footage from the England Camp. I was just soaking up all the pre-match info, comment and banter when something involving Andrew Strauss, England Captain, that was going on in the filmed background, just seemed to catch my eye.

It set off a train of thought that came to rest around coaching - and not necessarily sports coaching - and how we all have ideas about what it is, what it entails, the preconceptions, misconceptions, methodologies and so on, and so forth.
Because of all this referencing - and the labelling that accompanies it - there is a something of a movement away from using coaching, as a concept, into other areas such as mentoring and training. Semantics and common parlance often force this change and movement, and for me - with connections in a number of paradigms - I feel drawn towards looking for a phrase that encompasses the whole domain of learning and change.

"I coach processes, I mentor people, I change perceptions" probably sums it up for me.

The Low-grade Routine

There's a routine I use when coaching batting that involves a horizontal line of (about 6-8) static balls that the batsman steps to and drives then returns to a similar start position for the next one, then performs the same action on that one and each subsequent ball.
This, on the face of it, is an extremely low-grade routine. In fact I've used this from child beginners to adult players - and sometimes the non-verbal reaction from either player, or indeed parent, reveals a huge amount about their preconceptions of what and how to coach. Sometimes this has spilt over into the implied verbal: "I'm paying you to coach me (or my son or daughter) in how to bat better - not to hit a line of static balls into a net."

Then I have to explain what the exercise tells us.

And this is why I like coaching children without parents close enough to verbally intervene, because the children just accept the instruction because they have no preconception of what the real purpose is. They learn by experience and not thinking - let alone pre-thinking!

So what does the exercise tell us?

* It tells us where the batsman's front foot steps to - past the ball, too much to the side, in the way of where the bat should be etc
* It tells us the 'shape' of the shot, ie the 'flight-path' the bat traces before, during and after hitting the ball
* It tells us the balance of the batsman before, during and after hitting the ball
* It tells us what the batsman's head, shoulders, hips are doing in the course of the shot
* It tells us about their ability to replicate the starting position, and subsequent action of this closed-skill activity

There are other things it also tells us, but in the above-mentioned alone there is a huge amount of information - and all without even looking to see where each ball has been hit to.

A very 'low grade' routine that reveals an abundance of very 'high grade' information. Its about what are we doing - what is the body doing - in the course of this simple activity, the focal point of which is that micro-moment in time when bat hits ball.

It is about PROCESS and not OUTCOME.

Now in coaching terms, understanding the balance between process and outcome - and then conveying that understanding to our clients and players - is about as simple or low-grade as the routine I've illustrated above. And yet it is the most crucial and pivotal factor in their ability to learn and change, and in learning HOW TO learn and change. And for most of us, learning is a process we are not taught how to do - it is built up in stages from our earliest steps and communications by experience and modelling.


The success of each one of us is our own property because success is an outcome. Ability is the process we apply in order to achieve an outcome. A coach can be successful - but cannot coach success. Success belongs only to the clients, the players.
A player can have all the ability in the world, but if he chooses not to apply it, then he will not achieve his desired outcome in that context.
Plus - in the Game of Life we are ALL players.

So what was it I saw Andrew Strauss doing in the background of that televised footage?

Yes - you've guessed it - he was working with his batting coach on a very low-grade routine - hitting, one by one, a line of static balls into a net.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Get a 3D Life!

Last weekend I watched my first film in 3D - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.

In order to fully enjoy the film - and the 3D experience - I went into the cinema with nothing on my mind, no pre-conceptions, just an anticipation of the 3D sensual experience; which for me is all things visual, auditory and kinaesthetic.

Interestingly, afterwards I couldn't really put into words what the experience had been like, or what the film was like - rather than what it was about. There was something akin to listening live to a huge symphony, as the experiential canvas which the film is laid out upon is vast.

The thing is - because it WAS all new for me, and I went in with nothing on my mind, there were absolutely NO comparative references there for me to run my experiences past. Hence I struggled to describe it afterwards and - to be fair - I struggle to describe it now.

Interesting and curious as this might be, it is not the point I'm looking to illustrate here.

On my way into "the screen" the was a large hopper containing the 3D glasses and from which I was invited to select a pair. I say 'select' - however they were all the same so it was a case of 'take one'.

Familiarity versus Novelty

Now, there we all are - the audience - sat wearing our uniform glasses having this uniform film experience enhanced into something richer and more meaningful for each and every one of us. The thing is, each and every one of us had a different experience which was framed by our own references both before, during and after the performance.

Now I know that if I was going to watch the film again that MY experience would never be exactly the same - the only thing that would be exactly the same would be the glasses and the film. The other thing is that because the canvas of the film is SO vast that I would see and hear things I'd not noticed first time round, and that my kinaesthetic experience would be altered as well.

And all this would happen EVEN IF I could go into the cinema in exactly the same frame of mind that I did last weekend. The only 'familiarity' would be the plot and the sequential chronology of the scenes. There's an interesting question here in that, how many times would I need to watch the film before 'familiar' tipped the scales versus the 'new' - and as a consequence would I then have no further need to watch the film? Or would my wish to revisit and re-encounter and re-familiarise some of my earlier experiences override the lack of novelty?

Starring in our own Bigger Picture

They say "Life is for Living", and I think the message in it for us is that we need to get out there and fully experience a sensible balance of the familiar and the novel - and the key word for me is FULLY. Every day we need to remember the metaphor of the hopper of 3D glasses and take a pair and put them on. We are conscious - this is not our dreamscape - and we need to allow ourselves to wear the 'enhancers' in order to enrich our experience. Some people are able to encounter more new experiences every day than some others will encounter in a lifetime. Its all about having an open mind - of wearing the enhancers - so we can notice more, and also enrich the world with our presence in it.

When I hear the phrase "Get a Life" I hear it as an invitation to get out of our heads, switch off the filters that generalise, distort and delete, open all sensual channels, put on the enhancers and experience as much as possible. Being in our own film, if you like.
But we can't "Get a Life" if we are stuck in our own sense of inner ego, rather the same as if last weekend I had gone to watch the film (a) with things on my mind and (b) without wearing the glasses. The film (or Life) would have been all that it was going to be - my experience of it would have been (by comparison) dull, meaningless, not much of a pleasure - in fact pretty Lifeless all round.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Clasped Fingers Trick

I was coaching cricket in a Year 4 class the other day and encountered a lad who was unable to hold the bat correctly.
Well I say 'correctly' - in actual fact he'd got his hands 'crossed'! His dominant (writing) hand was at the top of the handle and 'weaker' hand was below, forming an 'X' as they crossed just above the wrist. When I asked him to change his hands over, he did so - and at the same time he moved his body and changed his feet around so he was now shaping to bat left handed - plus his hands had now reverted to being 'incorrect' in terms of being crossed.

The thing is, batting is a two-handed function, and there are very few shots he could play with his hands configured the way he was using them. However, after I ascertained he wrote right handed I got him to stand the 'right handed' way and also configure his hands the 'correct' right handed way. So far so good - until he said "I can't do it this way - it feels all wrong." He was, it seemed, quite stubborn and adamant about how wrong it felt!

Whilst I knew he would eventually (with persuasion) get it to feel more comfortable and 'right', the thing is this would need time as there was resistance to him trying to get it through experience - and I had around 29 other children to coach and limited class time in which to do it. I had to use some kind of persuasive trickery to break down his kinaesthetic feedback when he was using his hands my 'correct' way.

Hypnotic artifice

I asked him to put the bat down and clasp his hands with each finger alternately intertwined and with one thumb over the other. I showed him how I did it and asked him to copy me. He did it quite conventionally for a right handed person (right thumb over left). I then asked him to do it "the other way" - ie finger by finger and left thumb over right.
"How does that feel?" I asked him
"Different," he replied.
"Is it uncomfortable?"
"No - just different."
"Now I want you to tell me when your hands start to feel uncomfortable again. Any time you feel like you did before just tell me. OK?
Now just keep those hands clasped like that (left thumb over right). Now turn those clasped hands so the back of that left hand is on top. Now just pull those hands apart sideways and hold them apart by about one hand's width."
He did just as I said - and then I handed him the bat handle to hold without changing how his hands were configured. I continued to talk to him while doing this - checking whether he was feeling any of that 'uncomfortable' feedback he was getting before, which he wasn't.
"Now you're ready to bat - OK? All you need to remember is that clasping your hands is really easy to do - and holding the bat is just as easy to do. And the more you clasp and the more you hold, the more comfortable it all becomes."
Within a few minutes and in the midst of a high-activity game situation, he hit the ball very hard and sweetly past me, with total ease and perfectly correct hands on the bat handle. I was very enthused!


There are a lots of tricks with the hands that can be really useful when confronted with seemingly "no-go" situations like this, and I've used a number of these from time to time. I would describe these as hypnotic artifices, because a) the subjects are watching what they're doing, often quite intently and certainly with a level of engaged conscious absorption or focus in what they are doing; b) there's kinaesthetic feedback which is telling them to also keep checking for another feeling that they, until recently, felt quite strongly. In my experience, this is the part of the action that releases them from the internal dialogue of "can't do it" - because they are comparing and judging against their own calibrated level of previous discomfort and awkwardness, by waiting for a feeling to come that never does!

Transformative - definitely! Cunning? - not really. (Well maybe just a little!)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Psychic Screwdriver

In the famous BBC Science fiction TV series Doctor Who, in 1968 there appeared the first scripted reference to “The Sonic Screwdriver”. This is a fascinating multi-functional tool and, along with the TARDIS, has become one of the icons of this long lasting series. In terms of SF writing, conceptually the Sonic Screwdriver was ahead of its time, and became one of the artefacts of the series that could show us that nothing is what it seems, and that with it pretty much anything is possible.

The Psychic Screwdriver

There are times within the varied client-related activities that I’m involved in, where I get the distinct impression that the multi-faceted nature of the various methodologies that I use, lend themselves to be viewed as something similar to the Sonic Screwdriver. I see my mental tool-kit for change more and more as being like the Sonic Screwdriver – with an almost infinite number of settings, capable of revealing what doesn’t seem to be there, unlocking doors to new perceptions and actions, and helping people in freeing themselves up to be able to move their lives forward by broadening their perceptions. You might say this bit of kit could be better summed up as a “Psychic Screwdriver”.
The thing is – although the Screwdriver incorporates a whole variety of processes or methodologies, some hypnotic, some linguistic, some metaphoric, some spatial and physiological, some distractive. – any new ideas and techniques can just be added on to the Screwdriver rather like acquiring Apps for mobiles or tablets.

Another thing is that, with all these methodologies and techniques incorporated into one “device”, it is quite common for me to use a process of mix-and-match and use parts of one with another producing an infinite variety of different little hybrids. For me this is fascinating, and particularly because I never actually set out to do it! The opportunities are presented to me by the client and if the idea pops up then I just go with it and see what happens.

A few weeks back I was working with two clients who I would probably best describe as poles apart – however, the common thread with both of them is the way I can really illustrate the use of the Psychic Screwdriver and its various Apps.

The young cricketer

A lad has struggled since I’ve seen him with his ability to bowl. The problem centres around the accuracy of his resulting outcomes rather than basic technique. However the extra challenge is that he wants to bowl leg spin, which is a difficult action and discipline to master in technical terms. His outcome success rate has been about 1 decent/accurate ball in 15, with problems concerning across the entire spectrum of control. We'd covered most of the physiological issues so we kicked off into areas hitherto not investigated. Almost jokingly I told him he was SO good at bowling into the side netting, or the roof that I wanted him to try to do it on purpose. He couldn’t – which was interesting! When eventually he managed to deliberately bowl badly I congratulated him – “Good! So you can do it when trying! Keep trying just so we all know if it was a fluke or not.” It was a fluke as he returned to trying and failing straight away.

At this stage I demonstrated James Tripp’s “Card Stick” routine, which is part of his Hypnosis Without Trance. Again I showed the young player proof that when he’s trying his hardest to do something, then he actually cannot do it. This did amuse him, but the point was well made in that for him, every ball he would bowl (as with the Card Stick) was driven by intense “trying” and subsequently judged against a level of perfection that was impossible for him to reach.

I asked him whether these circumstances arose with any of his other sports. They did not, and I then looked to make comparisons with his other sporting actions and his bowling in terms of how he experiences them and the various related submodalities. As an outcome I invited him, through visualization, to get in touch with the VAK of how he is in the other sports, and to use this as an anchor before every time he bowls.

We ran a test of 10 balls bowled at a target area and he had a 60% success overall, and with 1 ball in the dead centre of the target area. He now has a positive resource to help him with his practice, and a real handle on how to raise his level of confidence in this area, and to ‘spike’ his negative self talk after judging the outcomes.

I must have used quite a range of ‘Apps’ here – and the particularly effective one was the demo of the Card Stick. In terms of changing aspects of his conscious experience this had the most impact! Plus for me it showed how such a technique can be really useful in a sports coaching context as well.

The Professional Lady

This lady was unhappy about her relationship with food, and especially her habits in the areas of “the rubbish stuff”. As is usually the case, this was spilling over into the rest of her life in terms of frustration, confidence and self esteem.

She described a fairly regular scenario where she would pick and nibble at crisps, biscuits, bread and whatever etc while preparing the family main evening meal; then have no appetite and eat very little of the meal itself; then a couple of hours after the meal would be back into the ‘picking’ routine. She said that she felt that there was part of her that was extremely childish in attitude, and would dominate by not making the best and most appropriate choices – in spite of knowing that the ‘picking’ was bad for her. She couldn’t really resolve this ‘child within’.

We talked around various areas and I explained to her about pronounscapes, and how we often describe our persona from several perspectives. This is manifest through regular conversational use of the “I – Me – Self – You” of our personas – and so I invited her to ‘come with me on a journey of discovery’ about more aspects of her persona through questions around these areas.

It turned out that the “child” was manifest in 2 of her 4 pronouns, and that there were quite different feelings and perceptions held by these 2 in particular. At this point I decided to switch to a Parts Integration – using her present state and the wealth of information gained from the answers to the pronounscapes investigation.

I could have conventionally continued down the first road and, conceivably, guided her to something that might have been useful for her. However her relaxed and calm (Alpha) state just cried out to be maintained and utilised in a different way. It seemed a shame, I thought, to bring her back to a full consciousness especially as she was able to shift into and amongst these 4 persona aspects very easily. The Psychic Screwdriver had been deployed intuitively – however, I had little idea of what was about to transpire!

Within a short space of time I was witness to, what was for her, a huge reward. Parts Integration can bring about profound shifts for people anyway, and given this lady’s very strong intra-personal dialogue, she was able to resolve the conflicting misunderstanding between each of her 2 ‘inner children’ and the other 2 adult persona aspects as well. It was a wonderful golden moment both for her, and for me as witness.


In my book “Don’t Think of a Black Cat” I make an analogy akin to “NLP and the Art of Plumbing.” Here the methodology is a tool-kit where the Practitioner (plumber) uses various techniques to fix clients’ metaphorical appliances, dripping taps, leaky drains etc. As time goes on, however, I’m more convinced that there is such a crossover between all the artifices in the domain of the Mind that when we obtain a Psychic Screwdriver, then all we need is to (a) keep it charged, (b) always lookout for new Apps and most of all (c) – Use It!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Are we what we think?

"Broken stones from a rich seam of ore - we can use them to throw at people or render and refine them to extract the precious metal. Precious metal from a rich seam of ore - we can use it to make weapons or bridges or spacecraft. From the broken stones of our thoughts we can do so many things...OR we can also choose to leave them untouched."

A thought is the seed of an idea - ideas are seeds of beliefs - beliefs are the filters by which we shape our reality - reality is what shapes our lives - and the lives we lead reveal our identity.

Now we could therefore say that our identity begins when we start to notice and harness our thinking - or we could say that our identity regulates our thoughts. However, is either of these conclusions true?

At what point on this 'Circle of Consciousness' is it best to intervene to make changes, enhancements, corrections?

There is this generally held view that the older we get the harder it is to learn something new. There is scientific (or is it statistical) backing for this view and, as with all things in our current age, anything with scientific backing has got to be right, right? I increasingly find that the power of learning is couched within an open mind, and that the older we get the more we allow our minds to become closed. And yet through history the people who have cornered the market for wisdom have been those who have lived all their lives with open minds - minds that have never accepted that (a) there is nothing left to learn because they know all there is to know, (b) their perception of reality is made up by their thinking and that if they change their thinking and their perception, that their world will be seen anew. Nothing rests or stands still - everything develops, evolves or dies out.

And so it is with thought - which either develops, evolves, grows or dies out.

The choice of how we develop, evolve and grow our thoughts is ours - how we filter them and refine them is our choice - how we nurture them and let them become ideas and then eventually beliefs is all our choice - based upon our bank of references. This bank of references (our personal reference library if you like) is based upon opinion, experience, knowledge and wisdom.

There's a curious linguistic colloquialism centred about the words "think" and "thing". This is shown in sentences such as
"If he thinks that then he's got another thing (think)coming" or
"It looked X but then it could have been something (somethink) else".

And within this usage there's revelations in there for us - that what we see is only what we think we see - and that whatever we may think, that there's another "think" coming along very soon, provided we give ourselves the chance to notice it. The thing is, once we have latched onto a "think" that is already in our Reference Library, then there's a very good chance we won't notice the new "think" because our references prohibit us from doing so.

So, the conclusion to be drawn is this:-
"The Path to our own Wisdom comes from our understanding of how our Reference Library works, and how we need to learn to best become our own Librarian."

The truth is that we are far far more than we think, and once we acknowledge this then we start to become a very good Librarian. And the good Librarians, as history has shown, are those who are never too old to learn new things, to see things from many perspectives, to direct and refine their thinking.