Friday, 31 March 2017

The Dark Side of Tapping

Picture the scene.  It's a fictional scene but one that I have witnessed played out in a multitude of ways in different locations and with different players.  The scene is set in a residential psychiatric unit, the day is Wednesday.  Billy, a chronic schizophrenic patient, enters the office and is a little anxious and distressed.  An earlier encounter with a member of staff has left him unsettled.  Most encounters with that member of staff leave Billy unsettled for a really simple reason.  That member of staff who we will call John in grand the tradition of things is a bit of an asshole and it must be said that his colleagues don't like him much either.

John has a number of key character traits - he isn't particularly bright, he drinks too much alcohol at weekends, he likes rules, status and power and he feels very comfortable and enjoys himself most when around vulnerable people.

But back to Billy.  Billy enters the office, his distress is clear.

Billy is concerned that John may convey a negative impression of that earlier encounter to the staff, and that what gets recorded in the notes may not be quite accurate about what really went on.  Those notes form a patient's "permanent record" and never go away.  What gets recorded can massively affect the future of any person in such a situation of "total care."  

But these staff don't see it from Billy's point of view.  No.  They see it only from their point of view as psychiatric workers.  Billy's distress is obvious, and these staff are there to relieve distress, are they not?

"I want to talk to you about this morning," Billy splutters whilst jigging side to side in his agitation. "I don't want John to set me up."  It's a reasonable concern, really, I wouldn't trust John to care for a dead cat, let alone vulnerable schizophrenics.  I hated the guy, but then he had no power over me so he wasn't really that much of a concern to me, but I did use to worry what he got up to at work when no one was watching.  I've known bullies before and I know how quick they can be with their little jabs and jibes so that no one else other than the victim actually sees them.  Sometimes you only need turn your eye for a second and the bullying occurs, unwitnessed.

Also, it possibly isn't the best thing for a known paranoid schizophrenic to express concerns about "being set up."  It doesn't look good, not at all, at all.

Now, Billy wants to talk, he wants to explain, possibly he wants the staff to see it from his point of view, but most of all he wants these trained professionals to understand. (As attendees to my IEMT training will be familiar, these are strategies I seriously advise people who lack power to not do.  Ever.)

Of course, Billy lucked out.  As usual.

What he got was, "You looked distressed, Billy, have you taken your medication this morning?"

I learned from improv training that this is known as a "block."

Billy tries to argue that this isn't a medication issue, but it is too late.  The frame has been set and the power differential against Billy is simply too great to be beaten.  Billy reluctantly agrees to an extra "PRN" dose of a neuroleptic medication to "calm him down."

Order is restored and the status quo of power is maintained.

It was for these reasons that I usually refer to medication as madication.  Sometimes I hated psychiatry and sorely wished for an alternative.

Enter "tapping."

"Tapping" is touted as a "gentle" therapeutic tool that can resolve a huge array of human and non-human maladies, can operate remotely without the patient even being present and works like acupuncture without needles upon the bodies energy system.  It is also total bullshit.

But, whilst not obvious to many, this "therapy" does have a dark side.  If you want to see it for yourself, simply type "tapping" and "children" as a search term into YouTube.

Tapping is the tool of choice for dealing with children's anger by parents who have the tapping bug.  YouTube is filled with videos of strange men and strange women demonstrating their tapping prowess and how and where to get your children to tap if they get angry.

I'm with the legendary educationalist, John Holt, on this one.  As a child, when someone is hitting you with a stick, at least you know what is being done to you.  But when someone is giving you "therapy" the situation can be very confusing indeed, and possibly quite damaging.

I have seen too many occasions where madication is used oppressively by people with well-meaning intent, who remain ignorant about their actions.  Imagine the same situation where madication is simply replaced by tapping.  The outcome is the same.

Now watch this....

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Bastard Tappers

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone that has taken the time to email me, 'phone me and message me on Facebook regarding my recent blog entries on "tapping."

There are a number of themes to the messages, but the primary theme seems to be as follows: "Countless people have benefitted from tapping, including myself and I have seen people benefit from tapping with my very own eyes, so how can you say that tapping is bollocks?"

Well, that is quite easy. Tapping as a therapeutic modality is bollocks. So, how can I deny all the evidence? Why do I let a few "bad apples" spoil the field? Here's how. In the USA, many millions (4 to 8 million) of people believe that alien abduction is real.

Fewer, but still rather a lot, believe that they were themselves abducted by aliens.

Why do they beleive this? Well, because they have evidence. Many therapists believe that there is a massive global satanic conspiracy, brainwashing people with sexual abuse, satanic rituals, and freely use innocents as "brood mares" for their cults and so on.

This leads to MPD and DID, and whilst the law enforcement agencies worldwide fail to find any proof of such activities, these therapists succeed. They believe and they know. How? Evidence!

Countless people believe in God, and have killed in his name.

In past centuries, to reduce the level of mass killing, world religions have wisely tended to harmonise and agree that there is only one God, but he is known by many names. And how do they know this?


Huge numbers of people, such as David Icke, believe that there is a vast conspiracy, involving aliens, shape shifting reptiles, the Freemasons, the Illuminati and the banking system.

We are all being farmed for the conspirators' personal gains and agendas. How do they know this?


Man never landed on the moon, Neil Armstrong is a liar. How do we know? Evidence. Diana, Princess of Wales was killed by the Queen and MI6, there's a big man's face on Mars, the earth is hollow, aliens walk amongst us, the earth is only 4000 years old, evolution is a lie, Jesus died for our sins, 9/11 was an inside job and transcendental meditation can cut crime and teach you how to defy gravity and levitate.

In times of old many, if not most, people believed that the earth was the centre of the universe and that God made the universe to revolve around the earth.

Nay sayers were tortured and even tied to trees and set alight. Nasty business, but it was for the greater good. They had evidence, you see.

Witches, do I need to mention witches?

Lots of evidence there too and the believers squashed them under rocks and burned quite a few of them for good causes and always with positive intentions and clear consciences. I could go on, but I am sure you get the point.

One valid question came up though.

On an old webpage (I think from 2006, but I'm not too sure) on my main site I had clearly written:
"Learn and practice the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). Buy at least the basic training DVDs and practice daily. When done properly this is possibly one of the best treatments for anxiety I have come accross." 
It's true, I did write that, I even did believe that one time.

But then... I used to believe in the tooth fairy. Really, I did, because I had my own personal evidence. I used to believe in Father Christmas.

I believed in him too, because, well, not only was it apparently rather advantageous for me to do so, but I also had that all important evidence.

I never believed in the Easter Bunny - that always seems a bit stupid to me, even when I was little.

I used to believe in psychics and mediums.

Again, because I had that all important evidence. Add tapping to that list. But you know what?

What I find most impressive is the spite being expressed in my direction by a few Tappers who want revenge upon my very soul.

Apparently karma has been invoked in one quarter, legal action is being called for in another and my professional conduct is being discussed on a number of tapping forums.

The hit-rate on my website is at an all time high (really, it is, but I did expect that), so thanks for that guys. So it looks like I have upset the tappers.

It's like telling a bunch of school children that there is no Santa Claus this Christmas; he got crucified in the name of religion.

Yet another hypnotherapist

I cannot pretend anymore.  I am often embarrassed to call myself a hypnotherapist.  When socialising, for example at parties, business network meetings and so forth, I dread that question, "So, what you do?"  It was great when I worked in brain surgery and accident and emergency because the conversations used to go something like this:

"What do you do then?
    "I work in brain surgery."
"Ha!  Funny, so what do you really do then?"
    "No really, I work in brain surgery.  I'm a nurse, I work on the neurosurgical unit."
", that is amazing!"

And people usually were amazed too.  I'm not sure if they were amazed because I didn't seem the "type" (many of my former colleagues would probably agree that I wasn't) or because normal people don't think that other normal people do that kind of thing.  When I was a child, I lived opposite a man who was a Concord pilot.  I always used to imagine that conversations at school would go the same way for his son,

"What does your dad do?"
    "He flies Concord."
"Ha!  What does he do really?"
    "He flies Concord, really, he does."
"John, listen to this, Michael here reckons his dad flies Concord!  Hahahaha!"
    "Yes I know, that is because he does."

I think it might also be the rarity factor.  Not many people actually piloted Concord, not many people work in brain surgery.  Actually, from experience, not enough people work in brain surgery, but that is a different story.  Hypnotherapy meanwhile, well that is also a different story.  It was quite fashionable to be a hypnotherapist one time and it seems that you cannot go anywhere without bumping into one, or, for me at least, being introduced to one.  "Oh, you must come and meet Sylvie, she's a hypnotherapist too!"  Inwardly, I must confess, I groan.  I just know that me and Sylvie will have about as much in common as my pet rat, Minky, and Laura's Siamese Cat, Nai Ling.  Both are pets, right?

Hypnotherapists are bleedin' everywhere.

A quick experiment here - think the word "hypnotherapist" - what image springs to mind?  Chances are I don't fit it, but people many do.

Here are the most common types of responses I get from people:

- someone who knows about the mind and knows how to help people.
- someone who can put people into a trance and tell them to do things.
- the stage hypnotist making people think that they are Elvis or chickens or wotnot.
- someone with evil powers to control the mind of other people, so you better not look them in the eyes.
- someone who helps people stop smoking and increase confidence.
- well, they read scripts and try to get people to stop smoking.
- well, I saw one once, nice enough guy, but I don't think I was really hypnotised, it was expensive and didn't work.
- I saw one once, never touched a cigarette since.

One effect with so many hypnotherapists being around these days is that a lot of demystification has occurred, which for some may be a good thing.  Hypnosis isn't seen so much to be a mysterious force owned by an elite minority.  Ahh, how I miss those days, but as they say, nostalgia ain't what it used to be.  Now I need to find another way of being "special."  Maybe I should tap.

So, this week, I begin a tour of some of the more stranger aspects of what passes for "hypnotherapy".  This might be fun, because whilst tappers cannot agree on what constitutes proper "tapping" I find that hypnotherapists cannot really agree on what constitutes hypnotherapy. (I know this about tappers because I received more than just a few calls and emails from "professional" tappers saying that the examples I posted on earlier blog entries were not representative of what "professional therapeutic tapping" actually is.  Which is strange, because all the examples I posted came from people claiming to be representative of professional therapeutic tapping!)

The following are all things that can be classified as hypnosis:

- past life regression
- future life progression
- deep trance identification
- 6 step reframing
- abreaction therapy
- missing time exploration and regression for alien abduction
- plenary trance
- direct hypnosis/indirect hypnosis
- stage hypnosis
- street hypnosis
- hypnosis without trance

And within each of these, there are of course different schools of thought, an unbelievable number of "registration" and "accreditation" bodies and groups all claiming to be doing that all-too-important action of "promoting professional standards" and other such bullshit (few actually are doing anything like promoting standards, of course, most are just there to make money and claim status for their boards and panels and members).

Those who feel compelled to call me in anger need to know that I am in India at the moment, so you will need to wait until I get back.  If this proves to be a problem, email me and I'll connect you to some very good, upstanding and professional tappers who will know what to do.

A tonic for the troops?

Ever wondered what happen when someone doses a bunch of army guys with LSD?

Split Brain Patients

From Wikipedia: "The corpus callosum is a structure of the mammalian brain in the longitudinal fissure that connects the left and right cerebral hemispheres. It facilitates communication between the two hemispheres. It is the largest white matter structure in the brain, consisting of 200-250 million contralateral axonal projections. It is a wide, flat bundle of axons beneath the cortex. Much of the inter-hemispheric communication in the brain is conducted across the corpus callosum."

Curious things happen when this inter-hemispheric communication is interrupted...

Oliver Sacks - Charles Bonnet Syndrome

"Neurologist and author Oliver Sacks brings our attention to Charles Bonnett syndrome -- when visually impaired people experience lucid hallucinations. He describes the experiences of his patients in heartwarming detail and walks us through the biology of this under-reported phenomenon."

From Wikipedia: "Sufferers, who are mentally healthy people with often significant visual loss, have vivid, complex recurrent visual hallucinations (fictive visual percepts). One characteristic of these hallucinations is that they usually are "lilliput hallucinations" (hallucinations in which the characters or objects are smaller than normal). 

Sufferers understand that the hallucinations are not real and the hallucinations are only visual, that is, they do not occur in any other senses, eg: hearing, smell or taste. 

The prevalence of Charles Bonnet Syndrome has been reported to be between 10% and 40%; a recent Australian study has found the prevalence to be 17.5%. Two Asian studies, however, report a much lower prevalence. 

The high incidence of non-reporting of this disorder is the greatest hindrance to determining the exact prevalence; non-reporting is thought to be as a result of sufferers being afraid to discuss the symptoms out of fear that they will be labelled insane. 

Other symptoms include sufferers, who are predominantly female, complaining of electrical sensations in their perineum.

People suffering from CBS may experience a wide variety of hallucinations. Images of complex coloured patterns and images of people are most common, followed by animals, plants or trees and inanimate objects. The hallucinations also often fit into the person's surroundings."

"Inside Out lifts lid on North East's hypnotherapists"

I'm on the BBC in a regional program for the North East and Cumbria region.

From the BBC press release on the show:

"The show's investigation shows that while there are several hypnotherapy organisations none of them is regulated by law and there are no standard qualifications.

This worries hypnotherapist Andy Austin who blows the whistle on his own industry.

He says that internet forums are full of clueless hypnotherapists and says that: "People are often spending their money in good faith, believing that the person they are paying the cheque to is fully registered, fully qualified and is a proper professional."

The programme ends with some of the organisations with whom George the cat was registered applauding Inside Out's investigative efforts.

Yet, one organisation responds by saying that they don't check their applicants because they're just a member benefits company."


This video clip is interesting as it is a natural demonstration of what appears to be delusional behaviour.  The man speaking starts off relatively normal in his speech and affect, but begins to derail as he talks.

Tardive Dyskinesia

This is an extract from a training video for psychiatrists and medics.  It details involuntary abnormal movements.  It is worth noting that these movements are all drug induced, primarily by neuroleptic medication (i.e. anti-psychotic medication such as chlorpromazine, stelezine and so forth) and often do not resolve upon cessation of the medication.

These kinds of movements are often associated with "madness", but so few people realise that they are iatrogenic in origin (i.e. induced by the treatment, not the problem being treated) and serve to add immeasurably to the individuals problems.

Schizophrenia Interview

As I have posted previously, I have mixed feelings about videos such as these.  At one level I worry about the morality/ethics of displaying someone in such a way who is unlikely to understand the implications.  However, that said, I think that such videos are hugely valuable in helping people understand the nature of psychiatric problems such as schizophrenia.

NLP and Unemployment

Once again I might upset a few people here, but since I do it so well....  I'm going to make a claim.  It is a claim that is based purely on my observation and is true in some, but not all, cases.

Here's the claim:  NLP training can be a very fast way to unemployment.

Here is what I am seeing: In an field so obsessed with perfecting the map, so many seem to be ignoring the territory.

There.  Brash, isn't it, especially coming from myself who has recommended, and continues to recommend NLP training to so many people, has assisted some of the "names" in NLP, written a book that is reflective of NLP, and so on.

Yet I see so many people who have attended NLP workshops/trainings and then given up the day job expecting hoards of high-fee paying clients to form a queue at their door.  With several thousand of people having NLP training in this country every year, it is probably best not to believe the hype.  I have known one or two people who actually gave up their job first and then went to the NLP training with the high hope of the riches and wealth that awaits them.

The mistake is that whilst NLP can be taught, and for some, taught quite brilliantly in a short space of time, and the personal results achieved from this training can be immense and positively life changing, it doesn't alter the fact that building a thriving business is bloody hard work, requires a lot of man-hours and significant amounts of experience, understanding and knowledge that exists outside of a week-long NLP workshop.  Many people naively miss this important detail:  NLP might give instant results for many things, but it doesn't make the competitive market of economic forces conform to one's high hopes and ambition.

Expecting instant business success is a demonstration of poor business judgement and it leads to a very unfortunate situation:  A bittersweet army of armchair NLP experts.  An armchair expert always knows the ways things are and the way things should be, but they do not participate in any of those things themselves.  They consider themselves above all that.  They are practitioners without a practice.

The armchair experts are those who have attended training courses and not actually achieved anything different on the outside of their minds as a result of that training.  They may start attending further courses for personal development, or even in the hope that one day they will achieve success in the field, but none-the-less, they are now experts operating from a theoretical perspective.

They may turn into newsgroup regulars on the internet and garner some respect and status from the other newsgroup regulars as their opinions and attitudes harmonise and homogenise. They may seek and acquire internet enemies - person's whom they have never met, nor care to meet or converse with, yet about whom they know everything apparently, simply because that person - that enemy to the club - "is well known for that sort of thing".  Facts and evidence be damned, running with the wolves is a far superior type of fun and with it brings instant gratification.

Whilst `in-groups` form and `out-groups` form, their reality gets filtered, distorted and significantly bastardised.  An `in-group` has it heroes, an `in-group` has its enemies, an `in-group` has its own club-mentality and unspoken rules and etiquette.  Like a school-yard gang, the group is intolerant of anyone whom it sees as a threat to these club-rules and harmony and will attack as a single entity, as a seemingly well organised pack.

And along with this something significant begins to emerge: The illusion of status and the illusion of importance.  To the newcomer, it can seem impressive - a tight in-group, with established (yet informal) hierarchies, attitudes, all the grandiose titles....and an evident overwhelming sense of self-importance of the group.  It can be tough to join, even harder to get accepted, but still people want `in`.

Yet if one were to scratch beneath the surface, you might start to see some interesting patterns emerging - the unusual hours people keep (revealed by the times of newsgroup postings), the problematic mental health histories (which may not be all that historical for some), the drink problems (just look at their facebook photos, where many have endless photo after photo of drinking exploits and "great nights out", pictures that accidentally say to future employers, "Hey, I'm popular, I don't get drunk alone.") and back-patting, mutual congratulations and lashings of mutual intellectual masturbation.  

But you know what?  So many of these armchair critics and success coaches don't actually see any clients (because they found that the promised hoards and referrals never actually formed that queue at their door), and few have ever successfully run a training/workshop or offered any demonstration of their competencies beyond newsgroup postings.  Many are unemployed, and for all the hyperbole, so few have any actual experience other than attending workshops along with all the usual suspects.  But they are seen on the scene, and being seen by others is important.  It is an illusion of success.  It is a scene that says, "I am successful because I belong."

Lobotomy, Psychosurgery and Walter Freeman

This website is  packed with information on lobotomy, including case histories and personal experiences.

Here's a video about Walter Freeman and lobotomy, the stuff of nightmares:

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

IEMT in New York

2009 - I was in Manhattan, New York City.  A big bustling city and scene for pretty much every Hollywood monster and apocalyptic movie ever made.... and the host city for the IEMT workshop. The workshop was videoed by a UK video production company for future release on DVD.  These recordings are now available via the website. 

I have often wondered why New York City was known as "The Big Apple" and I have only just thought about finding out why.  Here's an extract from Wikipedia:

"The Big Apple was first popularized as a reference to New York City by John J. Fitz Gerald in a number of New York Morning Telegraph articles in the 1920s in reference to New York horse-racing. The earliest of these was a casual reference on May 3, 1921:

J. P. Smith, with Tippity Witchet and others of the L. T. Bauer string, is scheduled to start for "the big apple" to-morrow after a most prosperous Spring campaign at Bowie and Havre de Grace.
Fitz Gerald referred to the "big apple" frequently thereafter.  He explained his use in a February 18, 1924, column under the headline "Around the Big Apple":

The Big Apple. The dream of every lad that ever threw a leg over a thoroughbred and the goal of all horsemen. There's only one Big Apple. That's New York.

Two dusky stable hands were leading a pair of thoroughbred around the "cooling rings" of adjoining stables at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans and engaging in desultory conversation.

"Where y'all goin' from here?" queried one.

"From here we're headin' for The Big Apple," proudly replied the other.

"Well, you'd better fatten up them skinners or all you'll get from the apple will be the core," was the quick rejoinder...


I must thank Steve Andreas for drawing my attention to this brilliant short movie.

Watch it, show your friends.

Gabrielle Roth - 5 Rhythms

The much copied and imitated Gabrielle Roth. Sadly Gabrielle Roth died from lung cancer aged 71 in 2012.

Broca's Aphasia - Tono

Here is an interesting example of Broca's aphasia.

The unfortunate man in this video is unaware that he is only saying the sound "tono" - all of his non-verbal communication is congruent with the message he is trying to say, and the submodalities of his verbal communication are also present as far as the content ("tono") permits.

Towards the end of the video he is able to produce words for counting.

This is not unusual, and often Broca's aphasia patients are quite easily able to produced "pressured speech" often consisting of a swear word.

To understand more, please see the articles here:

Brain surgery - patient awake

The squeamish may prefer to look away, go make a cup of tea or email someone on Facebook instead of watching this video.

I worked in neurosurgery on the wards for some time in a fairly junior capacity, it was possible the most stressful job I have ever had and isn't something I would ever do again.  Not ever.  But I loved it and have good memories of my experiences there, and the dedication and expertise of my colleagues still inspires me today.

This video clip is impressive for a number of reasons - mainly the way the ongoing feedback of the patient helps direct the surgery and the calm manner of everyone involved, especially the patient. 


The Shit Sandwich

This week I have received two emails that reflect the Shit Sandwich – I got given some unsolicited and rather confusing “feedback.”

 I thought the shit sandwich had long gone, but then that might just be that I left the world of normal work some years ago.

I no longer have to deal with management reviews, 360 degree feedback, pointless planning meetings and the endless sensitivities produced by the complex and incomprehensible social politics of the corporate office environment.

In the health service, where clinicians deal daily with such things as spilt bodily fluids, MRSA, festering sores and those random turds that nurses find in strange places, feedback processes are somewhat different from the world of corporations.

Some might call them “coarse.” Health service feedback takes two forms.

1. Where person “A” has to give negative feedback to person “B”. Person “A” approaches person “B” in full view of everyone else and shouts directly at person “B” with as much belittling as possible. Person “A” and Person “B” never speak again. Everyone else gossips.

2. Where person “A” has to give negative feedback to person “B”. Person “A” utterly ignores person “B” and instead tells everyone else what a complete arse person “B” is. Person “A” and person “B” continue to socialise and act like best friends.  Everyone else gossips.

In the much more refined and dignified world of corporate, things are supposed to be different. More adult, more professional.

Or at least, according to schools of managerial systems things ought to be different; good clean communication is the name of the game.

Where communication is good, everyone is happy and we all profit, apparently.

Thus, introducing the shit sandwich:

1. say something nice and lovely about the victim to the victim.
2. tell the victim what an utter arse he is.
3. say something nice about the victim.

THIS ladies and gentleman is good and effective communication skill in action. It builds rapport and trust and eliminates all gossip as everyone is happy.


So, next time you enter the office to hear the words of, “Now, first, I’d like you to know how much we appreciate your unique perspectives…” you just know what is likely to come next.


This is a quick post.  It is regarding the seemingly never ending overuse of the word, "powerful" that coaches and therapists use to describe their techniques.

The technique is always "powerful" and quite often is also "secret", giving us, "the secret powerful technique."

It isn't of course.  Steam locomotives are "powerful"; Jet engines are "powerful"; a Barrett M82 is pretty powerful too.

But getting a person to shift a picture or two around inside their head or to recite a poxy affirmation is not "powerful."

Really, it isn't.

I cannot help but get the feeling that the desperate need to feel that their techniques are "powerful" and can cause harm as well as good, reflects the therapists need to feel and be important.

I wonder if the word powerful and its synonyms were made unavailable, how different the descriptions might be.

Submodalities in Language

This was something I posted on NLPWeekly a while ago.  Someone asked about matching/mismatching modalities and submodalities as a possible exercise atpracticeise group:

You may want to consider the submodalities that are expressed in language as well, this is commonly missed, even by many master practitioners I see...

Some people fail to focus in on a concept and see it really clearly.  The concept remains too far away from their understanding, and stays distant and outside of their frame of reference.  By sharpening their observation skills and becoming able to pay attention to the finer details they can find that their world is not quite as black and white as it might appear.

I once had a client arrive, in tears, who stated to me right from the off, "I want to separate myself from the memories of my husband, put them behind me and move forward in my life."  In Magic in Action, Bandler had the lady who "wanted to be able to get some distance from her problem" (or something pretty similar).  It is amazing how precise some people are when you ask them what they want.

Unfortunately the issue of mis-matching remains endemic in the field.

Imagine the following....

Client:  "I want to get some distance from my problem."
NLPer: "OK, now think of a really good time in your life and let's anchor that...."

Now that anchor would be really useful if the thing anchored involved a scenario whereby the client distanced the problem from herself.  But alas, my experience in NLP is that mostly these things go unconsidered.

Client:  "I need to get some clarity."
NLPer: "OK, let's do the swish pattern or the 6 step reframe!"

You get the idea.

Try this - get your submodality list and start noting down every verbal reference that reflects that submodality.

For example, size:

"It blew out of all proportion."
"He is so small minded."
"It's a big problem."

And so on.

Once you listen for them, you will hear them everywhere.

Be well,

Andy Austin

A New Psalm for NLP Practitioners

I need to have another little rant here.  There is a pernicious cliché afoot that is beginning to really irritate me, and just when I thought I’d seen the last of it, it keeps re-appearing fully accompanied by an ever-present level of crass ignorance and stupidity.

Yes, it is NLPer bashing time once again.

The best thing about the past is that it is over” seems to be the new mantra.  It’s another Bandlerism, quoted utterly out of the original context that has become one of the New Psalms of NLP Practitioners™.  I keep seeing it posted on people’s Facebook pages, often met with large numbers of “X likes this” and supportive comments written afterwards.

My guess is that these fools who post this don’t ever actually work with real living human beings as clients.  For so many troubled and emotionally/psychologically distressed people, the past is anything but over and to even suggest otherwise might really be rather insulting.

Here’s some simple examples:

One client was raped.  Her husband couldn’t cope with this, labeled her “soiled goods” and left.  She is now depressed, taking industrial strength psychiatric medication.  Oh, she also now has herpes.

Another client suffered the unexpected death of their child (he was 22 at the time of his demise).

That loss is unlikely to ever be “over”.

Someone else, who worked in a popular shop in a small town, worked up until a few days before the birth.  There were complications during the delivery and the child died a few hours later.  Now, everyone she meets who is unaware of this detail asks her how the baby is.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

When I was 19 and a nursing student, I had a brief placement on a mental health unit for a couple of days.  One of the ladies who was in her late 20’s that worked there was on her first day back after a prolonged absence following the accidental death of her husband (he was killed crossing the road).  It was a difficult day for this lady as it was, and it was made all that much more difficult when an apparently well-meaning older member of staff commented cheerfully, “Well, look on the bright side dear, at least you are young enough to get married again.

It was an awkward moment I shall never forget.

For so many people the past is not over – there are after effects firmly rooted in the past that will continue for the duration of life, and there are some problems that no therapy in the world is ever going to be able to fix. Also, to attempt to disconnect a person from their past in an attempt to improve a person’s existence in the form of “we are doing NLP, but it isn’t therapy” is hugely problematic and is ethically highly questionable.  It’s cult like.  It is sick.  Why not go the whole hog and get the client to change their name to “Star Child”, wear a white robe and disconnect from their family members altogether.

Oh fuck, isn’t that what so many long time NLP trainers/assistants are doing themselves already?  It certainly seems that way to me.

I might just start stocking up on the Kool-Aid.

It’s almost as crap as the gusto with which some NLPer-but-I’m-not-a-therapist go about using dissociation with traumatic events in the vain hope that everything will be fine.  I know I’ve said it before, but I think it worth saying again, that suffering and human experience goes far deeper than the quality of the pictures a person makes in their head.  It isn’t a difficult concept to grasp really, yet so many people exposed to NLP training seem to struggle with this.

There, my rant ends.  I fully expect to receive the usual round of “he’s attacking NLP again” (I’m not, and never have “attacked NLP” – but my frustration at so many of the practitioners of NLP that I meet is obvious to all, I think) followed by a short time delay before I see those very same people posting this as their own on some popular NLP forums as an original idea.

Tea or Coffee?

The “tea or coffee” bind is a very useful predictor for how well a session may go.  Whilst I use an offer of a hot beverage, any bind of alternative choices will do.

Here is how it works.  When the client arrives I quickly show them in, point out where the toilet is (many have traveled far) and offer “Tea of coffee?”

This is a bind of comparable choice.  I have not asked, “Would you like a drink?” which is a simple “yes or no” question.  The bind is to accepting a drink, and the choice is either tea or coffee.

Here are the possible answers that a person might give.
  • Tea.
  • Coffee
  • Neither thanks
  • No thanks
  • Oh, I’ll just have a glass of water please
  • Do you have herbal tea?
  • I’ll have whatever you are having
This might sound a bit daft, but the response that is given can be a remarkable predictor on how well the client session is going to go.  The person who accepts either tea or coffee will invariably be co-operative and engaging in the therapeutic process.  This doesn’t mean that they will be easy to “cure”, but certainly will be easy to work with towards that “cure”.

Not everyone drinks tea or coffee, and some, having traveled far and arrived early, may have just come from the café around the corner, but don’t want to reject what is offered.  These are the people who will say something along the lines of, “Oh, I’ll just have a glass of water, thanks.”

Independent thinkers will request an alternative such as “herbal tea.”  Nearly always, these are the clients who come to learn rather than be “therapised”, and will actively ask questions, discuss, argue and apply what they learn to themselves.

The people who say, “oh, I’ll have whatever you are having” have usually come to be therapised and look to be led and directed in their responses.

The client who rejects the offer outright will nearly always be the “difficult” client.  Difficulties emerge in their response sets along the lines of: 

Most answers to most questions begin with “I don’t know…”

When pressed, the client will just sit there silently, as though in deep inner contemplation, and then eventually look up and ask, “What was the question?”

“Yes, but…” is a common expression for them

“What if…” is their preferred style of questioning (“What if…” is a way of generating a counter example to any generalisation that is created)

Any responses that are given tend to be tangential (basically, they don’t answer the question)

The client will tend to focus on the performance of their therapists, past and present and offer critical reviews on these performances.  They can be very good at not talking about themselves but preferring to discuss the behaviours of others.

The client will expect the therapist to “fix” them without their own active engagement in any process.  This is what my colleague Nick Kemp refers to as “The Magic Wand Mind Set.”

In younger and more naïve times, I would attempt to do “therapy” in the face of all these behaviours.  It rarely went well.  Now, I will actively address these behaviours – address what is happening in the here and now, what is right in front of you.

In my book, “The Rainbow Machine” I give the example of the man with “low self-esteem” who thought he was unlikeable (he was pretty much right about that).  What his previous counsellor had missed, or ignored, this man’s ongoing behaviours, his dress sense, his level of hygiene, his hair cut (all of which were appalling) and instead chose to focus on the therapeutic goal of raising this unfortunate man’s self-esteem.  

Try this in your next client session.  Offer tea or coffee.  If the client rejects it, do this.  Say, “It’s not a choice.  Do you want tea or coffee?” and do this dead-pan, don’t be tempted to break the emerging tension.  This is difficult to do at first, as it goes against what so many of us do naturally.  I like to allow the tension to rise a little and watch how the client handles this.

Either the client will acquiesce, or a stand-off will emerge.  The stand-off takes as long as it takes.

Wherever possible, I like to get the stand off out of the way before the session begins proper.  It makes things much easier that way.

Problem Clients

I’ve been thinking about problem clients recently, as it is something I get asked about quite often by fellow therapists, especially those just starting out.  “How do you deal with problem clients?” is a common question so I thought I’d write it up as a blog entry so I have something to refer people to in the future.

The first thing to consider is just what is a problem client.  “Problem to whom, specifically?” is an important consideration point.

We need to differentiate between those clients who, despite all the help they are offered, fail to change, and those clients who are a royal pain-in-the-ass for other reasons.

It is common, especially amongst brief therapists, to view clients who fail to change, or who reject our methods, or argue with us as being a “problem” – they do not fit into the models of understanding of the therapist and thus not only damage our own fragile ego states, but also bugger up our success rates (or at least the success rates that we claim!)  My advice in these situations is that maybe the therapist ought to change their view on things a little.  Maybe from the client’s point of view, the therapist is a problem therapist, i.e. inexperienced, uncertain, lacking the relevant skill base and so on.  Or maybe, the client simply isn’t going to change, because that is just how they are.  NLPers hate that – “Everyone can be changed!” is something they like to claim.  I disagree.  I have met many people that are unlikely, or indeed are unwilling, to change their behaviour despite all the therapy, training and change work in the world.

I don’t see these situations as a problem, it is mainly a function of time.  The majority of people do change over time, clients as well as therapists.  And of course, experience can only be gained with time.  I tend to be very wary of people who like to hold someone’s lack of age and lack of experience against them.  I think it is a way of maintaining a fragile status position over other people.  I know a number of trainers who do this, and it isn’t a nice thing to do.   

Now, I am not talking about the classic, “You are not what we are looking for, we really require someone with more experience, maybe come back in a year or two” type of thing.  But I am talking about the, “You weren’t there back in 1984, you young whipper-snapper, so don’t try and tell me that….” Where the speaker uses the person’s age and experience level as a direct criticism of the person.  Age and experience are a function of time (and effort) and to a large degree are outside of the control of the person, so isn’t something that they can do much about.

For some difficult clients, much of the difficulty may result from simply a lack of experience.  Young, recently affected schizophrenics can have a very hard time in understanding and dealing with their symptoms.  They can become very confused, frightened and helpless quite easily.  Older, more experienced schizophrenics handle things quite differently, primarily owing to their level of experience.  This is true for so many psychological problems and conditions.

Thus, for me, a problem client is not a person who fails to conform to the therapist’s wishes and intents.

Here is a little list of things I see as a problem:
Incessant midnight phone calls
Mad or abusive text messages/answer phone messages
Turning up on the doorstep outside of appointment times
Unwarranted/inappropriate/nuisance complaints
Blaming the therapist for their own behaviours, alcohol/drug consumption etc.
Threats of violence, threats against property
Given the client group that I tend to work with, and the volume of clients I tend to see, I average one ‘serious’ problem a year and three lesser issues per year also.  These are rarely “serious” in a life threatening kind of way, but can prove problematic.  Over the years I have developed a number of strategies which prove effective in both minimising the number of problems but also dealing with them when they arrive.

Without any shadow of a doubt, the clients that generate the most problems are the drinkers/alcoholics.  Some will arrive slightly edgy and act as if they are simply looking for a reason to take offense at something I do or say.  I wondered if this was just me – after all, I’m not exactly known for my love-and-light approach to change work – but I have seen exactly the same behaviours in support group and other change work sessions I have observed.  The pattern, though, is consistent.  
The drinker who behaves in this way is the drinker who is not interested in giving up alcohol, but rather wishes to “control their drinking” - abstinence is not an acceptable outcome for them.  Now, others may well disagree, but personally, I think getting a problem drinker to a position of “controlled drinking” is not much different from trying getting a heroin addict to a position of “controlled heroin use.”

Now, at the first point of contact (usually email/’phone) I will put this proposition to the client with the drink problem, and the potential client who rejects this and demands that they get a service which enables them to have “controlled drinking” is not accepted as a client.  I wish them luck and move them on.  This reduced the number of problems significantly.  If I am not connected to the outcome that the client requests and the client is not willing to reconsider their outcome, then clearly it is foolish for me to try and work with them – I am the wrong therapist for them.

Another thing that reduces significantly the number of problems is demanding that the assessment form be filled in correctly.  The forms that get returned to me with only token information in the form of one-word-answers and no real information get rejected.  The client is sent the form back and asked to fill it in fully and correctly.  It interests me how one or two people will refuse to do this and simply either get angry or take a “oh, I can’t be bothered, forget it” type of attitude.  It is good to know this early on. Those clients do not get an appointment.

And another much less common thing is how many people do not put their address or contact details on the form.  Everything else gets filled in well, but not these parts.  Small detail, but important.  OK, I already have their details because I have sent them the form in the first place, but still, I send the form back asking for the form to be completed.

Most people are happy to comply.  One client responded with, “Why didn’t you do this for me?”  Whilst I don’t wish to `thin slice` here, but when I hear this, I suspect this attitude might extend into other contexts.

Alarm bells also ring when people reject all available appointments that are offered and instead insist on a time or day that is unavailable.  And I must say, I am pretty flexible with my appointment times.  Without an exception, every single time I shifted my schedule to suit a client in this way, I regretted it.  These are the clients who are either late or simply don’t show up, and then expect another appointment.

In the last 18 months only two clients have failed to show.  Both were people who wanted appointments on evenings where they were not offered and both were clients who I volunteered to see for free.  So, I booked out evenings for people who aren’t paying and then they don’t show up.  Not my preferred thing at all.

I am clear with my clients that if they are late, or fail to show up, I never offer a second appointment.  Both those clients complained about my lack of “caring.”

Two other indicators that I have found prove to be a 100% predictor of a “problem” client. (i.e. problem to me, not to themselves in terms of chronicity).

They arrive bearing a present and I have never met them before.
They reject the offer of tea/coffee/water.

People who arrive bearing presents or songs of praise for me on the first time we meet tend to make me nervous.  A pendulum will swing both ways and at the same speed.  People who buy favour will often withdraw it at the same speed.

Now whilst it isn’t common, some clients will arrive with a present and offer it at the end of the session.  Whilst they are paying a fee, some people will still feel a degree of debt.  So this isn’t the same as people who offer a gift at the beginning – it creates a mutual degree of appreciation and for many will help balance things out. At workshops, it isn’t uncommon for people to arrive with biscuits or cake to add to the refreshments table.  This is a good thing and, I’d just like to add, homemade fruitcake is my favourite.

Thus the client who arrives offering the gift puts me in a position of gratitude to them before we have even started.  It’s an interesting dynamic and from experience isn’t a good one.  It is difficult to maintain an attitude of gratitude and act in a therapeutic manner at the same time.  Gifts offered at the beginning of a session tend to act as a Trojan horse.  Be aware.

This has only happened once in the past two years, and the individual who did so went on to make numerous late night phone calls, abusive text messages, threats against property and unpleasant emails and Facebook messages.

My advice to anyone on the receiving end of such action is to respond only once asking what the problem is.  This gives the person an opportunity to properly record what their grievance is.  For some people there is no reason, they just enjoy being aggrieved – it’s their thing - and so are unable to tell you exactly why they behave in this way.  

Cease all further communication and simply record in hard copy where possible all evidence of the abuse.  I keep impeccable records of such actions.

Therapists tell me that they worry about being sued by such individuals – maybe as a therapist they did or said something wrong during the session to provoke such a reaction.  Well, it would make for an interesting court case, don’t you think?

“You see, it is like this your Honour, I didn’t like what the therapist said to me, so yes, I threatened him, send abusive messages, harangued and generally acted like an asshole for the past 6 months.  Now, I want you to award me some compensation.”  

The other predictor is whether the person accepts the offer of “tea or coffee?” when they arrive.  I’ll save this for another blog entry, but basically, at the first offering the person receives, they reject it.  It tends to set the precedent for how the session will go subsequently.

Time is pressing.  The sun is shining and I have a busy day off ahead of me so will add more later.

In Defence of The Right Man

Following various feedback regarding my “Right Man Syndrome – Depressive Thinking Patterns” article, I thought I’d write the patterns from the Right Man’s perspective.  For this, we need to invoke the concept of "The Maybe Man.”

In contrast to Right Man, the “Maybe Man” is usually gregarious with good social skills and is, more often than not, popular with others.   People tend to feel safe and un-judged around the Maybe Man – the Maybe Man is the “nice guy”, he’s the great friend to have, but he also is the great friend who is also somewhat unreliable. 

So these are the patterns of the Right Man, redefined:

Pattern #1 – “There Are No Shades of Grey” – Making Decisions and Sticking with Them. 

With this pattern we see that moderation and mediation are not permissible.  Everything is either one thing or another, anything in between is simply not allowed.

Of course it is this way.  The main problem with people is that they make terrible decisions and dither about.  “Maybe Men” are everywhere and “Maybe Men” are not only low achievers, but they also tend to infect others with their ineptitude – especially when we have to rely on them for something.

Inhabiting a never-ending shade of grey, The Maybe Man says things like:
"I’ll try…"
"I might do that…"
"I’ll do that later…"
"I really should get around to doing that…"
"I kind of think that I might possibly get around to doing that sometime…"
The Maybe Man is the man who says he’ll do something (possibly), but then “forgets” to do it.

It is this infection with ineptitude that Right Man seeks to avoid.  Whilst the Maybe Man is fundamentally a low achiever who doesn’t get things done, the Right Man is the high achiever who makes sure that things get done, 100% of the time.

When Right Man makes a decision, you know it can be relied on.   So, whilst Right Man may exist in a world where everything is either black, or it is white, the Maybe Man exists in a world that is a never ending shade of grey. It's all rather inefficient really. 

In short, the Maybe Man lacks ability to commit to responsibility and decision.  

He “forgets” whereas Right Man can see that in fact it isn’t that the Maybe Man “forgot.” No! It is that the Maybe Man never bothered to remember.

Right Man knows that to tolerate too many Maybe Men can be disastrous in a business/company situation. Maybe Men can never be relied upon for anything, unless one wishes to accept the risk of disappointment.  They need careful management and to be told to pay attention to detail.  Repeatedly.

Pattern #2 – “Remembering How Others Fail” – The Rule of Permanency. 

The Right Man knows that whilst people may get older, they rarely change their trait behaviours.  Recurring patterns occur in people’s lives everywhere and Right Man knows what these patterns are – he looks for them.  As the high achiever who gets things done, knowing how other people fail is an important consideration.

Right Man knows that how a person performs on the golf course, for example, may demonstrate well how he will perform in business.

There is the famous “marsh mallow” test (Ref: Walter Mischel).  The marshmallow test goes like this:  A four-year-old is shown a small room that is empty except for a little chair and a table.  A marshmallow is placed on the table and the child is informed that he will be left alone for four minutes.  If the marshmallow is still there when the researcher returns, the child is rewarded with another one.  If the child eats the marshmallow, which he may do, after all, the marshmallow is now his to own, then he doesn’t get another one after 4 minutes.

The results are remarkable – the “one marshmallow children” –i.e. those that choose to eat it without waiting, will invariably grow up to have a low life success index (i.e. high rates of mental health issues, criminal convictions, imprisonment, divorce and so forth).  The “two marshmallow” children invariably grow up to be successful, high income, low levels of divorce and so forth.

The marshmallow test is an incredibly accurate predictor.

As an astute observer of people (remember, Right Man rarely participates – he is too dissociated for that) the Right Man sees this marshmallow test in action every day, just in different forms (see below).

Pattern #3.  “You Have Ruined Your Life” – Catastrophisation. 

In NLP terms, this is an extreme form of “chunking up”.  

This chunking up pattern is very important if Right Man is to ensure things are a success.  For example, if an employee can even be relied upon to make a decent cup of tea, can he really be relied upon to draw up a watertight contract?

When the “Maybe Man” says, “Sure, I’ll try to remember to bring your book back tomorrow.” Only to state the following day, “Oh, I am sorry, I forgot.”  Can he really be relied on for anything?

For Right Man, identifying small signs of failure and ineptitude enables him to identify the patterns of failure and to chunk up, and, map-across context.  Again, how the man performs on the golf course; or simply making the tea; or eats marshmallows can reveal much about the man.
Pattern #4.  “I Know You Better Than You Know Yourself” – Superior Knowledge.

Right Man knows well that when the Maybe Man says he “might” do something, he probably won’t.  He also knows that when Maybe Man says he “might” do something - the Maybe Man actually believes that he will.  In this scenario, Right Man really does know Maybe Man better than he knows himself. 

Pattern #5.  “I’m Only Doing This For Your Benefit” – Acts of Selfless Duty. 

Unlike Maybe Man, Right Man possesses a strong sense of duty.  When he says he will do something, he will, even if the execution of the task is rendered difficult or goes unappreciated by the other person/people.

Thus Right Man is often found in high pressure, high-stress jobs and careers, where there is little thanks and little gratitude.  Few others would tolerate or put up with the pressures willingly – Right Man’s sense of duty enables him to place the responsibility into a frame that enables him to endure where others wilt and fail.

Pattern #6.  “Just Deserts.  Trapped By Your Own Words” – Linguistic Wizardry. 

The Right Man is adept at tracking another speaker’s words and will look for the slightest contradiction and then exploit it.  The Rule of Permanency is also invoked, so any contradiction expressed over time is also pointed out.  So something expressed last year that is contradicted today will quickly be brought to the speaker's attention.

If nothing else, Right Man is dependable, if somewhat predictable.  This is how he is successful over time.  Maybe Man, with his poor decision strategy, unreliability and non-commitment over time tends to be less successful, but he does dream.  What Right Man hears, and thus expresses, is the significant difference between the Maybe Man’s dream and his actual reality.  Right Man tends not to be so much a dreamer - rather he is the doer. Action rarely relies on talking about it endlessly, just get on with it. 

Pattern #7. “The End of The Matter” – Finalisation. 

This is easily identified in The Right Man by a number of catchphrases that all exhibit the same characteristic: The Right Man has the habit of ending conversations.  Given the drivel he has to listen to – the non-decisions, the ambiguities, the hopeless dreams that will never be actualized, and so forth, we really should not be surprised.

As in pattern #6, action rarely relies on talking about it endlessly, people just need to get on with it. 

Often, Right Man can hear the lack of ability to be decisive in the logic of the person speaking – the speaker may be caught in an endless logical loop that doesn’t have an exit point (a bit like the “yes, but, what if…...then…” loop) and Right Man, being decisive, seeks to prevent the speaker talking to the detriment of himself. 


I first came across the term “catastrophisation” many years ago in a conversation with a clinical psychologist at Southampton General Hospital. I understood that it is a concept often explored in CBT client work.

Basically, it is making mountains out of molehills. Not an entirely uncommon thing to happen, but it is something that can prove to be rather problematic. Of course, some of these molehills can themselves be rather problematic in the first place, but the process of catatrophisation is rarely helpful on top of these.

In “The Rainbow Machine…” I gave an example in the chapter on Right Man Syndrome of the father who told his son that he had “ruined his life” simply for getting a tattoo. The 19-year son hadn’t really ruined his life; he’d simply got himself tattooed. Now, had he got a swastika tattooed on his forehead, shaved his head and joined the local Nazi cabal, then possibly his father may have had a point. But of course, the fellow Nazi’s may not agree with that at all. Some things are just a matter of perspective.

The level of catastrophisation is undoubtedly proportional to the intensity of the feeling the offended party.

The stronger the offended party feels about the issue, the greater the level of catastrophe.
Catastrophisation is also a pattern that can be applied to self. Just last week I had a client say to me, “I might as well die if I do not pass this exam.” Pretty catastrophic reaction she had planned there – fail exam, then die (or apply it’s nearest equivalent).

She is not alone. I often hear similar phrases uttered by clients, such as:
“It’s the end of the world….”
“My world came to an end that day.”
“Everything collapsed around me.”
“My life is a complete shambles.”
“My sex life is a disaster.”
“It kills me to see her this way.”
“It’s destroying everything.”
And so on.

Much of this phraseology is an expression of the level of emotional intensity the person feels, but I often wonder how much of this emotional intensity is in part due to the story the person is telling themselves about the relevant events.

Now personally, I’ve seen genuine catastrophes. I know what they look like. I am reminded of the horror that was a full laden bus falling off a road and down an incredibly steep and deep ravine in Nepal. Knowing that we were helpless to offer aid to any unlikely survivors and knowing that formal rescue would be several hours away the situation was as bad as it can get. Curiously, one of the distressed onlookers uttered out loud, “Why does this always happen to me?” I couldn’t help but think that nothing had actually happened to her, it had happened to those other poor souls lying broken and dying at the bottom of the ravine.

But this wasn’t the story as she experienced it. She evidently was measuring the situation by her emotional reaction to it, and I’m guessing she was no stranger to such events. I did make a mental note not to get back onto the same mini-bus as her though. No point in tempting providence, I say.

I also remember the daily personal catastrophes that I saw when working in Accident and Emergency. Most of those people brought into us never expected their day to end the way it did. Fortunately most people survive and recover, whilst some die and others live on, but in such a radically changed way that things are never the same for them again. I’m thinking here of some of the burns victims, people who lost large portions of their body, serious genital injury, serious facial disfigurement and of course irreversible brain damage. Some are the sole survivor of their family or friends; others survive knowing or believing that they were the cause of their deaths. Things change and not always for the better, and some, but not all, never recover any form of meaningful existence or happiness following the catastrophic event, despite all the hope and help and treatment on offer.

Their remaining life is one of suffering and their death is one of merciful release. It can be grim, very grim indeed.

I’ve personally seen people living in the slums in India and Africa, foraging as best they can on the municipal rubbish dumps, or selling their bodies on the streets, or finding themselves owned and exploited by gang masters and organised crime. For so many people, life is an unremitting daily horror.

Helpless to do anything about any of this, the best comfort I offer myself is that at least this is not happening to me; it is happening to someone else. Not an entirely Christian outlook, I must confess, but I do what I can. Which, admittedly, isn’t very much at all.

It is with all this in mind then that I receive the news from some clients that their life is some kind of personal catastrophe when in fact all that is really happening for so many of them is that they don’t feel all that great. The fact that the story they tell is one of catastrophe usually implies helplessness and the need for rescue.

One psychiatric client of mine, a middle aged lady, had recently embarked on an all new anorexic adventure. Previously she has tried alcoholism, but that hadn't really agreed with her, she'd also tried out self-harm in the form of cutting, but found that much too painful. A subsequent skin infection leading to a dose of cellulitis put an end to that nonsense.

She sat down opposite me and appeared keen to impress me with how ill she was. Thus began the catastrophisation, “What you need to understand,” she told, “is that the anorexia is destroying everyone around me.” I nearly choked on my tea as I declared, “Everyone?! Holy shit! Do I need to be afraid?”

She laughed at this and told me that she didn't mean everyone. She meant her family. I started to break this down further.

“Why exactly do I need to understand this?” I asked her, which was met with a rather blank look. “You see, you began this by saying, 'What you need to understand is that the anorexia is destroying everyone around you.' Why me?”

The blank look continued.

“And you also refer to the anorexia like it is some kind of creature. And I must I say, I have just got to tell you this. The fact that you are not eating very much isn't likely to be destroying anyone at all. Well, you might be getting a bit thinner and saving money on food bills and stuff, but really, destroying people? Give me a break!”

And before she could protest I ushered her back out of the door.

In working with patterns of catastrophisation, a reality check may well be in order. But I have noticed that therapists often catastrophise too. I have lost count of how many inexperienced therapists ask me the classic question, “What if that client went and killed herself?”

I must get asked this question at least once a workshop and also once a month by email. I even had a psychiatrist email me once, who, having read my book emailed me to intimate that she thought that I probably left a trail of corpses everywhere I went.

I think I might have noticed if this was the case. It did leave me wondering what it must be like being a patient in her hospital ward. Tightly bound in cotton wool, “ward policies” and straitjacketed with sufficiently neuroleptics to remove all sense and reason? In some places, no-one flees the cuckoo's nest - too many rules preventing such an action.

When therapists catastrophise, there are two main patterns at play. 1. They significantly overestimate the level of influence they can exert upon people, and 2. They tend to view people as woefully fragile and rather dependent upon therapy for any form of mental functioning and future.

This leads to an interesting game: Delusions of grandeur. Delusions of grandeur are often thought of as being in the positive, i.e. the person may believe he is the king of the world, a grand duke, Jesus, or some God-like figure and so on. But delusions of grandeur can also be negative, i.e. the depressive who believes, “everything is my fault!”, “everyone hates me”, “they are all out to get me” and so on. It is rather grandiose to assume that people care all that much about them.

Victims often think this way too. It is quite understandable of course. The victim may well be quite pre-occupied with morbid thoughts of their aggressor, and of course, assume that their aggressor is equally as pre-occupied with thoughts of the victim. But of course, this isn't always the case.

Many therapists think the same way about their clients and patients. Yet so many clients and patients don't give their therapist a second thought in between sessions. “But I never hear from them again,” is a lament I hear so often from therapists when discussing client follow up. I have a particular problem when clients call me up on the phone for follow up. I often have to frantically type in their details to pull up the summary to remind me who they are. I have often thought about asking clients to send me a recent photo of themselves along with the assessment form to make my life easier, but think this might be seen as a bit odd. I know I would if I were a potential client.

Here's a the game of Delusions of Grandeur. Just do a google search to see it played out on the internet.

My whole life is ruined
I might as well be dead
I'd be better off dead
My whole world has collapsed
I've reached the end of the road
I've wasted my life
I have no future
...and so on.

Get the life you want
You can have unlimited freedom
Be the best you can be
Apply the law of attraction to change your world
Make a world of difference
Set your self free and live the life you choose
Have unlimited power
...and so on.

And somewhere in the middle of no-man's land the place I so often find myself in my line of work, I hope there is some reality that I can actually work with.

419 Nigerian Scam

I’ve just spent a few minutes Googling on the words, “NLP career.”  It is interesting how many training companies are offering their services from the sales angle of `NLP as a new career.”  Nothing new of course, but the question I have is, just how many of these companies are themselves actually making any money?  I think not many.  Not many at all.  Of course I use the word “company” loosely here as most are only company in name, in actual fact they are either sole traders, or like me, an incorporated limited company for tax and insurance reasons with a staff of one or two family members.

Still, at least once a week I get the email enquiry that takes the form of, “I want to be an NLP practitioner, who should I train with and how do I get clients?”  My heart sinks every time.  How do I explain to the person that they won’t be making themselves self employed, but that they will most likely become unemployed.  The difficulty is, that I am one of the few voices that suggests that there is not much of a market or profit in “being an NLP practitioner” as a profession, or as so many NLP companies seem to refer to it, “a career in NLP.”

With so many websites making similar claims, promising a “new and rewarding career” and creating the illusion of their own success (and believe me, for the majority it is an illusion) I can understand why to the naïve observer it may look rather convincing.

To me, all these claims are beginning to sound a lot like the 419 scams.  Each day, I get about a dozen emails from Nigerian barristers, lawyers, generals, former ministers and religious leaders who all want to make me rich.  All I need to do is send them my personal details and then later send them loads of money.  

The themes are consistent and the never ending onslaught of grandiose claims is quite impressive.  Some person, connected to someone important, has something very important that will change my life.  But what this [somewhat large] number of persistent individuals have managed to do to the long-term prospects of a large African nation is yet to be seen.  I doubt that it will be good.  Not at all.  I mean, even if a legitimate opportunity arose, I would be very reluctant to be involved.  Wouldn’t you be?  If I were Nigerian I'd be very concerned indeed.

Now, along with the Nigerian mail I receive a similar volume of crap from NLP companies. The theme is fairly consistent – some person, connected to someone important has something very important that will change my life; great wealth, or great health, or great happiness, or great dreams and so on.  

Basically the message is simple – I’m not aware of it, but actually my life sucks and only through the power of NLP will my life improve.  I can be rich, I can have the future that I could only have dreamed of, I can have better relationships, and I just be better.  And all I need to do is click here or there, and go to this or that webpage, enter my details, watch the free download, send some money and the process will begin.  The 419ers would be proud.  As someone who used to consider himself an NLPer, I find this very concerning indeed.

Your new career in NLP can begin as long as you remind yourself, “When things get difficult, remember: there is never failure, only feedback.”  With this kind of logic, how can it possibly go wrong?

So here are a fairly random selection from that Google search (all spelling as in the original):

"When you successfully complete this training you will be Certified as an NLP Practitioner and a Certified NLP Coach."

"Think about it -- you don't have 2 weeks or even 28 days to become a certified NLP Practitioner, so do it in just 7 days!!! Become an NLP Coach today!

“Make a Difference-Make a Name-Make Money.”

“This NLP Practitioner has the ability to transform your life. Once you have completed your NLP Diploma you are qualified to apply for a place on the NLP Practitioner.”

“Can I take an NLP Practitioner Training course in just 7 days?  Yes!... Of Course You Can!  NOW Get Four Certifications in ONE! Use these technologies to accelerate your career or begin a new one!”

“Discover Skills that will Transform your World Forever! Change Career, be an NLP Coach.”

“NLP Practitioner Training is recognised as pre-eminent in the Personal Development field. It can also be the beginning of a very rewarding journey of personal and professional development. Towards the end of the program we cover aspects on setting up an NLP / Coaching practice.”

“The course will provide practical experience of how you can use NLP in your personal life or career. You will be able to use the skills learned to work with others assisting change in their lives be it in a new career as NLP Practitioner or enhancing your present career.”

“If you want to develop an NLP based career, or enhance your income by doing NLP work, this course is for you. Many past attendees are enjoying the commercial benefits of taking this training.”

“NLP gives you the tools to take on more of the world, and Life Coaching and Hypnotherapy enable you to be a self-employed professional.”

“What can we do for you? A fantastic new career in hypnotherapy and NLP? How would you like to use hypnotherapy and NLP to help others change their lives in 2010? If you have ever helped someone else, either by giving advice or lending a sympathetic ear, then you know how incredibly rewarding that experience can be. Wouldn’t it be nice to get paid for helping others? With our hypnotherapy training – you can!”

“Here is a cost-effective way to launch your new or enhanced career in NLP, working as a Therapist, a Coach, a Life Coach, a Trainer, a Teacher, an NLP Practitioner.”

“With NLP Practitioner certification you can develop a new career assisting people to make changes and removing phobias and limiting beliefs) you can also achieve new levels of communication and excellence in your relationships, careers or any other area of your life.”

“Begin your new career in Life Coaching or Business Coaching and make a great living helping others succeed using the proven coaching technology of NLP…..”

“Coaching has been named one of the top home businesses of the century. You can enjoy the financial rewards and personal fulfillment of owning your own business while making the world a better place.
Do you want to learn and embody the skills to create a new life, new beginning and a new career!
We can help you develop a whole new career helping others through our comprehensive, prestigious and affordable courses in London
If you’re looking for a change in career, or a way to supplement your current income…
  • The BIGGEST secret to marketing yourself as an NLP Professional
  • Why NLP is growing more quickly than ever, and demand for NLP Professionals is at an all-time high!
  • How to turn your passion into your profession and start your own successful NLP business.
  • How you can earn a fantastic living as a self-employed full or part-time NLP Professional
  • The top five ways that new ‘NLPers’ build their business and the 'trade secrets' of the professionals
...And much more about how you can make a very good living from NLP!
"A qualified and motivated NLP Practitioner can easily charge upwards of £200 per client and make in excess of £50,000 per year"

“Become a Practicing Professional NLP Coach.
You will be able to start a new career that you are passionate about. Discover the wonders of being your own boss. Enjoy and embrace the personal satisfaction in starting and running your own Practice. You will experience unlimited personal success and fulfillment from helping others whilst earning a comfortable living all at the same time.”

“At [….] school of NLP you get so much more than a professional qualification as an NLP Coach or Hypnotherapist, you get much needed support in starting your new business or advancing your current career.”

“Life Coaching, Hypnotherapy And NLP Careers
Are you interested in building a new career for yourself that gives a lot to others as well?”

“Become the Best You Can Be Become Qualifed and Build A Successful Business working from home Seriously change your current lifestyle and income level - Help others create a fabulous prosperous lifestyle while being paid abundantly - Are you ready and able? Begin now…”

“Looking for a new career as an NLP Trainer?”

“Whether you wish to pursue NLP as a new career, or simply integrate NLP into your work and home life, we will support your goals 100%.”

Now, at least one dimwit is going to complain about me.  I know it.  They often do.  “There he goes again, that Austin,” they will say, “he’s slagging off NLP again. Damn him!” Well, no.  I’m not actually.  My position has not changed – I still think NLP is one of the most useful skill sets around. 

It is the behaviour of so many of the practitioners of NLP to which I refer.

And others will complain along the lines of, “But we run NLP courses and we never tell people to give up their day jobs.”  All I can say to this is great, thanks for that.  Really.  I only wish more did the same.

Positive Influences

I've been asked a few times recently what have been the positive influences on my work and philosophy, and what things I recommend.  Here are some of those things, people, workshops and books, etc.  This list is in no particular order and is by no means exhaustive.

R.D. Laing.  Basically everything written by R.D. Laing.  I devoured his work in my late teens and his work still influences much of what I do today.

Charles Faulkner.  His work on metaphors of movement is the single biggest influence on my client work. 

Thomas Szasz.  In his early work before his involvement with the CCHR, Szasz presented an excellent argument against the accepted principles and practices of psychiatry.

Frank Farrelly.  I was lucky to have read Frank's book, "Provocative Therapy" before I had ever heard of NLP.  So many NLPers I meet seem to think that Frank Farrelly's PT work evolved out of NLP rather than the other way around.

Nick Kemp.  Nick is the embodiment of Frank's work and has successfully decoded the PT model into a readily teachable format and trainable skill set.

Joseph Riggio's "Mythoself" work.  When I first attended a Mythoself program, my reaction was less than positive.  I think I might have been "the problem child" of the group - I didn't get it.  Then three days later whilst working with a client it "clicked."  I've been an advocate ever since.

Geoff Burch.  Regarding self-employment and Going It Alone, Geoff is a realist, funny and the real deal when it comes to self employment advice.  Buy all of Geoff Burch's books, just do it.

John La Valle.  John La Valle's "Sales and Marketing" workshop was so good I did it twice.

Bandler and Grinder.  Pretty much everything they co-wrote.

Gregory Bateson.  "Steps to an Ecology of Mind" is easily one of the favourite ever books, I think I have read it 4 or 5 times now.

Pretty much everything by Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson, the Subgenius group and John C. Lilly.

Paul McKenna.  McKenna's CD, DVD and book products are consistently of an exceptional standard and it is clear to see why in the UK he is the market leader in hypnotherapy products and training.

Steve and Connirae Andreas.  Pretty much everything they wrote, as well as Connirae and Tamara Andreas', "Core Transformation" work.

V.S. Ramachandran.  Ramachandran's work in neurology is ground breaking, especially with regards to his work in treating phantom limb pain.  Also, on a neurological theme, Oliver Sacks, Harold Klawans and Joseph LeDoux.

Milton Erickson.  I was lucky in that Southampton University used to have a lot of Erickson's "monographs" and transcripts of his small group seminars.  Brilliant.

Aleister Crowley.  I was part of a number of Qabalistic groups for a few years throughout my 20's and studied and practiced pretty much all of Crowley's work, along with Israel Regardie, Dion Fortune and other Golden Dawn writers.  Later I found the work of the "Chaos Magicians" including Peter Carroll and Phil Hine.

Jack Trout and Al Ries.  Their work on marketing and branding is without equal.
More to follow….