Wednesday, 24 May 2017


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 catastrophisation is rarely helpful on top of this.

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. 

A while ago I had a client say to me, “I might as well die if I do not pass this exam.” That's a pretty catastrophic reaction she had planned there – fail exam, then die (or apply its 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, dead 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 given her choice of word 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, but 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 gangmasters 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 sufficiently with 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
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 preoccupied 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 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 yourself 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.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Dial 419 NLP Nigerian

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 up to several 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 on 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 or a resident of Nigeria 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 is a fairly random selection from that Google search (all spelling and grammar are as per 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 learnt 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…Including:
    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 and trainrs 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.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The Map is Not The Territory?

I must be getting old, either that or I am just getting tired. I've seen it happen to relatives and their peers who take up political causes, rage at the television news debates, get angry at the behaviour of the youth and lament for the nostalgia of times gone by. So I think I am definitely getting older. I'm also growing a bit weary.

That said, rant mode is now engaged. Again.

Whilst I know of a number of life coaches who are most excellent, are very successful in life and successful in their field, I'm getting a bit tired of receiving emails from “life coaches” making grandiose claims for their skills at coaching people to be successful, yet they want me to advise them on how to get actual clients.

Unemployed “life coaches”? Gimme a break.

Pardon my skepticism, but I can't help but think that most life coaches are simply people who don't want to work and would rather want to get paid riches by encouraging other people to do the work instead. Unemployed “life coaches” are surely a joke if ever I heard one, and I sincerely hope, merely a passing fad.

I've also seen 20-something-year-old “life coaches” advertising on their websites services for up to £5000 per session (yes, really). How they get the idea that this is realistic is beyond me, and if anyone were to be so foolish as to sign up for such coaching, well, fools and their money will be rapidly parted; although it seems not nearly often enough for most struggling life coaches.

However, one can only wonder what sort of problematic life a person actually has in the first place in order to have £5000 ready to hand over for some “life coaching.” Five grand could actually be quite a good investment though, but a lot depends on just who you are paying it to. I did half an 'O' Level in cookery (I think they called it “Home Economics”) when I was a teenager and have attended a number of business courses. If you need coaching for a restaurant business, you could come to me.

I'll be delighted to help if you pay me five grand. In fact, I'd be really, really delighted. Or you could pay to go and see that rude man from the television who has probably never done a life coaching training in his life. Much of the value comes down to the experience level of the person you pay the money to, not who they did their coaching course with – which is contrary to what every life coach that writes to me seems to believe.

Meanwhile, I'm especially appalled by NLPers on newsgroups who flippantly advise “the fast phobia cure” for other people's clients who may be suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as though the suffering of victims goes no deeper than the quality of the pictures that they make.

Based on a few books and possibly a week long training course, a few self-appointed experts in human excellence profess to understand the situations facing combat veterans, war refugees, torture victims, victims of crime and so forth. So rather than suggesting the newsgroup enquirer refers the client to someone more competent, the advice proffered takes the form of, “just dissociate them” and is cited so commonly as to have almost become a mantra used to relieve the most serious examples of human suffering. Bastards.

The effect that this can have is that it trivialises what is otherwise an excellent tool set for anyone working in the change-work and people-helping professions. I credit the development of “the fast phobia cure” as one of the most important landmarks in psychological therapies. The FPC is a fairly dependable and replicable process that demonstrates unequivocally that mental and personal change is both possible and practicable. It seems strange these days, but it was not so long ago that other self-appointed experts in human psychology suggested that such mental change was not at all possible. Things such as the FPC changed all that of course, and for that, I am truly grateful.

What was innovated and begun by Bandler and Grinder is remarkable and created a massive evolutional leap in the field of improving the experience of being human for so many people who's experience would otherwise have been less than desirable. It created a field that enabled a number of spin-offs, creating new areas of research and development in human communications, psychology, therapies and so on that have benefited significant numbers of people. How wide then the gulf then between the practice and so many of the practitioners. Yet it seems that it is “NLP” that gets slammed by the viewing lay-public, not the practitioners themselves.  This is a real shame.

To be clear - when the local math teacher gets caught dogging in the local car park, no one criticises or blames the field of mathematics.  When someone's complicated mathematical theorum gets disproven, the field of mathematics isn't invalidated, just that particular aspect of it.

So, whilst the technology is one thing, some of the practitioners can be something else entirely.  I do tend to get quite angry with NLPers waxing lyrical on their blogs and Facebook accounts how they are so excited to have “another client to play with – who says change work has to be boring” (genuine quote) and other such appalling and smug condescension, often to the expressed glee of their fellow NLPers. I can only wonder how the naïve client would feel, who upon booking an appointment with someone they naively believe to be a professional, finds that their appointment is being used as an idle boast and status grab on social networking sites.

A similar game exists amongst psychotherapists who compete to gather status by seeing what they believe to be the most serious client group.  Some will fixate on child sexual abuse, others on PTSD, others on personality disorder, multiple personality and so on.   Stories get exchanged about how extreme the "cases" are and the "interesting cases" get brought into the conferences and dislayed to the voyeuristic masses.  It's a strange world like that in psychotherapy.  In nursing, I noticed that pretty much everyone agreed that cardiology was "superior" to elderly care, and general medicine was somewhere between the two, but no one could really agree whether neurosurgery was more or less superior than cardiology.  The pediatric nurses weren't really regarded as nurses, just like midwives.

And talking of social networking sites, why do so many male NLPers, who also use their profiles to try and promote themselves, fill their profiles with endless photos of themselves drinking and being drunk. I've seen a couple who have pictures of themselves rolling what is clearly a marijuana joint and smoking bongs.

It seems that some NLPers have a tendency to measure success by how good they feel and suffer an intolerable need to demonstrate how just great they feel at every opportunity, even if feeling great is artificially induced by chemical means. I wonder if these are the same arseholes who shout in the street on Friday and Saturday nights after the pubs close, advertising their states of mind to anyone who cares to listen. Surely they can contribute to humanity and learn to stay in and express themselves more quietly on blogs instead?

I come from a professional clinical background (nursing), where a professional manner is demanded both in one's working and personal life. Can you imagine a world where nurses, teachers, and surgeons publicly advertise their drinking habits in such a manner and discuss their patients/students on chat forums and social networking sites? It's not just about appearances, it is about trust, and as a discipline, NLP is rapidly losing that trust.  I doubt that this is because of any inherent weakness in the NLP models (plural) themselves but more likely it is as a direct result of the collective behaviours so many self-professed “practitioners” of these models.

In my book, The Rainbow Machine, I gave the example of the appalling woman who demanded that I show her my “peak state” as some kind of proof of my authenticity, as though other people's emotions and positive states are some kind of personal plaything designed to be shown off at gatherings.  I see so many references on forums to “eliciting positive states” and “installing states” and so on that I often question if the writers of such things actually have any idea that real people live in the consensual reality that exists external to the NLPers collective imagination.

Back in the days before I was banned from such forums, I sometimes wrote to such people and asked what actual experience they were writing from. All too often I was told that actually they hadn't any personal experience of such things, but did know enough about them to be advising others. Quite how I can only speculate to imagine. Anyway, I get banned for being such a party pooper and that probably serves me right.  Reality can be a real bitch when it comes to knowing stuff; it just keeps getting in the way of a really good theory.

Rant mode disengaged. For now.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Law of Attraction

There seems to have been a new work ethic lurching about in recent years.  It looks something like this:  "If it seems difficult, or if it seems like hard work, then you are doing it wrong."  

The Law of Attraction people really seized the day with this one - formulate your desire, set your intention and you are good to go, go, go!

As I have mentioned before, the fabric of the universe will bend and mold itself to your will in an effortless fashion that just demonstrates that the One, the Almighty, and the only God is on your side.

You too can be the chosen one if you just open yourself to the universal power and luscious goodness that courses through this abundant universe.

But it might be best to ignore the deformed, the ugly, the deranged, the Africans, the war refugees, the earthquakes and all those damned IEDs blasting good people to pieces.  These are the sort of things that bugger a perfectly good theory.

LOA just attracts the good stuff.  That's right, just the good stuff.

And let's invoke the power of Einstein to support us on this quest, after all, did he not proclaim the universe to be a friendly one?  So, just mention quantum physics, energy and mirror neurons and there we have all the supporting scientific proof, do we not?

Now, I suspect that a lot of this ideology can probably be traced back to the corporate buzz of a few years ago. "Work smarter, not harder" those men in crisp suits and lavender shirts advised us.

It was their desire to decrease costs and decrease expenditures and thus increase the profit margins.  Not a bad idea, but as with all things, when costs are decreased and expenditures reigned in, then the recipients of those former costs and expenditures don't get paid. But might be best to ignore that part of the equation too.  Just focus on the good stuff.  That's right, just the good stuff.

But then the personal development industry got ahold of this blue sky thinking too.  Ever wondered about those corporate lifestyle dropouts who themselves seem so keen to repackage Office Newspeak and sell it back to the wage slaves as a gospel of liberation complete with promises of personal and financial freedom to boot.  Thus what the collared workers listen to during corporate meetings this week will become your rehashed self-development workshop program in a few years time.

But with an added component.

In the personal development game everything must be "effortless", "easy" and "instant".  Overnight success is the name of the game.

So, think outside that box, downshift and clear your mind of the clutter, reach for the sky and fill yourself with blue sky thinking, synergise and catch that low hanging fruit.  It's easy in this game and everyone can be a guru.  It is all about getting what you want, fulfilling your potential, being true to yourself and aligning yourself with the universe.

The thing with this effortless and overnight success concept is that so many, many people are chasing it, and that worries me.  And it worries me greatly.  In the personal development and alphabet therapies, there are so, so many people who have websites that create the illusion of great success and affluence, yet they are in fact broke, getting broker and are anything but successful in that business.

Whilst I understand the advertising and marketing thing, I get it, the effect is that a certain illusion gets created.  No one wants to say, "actually, I have no money and clients so, please, please come and see me."  Of course, such behaviours will not lead to success.

As many therapists and coaches find, the obvious solution to this, of course, is to become a trainer and train other people in the stuff, it passes the buck and passes the burden. Collectively, the effect this has is that so many struggling alphabet therapists and personal development coaches believe that they must be the only ones who are struggling and so what they do to solve this is they attend more trainings; trainings that offer success, effortlessly.

If this is you, you are not the exception to the rule.  I honestly believe that you are the norm.

Go to Companies House and see just how many personal development and training companies have failed to submit tax returns or other financial documents, are struck off, or have gone bust.  You may be surprised at what you find. Read those documents carefully then go back and read their websites carefully.  See if you can spot the mismatch.

Now, back to that "last week's corporate bullshit is next week's instant success training course" thing.

Remember, that all too often, the people promoting such things are usually known as, "former employees" or more realistically, "the unemployed."

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Teaching the Armless to Juggle

One of the tips I offer therapists and clinicians on my Brass Bollocks workshop is that in order to get more clients, some of them may need to reduce and lower their claims for success.  The main issue is that many so clients simply won't and don't believe the claims that are made, even if the claims are in fact accurate.

Let me give you an example.  I am well aware that flashbacks and related problems associated with post traumatic stress disorder may well be cleared up in a single session, sometimes with just a few minutes of work.  So imagine the claim, "PTSD symptoms cleared in under 5 minutes or your money back!"

This might well impress other people trained in NLP and suchlike who understand the possibilities, but to a person who has been tormented over a prolonged period of time by the torture of intrusive imagery, anxiety, fear and nightmares, such a claim not only may seem incredulous, but also may well be quite insulting.

"I've suffered for 20 years and this idiot reckons he can change all that in less than 5 minutes?"

Here's my axiom:  claims of success may well insult the suffering of the affected.

The other thing that happens is often a person with such problems has seen such claims before, numerous times, and may well have invested in all sorts of panaceas, treatments and remedies, all to no avail.

Another problem occurs with "charge by the change" - an admirable ethic that is common to a certain persuasion of NLPer, where the client doesn't pay if the client doesn't get any change.  I tried this for a time many years ago and still offer this occasionally when it comes to simple phobia treatment.

When used as an advertising gimmick, the reason this can put clients off is that to a person who is suffering the pains of emotional and psychological hurt, "change" is often the last thing on their mind.

"Relief" is often more paramount; an easing of the hurt; a reduction in symptoms; a panacea to reduce suffering.  The person may seek care, understanding, empathy and professional expertise with "change"  being the last thing on their mind.  "How can I be expected to change when I feel as bad as I do?"

Something I like to ask therapists on my training courses is this:  how do we measure change?  Is it possible for a person to be sat in front of us at the end of the session reporting that they feel just as bad as they did when they arrived, yet we can measure verifiable change?

Conversely, is it possible to have a smiling client sat in front of us, reporting that they feel infinitely better, but in fact no useful change has occurred?

My experience is that too many therapists spend too much time measuring change simply by asking they client how they feel.  This is not enough.  But anyway, that's for a different day.  Back to those extravagant claims.

A call I had recently went like this.

Caller: "Do you have any experience with aphenphosmphobia?"

I was flummoxed.  "What?" I squeaked.

"Aphenphosmphobia. Do you have any experience with this?"

"No idea," I said, "never heard of it!"

"Well, I am looking for an expert." the caller told me, "Don't you know what it is?" the caller continued after pausing for effect.

I know well the game of "I know something you don't know" and when people try this on me I never ask.  Ever.

"I can't even say it, let alone define it." I told the caller.

"Oh."  The caller said.

"Ever feel like you might have called the wrong person?"  I offered.


I waited.

"Do you think you can help me?"  The caller asked.

"I doubt it," I said.  "All I can ever tell people is that there are no guarantees and that I can only try my best.  But you need to know this - there are some people that I cannot help.  Usually the ones that make my heart sink when I listen to how they tell me about their problems."

The client booked in to see me there and then.

Now I know that most therapists and clinicians won't and don't talk in this way, they are too worried about appearing "professional" and like they are experts.  I gave both those up a long time ago.  I was lucky enough to have screwed up enough times to learn a few lessons in humility.

I often have a big sign at the front of the training room:  "Humility will save you from humiliation."

Many over zealous NLPers would do well to remember this. So would the people who use this quote as their own since they attended my trainings.

Another common problems with those working in personal development is that they are also so damned optimistic.  It is worth knowing that many of those outside of the personal development industry are not quite so positively orientated and can be readily intimidated by all that smug optimism.

Here are two example that I encounter almost weekly from NLPers.  I run a workshop entitled, "Weight Loss - A Neurolinguistic Perspective."

Every sodding week some idiot emails me or calls me to offer me advice.

The advice goes something like this:
"Hi, I'm an NLP master and I wanted to tell you about your workshop title, I think you might find it works better if you didn't call it "weight loss" - that is a negative you know.  I prefer to call my workshops, 'positive slimming', it sounds so much better."
My reply is always the same these days, as I can no longer be bothered to explain.  "I don't care" I tell them.

I don't bother explaining normally. But anyway, for the record, here's why I don't care. That workshop title has enabled me to travel all over the world, the workshops require minimal advertising and ever since I stopped calling it "positive slimming" several years ago, the workshops are always full.  I have an edited online version available of the workshop which is my biggest selling product which continues to gain positive reviews and acclaim.  Really. Buy it here.

The issue here is that it seems to me that only NLPers worry about the positivity frame, "Weight loss" sounds too negative to them because it violates some NLP principle, but to the general public, naive to such nonsense, it is perfectly plausable and familiar.  I have given up reminding NLPers of that other injunctive of NLP, "meeting the client at their model of the world."  This seems to have been forgotten in the quest to be the most positive person of the pack.

The other product that seems to cause difficulty for so many NLPers is my, "Depression - A  Neurolinguistic Perspective."  I am often being told that putting the word, "depression" onto a product with a black depressing cover will put people off.  "Who would want to buy that!?!?" someone scoffed recently.

Well, depressives would buy it for a start, and rather a lot of them too.  (It is now available free on the above link. Why? Because I'm a nice guy and more importantly I want your email so I can sell you stuff.)

Someone even suggested I should call it, "Lessons in Happiness" or something equally positive.

Needless to say, this wannabe "happiness coach" has never seen a paying client in his life and each month slides ever further into debt.

Depression isn't necessarily about an absence of happiness.  Claiming to teach depressives how to be happy is not all that different to offering lessons to the armless on how to juggle.

So, in summary, here is my tip to get more clients.

Make fewer claims and stop being so damned optimistic about your clients before you have even met them.

Try it.  It will change your life for the better, bring you riches beyond the dreams of avarice and make you a better lover.  It will.  Really, I guarantee it.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Cold Callers

Today's idiot phone call.  I get one or two a week.

Ring, ring...

Me: "Good afternoon, Andy Austin, how can I help?"

Caller: "Hello, is that Mister Austin?"

Me: "Yes it is.  How can I help?"

Caller: "You run a plumbing business, is that right?"

Me:  "No, I don't."

Caller: "Oh, you are a roofer, yes?"

Me: "No.  Do you want a plumber, or a roofer?"

Caller:  "But it says here that you are a plumber and run your own business."

Me: "Well, what it says there is possibly wrong, or you have dialled the wrong number.  It happens, you know."

Caller:  "So, you are not a plumber?"

Me:  "No."

Caller:  "Roofer?"

Me:  "Sorry, the answer is still no."

Caller:  "What do you do then?"

Me: "Tell you what.  Let's start with the pleasantries first.  Why don't you tell me who you are and what it is that you want before you start asking me questions about who I am.  After, you called me, remember?"

Caller: "Are you self employed, Mister Austin?"

Me: "Now, I really think we might need to discuss your manners here.  How about telling me who you are?"

Caller:  "I'm calling from Orange, and you have been selected..."

Me:  (interrupting) "I doubt that somehow."

Caller: "You doubt what?"

Me:  "That Orange would employ you to make phone calls such as this."

Caller:  "Excuse me, Mister Austin, why do you say that?"

Me:  "Because if Orange really employs you to make idiot calls to their customers, then I think it is time for me to sell my shares."

Caller:  "Oh, OK Mister Austin, have a nice day."

Call ends.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

NLP, Metaphors, Neurology and Depression

Over the Edge

This was originally posted in September 2011. It wasn't a good year, but had some interesting life lessons occurring throughout.

A business trip in Turkey had a rather surprising turn of events last week.  I started off in Ankara to deliver a Metaphors of Business workshop to a business group there, before flying to Antalya (it didn't go at all well), Laura and I travelled south along the mountain roads to Cirali for a few days break before flying home.

The car picked us up at 6pm and we were looking forward to relaxing by the sea.

Having dozed off a bit, I awoke to discover that the driver had lost control of the car at high speed and we were veering dangerously out of control.  A crash was inevitable and we braced ourselves accordingly.  I think the first impact was as we hit the side of the mountain, the next two came a bit later.

What became immediately obvious was that we were going to go off the side of the cliff.  Absolutely no doubt about that.

Also, I had absolutely no doubt that we were all going to be killed.

 It was a rather strange realisation and not one I care to have again.  I have heard people on the television talk about close calls with certain death, but always figured it was just an expression.  I now know that this isn't necessarily the case and the realisation that one is about to die is a very special experience indeed.

The car left the road and over the edge we went at considerable speed.  Now, from a psychological perspective, what happened next was quite interesting to me.  I was absolutely certain that this would be fatal and two thoughts occured to me.

"Well, at least this will be quick."

An overwhelming sense of disappointment as I thought, "But there was so much more that I had planned to do..."

This second thought was delightfully interrupted by a terrific crash and impact and a showering of broken glass as our freefall descent was rudely interrupted by a small group of trees into which the car landed, wheels down, perpendicular to the angle of the trees. This latter detail meant that deceleration/impact injuries were minimal and that our landing was actually not that bad at all.

We looked at each other briefly noting each others surprise at this fortuitous change of events before struggling out of a broken window to safety.  That was when Laura looked at me and said those horrible words, "I think I'm bleeding" before promptly keeling over.

What happened next was a whirlwind mix of the kindness of strangers, paramedics, blue lights, police cars and ambulances and sirens, CT scans and X-rays, blood tests and specialists with little torches and finally admission to the trauma ward of a central hospital where we got to spend most of the rest of our time in Turkey.

To say all this was a bit of a shock to the system would be quite correct, and the three days spent at the hospital gave us a lot of time to reflect on a few things.  I thought one of those things was worth sharing here.

From age 17, I spent a lot of time working in nursing homes and rest homes.  In part this was to fund myself through my student days, and I also worked periodically doing agency shifts for extra cash after I was qualified.  As a 17 year old, one thing that I noticed was that I was given an awful lot of advise from the older people who were keen that this young man looking after them didn't repeat the same mistakes that they did.  Much of this advice reflected a consistent theme:

- Don't allow social and emotional fears from preventing you from doing what you want to do.

This is advice I have pretty much live by.  It's partly why I have done so much in my life and explored so many different areas of human experience.

What I learned then, and still know to be true now, is that nursing and retirement homes tend to be full of people who know what they would do differently if only they could.

It might seem dramatic, but when you are about to die - either quickly in a car accident, or in a few years from old age, you can get quite a different perspective on what you were so afraid of all that time ago.  It is amazing what suddenly doesn't matter any more.

I'm not talking about bungee jumping or playing with flame throwers or wrestling lions, I mean those things that bring social and emotional risk, those things that challenge our own "comfort zones", the things that challenge those rules we have somehow selected to live by and challenge what we consider to be normal and correct.  Social fear of being different from the way you are supposed to be, that is what I mean.

In my professional life I am regularly asked by NLP practitioners, coaches and therapists for assistance in building their respective practices and helping them to, "put themselves out there."  The most common reason people have for not doing so is fear - fear of being judged, fear of failing, fear of being successful, fear of being wrong, fear of being laughed at and so on.  Of course, the reality is that once one puts themselves "out there" there will be judgement, there will be failures, there will be errors and if you are very lucky, there just might be success.

What most of these fears have in common is humiliation, loss of face and loss of perceived status.

One thing I have learned in my own life is that very little trouble comes from others who themselves are successful, in fact, the amount of support and encourage I receive from my peers is pretty incredible.  No, the majority of judgement and criticism that I receive comes from a small group who share the following characteristics:

  • they don't know me, most have never met me
  • they have never demonstrated anything original on any of their websites (those that have them) and in fact, most of what appears on their blogs appears to be little more than rehashing of my own blog posts and webpages
  • none of them have ever presented any of their apparently acclaimed work in a written format, video, DVD or online presentation
  • they make exceptional claims for their own brilliance and cynically deride and mock others
  • in short, they judge, but make sure that they are unavailable themselves to be judged.

I knew kids at school that behaved this way too.  They hid in tight social groups and could be as nasty to each other as they are to those people outside their groups.  They appeared to feed on each other.

Luckily, most people grow out of that.  Most do, anyway.

One gentleman I knew when I was 17 told me that he wondered how many people limited their lives so that the kids that laughed at them at school wouldn't laugh at them again.  In childhood we meet the bullies and the nay-sayers who teach us to conform to their own restricted ideals.  To survive school, some people change their behaviour in order to receive approval....from bullies, and then they live the rest of their life that way until they get to the nursing home.

I think I was lucky.  My experience of people in nursing homes so keen for me to not live like this affected me in such a positive way early in life.  I am so glad that as we went over the cliff that I did not have a single thought of regret about my life.  I sincerely hope others would the same.

I don't know any of their names, and I doubt that any of them will ever read this, but regardless, I'd like to publicly thank the army of helpers that assisted in our rescue and in the delivery of the excellent aftercare.  We are both still hobbling about a bit but Laura is recovering well and has no lasting damage.

We intend to return to Turkey for another attempt at a holiday in Cirali where we spent our honeymoon three years ago and I will probably request the same driver.  I'm just a bit like that.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Treatment for Chronic Pain

Patient with chronic pain often report that the lack of understanding from professionals about their situation can be a major problem when receiving treatment. In this video I wanted to cover some of the main considerations that IEMT practitioners and clinicians need to have when working with chronic pain. For more on IEMT, please visit:

Filming the Miraculous

The personal development field is awash with grand claims and new hope.  I regularly see advert offering workshops where the attendees will learn to make a six figure annual income from coaching, and therapists claiming life changing work for a mere £10,000.  Everyone of course was trained by the best and has travelled far and wide in search of the arcane and secret knowledge.

A good game of course is to do the following – “I was trained by the best, and here is my testimonial from them that says how great I am…but I don’t really rate them any more. I am better than that these days

Yet for all the claims that are made, I see so little evidence.  I’ve long said, “Don’t claim expertise, demonstrate it” and I see very little of this ever happening.  I often ask the “make a 6 figure income” people to show copies of their bank statements that demonstrate their own success in making 6 figures from coaching.  They never do of course.  I just get accused of trouble making.  I also receive emails demonstrating some innovative use of the English language as my parentage is challenged.

Extra-ordinary claims require extra-ordinary proof, and to be frank, I don’t see what the problem is asking people to prove what it is that they are claiming to be able to do.

To NLP trainers, therapists, and coaches, who basically portray themselves as some God-like entity that can command the use of words so powerfully that oceans will part, the dead will rise and the universe will adjust itself to conspire in the client’s best interests for ever more.

All I ask is for some of the tiniest piece of evidence.

It shouldn’t be difficult to do – just point a video camera at the next daily miracle and post it onto youtube.

But this is where the excuse machine kicks in.  “Confidentiality” they claim.  “I can’t do that because I need to protect the confidentiality of the client.”  Nonsense, I will claim back.  I honestly believe that most “therapists” will use the “confidentiality” clause to protect themselves, not their clients.  They are embarrassed to be seen on camera.  Why is this, I wonder?

I’ve been filming sessions for years without a problem.  Curiously, when I released the Pragmatics of Change DVD set (one of the recordings is available here for free), the most common question I got asked was, “Did you have the client’s permission to film them?”   The question was often asked with an accusatory tone.  In all cases I reply with the following, “No, we had to use hidden cameras” and sit back and wait.  Clearly, I don’t make friends easily.

When I advertise for filming, I am nearly always over-subscribed with volunteers and I am always grateful to people who do volunteer for filming.  After all, I must be realistic in that such sessions aren’t entirely altruistic and that such work helps me financially, as I sell a finished commercial product from these sessions.

My point here is that in reality people are very willing to have sessions filmed, and most of the time in a modern change work session, the sessions are content free anyway.  Occasionally the sessions stray into areas that would not be appropriate to publish and so we don’t release those.

The other thing I notice is just how many trainers won’t work with genuine clients when they are teaching – they most commonly work with workshop trainees or people already known to them.  Basically, people who know what to do and know what to say, after all, no one wants to “lose face” in front of an audience.  Ahhh…maybe that is what it is.  It is all about saving face, rather than backing up their incredulous claims.

So miracle workers with a Google Adwords account or NLP newsgroup account, here is my request, buy yourself a little video camera and film your next miracle session.  Let’s see you in action.