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The Collected Papers of Joseph Riggio

Beyond Milton Part2


Differences in the indirect approach and the direct approach to hypnotic protocol

In part one of this article, "Beyond Milton ..." I discussed history of the Milton Model ala Bandler and Grinder as well as drawing from some of Milton Erickson's material directly in my references. Then I moved onto a discussion of some of the other possibilities of hypnotic protocols that are outside of or beyond the limited boundaries of the Milton Model. Finally, I closed the first part of the article with an example of a direct induction protocol script. What I hoped to make evident by the end of part one of the article is that there is a distinct difference between an indirect approach to hypnotic induction protocol based in "artful vagueness" and a more direct approach to hypnotic induction protocol based in an explicit set of instructions to the client.

I fully acknowledge that many of the same skills and language application apply to both models. For instance the use of presuppositions and ambiguities remains present in both models. What is different is in part is the way these are used in the different models. In my opinion, one of the most startling differences in the models is that the indirect approach presumes the next step for the client and leads them to where they are not yet, while the direct approach leads their attention to where they already are (having their experience).

E.g. (indirect approach): I'm wondering if you notice as you sit there that you are being supported in that chair in a particular way and that this allows you to relax as you continue listening to me speak to you ...

Here the client's attention is fixated on the experience of sitting in a chair and the experience of that experience, which is then linked to the experience of relaxation. The linkage is tenuous at best, i.e.: there is no direct cause and effect linkage that indicates the relationship between sitting in the chair and becoming more relaxed. I understand that Milton never suggested (no pun intended) a cause and effect relationship in the model, it is just important as I continue making these distinctions to identify what is required by the model for it to be effective. In this example it is required that the client accept this relationship outside of a cause and effect linkage, as is common to many of the suggestions that Milton used in his inductions.

The effect of this protocol is that you are constantly leading the client. This is not necessarily what they are experiencing prior to the suggestion, but upon considering the suggestion what they find themselves experiencing after the fact. The protocol that I gave as an example in part one of this article begins by identifying what the logical sequence is in a cause and effect paradigm of doing one thing and then another and the causal chain that is logical to this sequence of events.

You begin this sequence by first asking if the individual is willing to learn about how they operate on the inside.

E.g. (direct approach): "Are you willing to learn about yourself and how you operate on the inside?"

This establishes an agreement between the practitioner and the client, for the client to put their attention on the inside (after they've said "yes"). There is also the explicit understanding that what your doing is about what's on the inside. In addition there is the implicit understanding that they (the client) will learn something and that you will be teaching them, and that in order for this to occur they're going to have to do something ("Are you willing ...").

Then instead of leading them to where they aren't yet the next explicit instruction leads them to where they must be having considered and consented to the first question that you've asked.

"I would like for you to begin placing your attention on the inside, of yourself.

Their attention is already on the inside because you've gotten the agreement from them that they are willing to learn how they operate there, so of course that's where their attention's gone. Since they're already there when you ask them to do this they are actually getting reinforcement for what they've already done and there is no consideration necessary or confusion that's possible. This is a significant difference between the indirect and direct hypnotic approach. Using the indirect approach forces the client to decide what you are suggesting to them and what they should do. If you're "wondering" about what the client is noticing then they have to think about whether they are or not noticing themselves and there is no particular reason for them to be noticing this before you speak it.

This is what I mean by leading them to the consideration from ahead of them, vs. leading them to the consideration from a step behind them. My way of speaking about this in my training is to talk about "leading from one step behind." If you follow this logic and sequence then what follows from the last instruction about placing their attention on the inside is that this is where their attention will now be. It is also reasonable to assume that as their attention shifts from the outside collection of sensory data to the awareness of the inside experience there will be a shift in state. Your next instruction builds on this assumption based in the human condition and experience.

"Some place inside where you notice your body coming to rest, where it is balanced or centered from."

Since you've told them to put their attention on the inside of themselves it is reasonable to now direct and focus this attention to a specific location within themselves. As they pull their attention from the outside to the inside there is a reasonable expectation of a sense of settling "in" a "coming to rest" for many people. When you emphasize this by giving the instruction to do this specifically you begin to bypass the critical factor that you'd encounter with a suggestion that is not already in line with your instruction. Again they either don't need to consider this at all and simply "find" this place, or they consider where this place is and use the criteria they've been given to locate it - i.e.: a place where "it is balanced or centered ..." If you are in your body and maintaining a posture it is balanced and centered somewhere inside, this is the point where the posture is held in place from, a center of gravity so to speak.

Then if you know the structure of the human body and it's form you will also know that the location of this center of gravity is most often in the torso between the neck and the pelvis, usually lower than higher although it is possible to raise the center of gravity by adopting a specific posture and retaining a higher degree of tension in the musculature. So using this information you make the next suggestion as well.

"This may be a point as small as a pin head or as large as a coin. Usually you'll notice this place somewhere between your neck and your pelvis -"

By now the person has been led to putting their attention on what's already happening at least four times in as many sentences. This develops a sense of confidence in what you are telling them. This is similar to the experience of indirect hypnosis when it is delivered by a skilled practitioner. However, the significant difference is that since there is a logical causal chain to the events you've directed them to put their attention on they haven't had to think and instead of overloading the neural circuits with information (i.e.: using a confusion technique) you have begun to quite the neural circuitry. This generates an internal state shift that is the beginning of the hypnotic trance state.

Effects of the direct approach to hypnotic protocol

Many people indicate a very distinct sense of going very deeply and very quickly into a hypnotic state when they experience the direct approach to hypnosis outlined in part one of this article and examined above. This is in comparison to the less steep curve to the experience of an indirect approach. The final experience may be equivalent in terms of the depth of the trance experienced, however many people indicate that it takes them longer to get to this depth with an indirect approach, again vs. the direct approach.

Some of the comments heard after experiencing both approaches (indirect and direct) is that with the indirect approach at some point they had to 'let go' and 'go with the experience.' When these same people described the direct approach they commented that it just seemed 'so natural' and that they 'didn't have to think.' Using explicit instructions puts aside the concern that was sometimes associated with an more indirect approach. Comments associated with this concern included the wondering about 'what are you doing to me' experience that they associated with being out of control of the experience. In the more direct approach the clients experienced that they 'were in control' of the experience and directing themselves.

Allowing the client to have the experience of 'being in control' allows them to also experience that they are in control of the learning associated with the experience. They now "own" the learning and have both control over and access to it. Clients indicate that they were confident that they knew what to be doing after experiencing a direct hypnotic approach, even when the suggestions following the induction were extremely vague and creative. This is in comparison to the sense that 'something happened' and not being quite sure what or what to do with in when an indirect approach was used, even when the suggestions that followed were the same as when using the direct approach (as read from a script for consistency).

Utilizing the direct approach to hypnotic protocol conversationally

What is apparent with the direct approach I am discussing in this article is the necessity of linking the ideas presented together so that from the client's experience of them they are sequenced logically and follow one another seamlessly. When the information and instruction is presented in this manner they don't have to think about and consider the incoming information for wellformedness. The client can put all of their attention of the experience that they are being led to consider from the inside of it in a direct way. If the elicitation follows this protocol then the client can be led to providing information that is very accurate and complete about their experience for as long as they are in the altered state that this form of communication generates.

The essential piece of information is knowing how to structure the elicitation to keep their attention on the inside while maintaining a conversational approach. The client's experience will be one of being in conscious awareness, although of a very heightened kind. The descriptions of such a state vary from being in a 'flow' state to what it's like to experience 'being in the zone' to have a 'peak performance' experience. Usually the client experiences a sense of exhilaration and excitement in relation to the experience while remaining calm in relation to the process, i.e.: their sense is one of being exhilarated and excited while their behaviors and outward demeanor remain calm.

An example of using the direct hypnotic protocol in elicitation would be:

"I want you to put your attention on what you came here for while allowing yourself to notice what comes up when you think about that."

This allows the client in a permissive way to access the transderivational search (TDS) necessary to answer the next question in sequence. It also begins to set up the alignment of thinking required to proceed sequentially and logically through the elicitation process.

"Now thinking about what you came here for I'd like to know what you want from our time together." "Think about this in terms of how you will know that this time spent with me was and is valuable for you." "Take all the time you need to consider this and then tell me what you think."

Of course using the information surrounding the example in the first part of this article and the information discussed above in this part of the article it is obvious what you're doing in this protocol. There is a specific instruction for the client to consider what they want and a contextual frame ("... our time together.") for them to consider it within. Then the next instruction is linked in such a way as to follow sequentially and logically and establishes a positive outcome frame. It leads the process that's already occurring (their thinking about what they want) to go in a positive direction toward the excitatory and the possibilities associated with the experience. Then while they continue with their TDS the permissive frame is reinforced and a response requested in real time.

What a practitioner can expect is either a request for more information about what they specifically would like the client to consider or a response containing the information requested. The practitioner must wait for the client to process this information and complete the TDS prior to continuing. Once the practitioner has gotten an answer to the instruction given (either before or after adding in additional criteria) they can continue with the elicitation from where the client leads them. (The ability of the practitioner to "hold the space" for the client to process is essential and beyond the scope of this particular article.)

E.g.: Client: "I'd like to know how to make a decision about whether I should continue with the relationship I'm in now or if it's time to move on." "If we could get to the point where I could feel comfortable with that decision either way I'd say our time spent together was more than valuable to me."

Now this is a particularly "clean" response. It may or may not be within the client's capabilities to state their outcome so clearly and precisely. However, if they are capable this protocol would allow them to generate such a response.

E.g.: Practitioner: "So how would you know if a decision were a good one for you?" "If you were to begin thinking about a time when you'd already made a good "yes" decision, a time when you choose to do something that turned out particularly well, what is it the comes to mind for you?"

Practitioner: (after the client's response) "And thinking about this decision what is it that you most notice about yourself when you're operating in this way, like you were when you'd made that good decision?"

It is highly likely here that the client will require some assistance in understanding what to notice about themselves. Unless they are highly trained in introspection and internal awareness it will require that the practitioner track their response to the question and begin to feed back what is observable about them to the client to get them started, e.g.: a change in posture and/or breathing. Then the practitioner can more easily lead their attention inside to the internal experience and guide them to become aware of specific aspects of themselves and the internal configuration that is associated with the way of being they operate from when they are making good decisions. (Note: NLPer's this is NOT a strategy elicitation, but rather a state elicitation.)

Practitioner: (again after the client's response) "So when you are like this, (feedback the information elicited from them about how they are when they are making a good decision), you can make a good decision." "What else do you need in order for you to make a good decision and know you've made it - before the result of the decision becomes apparent?" (... after you gather this information) "And knowing all of this is it necessary for you to be comfortable when you make a good decision?" (Reflecting back to their stated criteria of what they'd like from your time together to begin closing the first elicitation loop. If it's not 'comfortable', then what do they want and need to know to make this decision confidently for themselves?)

This is an example of using a direct approach to elicitation that is built on the same principals of protocol as the direct induction discussed in part one and in the beginning of this part of the article. The intention is to know how to lead a client in a step-by-step manner through the interactional process to gather the information to be used in developing the intervention with them.

In part three of this article I will discuss the use of this protocol in non-therapeutic setting such as a sales situation or consulting type intervention.

Again, until the next time ...

Joseph Riggio

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© 2000-2002 Joseph Riggio / Applied Behavioral Technologies, Inc. - may not be used, reproduced or distributed without prior express written permission by any means including mechanical or electronic.

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