The application of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) Techniques in Hypnotherapy

Hypnosis NLPon April 10th, 2014No Comments

by Jorg Thonnissen (2010) Registered Psychologist

We are often asked about if we also use Neuro-Linguistic-Programming (NLP) as part of our Hypnosis sessions here in Perth and Fremantle and the answer is yes…we do. However, it would probably be best to explain what Neuro Linguistic Programming actually is.

In essence NLP is an approach that aims to do two things. Firstly, NLP can be used as a desensitization technique and secondly we can use it to form new thought associations to stimuli that previously brought on some undesired responses.

Now… desensitization techniques are generally an excellent wa y to eliminate phobias, and the ability to retrain our mind to have new thought processes which help to change behaviours when faced with a certain unwelcome set of circumstances.

There are a number of well known NLP techniques such as for example:

The Rewind Technique

Typically used with people suffering from fear and is designed to address the various unwanted thoughts, feelings, fears and memories of situations that are connected to an experience of phobia or trauma. This technique requires a person to dissociate (imagined safe place), and run through the traumatic experience in a specific (safe) way over and over until the fear stimulus reduces significantly.

The Swish Technique475543_65393004

Is similar to the Rewind Technique in so far as it requires a person to imagine a problem situation or image that needs to be changed and then swish it over to a more positive image. This is repeated many times until the initial negative stimulus is reorganised.

As mentioned at the beginning, the re-programming of a negative stimulus into something more pleasant is the main aim of NLP. There is no doubt in my mind that the various methods by which NLP is applied to undesired mental stimuli, has in many cases the desired effect. For instance, fears and phobias are generated by traumatic experiences that have been stored in the parts of the brain that are known as ‘amygdala’ and the ‘hippocampus’ because for some reason these parts of the brain have come to identify and label an experience as deadly or severely dangerous to our survival.

Consequently, each time the fear stimulus is triggered, the amygdala encourages the secretion of hormones that puts the sufferer of this condition into a fight or flight response.

However, this fight and flight response is something that most certainly has its rational purpose, which is getting away from danger and survive.

And so in order for us to do this quick enough, as soon as our mind has recognised the fear stimulus the amygdala bypasses the parts of the brain that would slow things down with the aim to bring up all the necessary measures to do what needs to be done to survive the situation (faster breathing, adrenaline production, etc). In other words, the parts of our brain that would normally rationalise and think through things before reacting have been sidelined for the benefit of ‘reaction speed’.

Now… there is just one problem with this process. When we are facing a lion running towards us, reacting like this is probably a good and very beneficial idea, but when we have for some reason come to falsely believe that driving through a tunnel is going to kill us, then that ‘automatic reaction’ will be a challenging nuisance rather than a benefit.

NLP techniques can assist in reprogramming how the stimulus is perceived by using a number of available methods. For example in the Rewind Technique the anxiety sufferer learns to view the stimulus from a safe distance and from a variety of different angles without triggering the anxiety. In simple terms, by doing this over and over again, and from different perspectives, the amygdala ‘releases’ (is desensitised) the disturbing information we hold, and allows the information to be stored in different parts of the brain where it no longer triggers the same sort of response. In other words, the person suffering from the anxiety now has the ability to use those parts of the brain that allows for objectively ‘thinking’ through the experience rather than simply ‘reacting’.

Our mind has undoubtedly the ability to be trained and retrained, no matter what the circumstances we might be facing. NLP provides an approach that can be compared to modelling and projecting a better set of thoughts and associated feelings, and if done repeatedly our mind gets used to the models and projections, and thus when we are facing the ‘real’ situation we are prepared and the ‘better’ image (thoughts and feelings) that we are holding comes into play.

This is similar to being trained as a special-forces soldier. The more soldiers in addition to the actual physical training have been subjected to mental images to prepare them for battle, the more they get used to it and when eventually faced with a real battle, they are able to stay in control and face the situation without panic.

As such, we are all somewhat conditioned to react positively, negatively or undecided to various stimuli. As such, when we come to think of it, even a cup of tea can be associated with danger if someone hits us over the head with a stick each time we want to take a sip. If repeatedly exposed to such treatment, we eventually come to get an uneasy feeling just seeing the cup standing there on the table while part of us already anticipates that ‘something terrible’ is going to happen.

In many instances we have already consciously forgotten why we perceive certain things a certain way and all we notice are perhaps some dull uncomfortable feelings. However, if we bring those feelings into awareness and analyse their source we will quickly be able to make a connection between stimulus and response. Once this is done, we can start retraining our mind to produce a more desirable outcome.

NLP provides some very good easy to use mental imaging techniques that help the restructuring process.    Most NLP techniques can be incorporated into hypnosis sessions, which in my opinion, makes them more effective.



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