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Aligned Thinking for Optimum Health

by Richard Morley(more info)

listed in mind matters, originally published in issue 90 - July 2003

There have been many articles in this magazine and elsewhere discussing the connection between what we think and the physical effect this has on us.

When we remember or imagine a good experience, most of us notice the pleasant feelings that go with that event. Our physical state changes too. Our breathing and heart rate might alter, we may blush, our pupils dilate and we begin to produce soothing hormones, such as endorphins, which have the benefit that they can shut down pain as effectively as morphine.

Conversely, when we think about an unpleasant or stressful experience, we tend to re-experience the unpleasant feelings that go with that event. Our bodies start producing stress hormones, such as adrenalin and cortisol.

If we are in long term stressful situations, such as an unhappy relationship or an unfulfilling job, we could be producing continuous high doses of these stress hormones. These are designed to enable us to respond quickly in fight, fright and flight situations, rather than being a permanent high-level ingredient of our metabolism.

The effect of high levels of stress hormones for long periods is to change the way that the immune system responds. This makes it less able to fight off invaders and leaves us more susceptible to infectious diseases.

Our bodies are a system consisting of billions of cells. Most of the time the system maintains itself despite the rigours we expose ourselves to. It is no surprise, therefore, that we have a powerful mechanism for renewal, guided by some internal blueprint for perfect health.

Often, the most effective thing we can do for our health, is to recognize and remove the obstacles that we put in the way of this automatic 'righting' system and allow it to operate as it is designed to.

Logical Levels

A transformational way of doing this is to use an NLP concept called Logical Levels of Thought.

Logical levels are categories of thinking which, when aligned in a person, or groups of people, lead to a sense of purpose and sense of self. If this can be expressed through what that person or group does, then it can lead to great fulfilment and personal satisfaction. The concept of Logical Levels was developed by Robert Dilts (one of the original co-developers of NLP) from original thinking by Gregory Bateson, the anthropologist.

These levels can be viewed as a hierarchy as shown in this table:

Purpose – Mission What I am here for
Identity Who I am
Values What is important to me. My passions
Beliefs The principles by which I run my life. My rules
Skills, talents and capabilities What I know. My core skills
Behaviour What I do
Environment The context in which I do things. My job, home, the country I live in

Cases: Logical Levels Out of Alignment

A recently retired businessman came to me because he was suffering from panic attacks and high blood pressure. He had led a busy and successful life, dealing with thousands of people globally, but was now finding that he couldn't even face a visit to the local supermarket without coming out in a cold sweat.

How could we use the logical levels as a diagnostic tool in this case?

Did he have a sense of purpose now that he was retired? Well no, he didn't.

How about his sense of identity? Up until retirement he was very clear about his role as a business leader, a family man and father. Now he wasn't sure what his role was.

What about some of the things that were important to him? Before his retirement he was fulfilling goals – such as challenge, excitement, travel and variety. He used to get a buzz out of achieving things. Now he did not seem to have any of these important values in his life.

What about some of his beliefs? Beliefs like "my life is over now that I have retired" and "the best years of my life are behind me" did not seem to be that supportive of a fulfilling future.

And what about the other three levels – knowledge and skills, what you do, the choices you make and the environment. "I don't know what to do with my life now that I am retired and living at home all day" seemed to sum up the situation there.

All in all, this was someone who had undergone a fundamental life change, who felt devalued and had no sense of purpose.

A woman came to see me with severe back pain and depression.

She was a woman with a strong sense of what she was on this planet for. To heal others. (purpose)

She had a strong sense of her identity. She was a healer, as well as being a mother and wife.

She believed herself to be capable of achieving remarkable results through healing. She also believed that her husband did not want her to be a healer. He wanted her to fit in with his life, and she believed that it was her duty to support him as the 'company' wife.

She did not know how to persuade him otherwise, so she made the choice to act as a supportive wife, rather than following her heart and healing people.

What she was doing – the life she was living – did not align with her purpose and identity, which caused her a lot of stress leading to illness.

Logical Levels in Alignment

Now, think of someone you know who seems to be healthy, hearty and hale. It is likely that they have strong sense of purpose. They are comfortable with who they are. They know what excites them and makes them feel fulfilled. The beliefs they have about themselves and others are supportive and positive. They have all the knowledge and skills necessary to do what they want in life and they are getting on with it and doing it, wherever they are and whoever they are with.

That person has aligned thinking. People with aligned thinking usually have an aligned look about them. Calm, confident, balanced. People who are out of alignment often look out of alignment, the body matching the thinking.

How Can You Use the Logical Levels Concept to Optimize Health?

One way an NLP and Health practitioner might use is to ask questions that elicit a response at a particular level. (A simplistic version is shown here for illustrative purposes. In practice many more questions would be asked to fully pinpoint an issue.)

For example, questions with activity in them – questions asking what someone is doing – will get a response that relates to behaviour.

Q: What happens when you feel like that?

A: I get out of breath, my palms get sweaty and I find it difficult to speak.

Questions relating to context will get a response that relates to the environmental level.

Q: Does this happen wherever you are, or only in certain places?

A: It happens in any confined space where there is a cat.

'How' questions will direct a person to think at the knowledge, skills and capability level.

Q: How do you do that (feeling bad)?

A: I come into the room and notice a cat. If it is a longhaired one, I just know that I am going to start wheezing and come out in a rash.

Q: How do you know that?

A: I can hear myself thinking that.

'Why' type questions can take you to the beliefs and values levels. (It is as well to note that at this level, you are getting opinions and evaluations, whereas at the preceding levels you are getting more factual information).

Q: Why do you get out of breath?

A: Because I always have. It runs in the family. I expect I always will. I like cats, but I can't be in the same room as one.

'Who' questions take you to identity.

Q: Who are you when you are having an asthma attack.

A: I am a very small, frightened person.

Another way is to notice the emphasis that is put on certain words.

Take the statement "I can't breathe properly in here".

Suppose it was emphasized in this way: "I can't breathe properly in here", with the emphasis on the I. This is likely to be an identity issue. I can't, but someone else might be able to.

Suppose it was: "I can't breathe properly in here". This is more of a belief. I just know that I can't.

And if they said: "I can't breathe properly in here", then it would be fair to assume that they might be able to breathe properly somewhere else. This is a different scale of issue and can be resolved in a different way from someone who feels that they cannot breathe properly anywhere. Maybe all you need do is open the windows.

A person may have issues at more than one logical level, as in the cases already given. However, there is usually one level where there is the most leverage for change. Work done here will help resolve the problem to the best effect.

One such case was the man who was working in a job he did not like. He wanted to have a good social life, yet was paralyzed by shyness and, therefore, did none of the things that would have got him in touch with other people. He knew that he wanted to do something more fulfilling, yet could not imagine what. He was generally stuck.

Where was the problem? Lack of purpose? Identity issue? Contextual? Doing the wrong job and staying at home in the evenings?

We worked on his identity. He viewed himself as someone undeserving of love, and unattractive.

Once this began to change, and he began to see himself as a loveable, creative and talented person, he dared to look into the future and to believe that he could have what he knew all along he really wanted. He became open to learning new social skills, and to noticing behaviours that were already working for him so that he could do more of these. He began to enjoy his job as he saw more opportunities within it that enabled him to use his creativity. And other people began to notice. People started coming up to him and he found himself responding back easily rather than hiding away.

Although the problem was initially evident at every logical level, by choosing to work at the identity level, most of the other levels responded.

Very often it can be useful to think about an issue from the perspective of a different logical level. If, for example, someone is behaving in a way that rubs people up the wrong way, yet their intention is quite the reverse, they probably need to be given more choices as to how they can behave, more knowledge of how they could behave differently and more awareness of the effect their behaviour was having on others. This would be giving them additional knowledge, skills and capability, which is the next level up from behaviour.

Another common example is the person who knows that he/she should go to the gym so that they remain healthy. Instead he/she chooses to go to the pub, or watch television. This person has all the knowledge necessary. Change is more likely to occur by working on the priorities as to what is important for him/her – this is the beliefs and values level, the next logical level up.

The logical levels is a very useful tool for classifying and categorizing issues so that an appropriate remedy can be provided. The key is knowing where and how to apply the remedy, which is what an NLP and Health practitioner is here to do.

Unaligned levels

Unaligned levels

Aligned levels

Aligned levels

NLP has a wealth of techniques for stimulating fast and effective change, many of them derived by observing and analyzing excellent practice wherever it occurs.

There are some wonderful ways of discovering your life purpose. Transformational ways of discovering your identity. Powerful techniques for helping to change beliefs that are holding you back or failing to support you. There is a lot you can learn about recovering from illness, improving health and maintaining good health. There is also a lot you can do to improve relationships with others, through having better communication and motivation skills. And if you are someone who hates change, yet would thrive in a different environment, there are ways of making changes easily.

The NLP and Health practitioner is skilled at choosing the right tool for the job, to help you become more aligned, more at one with yourself and more fulfilled and, by so doing, relieve stress and promote optimum health.

Are you aligned in body and mind?


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About Richard Morley

Richard Morley MICF MANLP is an NLP trainer and specialist NLP and Health Practitioner. He works from the Castle Street Clinic in Guildford. He also takes these concepts into businesses. He has four children and lives with his partner in West Sussex and can be contacted on Tel: 01483 300400;

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