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Emotional First Aid Through NLP

by Brian Perry LDS(more info)

listed in nlp, originally published in issue 18 - March 1997

Recall a pleasant memory, a certain time in your life which, when you think about it, makes you feel good about yourself.

When you get a picture of the enjoyable memory in your mind's eye, notice how you feel. Now allow the picture to move closer, become larger and brighter. Now notice how you feel. Has your feeling changed? Most people enhance their good feeling when they jazz up the picture in this way.

Now allow the picture to move away into the distance so that it becomes smaller, dimmer and barely perceptible. Now notice how your feeling has changed. You may find that your feeling good has diminished and you may feel a sense of loss. So bring the picture back and leave it where it recalls most enjoyment.

This strategy can be used to change unpleasant memories by moving them further away so they become smaller and fuzzy. It sometimes helps to change colour pictures to black and white.

Roller coaster

Whilst on holiday recently I met a friend, Mark, whose wife had been recently diagnosed as having terminal cancer. They were both coming to terms with the situation as best they could and living as normally as possible. However, Mark had a problem in that he had recently started a new business, and it was important to them that he gave of his best so that the business would succeed. Mark was not able to do this, and when I asked him what stopped him, he said it was his fear of loneliness in the future. I asked him to allow a picture to form in his mind's eye of how this loneliness would be.

Mark said "I see myself all alone in a large barren field". The picture was in colour. I asked him to change it to black and white and put a frame round it. When he did this there was a marked change in his physiology and he said "that's amazing, I feel like a different person".

I have kept in touch and Mark is now able to concentrate on his business and also to give his wife all the care and attention she needs.

Have you ever been on a roller coaster? If so, then imagine you can see yourself over there on the ride as it goes up and down and notice how you feel. Now imagine yourself stepping into the picture, taking your place on the ride, so that you are surrounded by all the sights like the huge drop from the top of the loop and hear the shrieks of the other riders. Feel yourself holding the guard rail. Now notice how you feel.

As likely as not you will feel more excitement from imagining you are actually on the ride as compared to watching yourself from a distance. In NLP terms, when you are in the ride you are associated and as you watch from a distance you are dissociated. You are experiencing the same event from two different perspectives and recognising the difference is fundamental to NLP. When you want to enhance an experience become associated. On the other hand you may wish to view other experiences from a distance which would be calming and helpful.

If you think you can't visualise, imagine what it would look like if you could.

To recap:

1 To enhance a good experience:

a) see it out of your own eyes (associate)
b) bring it closer, make it brighter and larger.

2 To change unpleasant memories:

a) dissociate - see yourself in the picture
b) put a frame around it
c) push it further away into the distance so it becomes dimmer and you get a more objective view. (Putting a frame around the picture is very powerful as it isolates the problem).

Another way to change an unpleasant memory is to mismatch with music

1 Recall an unpleasant memory and notice how you feel.

2 As you recall the memory, internally introduce music which mismatches the experience, like circus or pop music.

3 Break state and recall memory again, and notice the change in feeling. If there is no change, try another tune.

Self esteem

All psychiatrists, health workers and counsellors agree that high self esteem is essential for peak performance in the world. Without it we feel insecure, dependent on others for approval and inadequate. With high self esteem people sort by themselves and are self-reliant and confident. Self esteem is dependent on how we see ourselves internally – our self perceptions and these can be changed.

1 High self esteem people see themselves as whole, well formed individuals and the picture is large, bright and vibrant.

2 Medium self esteem people see themselves as well formed individuals but the picture is dim and distant.

3 Very low self esteem people see a distorted self image which is large, bright and vibrant.

4 Medium low self esteem people have a distorted self image which is dim and distant.

To enhance self esteem first of all take a few minutes to access your present self image. Note the intensity of the self image. Now slowly change the self image until you know, by its physiology – posture, breathing etc., that it has self esteem. Change any distortions and when you are satisfied viz. looking at it makes you feel good, turn up the intensity – bring it closer and turn up the brightness and notice how different the world feels.

People with eating disorders have low esteem and changing their internal self image is an essential part of therapy.

These exercises are designed to deal with problems of low to medium intensity. Such problems as post traumatic stress and phobias can require the help of an NLP therapist.

More about NLP

A pre-supposition of NLP is 'The map is not the territory'.

We live in a world which is so rich in content that in order to make sense of it we are selective of what we are aware of. We create a world of our own choosing. In other words we do not live in the real world – we live in our own internal perceptions of the real world. Our external behaviour will be closely related to our internal map of the world – which may be resourceful or limiting.

Furthermore we represent internally incoming information in coded form to give it meaning.

Think of somebody you feel comfortable with and now think of somebody you feel uncomfortable with. Notice the difference the way these two people are presented internally. For me, the comfortable person is in colour, large and straight in front of me and, the person I am not comfortable with is down left in black and white and small.

These distinctions let me know immediately how to respond when I meet them – without going through a lengthy personal history.

However, if I were to move the uncomfortable person to the location of the comfortable person, my response might change.

Remember, the map is not the territory, so why not change it?


NLP The New Technology of Achievement. Steve Andreas and Charles Faulkner. Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 1996.


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About Brian Perry LDS

Brian Perry retired from full time dentistry in 1991 to work as an NLP Practitioner. Although he has a special interest in allergies, phobias and post traumatic stress, he also uses timeline therapy to help victims of abuse and people with eating disorders. Brian can be contacted directly by telephone on 01785 282615.

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