I (Steve Tromans) was recently asked to provide information by Marie Claire magazine about the way we deliver treatment for bulimia. A section of this article appeared in the UK July 2006 edition.
They didn’t want a text book approach so I gave a flavour of the sorts of approaches I tend to use. It is by no means exhaustive, and doesn’t include information about the Neuro-linguistic techniques I am using as I work. Also, not everyone responds to the same thing, so there are many occasions when I vary the things I do considerably. Here is the article in full…
OK, here goes, it’s long, but summarises the way I give treatment for bulimia well,
It isn’t what you think that influences our feelings and behaviour so much as the WAY that you think. Your thoughts are ‘sensory’, in other words, thinking is visual (you imagine and/or remember something visually), auditory (you imagine or remember sounds, you talk to yourself etc), kinaesthetic (you have feelings). Also you can taste and smell things in your imagination though we don’t usually utilise these senses so much with NLP.
So, we are working with the way someone imagines things, talks to themselves and subsequently feels. Thoughts cause feelings, not the other way around. You don’t laugh and then think of something funny, you think of something funny, then you laugh. The thinking of the funny thing can ONLY be remembering seeing and/or hearing something funny, or imagine seeing and/or hearing something funny. Likewise, you don’t get anxious and then think of something to be anxious about. The only way you can get anxious (if it isn’t immediately caused by your environment), is to remember seeing and/or hearing something that made you feel anxious, or imagine seeing and/or hearing something that would make you feel anxious).
Thoughts cause feelings.
But it is the WAY that you think that has such a huge impact on your thoughts.
For example, vividly, really vividly, remember being on a rollercoaster or some similar experience. Remember being there, get a sense of the movement, the height, the speed, the screaming (if there was screaming). As you do this you will get some of the feelings, in the same way that of you vividly remember something hilarious, the remembering (seeing/hearing it again) will tend to make you smile or laugh.
Now, move your view to the other side of the theme park (or wherever) and see yourself as a tiny little person in a tiny little rollercoaster way in the distance, make it a still and black and white image, so distant that you almost have to squint to see it in your imagination. Although you are thinking about the same situation, typically, there won’t be the same (or indeed any) feelings, it will be almost as if you are watching someone else having the experience.
Similarly, if you sit in the front row of a cinema and watch a horror film on a huge screen it will probably scare you. But if you watch the same film on a two inch wide TV the other side of a large room it won’t affect you even though the content is the same (the picture(s) of the horror film).
So, by changing the WAY you imagine things affects the WAY you feel. The above examples are usually very easy for a client to imagine. This is a HUGE thing for a person to be able to do, literally controlling the way that they think to control their feelings, beginning to get conscious control over their imagination, rather than the other way around, although because it is usually straightforward for a person to do, they don’t realise what a big deal it really is. Occasionally, I have to work with the client for a few minutes to make this process easy.
The unconscious mind doesn’t process negation, in the sense that if I ask you not to think of Brad Pitt, his Troy skirt not flapping in the breeze, or I ask you not to think of a herd of elephants, or to forget the number 23 etc, your response can only be to imagine the things I am asking you not to think about. If you say to a small child ‘don’t touch that’, the only way that the child can literally make sense of the words is to imagine touching it, so it often does. And then you tell the child off even though you influenced the child to touch it! As we get older we develop the conscious ability to move beyond the initial thought so if I say ‘don’t stand up and spin around’ you don’t do it – but you think about doing it, do you not?
So you can’t ‘not worry about bulimia’ in the same way that your brain can’t ‘not think of Elvis doing cartwheels’. And the more you try not to think about Elvis doing cartwheels the more cartwheels he does!