Dynamics of Change

Revd. Ian Field

This is a training I did with Christian inmates at a Prison, over 3 short evening sessions in summer 1996, it was a fairly small group who I had led in Bible study some 18 months previous. Hopefully the value of this (edited) transcript is the Biblical 'spin' on familiar and basic techniques. It is important to keep in mind that these prisoners had no prior exposure to NLP.

Session 1 "Time to change"

   We are here tonight and for the next three weeks to look at a subject that I have never heard taught on in a Christian context, but which is at the heart of humanity and of Gods dealings with humanity. One thing that is universal in our human experience, whether Christian or not, is that we want to change something, it would be easy for us here to say that we want to change our environment, and then we would be happy - but then, do any of you know people on the outside who are unhappy, even if they have all you ever wanted?

   It is not the conditions of our lives that we really need to change, although obviously, when you can, they might help, but rather we need to be able to change 2 things: firstly how we feel, and secondly how we behave, or the things we do. Can any of you think of something that you want to change? Ok lets back up, why do you want to change that, .... so you will feel happy and in control, excellent, can you now see what I am talking about?

   I think that change is one of the essentials that we grasp in our relationship with God, you see, the Bible is a book full of changes; first of all there is nothing and chaos, then God speaks and there is creation & order - fairly major change huh? What about the change that took place when Adam & Eve sinned, again this was of cosmic proportions, you see now we are in a position where God being perfect does not change (Malachi 3.6) and we being sinful need to! The Bible is a book of changed lives, can anyone give me their favorite examples? (David, from boy to King, Moses, from murderer to leader & prophet, Saul to Paul, Legion, from demoniac to sound mind, many egs of healing, the change in the disciples, fishermen to men of God)

   OK that's great, now we have started, you won't be able to look at your Bible the same way, you can see that Gods will is very much to change us - for the better!

   Let’s have a look at some of the levels or dimensions of change.(At this point there was a discussion about change on a societal level, which we decided was not going to happen until the individuals changed).

   First, there is the level of beliefs, now I want to break this into 2 kinds.
1) 'Theological' beliefs, which define what we believe about God, man, sin etc. The most important of which is that a person believes in Jesus as Lord and Savior (without this belief & the consequence of having a living relationship with God through Him, all other change is simply rearranging the paintings in a burning house!). Or again one might say "I believe God heals" this will very much determine this ones behavior in that he will (if he is consistent) pray for the sick, and if you didn't believe it, why waste your time & God's asking Him to?

   You see, beliefs control what we will even consider possible, what we will see and experience of the world - how many of you can look back with hindsight and see that God was working in your life before you were saved? Aha! But you didn't notice at the time did you? Why is that? Because you had a belief that said ' there is no God' therefore you couldn't allow yourself to see Him!

   2) The other kind of beliefs are 'life' beliefs, these are just beliefs that you pick up that are more general. I worked with a girl who had been anorexic for many years, and she believed that her body was disgusting. She just 'knew' that when anything went wrong it was her fault! How about that for having beliefs that will cause you pain in life? We will come back to beliefs and the controlling force they exert on our behavior later in the session.

   Of course in the real world, theological and 'life' beliefs are intertwined, what about Sarah for example (Gen. 18.1-15), she had a belief in that she 'knew' that old ladies don't have babies, of course they don't! Right? No, God gives her a new belief "is anything too hard for the Lord?" which opens up a new possibility, she and Abraham both need to apply action to the new belief and hey presto! Isaac is born - what a laugh it can be to have a new belief about Gods power now!

   Part of what God does with us in bringing us to maturity in Christ is replacing our old 'life' beliefs with eternally true 'theological' beliefs from his word, and suddenly a whole new world of possibility opens up, but more of that later.

   Another area we can see change is in values, Paul write in Phil 3.7-8 that his old values of being a top notch Jew and Pharisee, were as dung and refuse, in the light of knowing Christ. Many of us have had our values turned upside down, whether that be in the realm of right and wrong, or in what we think is important or not. When one of your friends is mad keen on stamp collecting and you think that is no big deal what is that a difference of? Yes, values. We can discover our values just by asking about any particular area of life "what's important to me about ....?" your answers to those questions, about life, relationships, family, money, spirituality and so on will give you a good idea of what kinds of things you would enjoy and what kinds of things would bring you real pain.

   (There was a brief discussion about the relationship between beliefs and values, and that as human beings we chunk things down to understand and describe them, but that we are whole beings therefore no division is too watertight but for learning purposes only)

   Identity: I suppose the obvious one is Saul to Paul, IDENTITY is the set of beliefs you have about yourself, who you are, how you define yourself, what would you read as a definition if you looked up your name in the dictionary? What makes you different from the fellow sitting next to you? These are all parts of your identity. Interestingly, as a belief it can limit our behaviors in both positive & negative ways. For example, if you asked me to dress in a tutu and run down the high street shouting 'the queen is a man' I would turn you down, because "I'm not like that - that's not the kind of person I am". This can be a very positive thing -- it prevents me from unhelpful behaviors. But also because my identity is as a Christian, I will do things that are even uncomfortable for me to do, reaching out to people who are in desperate need, dying or in pain, and also not doing things that the Bible teaches as sinful. If you have an identity, as 'a loser' will, that affect the way you approach life than if you perceive yourself as ' a child of God'? Try this one on for size, a Charlie Brown cartoon based on 'all the worlds a stage' Charlie is talking to Linus and says "I stepped out onto the stage of life, and a voice called out 'No he's wrong for the part'"!

   What about behavior? We can change our behavior, Eph 4.22-24 to put off, be renewed in the spirit of our minds, and then put on better behavior, holy, righteous & consistent with our new identity as Gods new creation. Notice that this isn't just remedial, in terms of just stopping sinning, but more so in terms of growing into Christlikeness and maturity in the Spirit.

   Healing is a major category that we will skim over, just note that in physical; healing for example God gave Abraham's body which was as good as dead, the bible says in Rom 4.16-22 the power or potential to Father a child, his body changed. In a spiritual sense you can see regeneration as healing of the fallen human spirit, and the ministry of Jesus in freeing people like Legion from evil spirits as covering the spiritual realm also. And of course in Psalm 23 David writes about the fact that God restores his soul (there was some discussion about the difference etc. of spirit & soul, and the main point came out that Gods work and salvation is for the whole person, see also 1 Thess 5.23)

   God doesn't change, we have to, He is the rock, He is perfect that means there is no flaw in him to get worse, or to improve. Our experience of Him changes because He is infinite, and we encounter new facets of Him, this is part of the adventure that Heaven will be. Change is a major issue in the Christian life.

   The last level of change I want to mention is that of changing our thinking or changing our mind. The Bible has plenty to say about it explicitly, but also was of course written so God could reveal Himself to us, so we would change the way we think, that is why the Bible is the most important reference we have in thinking about change. All lasting change must bring us more closely into line with Gods Word and with what He says about life, behavior and what is important and what things mean, if we don't we are deceiving ourselves and going down a blind alley.

   Anyway, repentance is changing your mind, lets look at some: Acts 3.19 what did they need to repent from? They had crucified Christ, God had raised him from the dead & made him Lord of all, and man were they in trouble! They needed to change their thinking about Jesus & turn to God, quite often this is an emotional event as well, that is because we often need a bit of pain to shift our old habitual thought patterns.

   Rom 12.2 says, "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may know what is that good and perfect and acceptable will of God". Lets step back a little and see where we are now, The Christian life is a change in direction first and foremost, turning from sin to God, from independence to the Lordship of Christ, changing from hellbound to heavenbound.

   Decision plays a major part in our walk with God. Without getting snarled up in any predestination / freewill debate, let us listen together to Gods manner of dealing with mankind: Deut 30.19. God asks them to choose life, He sets two very distinct paths before them, obedience, life, blessing or disobedience, death, cursing, now this was to a certain group of people in a particular historical context, but lets see a couple of principles. God never changes, God sets the rules, our experience of God changes according to the decisions we make about His rules, if we break them we suffer pain, if we obey them we experience pleasure. But the emphasis is on our ability to make decisions: in the moments of decision our destiny is set, if that sounds a bit of an overstatement, then think about salvation, your eternal destiny was altered!

   Also in this prison context this is more poignant, you see, everything you think, say or do is a cause set in motion. At some point will have a result in either your internal experience or in the 'real' world, these effects or results all stack up to take your life in a certain direction, and for every direction there is a destination. I heard Billy Graham put it another way, he said "Sow a thought, reap an action, sow an action, reap a habit, sow a habit, reap a character, sow a character, reap a destiny"

   Decisions are the moment when something changes. The word come from the Latin 'decaedere' caedere = to cut, de = from; a true decision is to cut off from every other possibility. I smoked for 9 years, and could relate easily to the man who said "giving up smoking is simple, I do it every day". But the point came when I decided, I put my foot down and said "that's it" and meant it. I cut myself off from all other possibilities, and I never smoked since. Tony Robbins says 'when you make a real decision, you are drawing a line, not in the sand, but in cement.'

   The quality of your life depends on the quality of the actions you take, both physically & mentally. The quality of your actions comes from the quality of your decisions, the quality of your decisions depends on the meanings we give to our circumstances. If you think that because you are here that you are a victim & can never make good, that will give you a different quality of decision. As a result of that belief you it will also impact your actions & life to. If you think that this is an opportunity to better yourself and learn from your past, we will spend some time on that more next week.

   That I think will do as an illustration & foundation that change is near to the heart of our unchanging God, I want to turn our attention for the remaining 15 minutes to 2 'models' or illustrations that we can build on in the coming sessions. What I want to teach you is not 'rocket science' many of you will sit there and say "Hey, I know that". But the key to success is to become aware of what we do, slow it down, make it better and then run it normally again, isn't that what a sports coach does? He doesn't say anything new, but he slows Agassi down, makes him see where he can make a small improvement, makes him rehearse it slowly and then when he's got it right Wham! He’s better than before. I want to show you what you do in your head, that you don't even notice, but small changes will make big differences.

Firstly the behavior model:

   Have you ever met someone who was rude & unhelpful to you? And you didn't like their behavior? Do you think they are always like that? What about when you do it to others? What makes the difference? THE STATE that you are in, you could be in a happy state, an angry or frustrated state, and they will give you access to two very different sets of behavior won't they?

   So the behaviors we produce are the RESULT of the state that we are in. And our state is determined by two major factors, firstly our Physiology, by that I mean our body: have you ever noticed that your state is different when you are feeling physically tired or in pain or even with a cold? How about your state of mind when you have been sitting on an uncomfortable chair for too long? Ah, smiles - your body is telling me what is happening to your state! Our state is affected by the condition of our body. Whether it is weak, run down and in poor condition, but also in the way we use our physiology. We will do some exercises next session to reinforce this, but the way you are all nodding & smiling, you can all recognize this from your own experience, either that or my flies are undone and you think its funny!

   Another clue to how powerful physiology is, is the fact that so many people try to change it, isn't this what people do when they drink alcohol, take drugs, smoke, eat too much, or more positively exercise or get quality sleep? We can impact our state through physiology by either changing our biochemistry artificially or naturally. Even the way we walk and have muscle tension in our bodies, the depth of breath we take and position we hold our heads in changes the way we feel, try this exercise: Capewalk; walk round the room slowly, looking down at the ground, shoulders slumped, shallow breathing, now stop, shake your body out, and I want you to stride round the room, head up, breathing deep and strong, but this time I want you to walk as if you had a silk Batman cape on, or your a vampire and you have this long flowing cape .... Yeah, that's it .... OK who noticed a difference? Did anyone not notice a difference? ... Can you check his pulse? Oh you did, what was it? Confident, how come just walking made you confident, it couldn't be that simple could it? Can you see how just becoming aware of these things could have a major impact on how you spend the day tomorrow, and you don't even have to have the cape dry cleaned!

   OK the other element that affects our state is internal representations, that's just a fancy way of saying whatever you do in your head, the pictures you see, the sounds that you hear, the things that you say to yourself. We can break this down into 2 groupings as well. First the content of what you do in your head, and second how you do it in your head. Let’s have an example: Lets say that we have a desired state called 'sleep', obviously you can affect this with your physiology. If you have just drunk a pot of coffee your biochemistry is not going to allow this, also if your body is in pain, uncomfortable or already refreshed you will not sleep. But also what happens in your head affects this, if you lie there and your content is an upsetting argument you once had or something scary what will happen? Yeah, your heart pounds, and you're wired! That’s content, but the way we do these things in our head notices too, how about if you run through all the things you haven't done today real fast, loud and right up close in your face, how does that feel? Whoa! Look at his face, can you see that register? That brings me on to the next thing in just introducing you to this behavioral model, and that is, the mind and the body are linked in what is called a 'cybernetic loop' which only means your body is affected by your mind - like we just saw there. If you sit and think of things that upset you, you can speed up your pulse, get tension all over, and even give yourself an ulcer with practice! But also like with the cape walk, you know that your body affects your mind. We will use this model in more detail in the sessions coming up, but I wanted to give you a week to get used to it, and also to give you a chance to think of any questions / or examples of your own.

   OK lets backtrack just a little and look at beliefs before I give you your assignment, we have already noted in passing that our beliefs control our behavior, let me show you this diagram:

potential >>>>>>> actions

^                        v

^                        v

beliefs <<<<<<< results

   OK lets start with a simple e.g., lets have a 400 meter race. Now your belief or attitude to that could be positive or negative. Lets start with negative; you say to yourself, I can't run, I never could run well, I always lose races - that is your belief or attitude, OK how much of your potential will you tap? Right, not a lot, you do see the point in even trying right? We all look like we are equally out of shape here, but what kinds of actions will you take? Half-hearted, tentative, and so lets face it your results are going to be pretty underwhelming. But the your brain says "See! I told you I couldn't run!" and it reinforces the whole thing, and so you can get some people who hardly even try to run the race of life, and every time they don't go for it, they get duff results, which reinforce the beliefs that kept them stuck. Let’s go at it the other way. I say 'lets go run 400 m' you go "oh Yeah. I was born to run, I got wings on my feet, and you will eat my dust, lets go" now your potential may not be any different to mine, but do you think you will tap more of it? right, and so what kind of action will you take, and results?

Man: but what if he loses?

   That’s the beauty of this, what do you say? .... 'I'm good but he's better, I need to train more cos I am a top class runner'. This model is not some positive thinking recipe for success, there are plenty of time when we don't win, but looking at it this way means you can learn & grow stronger, and keep playing the game of life.

   (Comment that potential for Christians & nonchristians is different) Absolutely, Phil 4.13 says "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" now obviously these are thing that God is wanting us to do, but we have the indwelling Holy Spirit, lets think of some egs: Man: what about Abraham, he believed God, and God gave him the potential to father a child, he had 'lead in his pencil' but still had to take action and 'write' his future.Good, and what about when you are filled with the Holy Spirit and you know that it is Gods will for you to share your faith with a fellow prisoner. So you take action and whichever way the actual encounter goes it actually strengthens your faith. And you often see Gods power bringing much greater results than you could of dreamt of: the same thing happens in prayer and all sorts (discussion about a blind prisoner, and whether he would be / could be healed if they prayed for him). OK lets work through this and see what you think. Does God have the potential to heal him? Do you believe that enough to take action? What would it mean if he weren’t healed when you prayed?

Man: we'd need to learn about prayer, no sin in our lives, and God doesn't have to first time anyway.

   OK, one thing I can add to that, you can get a 100% guarantee that, you will miss every shot you don't take. We can learn from our results if we will treat them as feedback and adjust what we are doing according to the new information they give us, but if we don't try we don't know anything at all. (a question about whether this was just positive thinking) Well, kind of, but I think that it's about time Christians were more positive. I mean, we do have a lot to be positive about - we have a Father in heaven that loves us unconditionally. We have eternal life and the power to live life abundantly now. We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, and that God by very character is a redeemer and will therefore use every experience we have to change us into Christ's likeness. I think that the human potential movement's main weakness is that the vast majority of humanity is going to hell and no amount of positive thinking will change that. Positive action by Gods people sharing the gospel will though, but if we don't believe that and take action we will have no results at all.

   OK we are going to rap up with a short exercise, that will get you thinking & applying some of these things: think back 10 years ago, where were you then? What were you like? Who were your friends? What were your hopes, your dreams? OK, what were some seemingly small decisions that have brought you to this point in your life, right here, right now? Even if you only think of just one for each year, did you know this is where you would end up? Also, in 10 years time you will surely arrive, the important question is, 'where?' How you are going to live life for the next 10 years? What’s important to you now, and in the long term? What actions or decisions can I take today that will shape my ultimate destiny? "Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing" Helen Keller.

Good night.

Session 2: Using your brain for a change

   Hi there its good to be back and especially to see so many of you here, lets get straight to it, firstly lets just remind ourselves of the Behavior model. Let me quickly explain it again:

physiology & internal representations = state > behavior.

   OK rather than just keep talking about these things, lets really learn them, lets experience them in our body. Physiology: lets imagine I have #30,000 to give the first person who can describe a man I have hiding behind the door. Not just any man but describe a man with depression, shoulders, breathing, eyes, tension, posture, voice tone etc., great. You can see that every emotional state has a physiology that characterizes it. Lets play at one end of the cybernetic loop shall we? First I would like you to sit like you are completely energized & excited, that's great, how are you breathing? Where are your shoulders? Chest? Head & eyes? Notice how it feels.

   You weren't feeling that state until I asked you to act as if, and now how many of you can feel that state in your head & in your body? All of you, terrific. Now lets have a little "bored & tired" I know some of you will have to try quite hard to remember what this is like .... NOT! OK we can see major shifts in position & breathing & muscle tension, describe how your body is ...... right? It is very much like our depressed friend who is still outside, Tony Robbins suggests that the reason that many people get depressed is just because they are bored & tired!

   Your body leads your emotions, i.e. go for a skip down the corridor & see how that changes your state, explode into Beethoven's 9th. Compare the way people use drugs / drink to change their state. Whether that is biochemical or doing some great exercise or even speeding up your movements and have more certainty in the quality of the way you use your body. Biblical egs, psalms, clap your hands, raise your hands, lift your eyes, bow down, prostrate, & dance see Psalm 95.1-7, 121.1, 149.1-5 and Psalm 47

Internal representations:

   I want you close your eyes and take a deep breath, relax in your seats and take another deep breath and this time I want you to imagine you have nostrils in the soles of your feet and are sucking in oxygen up to your waist, great. Now I want you to make a picture in your mind of a sunny beach, if you hate the beach then go to a nice fresh meadow, see the blue sky, hear the soft breeze in your ears and feel the softness under your feet, now describe your state.... Next I want you to go to that beach but it is grey and raining, it must be Skegness! There is a flash of lightening and a distant roll of thunder, describe your state ..... Finally, I want you to make a picture of the sunny beach. Can you see it? And now hear the thunder, what does that do? How many of you felt shifts in your body as a result of what was happening in your heads? Well I think you’re all weird! No, really, isn't it incredible that all of us are affected by our internal representations?

Lets divide it up and see the impact of what we do in our heads & how we do it.

Focus: video analogy at party, angry, loving, fun, wild!

The Bible talks a lot about focus:

2 cor 3.18 / Heb 12.1-2, Psalm 34.1-6

- slight digression Acts 4.13, been with Jesus, discipleship = molding & modeling beliefs & values.

- a major decision you make in your life is what you decide to focus on: questions, why me Lord?, or how can I use this? Questions will determine the meaning you give to a situation therefore the way you will respond.

   Question, what does anything mean? Often we judge a situation rather than perceiving and waiting: also we must realize that we have a handbook to reality, eternal reality & therefore our interpretation of events must take us closer to truth rather than further away, e.g.: Footsteps late at night - alien, intruder, loved one. What are the feelings you get from each of these? Change the context & the response is different.

Learn to ask, "What else could this mean?" also "How will this seem in a months time" will you look back & laugh then? Why wait!

- Chatterbox son - intelligent, has plenty to say for himself.

- Angry boss - the work I do is important to him.

- Huge tax bill - I'm earning more.

"Even a headache is good news to an aspirin salesman!

How: we focus

   Roller coaster dissociated / associated back to video metaphor.

   Remember an argument, who with, and the gist of what it was about, get back part of the feelings, put it on the screen, with you in the picture, so you are watching yourself having the argument over there. Now turn the brightness down, turn the sound off & put circus music, make it black & white, then push the telly rightover there (my right - into past) how does that affect the feelings? Now remember a particularly pleasant memory, your choice, have it on the screen, add richness to the colors, the sounds, bring it right up close & then step into the memory so you are now seeing it through your own eyes, any changes?

   We often use our words to describe literally what we do inside our heads, with our memories & things that are happening even now, e.g. I need to step back for awhile. I need some space. The situation looks bleak / dark, she has a bright future. I need to put some distance between it & me. Put the past behind you. It’s in my face. He has a colorful past, etc., also with our bodies, just with stress - a pain in the neck, fed up, sick of it, etc.

   Read Psalms this week to see how King David describes his experience in very clear terms. You now have the basic understandings you need to change your state & therefore your behaviors, to be more consistent with who you are as a Christian, & also to be more in control of how you respond to your environment.

Lets play awhile:

   Scramble: first I want you to find an unpleasant memory, one that still has the power to make you feel bad, OK you all got one? If you haven't, borrow someone else's! It looks like he's got enough to go round! OK so you have a memory or maybe an every day difficulty or embarrassment, now run that movie in your head full sights & sounds, that's it, and notice how it feels. Now what I want you to do is choose some wild theme music or maybe circus music you know, or like the loony tunes theme, now go back and run that unpleasant movie with the music going, good, now check that memory - Hey you, what are you smiling for? How many of you noticed a difference? But you still have the necessary information, so you can learn from the past, you just don't feel bad about it, good. OK lets try another one, get another yuck memory, and run the movie through to the end and freeze frame it, now step into the movie if you were outside it, and I'm going to ask you to run it backwards real fast, in full color, taking about 1.5 seconds, like on a home movie but super fast right to the beginning , then stop ready, steady, go! Do it 2 more times, let's test it, think of that memory, how does it feel?.... Completely, different? Great!

   Just a word here, as Christians we are not in the business of denial. God has said He will teach us from every experience. That we can grow in the light of our sins & mistakes, and that He will even redeem them, that is, turn them around for our ultimate good. Any change that we make cannot & must not violate truth. What we are doing here is not changing the information of the memories, but just stopping them holding us back from growth in the future: all change must be towards conformity with the Word of God, anything else is a sham and will not last memory management, association / disassociation.

   I would like you to take an unpleasant memory and then watch it happening to you over there, you are watching it happen on a screen. You are not seeing it happen through your own eyes, but it is like someone else took a video of it happening and is showing it to you. This is called disassociation, and it is one of the things the human brain does naturally with unpleasant experiences. Like just before death your life flashing before your eyes, or in an accident, you feel strangely remote and disengaged, especially if there is significant pain. And don't we sometimes say that when someone is really distraught that they are 'besides themselves?' Our language tells us a lot doesn't it? But the same can work for our pleasant memories. Have you ever seen someone relive a memory? Like they are fully there? Do it now, pleasant memory, get it back, step inside, do you recover those feelings? OK so we can use this to dissociate from painful memories, but still keep our learnings, and associate into pleasant memories so we have a rich treasury of good times. NB: this helps you to deal with problems, have you ever noticed that someone else's problems are "No big deal" and are easy to solve? You can do this with your own without being confused by your own feelings.

Session 3: .....and keep the change

   Good evening. We are going to learn more this evening than you could hope for. And the wonderful thing is, is that you don't need to try to remember it at all. What I mean by that is, everything that happens to you is recorded fully on the hard disk of your brain. (Obviously not everything that happens around you, because there are the constraints of your physical abilities, like whether you have good or poor eyesight & hearing, and also the fact that you have to ignore the majority of things going on or you would just BOOOM! overload!) But have you ever noticed that you hear or see something and then that's it, its lost? But maybe years later someone mentions it, and as they give a little detail it all comes rushing back? So you didn't forget it, you just hadn't recalled it, but given the time when you needed that information again you were able to get it back again.

   OK so what? Well is it possible that what Jesus said when he promised the disciples that the Holy Spirit would bring them remembrance of what he had taught them. It did not mean that they would have to keep trying to remember what he had said, but that the Holy Spirit would supernaturally bring that accurate and undistorted recall to them so that the gospels we have are true and reliable. In a much less significant way, we are going to learn and experience some new things that you don't need to try and remember because you will find that they become available as and when you need them. I will say a little more about learning in a moment, but lets get an experience of one of the things we talked about last week in terms of the sensations that questions you ask affecting your body and state.


   What I want you to do is think of something that is a mild problem for you in your life right now, get a clear representation of what it is, and ask yourself these questions about it:

- What’s wrong?

- Why do I have this problem?

- How long have I had it?

- How does this limit or restrict me?

- What does this problem stop me from doing that I want to do?

- Whose fault is it that I have this problem?

- When was the worst time I experienced this problem?

Now I'd like you to take a deep breath, shake out your body and think of a descriptive word for what it felt like answering these questions..... OK not good.

Now with the same challenge answer these questions:

- What do I want?

- When do I want it?

- How will I know that I have it?

- When I get what I want, what else in my life will improve?

- What resources do I have available to help me?

- How can I best utilize the resources that I have?

- What can I begin doing now to help me get what I want?

Now take a deep breath, shake out your body and think of a descriptive word.

   Who noticed any difference? Ok nearly all of you. But you were thinking of the same problem in each case, so you can see how something as simple and basic as our questions can affect our state: any feedback? (Discussion on how the 'blame frame' focused on mans fault and weakness, and the outcome frame focused on God as the ultimate 'resource' and also gave security as He had always been the answer in other problems in the past, and could be relied on for the future. Also discussed the issue of God's will in answering prayer, how we need to be specific in our requests and full of faith, but humble and flexible in our attitude because God's solution is always the best, and we might not be able to see it yet.)

   Right, how many of you have had your telephone number changed? Can you remember it? Can you remember your old one? its a little harder but you can can't you, so how do you do that? Its amazing to think that when you ask your brain for your phone number it gives you the right one. That's because your brain usually codes more recent learning with a higher coding than old information. I say usually, because exceptions are along the lines of when we learn something in an intensely emotional state, say something irrational. It is quite hard to just "talk someone out of it" with new accurate information because that state interferes, so we have another way of doing that.

   But just think if your brain didn't keep updating what you have learned in this way, you wouldn't believe you could jump a 3 foot puddle, because there was a time when you were 18 months old when you couldn't! OK so new learning is a sign of growth, of being alive. And so in one sense we can see all change as new learning, we used to respond in one way, then we learned a new phone number and now we respond another way. The 'old number' is not erased, because when you try you can recall it, so you have the choice of dialing it if you want, but your brain says "why bother, I don't live there anymore" so your brain has found a new route to 'phone home'.

   All change is learning and we learn quick and easy, how about if we had a conversation one word a day, or we saw a movie one frame a week, it wouldn't make sense, our brains process information very fast, and that is how we learn and therefore change.

   One other thing about learning is the way we do it: we learn by taking something from outside our experience and linking it up with something we do know. Like if I told you about the kind of variable resistors or something like that on my guitar, you would look at me blankly like you are now. But if I said its like a small water tap that lets electricity and sound through then you have a metaphor. You have something that you can link it to. And the best teachers are those that take something unknown and say "its like" something that is known. What about Jesus, the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, a lost coin, yeast in dough, a wedding feast, and you go back to your rooms and reread Revelation, it is full of this language, "I saw, as it were, a sea of glass, or the living creatures were like....." etc. John was lost for words so he said, look it wasn't made of glass, but it was like that.

   Of course there are times in our lives, when we are very young, and when we are learning something completely new. When there is nothing on the inside that we know that can be used as a 'likeness' for what is unknown on the outside, and the result is confusion, how many of you know confusion? That’s brilliant. Because confusion is a message that says you are about to learn something completely new that will open up new horizons of learning for you, that you are not trying to fit the real world to your experience. What you do know, but are allowing reality to affect you directly and you will learn from that? And again, when you see what happens to writers like Ezekiel, you know that if they tried to reduce the revelation of Gods glory to what they had known in the past, the Bible would not have such an awe-inspiring view of God.

OK so lets experience something new and then we will learn from it.

   Sit right forward and get feelings in your body of total excitement and energy, feeling really good! Ok now double it, breathe the way you would breath if you were totally energized, excited and unstoppable. Now in that state, click your fingers and say "yes" in an unstoppable tone of voice, and again, and again, twice more, increase that feeling. OK now sit back and tell me what you guys get for breakfast here ....... Now click your fingers in exactly the same way and say 'yes' the way you did, what happens? Look around - isn't that a nice feeling to go from thinking about prison breakfasts to feeling so alive? What can we learn from this? Well we learn by linking things up in our experience, we make associations, or even Neuro-associations in our brain and body between this and this, and normally this happens completely randomly, like have you ever smelt a perfume that reminded you of a time with your Granny? Or freshly baked bread takes you back doesn't it? The same goes for faces, someone walks into the room and it completely affects your state, you might get really mad, frightened, or overwhelmed with joy .... Yeah, just like when you see your children .... How about when you are in a really intense state like love, and the song that they keep playing on the radio is linked to that, it becomes 'our song' but years later you hear that and it takes you right back there?

   These things are environmental triggers for those states, and can happen really randomly. Also advertisers know how this works, so they try to elicit an emotional response from you by showing you images and sounds, and then they flash their product before you and eventually by repetition they will link the two together. Now isn't it nice to know how to be in control of that process? Are there any times in your life when it might be useful to feel full of energy and unstoppable?... at your parole panel! Ok its better than going in all stressed and maybe saying something that blows your chances.

   Let me give you 4 keys to creating effective links or what are called 'anchors'. First put yourself in a fully associated (really there), full body experience, as intense as possible. Next make the link or trigger at the peak of the experience, third make it a unique trigger, like something you say to yourself or a posture etc. And finally, to get the state back you need to replicate the trigger precisely, i.e. same place on your body, tone of voice, posture, etc.

   Right before we do our final exercise, I want to mention that there are 2 basic kinds of change, there is 'remedial' i.e. applying a remedy. So you’re 'broken', you come to me and I fix you, now if that was a physical thing like a broken bone then you could go and break it again and so we could have a long and unproductive relationship. The second kind is called 'generative' because it is something that sets you up for the future in a new way. It functions more like flicking over the first domino and then all the others go over, or the ripples on a pond after you have dropped just one pebble in it. So if I could teach you to have strong leg muscles, to be careful with yourself and to avoid environments where legs get broken etc. If I could teach you where even if you encountered the situation you would be greater than the leg breaking force and would overcome it and not need fixing. Generative is more a direction than a cure, instead of asking 'what's wrong, how can I fix it?' generative change asks, 'what's great, how can I make it better still?'

   An interesting thing is that often in the process of remedial change we learn things that are useful for the future and we use the generatively. I.E., when we did the backward movie and association / dissociation they were primarily remedial, dealing with your past, but you learned that you could take control of what you do inside your head & that learning sets you in a new direction.

   This all sounds very highbrow stuff, but we can look at scripture and see that God does both kinds of change. In salvation, we are broken, sinful, hellbound and separated from him. Through Jesus he rescues us, forgives us, and 'fixes' us. Then in the generative sense, He makes us His children, and adopts us, and sets us the new direction of maturing in our sonship so we become more like Jesus. At this point I hope you will see that we have gone full circle from session 1. We are truly children of God, and all change is to be in the direction of Christlikeness. Whether that is in being saved, or in developing in the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5.22-23.

   Now lets consider how we can use what we have learned about associations in the light of growing as Christians. One way to tackle the future is to take a 'resource' and 'future pace' it, i.e. know what's coming up. To know what you have had as a resource in the past and link them up in advance. For example, if you created an anchor of: knowing God's presence and faithfulness, confidence, joy, gratitude and energy & vitality, and thought ahead of a panel coming up, or something else that caused anxiety will triggering that feeling, then you have linked the two in advance. Paul actually demonstrates how he has hope for the future, even in coming troubles, because his hope is built on past experiences of Gods faithfulness and power, you can read this in Rom 5.1-5.

   That is one way, and I have rushed through it a bit, so you will need to experiment a bit, but the other that I want us to do is the 'swish'. In the ‘swish’ finding a cue image or situation that would lead you off into thinking or behavior that you don't want, and changing the association so it takes you in a direction you do want. So first of all think of a situation that fits this description........ Get a cue image, bring it up big and bright, now put that to one side for a moment.

   Make a big bright image of the kind of person you want to be. Now lets digress a little. I would like you to make a composite image. And let’s work on it together for a while. Make an image of what you think a child of God looks like, not outwardly, but in terms of character, speech, reactions, the way you would walk, the way that you resemble Jesus in your manner with others (a brainstorming session describing an attractive Christian life). Now I would like you to find a way of representing that in your image of yourself. Maybe the way you are standing, or a sparkle in your eyes, a calmness and trust in your bearing as you look at this image of what you want to become as you grow and change as a Christian. Remember you will be able to update this as you learn more about being like Jesus, notice how this makes you feel, it is compelling, it draws you to it, it pulls you in a new direction.

   Ok, so do you think it would be useful to be able to link the cue image that used to take you off into sinful, or unhelpful behavior and thinking, to link this image with a new one that pulled you towards a happy holiness and a calm trust in God? That every time you encountered this problem it would remind you that you are a new creation and the old things have passed away? And even your problems would become a stimulus to propel you in the right direction rather than causing you to stumble?

OK so one way to link them is an exercise called the swish pattern:

1) Bring up the cue image

2) Place the desired image in the corner, small and dark, and then make the desired image grow in size and brightness, coming closer and breakthrough the 1st picture, 3) as it grows make the sound 'whoooosh!' When it breaks through feel the feelings associated with looking at that compelling image of how you want to be and respond.

Essentially what you are doing is through repetition and emotional intensity you are telling your brain "see this (image 1) - do this (image 2)"

Ok now do this fast 10 times............

Now think of the cue image, what happens? Aha! A new learning!

   Now, one last word. These things are helpful and enjoyable and really do set you off in a new direction, one that leads towards God, and away from self-reliance. I want you to know without a shadow of a doubt that the most important thing that you must do on a daily, consistent basis, is to walk in close fellowship with God. We have talked before about spiritual breathing: to be confessing our sins and receiving forgiveness on the basis of 1 Jn 1.9, "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness". No amount of swishing will take the place of this. "If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us". And the other important part is to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and walk in obedience to Him. If we do this we will abide in the vine and the life of the vine with flow through us and we will grow strong and bare fruit. May God bless us as we do first things first and run after the prize of knowing Christ, and being like Him.

(c)1998 Ian Field. All rights reserved.