Its Structure and Use
Judith Pearson, Ph.D.
John Burton, Ed.D. and Bob G. Bodenhamer, D. Min.
House Publishing Limited, Wales, U.K.
by Judith E. Pearson, Ph.D. L.P.C.
"Sometimes when we change we say we no longer know who we are but it really means we are no longer who we were knowing full well who we most truly are now and will be feeling this deeply or maybe even deeper knowing how you can live this…n-o-w always." (p. 114)
explores the methods by which language induces trance and stimulates new
thinking. In this book,
Burton and Bodenhamer expand our understanding of the Milton Model by
illuminating the cognitive underpinnings that make Ericksonian hypnotherapy
effective. To do so, the authors
draw upon a diversity of psychological models, including Neuro-linguistics,
Neuro-semantics, developmental psychology, Gestalt psychology, NLP and
of us agree with Milton Erickson’s assertion that “trance” is a natural,
routine event that occurs in everyone, throughout the course of the day.
We tend to think of trance states as daydreaming, visualizing, or
absorption in a conversation, film, video-game, or book.
Burton takes the definition of trance a step further.
He says that any time we focus
inward to assign meaning, that is “trance.” Thus “all communication
invites the receiver into a hypnotic trance.” In that moment, when the
listener’s mind travels between not knowing and knowing, there is an
opportunity for the speaker to influence the mind’s direction.
Hypnotic Language has
Part One discusses theory and Part Two discusses application and example.
Part One presents three factors that allow the mind’s susceptibility to
hypnotic language. These factors
Conscious-Unconscious Mind Split – The conscious mind consists of “primary
awareness;” whatever one attends to at any given moment. The unconscious mind
consists of “secondary awareness;” the mind’s storehouse of information,
residing outside of primary awareness. Theoretically,
primary awareness is limited to Miller’s 7+2 chunks of data, while
secondary awareness is virtually unlimited. The authors postulate that hypnotic
language overwhelms primary awareness processing capacity and creates access to
(potentially useful) information residing in secondary awareness.
Thus, in hypnotherapy, old data (the content of the problem) can be
processed in a new way, for new meanings and possibilities that lead to
Styles – Limiting beliefs and ineffective strategies develop in childhood,
when flawed perceptions create “problem states” that carry into adolescence
and adulthood. Hypnotic
language patterns revisit these flawed cognitive/perceptual styles of childhood,
returning to the “scene of the crime” so to speak.
However, this purposeful revisiting is intended to reshape the problem
state into a solution state. The
cognitive styles of problem states (which easily translate into hypnotic
language patterns) include:
thinking (thinking in terms of all or nothing)
(inability to perceive events as they existed before trauma)
(generalizing a conclusion from one situation to other situations)
Egocentrism (exclusive focus on self, to the
exclusion of other points of view)
Transductive logic (assuming cause-effect
between events occurring closely in time)
(focusing on only one element of the whole)
Inductive logic (generalizing a conclusion
from a single event)
Animism (giving inanimate objects human-like
Perceptual Principals of Gestalt Psychology – Several principals of human perception play a role in making hypnotic language an effective tool for changing perception. Perceptual principals explain how people mentally sort and organize data into patterns and relationships. Hypnotic language can use these tendencies as leverage for implanting new meanings. The patterns are:
(focusing on certain elements of the whole, while other elements assume less
or similarity (perceiving sameness or difference)
(perceiving the whole from separate elements—filling in the gaps)
(seeking simple explanations for events—reducing and summarizing)
reduction (confusion over inconsistency, and an accompanying tendency to reduce
the confusion by resolving the inconsistency)
(repeating and generalizing strategies and understandings)
figure-ground reversal, for example, the hypnotherapist can suggest that the
listener allow the problem to fade into background, while bringing potential
resources from the background into the foreground.
Linking opposing concepts activates dissonance reduction.
To illustrate, here is an example of hypnotic language suggesting that
the listener concern himself less with the “why” of the problem, and focus
instead on the solution.
"And just why do you need to know why…be…cause…instead…when you have what you did not have or feel how you did not feel will you care why not?" (p. 140)
Part Two of Hypnotic Language contains case examples showing the application of hypnotic language to specific clinical issues. The text provides narratives or scripts that demonstrate hypnotic language patterns for the following applications:
Change beliefs by challenging their source, pointing out new possibilities, and suggesting new behaviors.
Create new time orientations that shift thinking from a “problem” focus to a “solution” focus.
Shift perceptions and their meanings.
Access spirituality to promote a sense of purpose, safety, and congruence.
Direct changes in mind-emotion states.
The scripts address issues such as frustration, isolation, questions about one’s competence and personal strength, self-esteem, inflexible strategies, procrastination and depression. They teach the listener how to let go of painful pasts, or fears of the future, to find purpose, comfort, recovery, and healing in the present. They invite the listener to doubt the utility of rigid perceptions and to expand choices and meanings. There are applications for reducing pain, grief, and self-criticism, and for overcoming indecision, many of which rely on figure-ground reversals. The authors show how to use language to change emotions such as boredom, disappointment, impulsiveness, anxiety, guilt, and resentment. They describe language patterns that potentially could help people improve performance, expand choice, access resources and achieve outcomes.
If you read the scripts carefully and thoughtfully, you can experience the effect of the language patterns. Here, John Burton’s artistry with language, combined with Bob Bodenhamer’s mastery of NLP (particularly Meta-states) is truly evident. The scripts demonstrate the authors’ facility with Meta-stating, sleight of mouth, and Milton-model language devices such as metaphor, puns, double entendre, tag questions, conversational postulates, implied cause-effect, ambiguity, etc., to induce trance, suspend skepticism, cause uncertainty, and lead the listener to access new possibilities in belief and behavior.
This excerpt, for instance, shows how the authors invite the listener to access the “unconscious” mind.
"You know what you experience at this very moment but do you know what you do not experience at this very moment: What is here in the now and what is there in the then? Of course then can represent past or future, any time other than now, you know? So you know what you have and use now, your primary awareness you might call it. Then you can shift to your secondary awareness you might call it. This secondary awareness knows there and then, all other possibilities. Your secondary awareness knows and can go there and then, making it here and now for your primary awareness, you know? What state or style or resource does your primary awareness know is missing for the most effective results? What and how do you need to be here and now that is there and then…using this here and now, what do you primarily experience? You can now hear this, here and now k-n-o-w there and then, can’t you use this then and now?" (p. 115)
Here is an excerpt from a delightful script that addresses irreversibility. Note how the use of temporal shifts can cause confusion. This script invites the listener to consider the possible resources to be found in both the past and the future.
"This is interesting because what was before and what will be next as the last next was before and before is timeless because what was before you is both past and the future, you know, and you can glimpse behind to see what is left before you. How many befores do you step over counting your way back to before the first one? And what do you call the time before any of your befores began? Feeling this…now…see and feel the future is right before you to realize you can see how the past was left behind while the future is right in front of you want to do what is right now, don’t you see how it stretches out already? Your future does not know your past, how will you tell it to be?" (p. 106)
This script asks the listener to focus on future outcomes and take the “next step.” Note the use of similarities and continuation.
"Now you know what you do not want to do and, more importantly, you know what you do want to do. You can look in your past to notice all the steps, one after another, a series of nexts leading you up to here…this…now that you know what you want, look into your future and see yourself thinking, feeling, and doing as you want. See the outer edges of your future self and moving toward the center notice the stronger deeper awareness of what and how you want to be then feeling this now notice what your next step is in making your future happen now. What will be your next next and…so…on…until…you create a clear path of nexts leading you right up to…what and how you want to be…now? And now simply allow your mind to inform all of you what to do next." (p. 104)
concludes with an informative chapter that reviews and contrasts the Milton
Model and the Meta Model. The
authors explain that words function as symbols of sensory representations
(maps), which in turn function as symbols of actual experience (territory). With
words we translate sensory representations into concepts, meanings, and
paradigms. The Meta-model provides a means of linguistic analysis, to detect
inaccuracies in the surface structure (words) of experience, so that we can
glimpse the deeper structures and clarify how one represents the territory.
The Milton Model is the Meta-model in reverse; purposely using
abstractions and ambiguities (deletions, distortions and generalizations) to
cause the receiver to engage in transderivational search.
With Meta-model violations, double meanings, ambiguity, and language
linkage, the Milton Model triggers an inward search to “make sense out of
it”---an opportunity to reconfigure the map.
Burton is a graduate school instructor and Licensed Professional Counselor in
private practice in Greenville, South Carolina.
He holds a doctorate from Vanderbilt, in Nashville, Tennessee. Bobby Bodenhamer is a highly respected and innovative writer,
theorist, and NLP trainer. He
teaches at Gaston College in North Carolina and provides NLP training through
NLP of Gastonia. He is also a
therapy consultant, pastor of a mission church, and maintains a private therapy
reminds us that language can truly have magical powers, to harm or to heal; that
every communication with another carries the potential for influence—because
at any moment, the receiver may enter “trance,” to derive meaning and
direction from the words. An
awesome, somewhat disarming thought, indeed.
NLP practitioners and hypnotherapists, Hypnotic Language
explains how words can effect change, and shows the reader how to choreograph
words as they dance across the mind. The
scripts demonstrate an elegance of communication that draws from and rivals that
of Milton Erickson. Reading them,
one cannot stay out of trance! Yet,
this book is more than a collection of very good scripts and case examples.
It gives an astute explanation of how words shape cognition and meaning.
sense I got from reading Hypnotic Language,
especially the scripts, was that I was reading the words of a gentle teacher.
While the book does not address practitioner attitudes or style, the
“feel” of the text is one of permission, respect for the individual’s
capacity to possess and access resources, and persuasion softened with
wisdom—truly reminiscent of Erickson, Satir, and Perls.
These qualities are consistent with what I have experienced in brief
acquaintance with the authors.
E. Pearson, Ph.D. is a Certified NLP Trainer, and a Licensed Professional
Counselor with a private practice in Springfield, Virginia.
She is also the Executive Director of Certification for the National
Board of Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists.
Judith E. Pearson, Ph.D. is a Master Practitioner and Certified Trainer of NLP. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor practicing in Springfield, Virginia.
To contact Judith:
E-mail: judy @ engagethepower.com
Web Site: www.engagethepower.com
Mailing Address: 6089 Guildhall Ct, Burke, VA 22015
©2000 Judith E. Pearson, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.
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