Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Rapid Belief Change Using the "Pen & Paper" Technique

I was doing an informal coaching session with a colleague the other day who wanted to lose weight. Early on in our conversation, he said "I've always thought of myself as a slightly overweight person."

My spidey-senses started tingling, & asked "Who would you be if you were not a slightly overweight person."

"I don't know" he said.

Our self-perception has great power over our experiences. This person had been watching what he ate, exercising for an hour at a time, 4 or 5 times a week. What's more, he'd been doing it for ages. So why couldn't he seem to shift this excess weight?

His self-perception: "I've always thought of myself as a slightly overweight person."

This is an identity statement, & reflected h
is sense of "Who I am". We all like to be somebody, & we all havea desire to remain consistent with that sense of identity. In my colleague's case, he didn't have a sense of who he would be if he weren't that slightly overweight person! On one level, "losing weight" would equal "losing self".

Wild, huh!

That's why no matter how sensibly he ate or how much he exercised, his weight didn't shift - he didn't want to lose himself!

(Well, that was my hypothesis after the first two minutes, anyway. I have been known to leap wildly to conclusions, but the conclusions I leap to tend to be fairly well-informed :-)

After thinking about it some more, he decided that rather than being "a slightly overweight person", he would like to be "of average weight".

So I had him do a simple exercise. I asked him to take two pieces of paper & write one of the following sentence-stems at the top of each.
  • Losing weight is...
  • Being average weight is...
  • People who are average weight are...

Then I got him to brainstorm ways of completing the sentences for a couple of minutes (I helped out by saying the sentence-stems above with various tonalities, then waiting for him to complete them).

He started out with "party-approved" ideas like:
  • People who are average weight are...healthy, happy, fit

But after a while, some unexpected conclusions started popping out, like:
  • People who are average weight are...boring, stupid, nasty, with daft trousers

Suddenly, he started laughing as he remembered various incidents from his school days involving people of average weight, whom he'd sworn to himself that he'd never be like.

While at a conscious level, he'd wanted to become slim & fit, his unconscious mind was holding various negative associations with those ideas. With the process of remembering them & laughing about them, he seemed to be making some significant shifts, but I wanted to be sure, so I invited him to say "I am a person of average weight", then notice & accept any thoughts or sensations that arose.

He did this various times, & I did a bit of future pacing to lock in the changes.

While I was using this simple technique for making changes around weight, you can use it to explore & alter your beliefs around:
  • Money & wealth (something I've done on various occasions: "Money is...", "Dealing with money is...", "Wealthy people are...")

  • Relationships (I got a woman who was keen to have a relationship to do this exercise, & she came out with "People in relationships are smug & miserable!", among other things: "Men/Women are...", "Relationships are...", "People in relationships are...")

  • Success in general: "Success is...", "Becoming successful is...", "Successful people are..."

  • Any other area of your life
The wording is optional - you can tune it to whatever your situation is. But keep writing responses until nothing else comes out - then do a little more. :-)

I received a call from my colleague two weeks later, who reported that he'd lost eight pounds, but the strange thing was, he hadn't even been thinking about it! This is often the case with NLP & Hypnosis - something which had been perceived as a problem, & had been a focal point for worry etc, isn't any longer!

I can vouch for that - I can't believe the things I used to think!

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