Thursday, 21 August 2008


I finally found time to put a powerful NLP technique into practise recently.

We've discussed triggers at length (although I would like to study them a little deeper shortly). I've set up a number of them already in The Commuters.
Here's how they work: I might have one character perform some terribly violent act upon another character whilst eating a ham salad sandwich. (I'm currently eating a ham salad sandwich. Yum. Er, but no violent act. Unless you're empathising with the ham salad sandwich.)
Thereafter, I can use the merest mention of a ham salad sandwich to trigger the memory of this act, and the associated emotional response. This gives the author instant access to any prepared emotional state; this gives the author the ability to change the emotional topography without breaking a sweat.
When the shooting stars begin, eight-year-old Ellie calls to her father to join her at the telescope (Contact [1997]). She hears a clatter, hurries downstairs, and finds him dying. Years later, standing on a faraway shore, she speaks with an alien who has taken her father's form. The shooting stars kick in and we are instantly reminded of her heartbreak when her father died. Our associated emotion is thrown into the mix and the scene is transformed.
(I wanted to find an example of a shooting star as anchor so that I could apologize for writing 'Pleiades' in my previous post when I meant 'Perseids'. Forgive me.)

A stimulus which is linked to and triggers a physiological state is called an anchor in NLP.
[Source: Introducing NLP, Joseph O'Connor and John Seymour.]

Given that there are always warnings surrounding the following technique, please do not attempt to use it until you have read up on it; what follows is an abbreviated version.

I rather fancied developing an anchor that would grant me instant access to a specific resource - confidence!
I began by specifying the anchor. This anchor is built from three elements: a kinaesthetic trigger, an aural trigger and a visual trigger. I picked the standard default kinaesthetic trigger - tapping my forefinger with my thumb. For my aural trigger, which is related to the resource, I chose Brian Blessed booming out the word 'Confidence!'; and for my visual trigger, I chose a glass of champagne (which has relevance to the resource in my world model!).

With my anchor prepared, I searched through my memories looking for a time when I felt supremely confident. It took a little time to find something appropriate - something almost iconic, which I could recreate vividly. I spent a good thirty minutes replaying this scene in my mind, building that sense of confidence, burning the scene into clarity, reliving the moment and the emotions of the resource.

The next step is to connect the anchor to the resource. This must occur as the resource peaks.
I replayed the scene once again, now fresh in my mind, building that sense of confidence, and then I instigated my anchor (tap thumb, 'Confidence!', champagne).
Having done this several times, assigning the anchor to the resource, I was ready to test my new technique. Would it really work? Could I really imbue myself with confidence so readily? Wouldn't it be wonderful if I could ... if I could change my state at will ..?

Sure it worked. I walked into the fish and chip shop and found myself in Brian Blessed mode. I joked and laughed with the girl serving me, and we found out more about each other in those fifteen minutes than we have done in years. (NB I'm more of an occasional than a regular.)
Could it be so easy?
Well, that was a week ago.
I tried triggering the state again at the weekend and it wasn't so forthcoming: I hadn't spent thirty minutes recreating that specific time when I felt supremely confident.
All a state of mind?
Well yes! That's precisely what many of these techniques are. Hypnosis comes from suggestion and from the subject willingly entering a different state. Much of Derren Brown's 'magic' comes from within his subjects themselves ... he simply invites these people to enter a certain state.

I daresay, with practise, I could strengthen the bond between my anchor and my resource. But will it ever be enough to bring me out of a negative, self-abasing state?
Either way, I have no doubt of the power of such techniques, and of their rightful places in our writing.

As an aside, and on my current theme of dialogue, check out this portion of conversation I had with the fish and chip girl:

GIRL: So what do you do then?
ME: I make computer games.

In my experience, the conversation here tends to move in one of three ways:
1) Oh, computer games are really bad.
2) Really, that's cool (feigning interest).
3) Really, that's cool (a bit interested).

However ...

GIRL: I guess you have a security guard don't you?

Can you work out where she was leading the conversation ..?

ME: Yes. We have lots of expensive equipment on site!
GIRL: My friend's looking for security guard work. Could you find out if there are any jobs going?

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