Creating and Maintaining a Thought Virus Using Sleight of Mouth

This type of dialog between Bandler and the audience went on for quite some time, with no progress. It was clear that Bandler's primary intention for the demonstration was to maintain the problem frame, at all costs. His responses were not really about the content of the belief he had chosen. He successfully 'outframed' every intervention that people proposed as an attempt to help him find some solution.

As long as Bandler was able to control the "frame," he was able to determine the outcome of the interaction. He succeeded in placing the audience in a double bind that went something like: "If you do not try to help me, you are wrong; but if you try to help me, you are wrong." It was excruciating for some people, and frustrating for others. [In fact, in response to Bandler's continued question, "Can't someone help me?", a woman finally responded, "Can I get you some chicken soup?"]

As the interactions continued, however, I became aware that there was a structure to what Richard was doing; one that I could repeat. I realized that, while the content of the interaction was different, at the level of 'deep structure' it was a dialog that I had encountered many times before, with many different people. It was a way of creating and maintaining a "thought virus" by negatively refraining or 'outframing' attempts to put the limiting belief back into an outcome frame, feedback frame or 'as if' frame.

I became aware, for instance, that Bandler was systematically changing the frame and frame size to focus on whichever one(s) were not being addressed by the intervention attempted by the audience. It was also obvious that when people tried to 'pace' the problem frame, or negative formulation of the intention behind the belief, in the attempt to get 'rapport' with Bandler, it just got them into deeper trouble.

I also realized that Bandler was systematically (though intuitively) using language patterns that I had been getting a sense for as a result of my study of important historical and political figures, such as Socrates, Jesus, Karl Marx, Abraham Lincoln, Hitler, Gandhi, and others (to be presented in volume II of this work). It became obvious to me that these patterns could be used to either defend or challenge particular beliefs and generalizations.

This new awareness brought me to the threshold of what is known as the "unconscious uptake" stage of modeling in NLP. The next step was to attempt to formalize the patterns that 1 had begun to sense. Before I could do that, I had to intentionally try out the patterns myself to see if I could replicate Bandler's performance to some degree. A key condition of effective modeling in NLP is that we must first internalize the capability we are modeling, before formalizing it into relevant distinctions. Otherwise we are simply making a description, reflecting the 'surface structure' of the process, rather than making a model of the deeper intuitions necessary to generate the capability.

The opportunity arose for me in an advanced NLP program in Chicago about a month later. On the third day of the program, I decided to inform the group that 1 would illustrate a challenging new set of patterns for them. The following is a transcript (with commentary) of my own "tongue in cheek" improvisational drama, modeled after Bandler:

R: Who tied this microphone to me? Jim? Where's Jim? He's after me. He's in the bathroom? He's probably in there plotting against me. He's tied this thing to me . . . and you've all seen how I trip over it all the time. He wants me to trip on it and hurt myself, and lose my credibility as a teacher, and make you laugh at me. He's out to get me. I mean, that's pretty obvious isn't it? Will someone help me? He's going to be back in here in a few minutes. (Establishes limiting belief: "Jim did some thing that caused me to be hurt and possibly humiliated. Because it has happened before, it will happen again. He intends to hurt me and I am in danger")

PI: Why do you let him tie it to you if he is after you? (Counter Example: Inconsistency between the logical consequences of R's stated belief and behavior.)

R: Because he knows that you are all in here and if I tried to stop him from putting the microphone on me you would all think I was paranoid and he would have succeeded in discrediting me in front of all of you. (Meta Frame: "It would look strange for me to try to stop him." Consequence: "You would think I was paranoid")

PI: So if he didn't tie that microphone to you he wouldn't be making a fool of you? (Chunks up and Redefines "tripping on the wire and losing credibility" to "being made a fool of." Attempts to trigger a réévaluation of the belief by asserting a consequence of the redefined belief statement: "Since putting on the wire is what makes a fool of you, then if you didn't have the wire you would not be made a fool of.")

R: Why are you asking so many questions? (lb the rest of the audience). You know what? He's wearing a blue shirt and blue jeans and Jim is wearing a blue shirt and blue jeans. Are you on his side?! I'm starting to get nervous about all those questions he's asking me . . . Come on you guys, you have to help me, the conspiracy is growing. (Meta Frame: You are asking those questions and attempting to challenge my belief because you are conspiring with Jim.)

P2:1 agree with you. He is probably trying to embarrass you in front of all these people. (Pacing Problem Frame. »

R: He is! And since you have brains enough to recognize how dangerous the situation is, help me out. OK. I need help with this right away. Do something right now! (Consequence: "Since you agree with me, you should do something right now.")

P2: What do you think Jim's trying to do? (Attempting to find positive intention.)

R: I already told you what he's trying to do! He's trying to get me! (Refocusing on negative intention.)

P2: What do you think his purpose is? (Chunking up further to seek a positive intention.)

R: I told you. He wants to hurt me. He wants to make a fool of me. (Chunking up the negative intention to a consequence on the identity level: "make a fool of me.")

P2: What will that get for him? (Seeking a positive intention by shifting to Another Outcome.)

R: I don't know what he's getting out of it. The man is obviously crazy. Maybe in his map of the world it is alright to hurt other people in order to elevate yourself. (Uses the frame of a different Model of the World to chain to a negative intention.)

P2: Well then maybe we ought to call the hospital. (Focusing on a consequence of the judgment "crazy" in order to attempt to establish an outcome frame.)

R: Well don't just sit there giving me advice, go call the hospital for me and have them take him away. (A subtle version of applying the belief to itself by directing the consequence of the belief statement back to the speaker.

This also serves to deflect the outcome frame back to the speaker, so R is able to maintain the problem frame.)

P2: Let's call them together. (Attempts to widen the frame to involve R.)

R: No, you have to do it for me. If I called the hospital they would probably think I was crazy. Since you understand me, I know you'll help me by calling them for me. (Meta Frame: A third party has more credibility. They will think I'm paranoid, because I will be saying that it is happening to me.)

P2: What would make them think you were crazy? (Going to their Model of the World and Chunking Down, in order to find possible options or Counter Examples.)

R: Give me a break, you know why they'll think that! (Reasserting the Meta Frame in the form of a presupposition: "You already know why.")

P2:1 don't think you're crazy. (Attempting to provide an ongoing Counter Example.)

R: That's beside the point. I need help right now! (Shifting to Another Outcome: "1 need help now")

P3: What would happen if you stopped monkeying around with the microphone chord? (Using the cause-effect generalization asserted by the belief to shift attention to the influence of R's own behavior.)

R: (Suspiciously) What are you asking me that for? (Meta Frame: "Your implication that I should change my behavior means you are against me.")

P4: (Laughing) She's weird. I'd watch out for her too.

R: Yeh . . . Jim wears glasses and she's wearing them too. What am I going to do? Won't someone help me?! (Widening the frame size.)

P5: What could Jim do so you wouldn't feel he was after you? (Seeking a basis for counter examples to the limiting belief about Jim.)

R: I don't want to feel any differently about him. I just want to get rid of him. I already know he's after me. Look! Here's evidence! (Holds out microphone chord). Can't you see it? You don't deny that this is cold hard evidence do you? It's right here. Help me. (Asserting the presupposition that Jim is out to get R, Chunking Down to focus on the microphone chord as evidence.)

P6: Well first let's get the microphone off of you; and then go talk to Jim about it. You need immediate relief right? (Attempting to establish an outcome frame in relation to the microphone chord and Jim's intention.)

R: But if I take the microphone off he'll just do something else. That's just treating the symptom. He's put this thing on me consistently every day. What makes you think that taking the microphone off will stop him? (Changes the frame size by expanding the time frame in order to refocus on the problem frame and the consequences of Jim's 'negative intention'.)

P5: What do you need in order to know that he's not after you? (Attempting to Chunk Down to define the Reality Strategy for the belief about Jim's intention, and establish possible Counter Examples.)

R: Why do you keep trying to convince me that he's not after me?! I can already prove that he is after me. I don't want to be convinced that he isn't after me. That would just get me in trouble. (Meta Frame: "To try to change my belief that he is after me would have negative consequences.")

P7: What do you want us to help you accomplish? (Attempting to establish an Outcome Frame directly.)

R: I just want to be protected...to be safe from him. And I can't do it by myself. I need help. (Using a slightly negative formulation of the outcome in order to maintain the problem frame.)

P8: (Vehemently) Yes, but you noticed that this wire was out here all the time. That's the first step you can take for your own safety! (TJsing a Consequence of R's belief to try to establish a feedback frame—indirectly applying the belief to itself—and bring R out of a Victim' position.)

R: It really makes me nervous when someone starts yelling at me. (Meta Framing the comment to place attention on the consequence of the non verbal portion of the statement on R's internal state.)

P7: How would you know when you were safe from Jim? (Attempting to establish an outcome frame and a feedback frame by Chunking Down and establishing the Criterial Equivalence for 'safety'.)

R: I can't be safe as long as he's out there. Get rid of him for me right now. (Chunking back up and reasserting the problem frame and its consequence.)

P9: What is it doing for you to still keep the wire on, even though its dangerous? (Chunking back down and shifting focus from Jim to the "wire," and seeking R's intention in order to establish an outcome frame. "Not safe" has also been redefined as "dangerous.")

R: The microphone is only dangerous when I walk. The point is that its just another way that Jim is trying to get me. (Meta Framing and changing the frame size in order to shift attention away from the microphone chord and back to Jim's negative intention.)

P9: So the wire lets you know he's trying to get you? (Chunking down to check the Reality Strategy for how the wire and the generalization regarding Jim's intention are connected.)

R: The wire doesn't let me know anything. I already know he's after me. Are you trying to confuse me? (to audience) I think she's crazy, (lb P9) I'm confused so you must be crazy ... Come on you people are supposed to be NLP Practitioners. Why don't you help me? (Putting attention fully in Jim's negative intention as the cause of the "danger." Making a 'complex equivalence' between R's internal state—"I'm confused—and a judgment about the other person—"you must be crazy." Also, R is placing responsibility for his problem state on the audience.)

P6: (Laughing) I'm starting to get scared of Jim too.

R: And rightfully so. (To audience) He's the only one of you that's got any brains. He's going to get rid of Jim for me. (Asserting a problem consequence of accepting R's problem frame.)

P10: If his tying you up means that he's after you then . . . (Redefines the problem with the microphone as being "tied up.")

R: No. You are missing the whole point. He's not 'tying me up'. He knows that in the course of the program 111 eventually trip on the wire. (Challenging the redefinition.)

P10: And the only way you can stop that is by getting rid of him? (Checking for Counter Examples.)

P10: So maybe its a good thing you have that chord lied around you so you don't get mad and kill him. (Redefines "getting rid of as "killing" and attempts to establish a positive consequence with respect to the wire.)

R: I don't want to kill him! I just want to be protected from him. What are you trying to do, make a murderer out of me? See?! What Jim has been doing to discredit me is working. He's got you thinking that I'm out to get HIM. (Meta Frame: "Your redefinition of "getting rid of him" to "killing him" is a reinforcement of my limiting belief and problem frame.)

As the transcript illustrates, I was able to recapitulate, to a certain degree, what Bandler had done in the program in Washington D.C. It was upon my return from this seminar that I explicitly formulated the fourteen patterns comprising the system of Sleight of Mouth patterns, based upon what I had been able to internalize intuitively from Bandler's performance.

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