Expectations and the Sleight of Mouth Pattern of Consequences

The Sleight of Mouth pattern of Consequence uses expectations to either reinforce or challenge generalizations and beliefs. The pattern involves directing attention to a potential effect (positive or negative) resulting from a belief or the generalization defined by the belief. Anticipated positive consequences will strengthen and reinforce beliefs and judgments - even if the judgment itself is negative or limiting (an application of the principle that 'the ends justify the means'). How many times have we heard someone say, "I'm only saying this (or doing this) for your own good."

Negative consequences, of course, will challenge generalizations and call them into question.

The Sleight of Mouth pattern of Consequences is related to the NLP presupposition that:

No response, experience or behavior is meaningful outside of the context in which it was established or the response it elicits next. Any behavior, experience or response may serve as a resource or limitation depending on how it fits in with the rest of the system.

Thus, anticipated consequences operate as a type of frame with respect to other experiences. Identifying a positive consequence is another way to reestablish an outcome frame with respect to limiting or negative judgments or generalizations.

A good illustration of how this pattern might be applied relates to the example of the psychiatrist and the patient who claimed that he was a "corpse," which was cited earlier in this chapter. The psychiatrist was attempting to use logic to convince the patient that he wasn't a corpse by pricking the patient with a needle in order to demonstrate to him that he still bled. The psychiatrist's efforts were thwarted, however, when the patient gasped in amazement, "I'll be darned...corpses DO bleed!"

If the psychiatrist had been familiar with the Sleight of Mouth pattern of consequence, and the principles that we have been exploring thus far in this book, instead of being stymied by his patient, he would have been able to make use of the patient's comments. For example, the psychiatrist could have said, "Well if corpses can bleed, I wonder what else they can do? Perhaps corpses can sing, dance, laugh, digest food, and even learn. Let's try out some of those tilings as well. You know, you might discover that it is possible to have a pretty good life as a corpse (some people seem to), and still maintain the positive benefits that you get from being a corpse." Rather than trying to attack and challenge the belief, it can be reframed from a problem to an advantage. (As Einstein pointed out, you cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that has created the problem.)

I applied this particular pattern successfully myself with a woman who had been diagnosed as "obsessive compulsive." She believed that bugs got on her. She called them "real imaginary fleas"; "imaginary" because nobody else accepted that they were real. But they were "real" because when they got on her, she felt it. She couldn't ignore it. They gave her the terrible feeling that she was being "invaded."

The woman spent an immense amount of time trying to protect herself from the "fleas." She had seventy two different pairs of gloves: for driving her car, cooking, putting on her clothes, etc. She always bought clothes that were longer than her arms so that she would have no exposed skin. She was constantly scrubbing her skin to wash off the fleas. She scrubbed her skin so hard it was red and raw all the time.

The fact that the fleas were "imaginary" gave them some interesting options. For example, everybody had these fleas, but some had more of them than others; especially her parents. She loved her parents dearly, of course; but, as they had the most fleas, she couldn't spend much time with them. Because the fleas were imaginary, they could even come through the telephone. So when her parents called, fleas would flow from the receiver, and she would be forced to hang up on them.

This woman was in her early thirties and had been struggling with this compulsion for more than fifteen years. Of course, people had tried many times to convince her that this belief system was crazy; always to no avail. 1 took the time to get rapport with her, and to find out about her 'criterial equivalences' and reality strategies. Then, at a certain point, I said, "You know, all your life you have been trying to get rid of the fleas. You have always tried to wash them off and make them go away. Maybe that's an ineffective way to deal with them. Has anybody ever treated your 'real imaginary' allergy to the 'real imaginary' fleas?"

I explained that her situation matched all the symptoms of an allergy. Some people, for instance, have an allergy to pollen in the air; they can't see pollen but it gets in their noses and they feel bad. Instead of having to hide from the pollen, wash it off, or make it go away, however, these people can use medicines that treat their immune system to reduce the allergy symptoms.

Then I pulled out a bottle of 'placebos' and said, "These are 'real imaginary' pills. They are 'imaginary' because they don't have any real drugs in them, but they are 'real' because they will cure your allergy and change your feeling." Using what I knew about her criterial equivalences and reality strategy, I described how the placebos would work, and how they would make her feel differently. I carefully explained the power of the 'placebo effect' and cited a number of studies in which placebos had been effectively used to treat allergic reactions. Because this explanation fit so well as a consequence of her own belief system, she couldn't find any holes in my logic, and agreed to try the pills.

Interestingly, when she came back the next week, she was really frightened. She was frightened because those "real imaginary pills" had worked. She sat down and said, "How will I know what kind of clothes to buy? How will I know how to interact with my parents? How will I know who to let touch me? How will I know what to do or where to go in the world around me?" She was saying that this belief had substituted for a number of decision-making strategies that she had never developed. As I pointed out earlier, limiting beliefs are frequently the result of unanswered 'how' questions. In order to ecologically change her belief, she needed to appropriately address all of these unanswered "how' questions.

Once the woman began to believe that it was possible for her to be free from the "fleas," she had to face her beliefs about her own capabilities. A new 'outcome expectation' caused her to reevaluate her own 'self-efficacy expectation'. With coaching, the woman was able to learn a number of effective decision-making strategies, and became free once and for all of her obsession.

lb explore the pattern of consequence for yourself, identify a limiting belief or generalization that prevents you or someone else from performing as effectively as you know you that you can. Enrich your perception of this situation or experience by considering: "What is a positive effect of the belief or the generalization defined by the belief?" fOne way to do this is to consider the problem or difficulty from more than one time frame. For instance, view the situation with respect to an hour, a day, week, a month, a year, and many years from now.l e.g., Limiting belief: J feel like a coward when I become fearful in challenging situations.

Positive consequence: Fear prevents people from rushing into something, which helps them to act more ecologically. Therefore fear isn't such a bad thing because it causes people to be more deliberate and act more ecologically. In the long run, your fear will make you a wiser and more determined person.

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Allergic To Everything

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