Recognizing and Influencing Internal States

We are constantly changing and accessing different states as we move through the different experiences and contexts of our lives. For most of us, these state changes have remained largely outside of our ability to choose. We respond to stimuli (anchors) that are both internal and external to ourselves as though we were on "automatic pilot."

It is possible, however, to learn how to choose one's state. Being able to influence and direct one's state increases an individual's flexibility and creates a higher probability of maintaining positive beliefs and expectations, and achieving desired outcomes. The ability to recognize useful states and intentionally access such states in particular situations gives us more choices about how we will experience and react to those situations. In NLP, the terms 'state selection' and 'state management' refer to the ability to choose and achieve the most appropriate state for a given situation or challenge.

One goal of NLP is to help people to create a "library" of useful or resourceful states.

By becoming more aware of the patterns and cues that influence internal states, we can increase the number of choices we have in responding to a particular situation. Once we are aware of the factors that define and influence the characteristics of our internal states we can sort them and "anchor" them to help make them available for use. Some of the methods used in NLP to sort and anchor internal states include: spatial location, submodalities (colors, tones, brightness, etc.), and non-verbal cues.

In order to better recognize and understand your own internal states, and to assist in developing your capacity for state 'selection' and 'management', it is necessary to learn how to take an internal inventory of your neurological processes. There arc three methods of doing this in NLP: physiology inventory, submodality inventory, and emotions inventory.

A physiological inventory involves becoming aware of one's body posture, gestures, eye position, breathing and movement patterns.

A submodality inventory involves noticing the sensory submodalities which are most prominent within our internal sensory experience, i.e. the brightness, color, size and position of mental images; the tone, timbre, volume and location of voices and sounds; and the temperature, texture, area, etc., of kinesthetic sensations.

An emotions inventory involves taking an account of the constellation of components that make up our emotional states.

These three types of inventories are related to our criterial equivalences and reality strategies. Developing an ability to take inventory in all three ways leads to a greater flexibility along with the pleasant side benefit of increasing your mastery over the psychological states you inhabit. This allows you to make the appropriate adjustments if the state you are in is interfering with your ability to reach your desired outcomes.

As an example, as you sit reading this paragraph right now, place tension in your shoulders, sit off balance; allow your shoulders to press up towards your ears. A typical stress state. How is your breathing? Is this a comfortable state? Do you find the physiology useful for learning? Where is your attention? What beliefs about learning do you maintain in this state?

Now change your position, move around a little bit, maybe stand up and sit down again. Find a balanced, comfortable position. Move your attention through your body and release any excess tension, and breathe deeply and comfortably. Where is your attention in this state? What beliefs about learning are connected with this state? Which state is more conducive to learning?

As the simple exercise above illustrates, non-verbal cues are often one of the most relevant and influential aspects of monitoring and managing internal states. It is important to acknowledge the influence of behavior, even very subtle aspects of physiology, on people's internal states. Different states or attitudes are expressed through different patterns of language and behaviors.

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