Using of Sleight of Mouth as a System of Patterns

Hell Really Exists

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Thus far in this book, we have explored how individual Sleight of Mouth patterns may be applied in order to help people become more 'open to doubt' limiting beliefs and generalizations, and to become more 'open to believe' empowering beliefs and generalizations. Often, a simple Sleight of Mouth statement can make a big difference in helping to shift a person's attitude and responses. Consider the example of the woman who had just received news that she had an "unusual" form of cancer, and that, consequently, the doctors were not certain how to treat it. Fearing the worst, the woman was anxious and distraught over the situation. She consulted an NLP practitioner, who pointed out to her that, "In unusual circumstances, unusual things can happen" (applying the generalization to itself). This simple statement helped her to shift her perspective such that she could view uncertainty as a possible advantage, not necessarily a problem. The woman began to take more self-directed action, and was given more freedom of choice by her doctors, because her situation was "unusual." The woman went on to have a remarkable recovery (also "unusual") with minimal intervention from her doctors, completely regaining her health.

Frequently, however, Sleight of Mouth interventions require the application of a number of Sleight of Mouth patterns in order to address various aspects of a limiting belief. This is especially true when one is confronting a "thought virus." In fact, thought viruses themselves are typically Tield in place' by the application of Sleight of Mouth in order to ward off attempts to change them.

As an illustration, my first conscious recognition of the structure of the various Sleight of Mouth patterns emerged in 1980, during a seminar I was doing in Washington D.C.

with NLP co-founder Richard Bandler. One of the phenomena that Bandler was exploring at the time was the experience of going over threshold. The phenomenon of "crossing threshold" occurs when a person, who has been in very intense and meaningful relationships with another person for an extended period, suddenly breaks off all contact with the other individual, determined to never see or speak to him or her again. This usually results from the other person crossing some line that is the "last straw" with respect to their relationship. In order to congruently end the relationship "for good," people would need to somehow delete or reframe the many positive experiences that they had shared with the other persons. In a process that Bandler termed "flipping their pictures," people would do a type of negative reframing with respect to their memories of the relationship. All of the negative memories, attributes and habits that the person had previously overlooked would come into the foreground of people's awareness, while the positive ones would recede into the background.

This process had a structure similar to a "thought virus" in that it could not be easily reversed by experience or argument. The person would expend a great deal of effort to maintain their memories of the relationship within a 'problem frame'. Bandler began to explore whether it was possible to "reverse" this process after it had happened; in order to, hopefully, create the possibility for a renewed and healthier relationship.

A person—we'll call him "Ben"— had volunteered to be a demonstration subject. Ben was struggling in his relationship, and had been thinking about breaking up with his girlfriend. Ben tended to blame his girlfriend for all of the troubles in the relationship, and seemed intent on "making her wrong" and ending the relationship. Bandler (who was having difficulties in his own marriage at the time) was interested in trying to help Ben resolve his issues, and, perhaps, save the relationship.

As it turned out, it was not so easy to convince Ben to give his girlfriend and their relationship another chance. Even though he wanted to be a cooperative demonstration subject, Ben was quite creative at thwarting every option, possibility, or reason that Bandler brought up as to why Ben might reconsider his opinions about his girlfriend and their relationship. Ben was convinced that his mental map of the situation was right, claiming that he had "tested it" over and over.

Rather than become frustrated, Richard decided to "turn the tables" and put Ben, and the rest of the audience, metaphorically into the position of the girlfriend, in order to see how they might resolve it.

The seminar was taking place in a hotel room. As is quite common, Richard and Ben were working together up on a temporary stage, made up of several elevated platforms pieced together to make one larger platform. The legs of one of the smaller platforms was somewhat unstable, however. When Bandler had first stepped onto it, the platform buckled, causing him to stumble. A person from the audience— let's call him "Vic"—came rushing up to Bandler's aid, and reset the leg on the platform. Unfortunately, the leg still did not function properly, and when Bandler returned to that portion of the stage after interacting with Ben for a while, the corner of the platform buckled again, causing Richard to stumble once more.

When Vic came up again to reset the platform leg, Bandler, who has a flare for the outrageous, perceived an opportunity to create a ridiculous situation, paralleling the one that Ben had made with respect to his girlfriend. Richard began to create a kind of 'paranoid' scenario, in which he was being purposefully hurt by Vic. In order to maintain his paranoid 'thought virus', Bandler applied many of the principles and verbal reframing techniques covered in this book, oriented toward a 'problem frame'.

The improvisational drama went something like this:


Richard Bandler: The person that put this (platform) back together, get out. Never again will I trust you. (To Ben) He had his chance, and didn't test it well enough. I'll never trust him again. See, he doesn't care about my future. That's the only sense I can make out of what has happened. He doesn't care if I break my leg, does he? I'm not going to let him do anything for me ever again. I mean, what sense can you make out of the fact that he put that platform back up there again, and I got hurt. Either he's incompetent and stupid, or he did it deliberately. And in either case I don't want anything to do with the guy. I'm just going to get hurt. If it's not that, it will be something else anyway. How could he do that to me?

Bandler establishes the limiting belief in the form of cause-effect and complex equivalence statements which create a 'failure frame' and a 'problem frame : uVic did something that caused me to be hurt several times. He will do it again. That means he intends to hurt me and that I cannot trust him."

RB: Well then why did you do that to me?

Vic: Uh, I ... I set it up so that you would learn that that thing is solid as a rock now.

In order to "play along," Vic intuitively tries to link the generalization to a positive consequence.

RB: But what if it's not, what Bandler focuses on the posit I fall and break my leg? sihility of a counter example to Vic's claim, exaggerating the potential danger.

RB: So you want me to go out Bandler 'chunks up' the there and risk my life. consequence of "getting hurt" to "breaking my leg" to Mrisking my life."

Vic: If I risk my life first, is it all right?

RB: Do you know how many times I have to walk on that compared to you? I tested it the last time you know and it was fine and then 1 stepped on it and, boom, there I was. It fell all over again.

Vic: You stepped on the right part. It's a weird setup.

Vic attempts a form of'apply to self'.

Bandler widens the 'frame size' in order to maintain the 'problem frame' and reestablish the possibility of a negative counter example.

Vic 'chunks down', trying to 'outframe' the counter example, claiming that the problem only relates to a certain part of the stage.

RB: Yeh, it is. I just don't understand. It doesn't make any sense to me. It blows my mind that anyone would do that to me. See I thought you were somebody that was trying to help me the first time you did it. At first, you know, that was one thing. It looked nice and everything. I had no idea what you were trying to do to me.

Bandler chunks back up to the whole sequence of the interaction, focusing on Vic's 'intention', which has the effect of shifting the 'outcome' around which the discussion is centered.

Man #1: As long as you avoid stages in the future, everything will be okay.

RB: See he's trying to help me. I can't get anything out of him (pointing to Vic). All he's telling me is "go do it again". Right? But at least he (points to Man #1) is telling me what I have to watch out for. And, you know, that may not be the only thing I should be worried about, there may be others, (lb Ben) See he (Man #1) is on my side, huh?

Man #1 paces Bandler's 'problem frame' and large chunk size.

Bandler takes the man's comment as confirmation of the problem frame and limiting belief, and widens the 'frame size' to include others that may have a 'bad intention'.

Ben: (Catching on to the metaphor) I think he is... I'm not sure yet.

RB: Well, he may be telling me to go too far, but he's got good intentions. This guy Vic, on

Bandler continues to focus on the pattern of 'good' intentions versus 'bad intentions'.

the other hand, he's trying to get me to go out there, did you hear him? He wants me to go out there and do it again.

Ben: Well, I'm surprised he hasn't gotten up and walked on it yet.

Ben also paces Bandler's problem frame, pointing out the Vic's behavior is counter example to his claim that he is not negatively intended and believes the stage is "solid as a rock."

RB: Yeah, I know. I noticed that too. It never occurred to him to take the darn thing and move it away. Now I really know he's trying to hurt me. What do you think about that? This guy comes to my seminar and tries to kill me. And he's still trying. He's trying to convince me that it's not some kind of setup.

Bandler uses Ben's confirmation of the limiting belief as an opportunity to 'chunk up' Vic's 'negative intention' from "hurting me" to utrying to kill me,"shifting it toward the level of'identity'.

Ben: You've given him all these opportunities to prove to you that he isn't out to get you.

Ben continues to 'pace' Bandler's belief statement, 'chunking up' the 'counter example' to challenge Vic's assertioji that he is not negatively intended.

RB: Yeh, I did; opportunity, after opportunity to try to do something.

Ben: And he's not doing anything. He's just sitting there.

Man #2: Why do you think he thought he had to put the piece back there rather than move it away?

RB: I don't know why he did it. Maybe he doesn't like me. Maybe he wants to hurt me. Maybe he just doesn't think about what hell do in the future that would hurt me. Maybe it just never occurred to him that I could really get hurt. And I don't want to hang around someone that's going to do that.

Woman #1: Yeh, but if he didn't think in the future what might happen, he probably didn't do it deliberately.

RB: If he didn't think about my future, then he won't next time, and then he's going to

Bandler continues to chunk up as well.

The counter example is reframed into a 'consequence' which affirms Handler's negative belief.

Man #2 attempts to 'meta frame' part of Bandler's limiting belief, in order to point out a possible assumption.

Bandler maintains the problem frame by widening the possible causes of Vic's behavior from his 'negative intention'to also include his 'limited model of the world'.

Woman #i tries to use Bandler's response as a possible counter example to his belief about Vies negative intention.

Bandler switches the focus from 'intention' to 'consequence' in order to maintain the problem frame.

get me in some situation where I'm really going to get burned.

Man #2: But you only have one example so you don't know that for certain.

RB: He did it twice! And I gave him a whole bunch of choices about how to do something to prove to me that he wasn't trying to hurt me. He said he would walk on it and "risk his life" first. Did he do it? No. He didn't do it. I also suggested that he take it away. He didn't do that either. He doesn't care about me. He doesn't give a damn. He's going to leave it there until I walk on it and fall over.

Man #2 attempts to find, a counter example by 'chunking down'.

handler chunks back up —claiming to have offered Vic "a whole bunch of choices"—and 'redefines' Vic's lack of response as a demonstration that Vic "doesn't care * connecting it again to a negative consequence. (Bandler deletes the fact that he told Vic his offer to walk on the stage first was not "proof of his intentions.)

Woman #1: Why don't you both turn the platform over and make sure it works right. Have him work with you to test it.

RB: So you want me to try and get together to work with him, and turn it over, and then I'm going to be the one who's going to stand on it for the next three or four days.

Woman #1 attempts to establish a cooperative 'feedback frame' and shift to another outcome: 'testing' the platform to make sure it 'works right'..

Bandler again widens the frame size (beyond the present instance to "the next three of four days") in order to discount the potential solution. He then

You're on his side. I knew you were with him all along. See you're sitting on the same side of the room that he is.

'meta frames'the woman's attempt to find a solution as being an evidence of her conspiring with Vic fusing the fact that they are sitting on the same side of the room as a confirming consequence.)

Woman #1: Then I'll do it with him. . . Oh, you don't trust me because you think we (she and Vic) are allies.

RB: Oh yeh, trying to make me look paranoid now, huh? He (Vic) put you up to this didn't he?

Woman #1 realizes that a consequence of Bandler's 'meta frame' is that it potentially discounts any further attempt she may make to challenge his belief

Bandler deepens the problem frame by asserting a negative consequence of Woman til's statement.

Woman #2: What do you want at this point?

Woman #2 makes a direct attempt at establishing an outcome frame, focusing on the immediate future.

RB: I don't want anything. I didn't want it (the stage) back there in the first place. It's too late now.

Woman #2: You're not willing to give him another chance?

Bandler reasserts the problem frame, shifting the frame back to the past.

Woman #2 makes another direct attempt; this time to establish a feedback frame.

RB: He had his chance. He not only had his chance, I gave him a bunch of them. And he didn't take them. How can you make sense of it? He just doesn't care. I didn't know I was going to fall down. I didn't know he would come in the morning and bend the leg. I don't know what this guy is going to try to do to me. Put him outside of the room.

Bandler again 'chunks up', extending the consequences of his 'paranoid' belief.

Man #1: I think you (Bandler) should leave because he might hide outside.

RB: Maybe I should hide.

Man #3: What makes you think you can trust him (indicating Man #1)?

Man #i paces Bandler's problem frame (and his assertion about Vic's negative intention), widening it to include Vic's future behavior as well.

Man #3 shifts to 'another outcomequestioning the authenticity of Man #1.

Man #3: Maybe he (Vic) is a shill. It's a possibility.

RB: Why are you making excuses for him? (Looking at the people he has disagreed with.) They're all on the front row, every one of them.

Man #3 proposes a more 'positive' meta frame of Vic's behavior.

Bandler 'redefines' Man #3's meta frame as an "excuse" for Vic's behavior, and continues to widen the paranoid problem frame.

Woman #2: It's mass action. The mob is taking over.

RB: Oh. See, she's trying to make me look paranoid too.

Woman #2: No, I'm concerned about why you feel that all of these people are against you.

RB: Don't give me that. (To Vic) Now, see all the trouble you've caused. (To Audience) See I told you he was trying to get people to hurt each other. (To Vic) What kind of a human being are you? See you got these two people to fight with each other, and are forcing everybody to take sides.

Man #4: He's awfully clever to be doing it in such a round about way.

Woman #2 attempts to 'chunk up' and broaden the frame size in order to exaggerate the belief and draw the generalization into question.

handler places a 'meta frame'around Woman #2's comment, claiming the woman has a negative intention.

Woman #2 attempts to redefine her intention to one that is positive.

Bandler widens the frame, shifting attention back to Vic, and reasserting Vic's negative intention and the negative consequences of Vic's behavior.

Man M suggests a shift to a different focus of attention which may open .

Man #4 attempts to shift focus to the future and to an outcome frame.

RB: I don't know. He got me once. He got me twice. God knows who else he's gotten.

Man #4: If you're careful of him maybe you could use his diabolical genius.

RB: It's not worth it. I just want to be around people and feel a little more secure about what's going on. There's plenty of good things in life without that kind of stuff, you know. What am I going to do?

Man #4: Well, as long as he's here you can watch him.

RB: I am watching him. When is it all going to end?

Vic: I'll move it over here. (Begins to move the small platform away.)

Bandler changes the time frame back to the past, widening the problem frame to include others besides himself

Man #4 attempts to redefine Vic's 'negative intention'as "diabolical genius" and put it into the outcome frame of "using it."

Bandler switches to 'another outcome' relating to his (Bandler s) own "security," rather than Vic's "cleverness", in order to reestablish a problem frame.

Man #4 attempts to narrow the time frame size to the ongoing situation in order to satisfy the outcome of "security. "

Bandler expands the frame beyond the present, implying he will be insecure again later.

Vic attempts to create a counter example to Bandler's generalization by complying with his request to move the stage.

RB: Why is he trying to make me look stupid? See, now he's trying to make it look like nothing happened. So he can do it again. So he can make it look to other people like he really did put it back safely and everything's cool. What am I going to do? I don't trust him. Should I just cut him off and never communicate with him again? Probably be the best thing huh? He may do the same thing to me again. See, he's even still sitting there.

Woman #3: But you haven't had the right interaction with him to trust him.

RB: But I don't want to have any interaction with him.

Bandler meta frames Vic's action as an attempt to discredit him and make it look as if he is safe. Bandler uses this frame as a confirmation of Vic's negative intention, and a justification for lack of trust with respect to Vic and potential negative consequences in the future.

Woman #3 tries to establish another meta frame around Bandler's generalization, claiming that his conclusion is drawn from limited experience.

Bandler "collapses" the meta frame by applying his conclusion to the terms of the meta frame, creating a kind of 'circular argument'- i.e., "I don't trust him because I haven't had the right interaction with him; and I don't want to interact with him because I don't trust him."

RB: I mean. . . even if you'd bring in a new stage, I would only be safe for a while. Maybe hell go cut the leg on the other side. What do I know?

Woman #3: How do you know that he set that up in advance?

RB: Well, I don't know, but that's not the point. The point is that he let that happen to me and he set it up so that it would happen again. Even if he didn't mean it, it did happen. He's the one that's making me feel this way now. You see, I'm terrified.

Woman #3: How is he making you feel that way?

RB: That's not the point. The point is that I feel this way. If he hadn't done those things, I wouldn't feel bad.

Bandler changes the frame size again to include longer term negative consequences in the future, discounting any solution in the present.

Woman #3 attempts to establish Bandler's 'reality strategy' for forming his generalization about Vic's intention.

Bandler does not address the question, immediately shifting to 'another outcome', focusing on the negative consequences of Vic's behavior on his (Bandler's) internal state rather than Vic's intention.

Woman #3 again attempts to ■chunk down'the cause-effect generalization "making," and establish the internal 'equivalences' or strategies Bandler is applying in order to form his generalization.

Bandler shifts the focus from the cause-effect generalization to the consequences related to his internal state.

Now I have to continue to feel this way. I tried to give him a chance to do something about it but it failed.

Woman #4: Can you remember things you did with him that you enjoy? I mean, even if you don't like him now.

RB: Yeh. Sure those things are there. But I can't have any of those in the future. Not feeling this way, it would be impossible. I just can't be that person with him anymore. See I've changed in the last six months.

(lb audience) What are you going to do, leave me this way? Because if you can't fix me, I'm just going to have to go away. I won't be able to teach anymore workshops today, tomorrow, never. He might come to one; under a different name. I don't want to ever have seminar participants ever again. Oh God. Don't leave me this way.

Woman #3: Is this the way you want to be?

Woman M tries to lead Bandler to identify past positive counter examples related to his internal state and interactions with Vic.

Bandler shifts the frame to his current negative internal state, and the expected negative cojisequences of that state on his future (shifting it from a behavior level to an identity level).

Bandler continues to chunk up and widen the frame size, redefining the situation as one related to ufixing me," rather than addressing Vic's actions.

Woman #3 makes another attempt to directly establish an outcome frame, oriented toward a more positive future.

RB: I don't want to be like this. I want to be the way I was.

RB: I used to be confident and happy. I liked people, and trusted people. I'm not like that anymore. See what he did to me? (To Vic) See what you're doing to me? (To Audience) But I can't do anything else. Because you won't help me.

Woman #3: Do you mean you can't do anything else or you won't do anything else?

RB: What difference does it make? I don't know what to do.

Bandler returns to a problem frame and shifts the frame back to the past.

Woman #3 tries to use the past as a resource to establish an outcome frame.

Bandler shifts from the past to the present, in order to maintain the problem frame.

Woman #3 attempts to redefine "can't" to "won't," implying that Bandler has more choice, at the level of capability, than he is acknowledging.

Bandler uses a type of'hierarchy of criteria, asserting that it does not matter if one has choices if one does not know "what to do."

Man #4: What he wanted to do to you is put you in the state you're in now.

Man #4 attempts to redefine (or 'chain') Bandler's "problem" from the level of identity ("I am not the way I used to be") to the level of

RB: I know. He just wants to feel superior to me. There are a lot of leader killers. I used to think I could really take care of myself, and defend myself, but people can set traps like that. I used to be the kind of person that thought that everybody had positive intentions. I used to think good things about everybody, but I learned my lesson now. I got hurt, and I got hurt worse than I thought I could, and look what it has done to me. Now I have realized that there are people that would do things to hurt me. It's really not worth it. Can't someone help me?

behavioral response Cthe state you are in now").

Bandler places the problem back at the level of identity (Vic is a "leader killer"), and uses it as a way to strongly reestablish and expand, or 'chunk up', his problem frame.

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