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Archive for the ‘NLP Techniques’ Category

How do you like your Change – Fast or Slow?

Monday, May 12th, 2014


At the end of our recent NLP Practitioner course one of our students asked a wonderfully crafted question. I can’t remember it exactly but it went something like this –



If you were to cast your mind back to when you were on your first NLP course assuming you had the knowledge and experience you have now, what advice would you give that ‘younger you’ to help them as they embarked on their journey as an NLP Practitioner?



Apart from the fact that it put me in a seriously DEEP state of trance! I thought it was a terrific question.


On further reflection I think the following advice is what I would give. (I also think it’s useful advice for people who have a casual interest in NLP but have not yet done an NLP Practitioner course)


The advice is this —



Change doesn’t always HAVE to happen fast!



There’s a bit of a myth in the NLP world that some people seem to have bought into that change HAS to be super fast or NOT AT ALL. Almost like a boom or bust, black and white kind of mentality.


Now don’t get me wrong here, I love and believe in fast change and think it firmly has a place in NLP. Phobias can generally be overcome in about an hour and emotional issues can often be released in anything from one session to five depending on the person and situation. Fast, flashy change is great and one of the reasons why NLP attracts the huge attention it does.


Without negating the usefulness and validity of fast change, I personally think the most useful and powerful type of change is the gradual and more sustainable one you make over a longer period of time. For me, who you become over a matter of months and years as a result of deepening your NLP skill and applying the tools and techniques to your life on a continual basis absolutely kicks the ass out of fast change any day.


I found out recently that in pretty much every culture there’s a variation of ‘The story of the fast and the slow’, ours in the UK being that of ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’.


The moral is of course that in life there can often be two types of people. Those who sprint off in a blaze of glory stealing all the limelight and those who take their time, not appearing to be doing much at the micro level, but in the grand scheme of things making steady consistent progress.


The former in the story, as we know, starts to believe in their own hype, rests on their laurels and eventually becomes complacent. The later continues to plod along making gradual but significant progress until, to everyone’s sudden surprise, overtakes the sprinter and finishes first in the race.


Stories like this aren’t just cute little parables that families all around the world tell their kids at night time. They are cultural memes that act as vehicles for passing on important and useful historical learnings. Story telling acts as a ‘time-binding’ function, helping pass on the learnings of the past to the next generation and the fact the story of the ‘The Fast and the Slow’ has been told for many generations across many different cultures suggest that there could be something important to learn from it.


I know we live in a time where people want things NOW! In fact sometimes YESTERDAY! But it’s simply not useful to invest so much of your energy into the concept that change HAS to be super fast or not at all. A far more useful approach is to look at where you want to head over a longer period of time and then make gradual but significant progress towards getting there. Sometimes you’ll get a big breakthrough and sometimes it’ll feel like change is taking a little longer. Sometimes you’ll want to make a quick, dramatic impact and sometimes you’ll find it works better to steadily work away at making more subtle improvements.


Hey sometimes it’s fun to be the hare for a while. To arrive in a blaze of glory, to show off and bedazzle. It’s exciting and dramatic but if that’s all you’re about then you’ll wake up one day and realize that there’s a whole bunch of tortoises staring back at you from the finishing line with contented smiles you can only pretend to have.


Making an instant impact is important but don’t forget the longer and ultimately more important game. Life is as they say – A marathon not a sprint.


All the best…


Steven Burns



Top 3 Myths of Hypnosis

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013


Look into my eyes, look into my eyes…and sleep! You are now under my complete control and will do everything I say…


It’s funny how, when you ask people about their opinion on hypnosis, you get a lot of responses that are close to or in some way related to this.


I first trained as a hypnotherapist when I was 22 and ever since then, when I’ve told people about it, I’ve had some pretty weird looks and often some even weirder questions.


The all time most popular question from the men (usually asked in a kind of ‘half joking, half serious way’) has to be: “Can you use hypnosis to get girls into bed?!” Closely followed by a genuine request to ‘Make Darren dance like a chicken’ (Act like a tumble drier is one of the stranger ones)


My female friends tend to ask a lot more intelligent questions…Usually ones involving the practical applications like relaxation, weight loss and confidence while remarking how fascinating a subject it is.


However, I did get asked by one woman at a party if I had ‘brought my watch with me’because she would ‘love it if I made her stop eating!’ I said I could but asked if she realized that stopping eating would in fact lead eventually to death!”


She looked at me kind of strangely and re-stated with complete conviction that she really needed to stop and I had free reign do my ‘voodoo magic’ on her…


I think the general perception of hypnosis has improved a lot over the years but there are still lots of misconceptions about what it actually is and how it works. Stage hypnosis certainly doesn’t help but I think it would be a bit rich to criticize given that the high level of intrigue surrounding it is probably one of the biggest factors in making hypnosis so widely recognised.


It does lead to a lot of misinterpretations about hypnosis though that can sometimes get in the way when you are either working with a client or training people how to use it.


Here are what I consider to be the 3 main myths of Hypnosis and hypnotic trance. Hopefully it will clear things up a bit and help give you a better understanding into what is, in my opinion,  one of the most useful therapeutic and personal development tools we have available.



Myth number 1 – When you are in a hypnotic trance you are zapped, zonked out or in some weird unnatural state.


This is a favourite…That idea that when you are hypnotised you ‘get put under’ and that you are in some weird, zonked out state of mind as if your brain has been stopped in some way. The truth is hypnosis can feel a little strange (in a very pleasant way) but it is by no means unnatural.


Hypnotic trance is a perfectly natural state that we go in and out of at various different times of the day. It can often be like a ‘deep daydream’ or similar to the feeling you get when you becoming so absorbed in what you’re doing (like reading a book, watching a movie or playing a video game). An hour can go past and it feels like it’s only been ten minutes, people can walk past you and you don’t notice them and the world around you can almost feel like it’s disappeared because you’re so engaged in what you were doing.


There are lots of different examples of ‘naturally occurring’ trances we experience on a day to day basis. For example, have you ever driven your car on a routine destination (perhaps to your work) and then, when you arrive, you can’t fully remember how you got there? You don’t consciously remember every turn, road sign and roundabout but you know you managed to navigate the journey safely. Perhaps you kind of went into auto pilot or maybe even a little daydream while at the same time feeling comfortable that you didn’t have to have your full conscious attention on the road. We all experience this from time to time, sometimes everyday and it’s a common example of when we drop into a hypnotic trance.


A more comical example is the ‘elevator trance’ (one that I frequently succumb to). You step into an elevator, punch in your floor number and patiently wait for your destination to arrive…The doors open and you walk out only to notice that you are, in fact, on the wrong floor! The turn back round with your tail between your legs (while checking to see if anyone noticed) and head back in the lift.


It’s an understandable opinion that hypnosis is a weird, unnatural state of mind but it is utterly misinformed and untrue. It’s a perfectly natural, enjoyable and useful state of mind that we all go into at various times of the day and the hypnotist’s job is to guide the person into this state of mind, deepen it and then put forward suggestions so that they get the changes they want.


Myth number 2 – The hypnotist had complete control and can get you to do things you don’t want to do.

Again this is a common myth that can often concern people when you mention hypnosis and one that is definitely born from stage hypnosis. Let me be clear about this…hypnosis is very powerful and can most definitely influence people to change deeply held emotions, behaviours and mind sets. However, the power it has is held by the hypnotic subject rather than the hypnotist.


There’s that phrase we often use that ‘there is no such thing as hypnosis only guided self hypnosis’ which is very accurate about what really goes in the trance process. As a hypnotist you are a guide that helps the hypnotic subject through an exploration of their own mind to find different ways of thinking, feeling and behaving.


You may be thinking though - ‘Well that’s all fine and dandy but what about stage hypnosis?’ ‘Surely that gets people to do things they don’t want to do?!’ Well, I know it seems that way but the truth is a bit different. The hypnotic subjects know fine well what they are getting themselves into when they volunteer. They know it’s an entertainment show, a performance and that they are going to be asked to do things they wouldn’t normally do. By walking on the stage and volunteering they are essentially saying ‘I am okay with this’ at a subconsciously level and possibly a conscious one.

Stage hypnotists also go through something called a ‘selection process’ where they work their way down from a large number of volunteers to just a handful. This process is designed to highlight the ones who are highly suggestible and deep down feel the most comfortable with going along with pretty much everything the hypnotist says. There are also a lot of other psychological factors involved such as crowd psychology that add to what is already a very persuasive hypnotic environment.


The kind of hypnosis that is used on a one to one basis shares some similarities but is not the same.


Essentially the subject is the one who makes the shifts and changes and the hypnotist acts as a guide. The more skilful a guide you are the better a hypnotist you are…The trick is to weave your words in such a way that the person being hypnotized attaches their own meanings and reaches their own solutions as opposed to you ‘just telling them to do something’. It’s a highly skilled craft and can be truly mesmerizing to watch and listen to when it’s done well.



Myth number 3 – Not everyone can be hypnotized…

This one has probably been covered already indirectly but I think it still merits its own mention. I’m not exactly sure when and where this popular myth was created but I think it may have come from a time when the main style of hypnosis was ‘Authoritarian hypnosis’. This is where you are very direct about how you induce trance and give suggestions for changing behaviours, emotions and mind sets. This type of hypnosis can work with a small percentage of people and is certainly worth doing as part of the hypnotic process but if it’s the only approach you have then there will be a large number of people who will not respond. (Both in going in trance and making changes)


Modern day hypnosis is about utilizing the hypnotic subject’s experience of the world to guide them into trance and then allow them to explore further. It’s about recognising that trance is a naturally occurring state and that everyone goes in and out it at some point during the day. Given the discovery that trance is, in fact, not some weird unnatural state this myth should really be confined to the bin.


People are often a bit confused, however, after they are hypnotized as to whether they were in fact in trance. Some will even convince themselves that they weren’t because it didn’t feel that much different than relaxation, meditation or being in a daydream. This is more of a reflection on public perception of what trance is than the reality. Because trance is something we have all experienced then it does feel similar to experiences we have already had. That doesn’t make it any less useful though it just leads to people mistakenly jumping to the conclusion that they ‘ couldn’t get put under!’


For more information on hypnosis feel free to comment and/or get in touch. We’re always happy to chat about it. If you fancy learning hypnosis check out our weekend seminar that’s coming up soon:


The Art of Hypnosis Glasgow


Take care


You are Awesome because? – Exercise

Monday, February 11th, 2013


I was chatting to a random stranger on the train last night (as you do!) and we both commented on how often we don’t take advantage of the amazing things on our door step…that we take them for granted and sometimes even forget they are there.


For example lots people who live in Edinburgh have never been to the ‘Edinburgh tattoo’…It’s something ‘tourists’ do. I’m from Falkirk and I’ve only JUST been to the ‘Falkirk Wheel! (it’s pretty good btw:-))


Brian and I have just finished a two day NLP Practitioner refresher course in Inverary for Argyle & Bute Council. (Big shout to the A&B posse!)



Even though I’ve been there several times now the beauty of the surroundings still blows me away! I always forget and take for granted how beautiful Scotland is.



Check out the photo of the view from our breakfast room…Amazing!






How often do we do this with ourselves. It’s so easy to take your own talents for granted.


I don’t know about you but it was always driven into me from a young age ‘not to boast’. I can still hear my Dad saying “No-one likes a boaster son!” :-)


While it’s obviously not particularly attractive to go around telling people how amazing you are every minute of the day, I do think we internalize this way too much. We take our own ‘awesomeness’ for granted.


So I’d like to flip this round a bit…There is absolutely nothing wrong with boasting!…provided it’s done on the inside.


In fact, a lot of the time, the more you recognise your value on the inside the more you don’t necessarily need to validate it on the outside.


Here’s a quick game I like to play…It’s called ‘I am Awesome because?’


It’s a really simple game…Take a piece of paper and a pen (Or your I-Pad!) and write down – ‘I am awesome because?’


Allow the question to resonate inside…see where it takes your attention and let it sink deep…then, when answers start to naturally come, write them down.


Let it come more from your heart than your head and keep asking it for at least ten minutes…you might be surprised by some of the answers and by how absolutely awesome you feel after doing it :-)


Because……..You are awesome…what is not taking yourself for granted really like?


All the best


10 Ways to Let Go of the Past

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012


1. Realize that the past is not real – Okay, here’s the inside scoop…the past is not real! You do not own a time machine and you are not capable of going through the exact same experience more than once. I know it may sound like I’m stating the bleeding obvious here but it needs to be said. When we are hooked into re-living the past what we are actually doing is re-playing internal memories of the past stored in our autobiographical memory. Re-playing these memories can generate feelings similar to how we felt when we had the experience but they are still only memories…movies we play inside our mind…they’re not the real thing.


It’s a bit like going to a theme park and taking part in a rollercoaster simulator. We know it’s not the real thing but we act ‘as if’ it is. It’s perhaps not quite as intense but we still get some of the emotion and thrill we get when we are on an actual rollercoaster.


Getting lost in the past is a bit like going on a scary simulator and then forgetting it’s not the real thing. It’s like watching a really bad movie (like Taken 2), hating it and then going back to see it voluntarily several times a day. It doesn’t make sense so why do it inside your mind?! (Apologies to Taken 2 fans but be honest, did it really merit a second instalment? :-) )


2. Realize that you are not your past but a product of how you’ve interpreted you past memories – It’s time to stop using your past experiences as an excuse. If you find yourself saying things like ‘I am this way because…’ (And then list a load of things that have happened to you) then stop it. Past experiences do not dictate who you are or who you turn out to be. Its how you have interpreted and continue to interpret those past experiences that count.


While some people clearly have advantages in terms of upbringing and support nothing is set in stone. For example, take three different people who were bullied as children. One could grow up to become a bully themselves, another could turn into a complete wallflower and the third could draw strength from it and start an anti bullying campaign. Three similar experiences all with drastically different outcomes because of how the individual interpreted the situation. The great thing is It’s up to you how you interpret the things that happen to you. As soon as you change the meaning you draw from your past experiences you change the way you feel and hence how you think and behave in the present.


3. Find the real learning – One way to help re-interpret past memories and let go of any negative emotions attached to them is to find the real learning. One of the main reasons we are still emotionally involved in our past memories is that we missed the real learning or created a misinformed opinion about what happened. We find ourselves in a situation where we haven’t yet developed the resources and/or skills to deal with it effectively and it affects us emotionally. These feelings are then attached to the memories to highlight a need for learning. If we miss the learning the feeling can linger on and create the urge to re-play the memory over and over in your mind. It’s almost like we do a kind of ‘peter pan syndrome’ thing on the experience. We grow up but the memory stays locked in time.


The main reason we feel negative emotions is to highlight that something needs attention and to tell us we need to make some kind of new learning. Recognise and take on board this learning and the memory with the bad feeling has served its purpose.


There are lots of practical ways to go back and find the learning. One quick way is to simply look back at the memory through older, wiser eyes and ask, “What was I really meant to learn from this experience?” When you get an answer make a pact with yourself to act on the new learning. You’ll be amazed how just doing that can completely release your association with the past memory (you might even start to feel good about it). Another technique is to go back and imagine you are a neutral observer. What advice would you give that younger you? What new information is now available to you now from this neutral place that transforms the memory of that experience?


4. Plan for the future – Ask yourself what you would like to do differently in the future as a result of the experience. Remember, the function of bad memories is to highlight that something has to be learned or addressed. Once you get a sense of what the new learning is allow your mind to drift off into the future and imagine taking on board this new learning. Notice how it positively impacts your life then look back from this place and realize the bad experience made this new learning possible. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve used this and how powerful it can be.


5. Use Humour – Humour is one of the most universal and useful emotions we have available to us. It can diffuse arguments almost in an instant, it can dissolve negative emotions nearly as fast. Here’s a quick trick you can use that will help neutralize any bad feelings you have attached to a memory.


  • Allow the memory to come to mind until you start to feel bad.
  • Now start playing silly music inside your mind as you play through the memory – Notice how this changes the feeling.
  • Now imagine that everyone in the memory is wearing ballerina costumes and moving in time with the music.
  • Keep playing about with the visual and auditory aspects of the memory until you find yourself laughing because of how bizarre and silly it is.
  • Spend between 5-10 minutes laughing at how bizarre & silly the memory is.


6. Talk it over to someone – A lot of the time it can be very cathartic to let loose and just talk. Sometimes this alone can make the past seem a more pleasant place. (Please note this is not an excuse to wallow in self pity and become self indulgent. See it more as an occasional offload rather than a crutch)


7. Exercise, nutrition & sleep – It’s not just about the mind. Our overall physical health significantly affects our internal processes so the more you look after yourself the greater your capacity for mental health, the sharper you will be and the brighter the internal representation of your past, present and future become. The mind and body are intimately linked so anything good you do with your body will be reflected in your mind. Unless you are one of these individuals who are fine with just 6 hours sleep (this is such an alien concept to me I consider these people modern marvels of science!) then do your best to get 8 hours a night. Above all listen to your body, become attuned with how it feels…it can have a wisdom way beyond our conscious minds, ignore it at your peril.


8. Use the Past as a Resource – Actually it’s okay to get lost in the past every now and again. In fact it can be amazing providing you get lost in good memories. Keep a journal and record notes about all your successes, moments of passion, excitement and pleasure. Your memories can act as a pathway to good feelings, resources and enjoyable reminiscing so put them to good use. Take some time every now and again to vividly remember all the wonderful things you’ve experienced up to this point. We all need ways to keep ourselves entertained between experiences and going back to past pleasant memories is thoroughly enjoyable and does wonders for our happiness. Just remember life happens in the present so don’t get too lost.


9. Go to the toilet – Okay I put this one in as a bit of a joke. However regular bowel movements will help with your internal processing and overall sense of well being :-)


10. Seek Professionally help – If you are still struggling and it’s significantly affecting your life then seek professional help. Providing the therapist or coach is skilled at their craft, NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and hypnosis are excellent ways to let go of the past and use it as a resource to move forward.


There are lots of other ways though…explore, give things a go you’ve maybe never tried before. If you always do what you’ve always done then….well, I think you know how that one ends.

Take Care

Steven Burns

The Scottish Centre of NLP

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