Tell me what you want, what you really really want

As part of the process of performing NLP, Hypnotherapy, and indeed any kind of treatment, there is one very important check that always takes place. It’s the ecology check.

Clients can come to a therapist for an incredible range of issues. In fact I would say that every client has a unique situation, that is supported by his or her own personal history. So a good therapist will always seek some further information before performing an ‘intervention’, rather than assume that one technique will always work.

For example a client may come to a therapist with a fear of dogs, and there are several excellent and powerful techniques for dealing with such phobias which are fairly general. However the therapist will want to be sure that the phobia is not in fact an ‘example’ of something else. Removing a phobia without some deeper understanding of the issues may result in a less successful outcome, or it may be successful but leave the client with the bigger issue unresolved, which may mean he or she will develop new ‘symptoms’.

Even more important than understanding the problem is ensuring that it is ‘right’ to get rid of it. This is what is meant by ecology.

This rightness, is something that can be judged on different levels, from whether it is right for the client, at that particular point in time, to whether solving the problem for the client has an impact on others around the client, and even to whether there is a global or moral impact.

Consider a fear of snakes for instance. A phobic response in this case might be if the client has panic symptoms even as a result of looking at a picture of a snake, or watching a snake in a sealed tank. And for some people, this might be a reaction they would rather not have because it embarrasses them, or because they feel it may be passed on to their children.

But is it really sensible to get rid of all fear of snakes in a client. Will being totally unafraid of snakes serve the client? What if they were to go on a safari and meet up with boa constrictor or a python? Without a reasonable amount of fear the client could put themselves in real danger. You don’t want your client wandering up to an anaconda offering it treats! It simply would not be ecological.

Hypnotherapy can be very effective in managing pain, such as childbirth pain, but pain is also an important part of the body’s warning system so a therapist would ensure that there were situations in which the sensations associated with giving birth can still be experienced by the client, perhaps as ‘waves’ or as discomfort.

An example of ecological considerations that might affect others could be a parent who has become separated from their children through marital breakdown. Such a situation can be agonising for that person and they may feel that they would like to stop feeling that deep love and bond with their child so that they can also suffer less pain and grief.

How would that impact the client in the future? How would it affect their children too? As time goes by perhaps the children would begin to wish to see the absent parent, and be deeply hurt that he or she had not made more effort to retain contact.

A therapist would probably not see this solution as ‘ecological’, though there may well be more appropriate forms of support that they could give, such as helping to channel the love an absent parent has into actions that support the children from afar, or motivating the absent parent to be more proactive in repairing the damage caused by the breakup.

One way that therapists may use to establish ecology for the client is the ‘pendulum’ test. The therapist will use the swing of a pendulum to give them contact with the unconscious mind of the client. Often the client’s conscious mind can find it difficult to analyse and assess the impact of dealing with what it sees as a major issue. Your unconscious mind knows what is right for you.

A pendulum test is a way of bypassing the conscious mind through ‘ideomotor’ reactions. I won’t go into exactly how this works now, but essentially the pendulum is able to indicate ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses directly, without the client’s conscious control. It’s a fascinating process that works without any hypnotic intervention.

Another more direct way to establish ecology is for the therapist to simply ask – ‘is it okay for your unconscious mind to make these changes today’? For many clients the answer is straightforward and the question seems almost unnecessary, but it is an essential part of the therapy.

So when you go to a therapist, expect to be tested. It may seem strange to be asked if you actually want the treatment that you have clearly signed up for, at some expense and having taken a very courageous step in seeking help in the first place. But however unnecessary it may seem, it is vital that you are comfortable with making that change.

Robert Sanders is a therapist and life coach, supporting people in their present and helping them create their future.

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