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First principles, formats and the Swish Pattern

Introduction to the Swish Pattern

Richard Bandler once defined NLP as: “an attitude of insatiable curiosity about human beings with a methodology that leaves behind it a trail of techniques…”Bandler, R., DeLozier, J., & Cameron-Bandler, L. (1981). Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Info-Medix.

Bandler, himself, does not use unchanging techniques when working with different people. He asks questions, observes non-verbal responses, listens to verbal and non-verbal responses and uses his body to communicate. He changes what he is doing to fit the other person’s ongoing shifts in behaviour as they unfold in front of him and he uses his own behaviour to facilitate the change. , 

One of John Grinder’s definitions reads: “NLP is a meta-discipline which focuses on the discovery and coding of patterns which distinguish the most capable of the practitioners of some particular discipline (managerial practice, medical practice, sport, therapy…) from the average practitioner. These distinguishing patterns are the substance of NLP”. – John Grinder (The NLP Field Guide, Collingwood & Collingwood).

Grinder’s definitions of NLP suggest that applying NLP in daily life is attending to the patterns of organisation that produce excellence when expressed in the world. Bandler is attending to something similar.

When change work is performed by someone with refined pattern detection and utilisation skills, the consultant works in relationship and response to the responses of the client. , Well trained and experienced consultants are not limited to using nlp formats in full, as they appreciate the patterns that frame different parts of a process. , Each question or instruction is offered with intent to assist the client to think differently and more productively. Then the client can access, arrange and learn information about their matter, with a view to obtaining systemically satisfactory resolution.

An able NLP consultant’s skills include but are not limited to their sensory acuity, capacity to detect and recognise patterns in themselves and others and their ability to articulate questions, suggestions and requests in terms the other person’s conscious and unconscious minds can appreciate, follow and use. This presupposes that each change work conversation will be unique as the consultant and client communicate with each other and each of their responses is predicated on the previous delivery of the other person.

This approach is quite different from someone repeating a list of questions and instructions they have been told will shift a specific problem. However, Bandler’s choice of the word ‘techniques’ had an unfortunate effect on the field of NLP training and on the large number of trainers who became comfortable with teaching techniques. , 

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Most people who learn NLP do not have the opportunity to study with Bandler, Grinder, or the small handful of others who teach the patterns of excellence that frame an NLP syllabus.

Therefore the majority of students of NLP learn formatted procedures (techniques). The nature of techniques is such that a technician has learned to perform a particular technique when a specific criterion for using it is apparent. They do it the same way every time, regardless of differences in context, available materials or differing patterns of organisation of the person in front of them.

An NLP technique is a written version of a change process used in the NLP community, which probably came from patterns of excellence modelled or demonstrated by Bandler and or Grinder initially. A change process is an example of one or more patterns in action. The point about patterns is that if you can detect patterns unfolding in front of you, for example in a client’s comments and behaviour, you can respond with functional examples of patterns of excellence that mesh with what you are observing and lead the client’s own process towards a useful conclusion for them. This is personalised change work as opposed to formulaic work.

In its first iteration and certainly before becoming a technique, any NLP change process would have been demonstrated by a practiced NLP trainer or consultant. It would have been that trainer’s expression of a combination of patterns of excellence used on a specific occasion with a particular individual. The change process would have been crafted from patterns of excellence held in the trainer’s neurology, either as a result of extended modelling of someone like Grinder or Bandler, or deriving from in depth training and practice in pattern detection and implementation. , 

The exact patterns used on any occasion would have been selected unconsciously from first principles. The selection would have been made in light of information gathered from the demonstration subject and the language and behaviour patterns of that specific person in that specific context. There would have been framing and metaphor preceding the change process, to set the scene and engage the subject’s unconscious mind.

Any observers or students would have been expected to model the trainer’s entire presentation, including non-verbal patterns and observations without taking notes, so they would acquire the underpinning unconscious skills and knowledge to work with NLP patterns from first principles.

To have made the shift from modelling and learning first principles into written formats and conventional learning, someone present at such a training program missed the point. They would have ignored the framing that proposed modelling the demonstrator and attended to the exact words only. , They would have written the questions and instructions in the change process verbatim and later disseminated that writing as a literal format or technique. Then they passed that version on to others and the others applied it as written. , 

In the education system, people learn by attending consciously to the content of a lecture and taking copious notes. They read relevant material before and after a topic is presented and use conscious attention to engage with the material. If anyone suggested they silence their internal dialogue, open their peripheral vision and soak up the experience directly to the unconscious mind, they would be horrified. They would imagine that leaving a lecture with no notes and little conscious awareness of the material would place them at a severe disadvantage.

Unconscious uptake can feel as if one is not learning in the early stages. Yet the material is available for application, even though someone learning this way may not be able to find and access it consciously until some time has elapsed. When learning NLP this way, the evidence that learning is happening is in the practical exercises and future experiences when the student hears themselves say something that expresses a pattern learned in class.

A student described the experience of using unconscious uptake in NLP training very clearly. She said she appreciated the framing and metaphors that carried the patterns without trying to understand them consciously. Then she modelled the demonstration, again without trying to record or understand consciously. When the exercise was given, she had no idea what to do, so she sat with her partner and allowed her unconscious mind to run the exercise. She found that she had all the right questions in a functional order to accommodate her partner’s responses and fulfil the intention for the exercise.

Unconscious uptake and hypnotic trances

Learning by modelling or unconscious uptake as described is different from a hypnotic trance. Whereas most trances take a person’s attention inwards, modelling specifically requires the modeller’s attention to be external, so they can see, hear and feel everything unfolding in front of them and take it in directly. While not a hypnotic trance, this state is sometimes called an uptime trance, denoting full sensory attention to the outside world. External attention only uses sensory input through eyes, ears and body. Ideally there is no internal dialogue; minimally, internal dialogue is reduced to the best of your ability. There is no use of internal imagery or sound either. One of the most effective ways to reduce learning is to make internal images, sounds and dialogue during a presentation or lecture. Internal representations use up the input channels at the very time they need to be clear for input and the quality of learning is enhanced if they are kept to a minimum during the class. Understanding can be sought later, in private, over suitable course materials. , 

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Unconscious uptake is the kind of learning we advocate for becoming expert in the use and application of NLP. It facilitates natural acquisition of the patterns with the ability to use them to respond to others with appropriate questions and instructions. There is no requirement outside the classroom to adhere to a complete process if other patterns fit the conversation and context more closely. In the classroom, learning complete change processes has several functions. A complete process can be used like training wheels on a bicycle. It provides a framework to carry a subset of NLP patterns to which students need to be exposed. It provides an opportunity to work with others with sufficient constraints to allow students to practice the new piece with previously learned patterns, such as rapport, sensory acuity and calibration.

  • Rapport is the willing engagement of the other’s unconscious attention.
  • Sensory acuity is observation and listening for language patterns and non-verbal responses without attributing meaning.
  • Calibration is observation of patterns previously seen and heard in that individual and known to be associated with particular states and response potential for that person.

Unconscious uptake enables students to engage with patterns in different combinations as the course progresses, so they build up schemata or representations of increasing complexity as the course progresses. This creates a collection of known patterns which can be mixed and matched by the unconscious to suit different conversations and contexts and becomes more accessible with practice. In due course, the student acquires conscious understanding, often some time later.

It takes trust in the trainers and the training organisation for students to be willing to engage in unconscious uptake. It often feels unfamiliar and does not provide immediate conscious feedback that one has acquired knowledge. To reduce the level of discomfort commonly associated with uncertainty before students discover that unconscious uptake is extremely effective, we provide them with the opportunity to discover that it works with minimal risk.

We advise prospective students to research carefully before enrolling, to assure themselves that we know what we are doing. In line with government policy, if they are not finding class useful, we allow anyone who wants to withdraw to do so before the second day of their next unit. We also provide students with reading material to which they can refer after learning a particular piece. Students who have completed a unit of study satisfactorily are invited to repeat that unit for a nominal fee at any time during the next two years if they want to review it. These measures are all designed to give students the assurance that they can take the time they need to familiarise themselves with unconscious input so they can give their full attention to learning. Then they can develop trust within themselves to learn that way. We also offer them reliable material to help facilitate conscious understanding after their experience, should they so wish.

Yet in this world full of diversity, (which makes it interesting) many people have been taught that conscious, deliberate learning and wanting immediate understanding is the right way to learn. The most extreme examples insist on taking notes, talking to themselves and visualising during presentations. They may ask very precise, literal questions that take their attention away from the patterns unfolding in front of them. By their very activity, they make a great effort, engage their conscious resources and miss the frames and patterns that make a new process memorable, effortlessly functional and ecological to use.

  • Ecology is preserving the client or subject’s long term wellbeing with reference to the contexts of their lives, relationships and circumstances which could be impacted by their outcomes with an exercise or change process.

People who espouse conscious mind learning, especially if they get results from it, say they are not learning if they are not taking notes and if they cannot have exercise instructions to read. They become agitated and naturally subject themselves to loud internal dialogue and intrusive internal images as they imagine wasting their opportunity and not learning. This response is precisely what stops them learning. If they can stay the course and attend externally, eventually they, too, discover that unconscious uptake works well in the context of NLP. It just takes a little longer at the beginning. Otherwise, these are people who leave training with a collection of notes and recipes and a limited capacity to work with NLP in their lives.

Conscious mind learning is used by the majority of people who have experienced formal education and it is the culturally accepted norm. Therefore it is not surprising that much of the material modelled by Bandler and Grinder has been written up in the form of techniques and scripts. When students attend exclusively and consciously to verbal instructions and specific comments and questions, the demonstrated piece is taken down verbatim and used in the exercise with the exact words in the same order as they were offered in the demonstration. When the words survive and the non-verbal elements in the communication are missed, a format is created. The format becomes the standard for general use. No one remembers it expressed patterns for a specific interaction and is not a complete model ready for generalisation.

A prime example of an over specified NLP process for creating change is the Swish. It is variously described as a method or a technique and is normally presented as a recipe to be memorised or as a script to be read.

The Swish Pattern

The Swish uses an individual’s own submodality changes at high speed to shift that person’s attention from the content they have to see, hear or feel each time they initiate an habitual act. The sensory representation of the memory of performing the start of their chosen behaviour shifts instantly into a highly attractive and dissociated representation of the person as they would like to be at some time after they have changed. This creates a shunt that diverts the person from the act they wanted to change before they do it.

  • Submodalities are the components of each representational system.
  • Representational systems are the systems of sight, hearing, feeling, taste and smell that we use to remember and imagine, creating trains of thought and emotions.
  • The senses are sight, hearing, feeling, taste and smell used in real time as we access external events.
  • Visual submodalities include size, brightness, location, distance, depth of field, focus, hue, rate of motion (think photoshop editing).
  • Auditory submodalities include location, volume, pitch, timbre, bandwidth, distortion, rate of motion (think sound mixing desk).
  • Kinaesthetic submodalities include temperature, pressure, location, rhythm, amplitude, moisture, volume, area, motion.

Submodalities provide and create the meaning we make of the content of our representations, (images, sounds and sensations) and the meaning of a representation changes when we alter the submodalities with which it is represented. A Swish changes both the meaning and the content of representations attached to the act we want to change. , For the purposes of using a Swish to break an habitual act, we use two analogue submodalities in representational systems of the person’s choice. These should be driver submodalities that change the intensity of the experience simultaneously with their direct action on the initial representation.

  • Analogue submodalities alter in a continuous flow, increasing or decreasing in smooth increments, like the dimmer on a light switch or the volume control on a sound system.
  • Digital submodalities alter in discrete steps or have an on-off switch.
  • Driver submodalities alter the meaning or quality of the content of a representation while simultaneously altering additional qualities of the experience by changing at least one submodality in a different representational system. This change is linked to the change in the driver submodality.

The principle of the Swish is to create an automated shift of the person’s attention to their highly motivating and self chosen representation of themselves in the future after the change.

The story of the Swish:

Christina Hall is one of the founding owners of the Society of NLP and has been an NLP trainer since the early 1980s. She was working with Richard Bandler, the co-originator of NLP, as a blend of executive assistant and associate trainer. , She also had a life partner called Peter, who played a central role in the development of the Swish.

One evening, Christina was driving home from an NLP training seminar. Peter was with her in the car and they were discussing Bandler’s demonstrations. During the conversation, Peter experienced a sudden shift in his internal images and changed state. The new state was markedly resourceful and Christina’s attention was alerted. She asked Peter what he did and he described his experience as follows:

He had been thinking about something in life size, moving, associated images close in front of him. Suddenly the image shifted from its life size movie configuration and dropped down to his left side while it shrunk to a black dot at the bottom left of his field of vision. Simultaneously a (different) black dot rose up from the same place at the bottom left and enlarged and placed itself across Peter’s field of vision, where the previous image had been. This was a dissociated lifelike image of who he would be or how he would appear ideally, after making a change to the content he was first thinking about.

Christina took this information to Bandler and they experimented with it. In due course it became what is known as the “Standard Swish”. It worked well for some people, notably those who include size, location and brightness in their analogue driver submodalities.

The swish created a shunt from the present state image with its unique components of the unwanted behaviour, directly to an idealised dissociated image of the person after the change is established. This produced a state that was sufficiently resourceful and different from the state associated with the habitual behaviour to break any link with the unwanted behaviour. As a shunt, any residual link would be broken each time the person was exposed to the initial stimulus.

Some people found it difficult to shrink an image and move it sideways while darkening it and others found it did nothing for them. These people use different driver submodalities. Bandler discovered that a large number of them work well using size and distance. For them, the initial associated image pulls away as if on a bungy cord, while shrinking down to become a dot in the far distance. , Simultaneously, the desired state image starts from being a dot in the far distance and rushes forward, enlarging to occupy the position formerly held by the first image. , This is known as the ‘Distance Swish’.

Finally, for those who do not include any of these options in their own driver submodalities, or who prefer to work in the auditory or kinaesthetic representational systems, Bandler chunked up from the two formats above to describe the patterns that guide them. In the “Designer Swish”, the individual subject’s use of submodalities is elicited and a swish is created for that person, using two of their own analogue driver submodalities. This is the most accurate description of the Swish Pattern.

Teaching and Learning the Swish

Christina’s story is not well known in the NLP community. Most people learn the Standard Swish first, as a stand alone format. They learn to use the Distance Swish separately, to accommodate subjects who find it difficult to use the Standard Swish. At most, students may be told to ask which format a subject prefers and use that. The frame is generally restricted to presenting a pre-packed format of a standard or distance swish so that students can follow the recipe and get a result. In this impoverished model, students are not given the whole pattern, nor are they invited to begin the process with a submodality elicitation to establish their individual subjects’ own analogue driver submodalities. , 

In order to learn the Swish effectively and safely, with ecology for the subject, there are some essential frames and prerequisite skills and knowledge.

Prerequisite skills and knowledge:

  • Students should be competent in rapport, sensory acuity, calibration and the use of visual, auditory and kinaesthetic representational systems.
  • Students should be familiar with eliciting submodalities and submodality changes in visual, auditory and kinaesthetic representational systems.
  • Students should routinely check for ecology in all their work; that is ensure that any changes they propose to facilitate fit with the subject’s values, life style, choices and relationships.
  • Students should be competent in routinely applying first, third and second positions to facilitate high quality information gathering and support their calibration of subjects’ responses to questions and instructions.
  • Students should be able to elicit subjects’ outcomes and intentions for having the changes they want.
  • Students should be able to elicit sensory specific information from subjects about their normally unconscious thinking processes.


  • The Swish is a submodality change process and therefore has no inherent ecology. You will need to provide an ecology frame and ecology checks throughout the process.
  • There is no information gathering process to establish outcomes, intentions and possible consequences of making a change using the Swish. You will need to gather sufficient information to ensure that the subject creates an ecological outcome that fits into a suitable intention frame.
  • The Swish works to stop unwanted behaviour in its tracks by creating a different representation and state. You will need to establish that any intentions the subject has for continuing the unwanted behaviour are incorporated into the change or satisfied by other means.
  • The Swish has no requirement for engaging the subject’s unconscious mind in the choice or creation of change. You will need to elicit engagement with the subject’s unconscious mind to approve and ratify their choices and possibly to contribute intentions and choices for the change.
  • The Swish is a process model.
  1. It uses two analogue driver submodalities to reduce the present state representation while simultaneously using two analogue driver submodalities to bring in the desired state representation. Examples of analogue driver submodalities include, but are not limited to analogue shifts:
      • from tiny to occupying all available space,
      • nearly silent to very loud,
      • dark to very bright,
      • barely discernible to heavy pressure,
      • icy cold to steaming hot,
      • distant and barely there to close and very obvious,
      • top to bottom,
      • left to right.
  1. The Swish can be performed using the same representational system for the present and desired state representations or two different representational systems, one each for the present and desired state representations. Alternatively it can be done using driver submodalities from two different representational systems for the present and/or desired state representations. On each occasion, use the combination that you have discovered fits best for the subject in front of you.
  2. The present state representation is always associated and requires content which can only be present and is always present when the unwanted act is about to take place.
    • An associated representation is life like. It is as if you were there, in the scene, seeing, hearing and feeling live action.
  1. The desired state representation is always clearly discernible and dissociated to keep it slightly in the future and therefore drawing the subject towards it.
    • A dissociated representation is like seeing an image with yourself in the image, hearing sound through a window and feeling yourself as an observer, not as a participant. It is like watching and listening to yourself in a video, seeing a photograph of yourself or hearing your voice recorded. , , 
  1. Every Swish is a Designer Swish. People have their own driver submodalities and some of these are analogue. Different people use different sublimates to make meaning of their experience. Therefore any submodality intervention requires eliciting that subject’s submodality applications before creating the change process.

When I teach the Swish, I use the frames above. I tell Christina’s story to provide the history and illustrate that the so-called Standard Swish is Peter’s Designer Swish. For teaching purposes, the visual system is graphically illustrative. Most people can see and shift their internal images with some facility, so I find a demonstration subject who can comfortably perform a Swish using visual submodalities. , 

I gather information from the subject and engage their unconscious resources until they know what they want to change (problem), what they want instead (outcome) and what having that would do for them (intention). I also establish what keeping the problem does for them (intention for doing it). The intentions we use may be “intentions for intentions” to make sure they are well formed and attractive to the subject.

A well formed intention is:

  • Self initiated; “I want to be, have, do or experience X”, not “I want to have X done to me by others” or “I want to be Xed”.
  • Phrased in the positive; “I want to be, have, do or experience X”, not “I don’t want to experience Y”.
  • For oneself; “I want to be, have, do or experience X”, not “I want someone else to be, do, have or experience X”.

It is acceptable to keep exploring higher levels of intention until the subject spontaneously offers one that is well formed and attractive to them. , That may be three or four levels up from the outcome. Even an ill formed and unpleasing intention has a higher intention which might be more useful.

The information gathering usually identifies potential changes to be made to set the subject up for the best quality results from the Swish. Given that the Swish only changes the desire to perform specific acts, additional work is often needed to safeguard the ecology and intentions associated with the desired change. When this is done, I give the subject frames for the Swish, (using visual submodalities if possible for the first demonstration) and elicit the subject’s analogue driver submodalities for use in the process. At this stage I would be ready to run the process, but for the reader, there are other questions to address first.

Running the Swish Successfully and Otherwise

Many people in the NLP community are willing to use the Swish as a stand alone process. They claim success using the Standard or Distance Swish by itself with a variety of habitual acts. Given the importance of protecting subjects’ higher level intentions and ecology, I wonder about the time frame in which some of these results hold up.

Here is an example of typical consequences of a stand alone Swish. During a short conversation with someone at their workplace, they mentioned that they bit their nails and had done since childhood. Was there a quick fix that would take less than 10 minutes? They were made aware of the lack of ecology but wanted to try it out. One Swish later, they stopped biting their nails. Three weeks later, the same person observed that since stopping biting their nails, they were aware of an uncomfortable state. The state went away if they brought their nails to their mouth. There was time to explore the state and do a full piece of work, so the person kept their nails and sorted out the underlying state.

Some years ago a student wanted to experiment using the Swish to find out if it was sufficient for him to stop smoking with no other intervention. This was an interesting idea. Usually, smoking is associated with lots of intentions for doing it, for stopping it and for participating in social and business milieux in which it does and does not take place. This is one topic where it is extremely useful to gather high quality information and make a systemic approach to change. The Swish can be an excellent end piece after everything else has been addressed.

The student who wanted to experiment chose the visual system for both representations. He chose separate images for a cigarette in the left hand, in the right hand, lit and unlit, in each case with the hand approaching his face. Then he ran the Swish separately for each image. He reported a few days later that for the first day he had been unable to extract a cigarette from a packet, but he still felt a strong desire to smoke. This is not surprising. When the student explored the rest of his own system and made changes with reference to smoking, he was able to give it up comfortably and congruently. He lost the physiological and state based desire, when the intentions for their presence were addressed. This complemented the initial Swish and he remains a willing and easy non-smoker.

Provided the Swish is used ecologically as part of a suite of interventions, it can be applied usefully to any unwanted recurring behaviour or state. It is best known for breaking unwanted habitual behaviour, but unwanted states can be construed as behaviour and will respond to a Swish. A Swish is a form of shunt, where one state is shunted directly to another, using representations with specific submodalities shifted at high speed. , 

Some say the Swish supersedes the N-Step Reframe “ Not So”.

The N-Step Reframe used to be called 6 Step Reframing, but Grinder changed its name. This is Bostic and Grinder’s N-Step instructions from p. 155 of “Whispering in the Wind”.

  1. Identify the behaviour(s) to be changed
  2. Establish a reliable involuntary signal system with the unconscious
  3. Confirm that there is a positive intention(s) behind the behaviour(s) to be changed
  4. Generate a set of alternatives as good or better than the original behaviour(s) in satisfying the positive intention(s)
  5. Get the unconscious to accept responsibility for implementation
  6. Ecological check

There is a belief in the NLP community that anything the N-Step Reframe can address, the Swish can change more quickly and with less effort. They claim that the Swish supersedes the N-Step Reframe and is therefore the process of choice for that class of problems. To address these opinions:

  • The N-Step Reframe contains ecology, consultation with the unconscious mind, access to and use of intentions. It requires a large enough frame to address any systemic elements that impact the proposed change. All the essential elements for a high quality, lasting change are inside the process. Of course it takes longer than a stand alone Swish. This is the difference between a complete intervention and one piece of an intervention.
  • If the comparison is restricted to personal change, and the N-Step Reframe is compared with a Swish performed inside an ecological framework as above, you are comparing apples with apples. Then the choice can be, what best fits this client, now?
  • Within the personal change context, the N-Step Reframe can accommodate a greater range of topics for change than a stand alone Swish. So can a Swish inside an ecological framework.
  • The N-Step Reframe was developed by John Grinder, directly from his unconscious mind and first published in “Frogs into Princes”. The story of the N-Step Reframe is told in full in Bostic and Grinder, “Whispering in the Wind”. The Swish came later, but to supersede the N-Step Reframe it would have to fulfil all the same functions. The N-Step Reframe has many more applications than the Swish. It lends itself to the creative process, facilitating ideas and designs, to business and commerce, managing people and projects. The principles can be applied to organising thought, teaching and learning and to anything where it is useful to work at the level of intentions, which includes most of life.

Now that the framing for the Swish is in place, examples are given and common views are discussed, it is time to describe the Swish itself. This the model:

Instructions for using the Swish Pattern from First Principles (also known as the Designer Swish):

  1. Identify the behaviour to be changed
  2. Create an associated representation at the point of no return for commencing the behaviour
  3. Create a dissociated representation of the subject in their desired state
  4. Identify two analogue driver submodalities to intensify each representation
  5. Associate into the first representation
  6. Apply driver submodalities to reduce intensity of first representation to zero and…
  7. Simultaneously, apply driver submodalities to increase intensity of desired state representation to optimal intensity
  8. Return attention to the outside
  9. Repeat steps five to seven inclusive AT SPEED, two to five times, with a break between each cycle.
  10. Test and future pace.

Formats go into more detail and constrain the average user to following specific instructions, which may or may not suit the subject in front of them. The advanced user will be aware of the frames and extrapolate to the description above. They will routinely gather information and vary the details of the process to suit their subject.

Format for the Standard Swish:

  1. Identify the behaviour to be changed
  2. Create a large associated image at the point of no return for commencing the behaviour
  3. Create a large, close, dissociated image of the subject in their desired state
  4. Apply submodalities of size and brightness to intensify each image
  5. Associate into the first image
  6. Shrink, darken and move the first image down to one side until it is a black dot and…
  7. Simultaneously, from a black dot to the side, enlarge, brighten and move the desired state image to the centre of the visual field so it occupies the whole visual field while remaining dissociated
  8. Return attention to the outside
  9. Repeat steps five to seven inclusive AT SPEED, two to five times, with a break between each cycle.
  10. Test and future pace.

Format for the Distance Swish:

  1. Identify the behaviour to be changed
  2. Create a large associated image at the point of no return for commencing the behaviour
  3. Create a large, close, dissociated image of the subject in their desired state
  4. Apply submodalities of distance and brightness to intensify each image
  5. Associate into the first image
  6. Darken and move the first image far away until it is a black dot in the distance and…
  7. Simultaneously, from a black dot in the distance, enlarge, brighten and move the desired state image to the centre of the visual field so it occupies the whole visual field while remaining dissociated
  8. Return attention to the outside
  9. Repeat steps five to seven inclusive AT SPEED, two to five times, with a break between each cycle.
  10. Test and future pace.

A cautionary tale

Two of our graduates who attended our Trainers’ Training and became skilled trainers, decided to experience a different description of NLP. They each attended a second Trainers’ Training program with different organisations. Each of them, separately, reported the following event.

They were assessed on their training skills by Master Practitioners who were not trainers themselves. In each case, the Master Practitioner assessing ordered them to demonstrate a Standard Swish. Each candidate tried to find a demonstration subject for whom a Standard Swish would sit well. There were none in the available group. Each candidate framed his intention and found a subject who could work with a Swish in the visual system using other analogue driver submodalities. Each candidate presented his intention for using a Designer Swish in the visual system and explained, as if training a group, the ecology of his decision.

Each candidate was failed for not doing a Standard Swish. The Master Practitioners in question demonstrated a lack of awareness of the frames and context of the Swish, disregard for an ecological approach to demonstration subjects and an adherence to the content of procedures over utilisation of models that is deeply disappointing. Several years on, the two trainers remain confident in their own knowledge and do excellent work, one in NLP training and the other in arts and academic applications.

The function of learning NLP is not to collect a sheaf of paper with single application formats on it. It is to learn to apply flexible models in varied contexts, while working from first principles. If you re-read the N-Step Reframe and the Swish Model descriptions, it will all make sense in light of the framing and recommendations for the rest of an intervention earlier in this e-book. That is the class of information that students need in order to learn to work from first principles. It takes longer than collecting formats, but is infinitely more lasting and rewarding for the future. Formats are like recipes. You can make one dish from each. First principles can be applied together or piecemeal in conversation, at work, in the bank or on a boat. First principles are learned through a combination of framing and exploring multiple patterns through their models. The hands on experience of using them is like having a new format for every subject. You choose.

By Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer

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Jules Collingwood

Jules has been involved in training and coaching since the 1980s and brings a wealth of experience to her work. As well as training, she consults to business and senior management, where she specialises in systemic change and individual performance enhancement. She is a superb negotiator with highly developed skills in influential language patterns, which she uses to assist clients develop and achieve their plans. Jules also designs custom training programs for specific applications and is responsible for INSPIRITIVE's RTO compliance management and course accreditation.