Harnessing insight to behavioral change
First published, The VAK International NLP Newsletter, 1987
Copyright © 2006 by Michael Nagel. All Rights Reserved.
Psychological insight is a motherless child in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). NLP’s focus upon process and disregard of content effectively banish insight from the remedial and generative change models. Yet the unconscious continues to communicate, using insight, despite whichever psychological model may be in fashion.
Which, then, is the wiser ‑ NLP or the unconscious? Why not give insight the same respect that NLP affords other unconscious communications? Granted, the imprecision of many insight therapies has given ample reason for wariness. Too often, insight has provided only a reason for an unchanging behavior. Too often the transformative potential of an insight is squandered on intellectual musings. However, cannot the precision of neural programming be applied to insight to create new techniques for behavioral change?
The two techniques presented below combine the transformative potential of insight with the precision technology of neuro-linguistic programming. The techniques presume that the communication of insight is intended to effect a change and, therefore, when possible, insight must be accompanied by a corresponding behavioral change. *To know and not to act,” notes a Chinese proverb, “is in fact not to know.”
The techniques apply to remedial and generative change; they assume that the individual has experienced an insight ‑one that can be applied to a personal behavior. The ability to effect behavioral change can be enhanced by the use of these techniques. The first technique, Insight Programming, enlists the conscious mind in the change process. The second, Insight Reframe, a variation of the six‑step reframe, solicits the unconscious mind’s continuing cooperation.
1. Frame the Insight as a behavioral Imperative.
The efficacy of an insight often suffers because of its linguistic representation. An insight that is abstract, vague, and rambling is also impractical. Preferable is the representing of the insight as a precise imperative statement that commands behavioral change.
To do this, examine the insight experience. To which behavior(s) does it refer? How does the insight suggest behavior might change? How could future behavior be altered because of the insight? Identify a suggested behavior change.
Then, linguistically represent the suggested change as an imperative that serves as an anchor for the insight as well as an unconscious suggestion. Represent the imperative in active voice, present tense. A simple sentence structure is preferable. It can be an I‑statement.
2. Identify the relevant old behavior.
Identify a scenario wherein the old behavior that was illuminated by the insight would have occurred. Stabilize the experience in a given representational system. Be sure to be dissociated.
3. Run the old behavior scenario.
Run the scenario until just prior to the point at which the old behavior would have been triggered.
4. Identify new behaviors.
Identify several new behaviors that satisfy the behavioral imperative identified ‘led in step 1 and that could be substituted for the old behavior.
5. Sample the new behaviors.
Run the new behaviors through the scenario beginning at the trigger point identified instep 3. Associate into each new behavior. Check for congruency.
6. Rehearse new behaviors.
Rehearse each new congruent behavior seven to ten times. Rehearse it by restarting the scenario. At the trigger point, restate the behavioral imperative, and then run a new behavior.
Associate each of the new behaviors to environmental stimuli that are likely to occur in the future.
This is an abbreviation of the six‑step reframing technique. An insight implicitly identifies the behavior that can be changed (step 1). Insight also identifies the unconscious intention that underlies a given behavior (step 3). The Insight Reframe, therefore, simply restructures the traditional six‑ step technique. Its use is intended to encourage the unconscious mind’s continuing participation in the change process that it initiated with the insight.
Rather than describe in detail the reframing steps with which so many are familiar, here is a summary of the abbreviated technique:
1. Establish a dialogue with the part responsible for the insight.
2. Generate new behaviors that satisfy the intention revealed by the insight.
3. Have the part accept responsibility for applying the new behaviors.
4. Do an ecological check.
Doubtless these two techniques can suggest refinements and other techniques whereby insight may be harnessed to behavioral change.
Psychological insight is a resource rich with potential for remedial and generative change. The inefficiencies of insight‑centered therapeutic techniques are insufficient to justify the discarding of insight. Perhaps, instead, the worth of insight could only be fully exploited with the advent of psychological technologies such as NLP.
Copyright © 2006 by Michael Nagel. All Rights Reserved. Copyright Detail:
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