When a client has a big problem, I will sometimes share three options with the client.
1. Let’s resolve that big problem.
2. Let’s ignore that big problem.
3. Let’s put the big problem on the shelf for a while, and let’s solve a small problem, first.
If I share the three options, most clients are expecting option #1. But she’s confused by #2 and #3.
When I share options #2 and #3, I explain the why. Maybe not completely, but enough for it to start to make sense.
Later I’ll say more about options #2 and #3, especially #3. But before that, let’s start by looking at the bigger picture of change.
= = = = = Bigger picture of creating change = = = = =
When a client wants to solve a big problem, that means she’s going to create a really big change. Guess who tends to dislike really big change? Yup, our friend, the subconscious mind.
The subconscious usually prefers the status quo. Not in every context, but generally speaking, it wants things to be the same. It feels familiar, comfortable, and less risky.
For example, I remember working with a client who drank too much. Yes, the client knew it was causing him problems. But he couldn’t help himself. He had to drink.
Why? His subconscious mind wanted things to remain the same, despite the downsides of drinking too much. But together, we were able to help his subconscious mind stop fearing change. And the client solved his problem.
Though I didn’t say this to him, I addressed his drinking problem from an engineering or scientific experiment perspective.
My big goal was to collect data from him. I asked him direct questions, indirect questions, watched his body language, etc. Sometimes the best data is the data the client is unaware that I’m collecting. That way, the subconscious doesn’t have the chance to shade its answer.
= = = = = Why collect data? = = = = =
Do I need to know everything about the client? Heck, no. I don’t want to know their entire life history. Sometimes I need a few data points, and sometimes I need a lot to get started. And yes, you may have noticed that I differentiate between the client and the problem.
The client is a human being. They are doing a behavior. They have a problem. But they are not the problem.
The term alcoholic is a useful one, and it’s one I rarely use. It’s an identity, a label. And the client is much more than their problem and a label.
A label has power over us. I prefer to say the client is a human being who happens to have a problem. And the problem has a behavior associated with it. He has an internal conflict, and he’d like to resolve it.
Just saying what I said begins to help the client to shift toward a solution.
Why do I collect data instead of going to problem-solving mode? Because it’s hard to solve a problem that you haven’t understood. If I don’t understand how the problem functions, the structure of it, then I need to collect data.
Data may involve the client’s conscious values, conscious beliefs, conscious behaviors, and conscious conflicts. And it may involve the subconscious version of all of that. Reading the client’s body language also gives me good data.
If I’m doing a phone session, I can also read them even if I can’t see them, because I can hone in on the pauses, speed of speech, tonality, use of pronouns, use of verb tenses, etc.
As you can tell, I collect data both overtly and covertly. After I collect enough data, I form a hypothesis, i.e., an educated guess.
= = = = = Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3. Is this mic on? = = = = =
After I form a hypothesis, I test it. How is factor A interacting with factor B? How is factor A interacting with factor C? How are B and C interacting? What about D? Etc. At this point, I’m testing out how things affect each other.
I want to understand the problem from a deeper, structural level, how the problem keeps functioning, what values and beliefs are required to keep it alive, what non-values/non-beliefs may be factors, etc.
A lot of my testing is done covertly. No need to bog my client down with all the nitty gritty details. Sometimes the data collection itself will create shifts within the client’s subconscious mind. Ex. If I ask, “What’d you have for lunch today?” the client may think it’s an innocent question. But it’s not. I really don’t care what he had for lunch.
Sometimes data collection isn’t about getting a direct answer. Sometimes the actual verbal answer isn’t important at all. But I’ll leave that mysterious for now.
By the way, did you know that Italy is much more aware of gluten issues than the U.S.? I learned that a few months ago. They even test children at a young age for gluten issues. Wow. Anyway, back to the idea of testing.
After doing all my testing, the data will indicate whether to…
1. Keep my hypothesis intact.
2. Or refine my hypothesis.
3. Or discard my hypothesis.
I’m not attached to what the data tells me. I’d rather drop a hypothesis as soon as I realize it’s not right for me. That way I can quickly pivot to a new hypothesis, or at least collect more data. But holding onto something that’s no longer useful, well, I’d rather not. I do enjoy a good kung pao chicken, that’s for sure. Yes, that’s a tangent.
= = = = = Again, it’s all that and a bag of chips (old school slang’s the best) = = = = =
Most of what I do revolves around collecting data. It may not be glamorous, but it’s the foundation of helping the client. In a sense, a hypnotist is a data collector, engineer, and scientist looking for how beliefs interact, how the issue functions, what’s the structure, etc.
Sometimes the client’s subconscious will give me the solution on a silver platter. Other times it will give me just enough data that I can design the solution. And sometimes it’s a nice blend of both their subconscious and my subconscious.
Because when the client’s in hypnosis, so am I. Well, technically I’m in trance before they go into trance. Why do I go into trance first? I do my best work in trance. From their perspective, they think I’m just chatting normally. But they’re actually talking to my subconscious.
Consciously, I can’t possibly keep track of all the data points and synthesize it all effectively. My subconscious is simply better at that than my conscious mind.
= = = = = Circling back to the start = = = = =
Here’s why option #2, ignore the big problem, is helpful. Sometimes, the really big problem isn’t real. It’s a bit of an illusion. I’m not saying the impact isn’t real. What I’m saying is that trying to directly address the big problem will be fruitless in some cases. I’ll leave that mysterious for now as if I say too much, as it’s a longer conversation.
But I will address option #3, putting the big issue on the shelf and instead solving a smaller issue, first. If it’s a really big problem, and the subconscious is scared of change, then it’ll be really scared of a really big change.
That’s why sometimes the best strategy is to put the big issue on the shelf, and instead, solve a small problem. By solving an appropriate smaller problem, the client can gain momentum, resources, and skills. And as the clients gets those things, he’ll be able to work up to the point he can handle the big problem.
Instead of running a marathon, sometimes it’s better for the client to run around the block. And then work up to running a mile. And so on. Tackling smaller changes gives him what he needs to later tackle the big change. And when that happens, because of the prior work, that big problem will no longer be so big. The fear will no longer be so big.
And almost as if by magic, handling that big problem will feel much easier. In some cases, the client may even solve it without even trying.
How do I know if option #1, #2, or #3 is appropriate? I collect data. You may call me a hypnotist. But you can also call me a hypnotic engineer or even a hypnotic detective.
Or as Brad Pitt calls me, Holly’s husband, the guy who answers her home phone.