Summary of the book “Using your brain for a change”: This book is a compilation of different NLP seminars given by one of its co-creators Richard Bandler. He introduces this guide to using the brain and offers readers the opportunity to take (back) control in order to make use of its immense capacities. You can learn how to overcome a phobia, change beliefs, reconsider your memories or develop your learning capacities… The possibilities are endless. It is all about knowing in what direction you want to go. Using your brain for a change offers a clear approach to techniques that are easy to put into place. They are illustrated by a number of concrete cases.
Using your brain for a change by Richard Bandler, 2002, 236 pages.
Note: This is a guest chronicle written by Valérie Roumanoff from the blog Drôle de maman.
Chronicle and summary of the book Using your brain for a change
Part 1. Who’s driving the bus?
The little known capacities of the brain
The brain is like a machine that has no off button. If we don’t give it something to do, it will start to do something, it doesn’t matter what. For example, such as waking you up in the middle of the night after reliving a particularly unpleasant experience. Neuro-linguistic programming is the way to take back control of operations, to choose on what and how the brain is going to use its capacities. While many psychologists use it in therapy, it is more appropriate to say that it is an educational process.
If you come home disappointed from your holidays, then your brain must have prepared a very detailed and realistic idea of the holiday you were going to have before you even left home. This extraordinary ability is used to provide a result that you could easily have done without. Most human beings slaves to their brain. It is like being chained to the back seat of the bus, while someone else drives it. With mental exercises based on the subjectivity of each experience, NLP allows you to take back control by playing with your brain and giving it specific and functional orders.
How does the brain work?
Human learning never stops. A phobia shows us that the brain learns too fast and too well. If a person with a phobia sees a spider, they will never say: “Oh, I forgot to be scared”. It only needs to happen once for the lesson to be learned and last a lifetime. Aren’t there things that you would like to learn just as well? Phobias are a marvellous example of learning.
The anchoring process When you meet someone who becomes important to you while listening to a particular piece of music, then every time you hear that music, you will think of that person and remember the emotions you felt at the time. In couple’s therapy, a woman complained about her husband and the therapist said: “Look at him. When you say that, you should maintain eye contact”. So, all the negative feelings became related to the sight of her husband’s face. Every time she looked at him, she felt negative feelings.
The brain works like a computer. When you give instructions to a computer, it has to be organised precisely so that the information can be processed and the computer can perform the task. The brain works in the same way. It does exactly what you tell it to do, not what you want it to do. Then you get cross with it because it doesn’t do what you meant to tell it to do!
“How?” instead of “Why?”
Modelling is the study of the structure of a behaviour or skill. This study allows you to easily reproduce what has been modelled. You don’t want to know why the cake is a chocolate cake, but you do want to know what to put into it to make it taste nice. Therapists spend more time trying to understand why people are broken than fixing them. There is a structure to what people do and if you can discover the structure, then you can change it or learn it for yourself.
Richard Bandler describes himself as a crazy person and finds that “psychotic” people are less crazy than he is. He believes that those who lock up “mad” people and pump them full of tranquilizers are even weirder than their patients. For example, to get in touch with a catatonic person (someone who has no reactions at all), the author recommends hitting them on the hand with a hammer. By the second attempt, the catatonic person will be pulled out of their lethargy and shout: “Stop!”
Reality is subjective.
The author makes a humorous parallel between physicists and schizophrenics. “Physicists also talk about things that no-one can see. Have you ever seen an atom? “. Here he is demonstrating that even the most “objective” things have no specific reality.
“Do you want to know a good way to fall in love? Just associate all your pleasant experiences with someone and dissociate that person from all the unpleasant experiences.” Quote from Richard Bandler, author of Using your brain — for a change
Part 2. Running your own brain
You can control your experience
Try to remember a pleasant memory by seeing exactly what you saw at the time. Now increase the brightness of that picture in your mind, then make it dimmer, and then make it bright again. In general, increasing the luminosity strengthens the feelings and lowering it diminishes their intensity. It is one of the visual “submodalities”. If you darken the picture of an unpleasant memory enough for it not to bother you any more, then you will save the cost of psychotherapy. (This technique is used to cure children who are scared of the dark.
You can do the same thing by playing with the size of the image, making it smaller to diminish the unpleasant feeling, blowing it up to increase the pleasant emotion. Find what works for you. Try to vary the characteristics of the image one by one: all the submodalities: colour, distance, depth, duration, clarity, contrast, panorama, movement, speed, hue, transparency…. Take an image that scares you and increase its size suddenly. It works better than coffee to kick-start your morning!
Each one of us has good and bad experiences. The way we remember them is what makes the difference. When depressed people look back, instead of seeing the world through rose-coloured glasses, they see it in shades of grey. Some people have a slow internal voice that recites a long list of their failures to them. Increase the volume of the voice, change its tone to make it happy, play on the submodalities of this voice without ever changing the content and you will feel much better!
What is “normal”?
Every time something positive happens, you may say: “It won’t last” or ‘it’s not real”. What is important is understanding how a person makes themselves feel bad Just because you have been doing something all your life, that doesn’t make it “normal”. When Richard Bandler played with his friends when he was 9 years old, it was normal to say: “What if we stole a car? “. In Gestalt Therapy, participants are asked to talk to empty chairs and to express their anger or other feelings by talking to the chair. Some even break the chair into pieces while shouting at their absent brother. Everyone there finds this “normal”.
Try the experience
Think of an unpleasant or uncomfortable event. Watch the film of the event in your head. Add some good loud circus music in the background. Then play the original film again. How do you feel?
Take another memory and watch the film backwards for a few seconds as though rewinding it. Now watch it again from the beginning. Do you feel the same way?
Changing the submodalities of a memory changes the emotions associated with the memory.
Part 3. Points of view
See things from another person’s point of view
Try to view an incident from the point of view of the other person by looking at yourself in the image of your memory. This is a literal application of the expression “changing your point of view”. What happens? The experience changes. Just 5% of people continue to think that they were 100% in the right in a conflict after watching the memory film from the other person’s point of view. You can also try viewing the memory from above, or below or from space or from any other place that allows a change.
“You’ll laugh about it later”
Why wait to feel better? Compare the image of the memory you can laugh about and the one you are uncomfortable with. Transform the second one using the characteristics from the first: the image is distant, smaller, zooms in on a detail, is darker…
Note that if you “associate”: you see the image with your own eyes and you feel the same feelings as the original. If you dissociate, you see yourself in the image, but you feel nothing in your body. Move from one to the other in your memory and see the difference that this change produces. To dissociate, you can ask yourself, for example: “What do I feel faced with this anger? “.
To answer, you have to leave the image. That allows you to automatically change your reaction. The ideal is to associate with your good memories and dissociate from the bad ones. Some people do exactly the opposite! You can teach your brain to encode all your memories in the right way.
Eliminate a phobia rapidly
To get rid of a phobia, imagine yourself sitting in a cinema. On the screen is a black and white photograph of you in the situation you are in just before your phobic reaction. Now float out of your body and into the projection booth where you can watch yourself watching the film and also see the screen. Now transform the still image into a black and white film. When you get to the end, jump in and watch it backwards, then in colour.
During a seminar, a woman cured her phobia of elevators in minutes. Change can only happen quickly, because that is how the brain works. If you were to have a conversation with just one word per day, your brain would not be able to understand it.
This technique can change feelings related to a memory and you can apply it to lots of situations. Some people do it unconsciously when they get divorced. All the pleasant memories are changed into neutral or unpleasant memories. Why deprive yourself of all these pleasant memories?
Part 4. Going wrong
One very poor use of the brain is to predict failure or imagine your partner having an affair. The thought of this makes you feel bad and when your partner gets home you start shouting at them. Wouldn’t it be better to build positive images?
Things that work are always easy
People are shy because they think about the unpleasant things that might happen to them. If they think that people are going to like them instead of thinking that people are going to reject them, the shyness goes away.
The more incompetent the therapist, the richer they become. They go on to say that the patient is not ready to change, so why continue to see them week after week? If something isn’t working, it is a sign that it is time to try something else!
Be considerate in advance
In a restaurant, why not start treating the wait staff like human beings instead of complaining at the end of the meal about the bad service? The same thing applies to marriage: “He should have done this”, “I shouldn’t have to tell her” and you go on to think that you have to get even. What if you tried being considerate before things go wrong?
Relevant questions to return to the critical moment
By asking questions, you can understand the other person’s limits. You can learn how they operate and from there, you can change them. For example: “When did you know that…. you were going to get angry? “; “When do you do it?”, “What is the goal?”
This allows you to backtrack before the process begins and to choose to step to one side to avoid it from blowing up. “How would you feel about doing something before you start feeling so discontent? “? The world does not go backwards and neither does time or light, but your brain can go backwards.
You have to love someone to treat them like dirt
A man took his daughter to see Bandler, twisting her arm and throwing her into a chair: “She’s a whore!”. Richard Bandler pointed out to him that he was teaching his daughter that men dominate women and give them orders, forcing them to do things against their will. He was teaching her to become a whore! And when the father replied that she was too young to be in love with her boyfriend, he answered: “Didn’t she love you when she was little?”
Once they reached this stage, he could no longer act like a pimp. He had to learn how to do things differently. He found himself obliged to build a positive relationship with his daughter so that she would be happier with her family and learn to respect herself.
What do we want?
We can forget what we want very easily and get trapped by the way we go about getting it. When you don’t like what is happening to you, you can say: “It’s your fault. I’m going to destroy you.” or you can say: “I have a brain. Let’s take a step back, keeping what I want in mind and then go there”.
Part 5. Going for it
Critical internal voices
Transactional Analysis tells us that in each one of us lives a parent, a child and an adult. (In fact, you have to go to see a therapist to have this kind of problem!). Some of us have the voice of a critical parent inside. There are several methods you can use to silence it. You can move it by making it come out of your left big toe, or you can ask whether what it desires is positive for you and if it is prepared to change the way it speaks in order to be heard. Who wants to listen to a voice that yells all day long? (Actual parents should try this technique when they want their children to listen).
Decoding a motivational strategy
How do you go about getting up in the morning? Some will say “I wake up” and feel their body warming up, so they then say: “I have to get up.” When you try what other people do you really understand how they go about it. An excited internal voice is an excellent way to wake up when you need this (on the motorway for example, to avoid an accident).
Lots of insomniacs speak in a fast and loud voice. Try to change your inner voice, making it lower, softer and slower and see how you feel. People do things automatically and unconsciously, so you have to ask a lot of questions if you want to gather all the elements of the strategy together.
Motivation through positive or negative means?
You can be motivated to avoid something negative. This is the usual pathway to anxiety. You generate unpleasant feelings until you are no longer motivated to avoid them. In this way, we could say that anxiety is positive, because it forces people to act. Other people are motivated by picturing something pleasant, by moving towards a pleasant feeling using the positive images they build in their minds. To motivate yourself to do something unpleasant, you can break it down into small pieces and delight in accomplishing each one of them. If you don’t like a task, getting it done is an attractive prospect.
Check your decision-making capacity before strengthening motivation
There are people who make lame decisions. If you teach them a genuinely effective motivational strategy, they will successfully apply their poor decisions and do stupid things. So, it is better to teach a new decision-making strategy before teaching a new motivational strategy.
“The ideal situation is to recall all you pleasant memories associated, so that you can easily enjoy all the positive feelings that go with them.” Quote from Richard Bandler, author of Using your brain — for a change
Part 6. Understanding confusion
What are the differences between confusion and understanding?
Think about something that confuses you. Now think about something similar (for example, if the confusion is about behaviour, think about the behaviour that you understand) and note the differences between your two internal representations. Is one a film and the other a photo? Is one in black and white and the other in colour? And is one small and the other big? Now change the representation of confusion so that it has the same characteristics as the one of comprehension without changing the content. What seemed confusing becomes understandable.
You do not need to have more information. Most often, we already have the information we need to understand things. We simply do not use it correctly. We all know much more than we realise. It is not a lack of information that causes confusion, it is an excess of information. When you re-arrange the logs in the fireplace, the fire starts up again without adding anything else. Simply moving things around can make a huge difference.
You can also change the representation of understanding so that it appears similar to that of confusion. This would allow certain people who think that they understand (everything) to realise that this is not the case. This can be very useful!
Confusion and understanding are internal experiences. Most often, they have no relation to the exterior world.
Adopt someone else’s process
Some people do not have very efficient representations of understanding. All you have to do is adopt another person’s process and test it to see if it offers any additional understanding. You first have to transform your representation in confusion to then adopt new understanding. This allows you to feel how another person understands something. For example, a particularly smart business man begins with a slide that he enlarges until it becomes panoramic and he finds himself inside the slide. Then he turns it into a film. For this man, understanding and acting are closely related. There are several types of understanding and some are more useful than others.
Four types of understanding
- The first allows you to justify, to explain why nothing can be done. This is used by specialists on questions such as schizophrenia or learning difficulties.
- The second type of understanding simply allows you to feel good. But this one will not teach you to achieve something either.
- The third type of understanding allows you to talk about boring concepts, but that does not help you to change them.
- The fourth is the only one that allows you to do something. Going through confusion offers the opportunity to reorganise the experience in a different way, to see and hear the world in a new way. So, every time you feel confused, you can be excited at the prospect of new understanding. On the other hand, being stuck inside understanding is the cause of three major human diseases.
What is making you stuck?
- Being serious: Taking yourself seriously makes you blind to what is around you.
- Being sure you are right: Any time you feel absolutely certain about something, it is a sign that you are missing something.
- Self-importance is a wonderful way to justify unkindness and destruction.
People get stuck because of one of these three things most often. Being stuck means wanting something and not getting it. Very few people take the time to question their certainty that something is vitally important for them. Certainty probably impedes human progress more than anything else. But it is a subjective experience that can be changed.
How can you get unstuck?
Choose a learning experience where you suddenly had this feeling: “Oh, I see! Now I get it!” and remember it in as much detail as possible. Now watch this memory backwards, as if you were rewinding a film. Now think about what you understood. Is it different? Do you notice that your understanding has changed? Imagine yourself looking at all your memories backwards and discover what you still don’t know.
Be suspicious of success
Every time you feel that you have successfully completed a task several times, be suspicious of what you’re not noticing. What else is there to do? The teaching here works, but you have to think about what could work even better!
Part 7. Beyond belief
The almighty beliefs
All behaviour is determined by our beliefs. As long as you can match behaviour to a person’s belief system, you can make them do anything or prevent them from doing anything (the story of the father who didn’t want his daughter to behave like a prostitute). Beliefs can change. You are not born with them.
Changing a belief
- Belief: Think about a belief of yours that you would like to let go of because it is holding you back. What is its internal representation? (for example: big, clear, detailed, stable, framed…)
- Doubt: Now think of something you doubt. How do you represent this doubt in your internal experience? (For example: small, dark, fuzzy…)
- Differences: Perform an analysis to draw up a list of differences in the submodalities between belief and doubt and test each one of them to find out which is the most efficient in moving from belief to doubt. Return them to their place each time before moving on to the next one.
- New belief: Determine a new belief that you would like to have about yourself. Express it in positive terms and as a process rather than an objective (for example choose “I want to change and maintain my weight” instead of “I want to weigh 48 kilos.”) You should also check what the consequences of this new belief will be for you and those around you. Does it pose any problems? Alter the new belief to take any possible difficulties into account.
- From belief to doubt: when you already have a belief, there is no room for a new one, unless you weaken the initial one first. Change the unwanted belief into doubt by using the most efficient submodality (move from a film to a photo, from colour to black and white…) to make room for the new belief.
- Change the content: Change the old belief into a new one; for example, put the old belief far away, so that it is impossible to tell what it is. Then bring it back with the new image.
- From doubt to belief: Now change the submodalities of “this new doubt” so that it has the characteristics of your internal representation of “beliefs” (for example, moving from a photo to a film, from black and white to colour…).
- Test: What do you think of this new belief?
Once you have a clear picture of how belief and doubt are represented, the change is very easy, like setting up a row of dominoes and knocking the first one down.
“…starting with the belief that you can learn will take you a long way. My belief may even be wrong sometimes, but it makes it possible for me to do things and get results that I would never even consider if I assumed people were genetically incapable.” Quote from Richard Bandler, author of Using your brain — for a change
What beliefs to change
Very often, profound internal change occurs when you change a central belief. Sometimes this demands a lot of work to determine what belief is holding you back and needs to be changed. Often the belief that you want to change is not the one that is holding back your behaviour. Changing the belief that you cannot learn something is very useful for a lot of people. As long as most of your brain cells are intact, anyone can do anything. This may be a false belief, but it offers the opportunity to do things and get results. Be careful not to replace the belief that is holding you back with a belief that is of no use or one that will hold you back even more.
Part 8. Learning
Neuro-linguistic programming explores the subjective experience of learning processes. “Objective” studies study people with a problem. NLP studies people with the solution.
School in general or a particular subject matter can trigger bad memories for children after a bad experience. It is difficult to learn when you feel bad. How many of you feel bad when you think about maths? Look at this line of an equation:
Now close your eyes and think about an absolutely wonderful experience about which you feel excited and avid to find out more… Open your eyes and look at the equation, then close your eyes and return to the wonderful experience again. Alternate between these two experiences several times until you have completely integrated them. As a test, look elsewhere and think about something neutral. Now look at the equation and make a note of your reaction.
This is called integrating anchors. Another way to do it is to constantly connect learning with enjoyment and fun. If you connect it to boredom and feeling uncomfortable, it comes as no surprise that nobody wants to learn.
For a person to remember an event, they have to return to the state of consciousness in which the information was provided. If you don’t want to return to the state of consciousness of your school days, then it is not surprising that you don’t want to remember what you learned at school.
Here is a number: 357.
Now forget it. Finished? No? How can you not forget something that has no importance? It seems weird, but you can remember things that are not important and find it hard to remember things that are important and that you need to remember. Psychologists ignore this as if it doesn’t mean anything and continue to study mechanisms such as the “Oedipus complex” and other oddities.
Lots of people learned their multiplication tables in an auditive manner, reciting them. But this is very slow because you have to recite all the words in your head to get the answer. It is much more efficient to memorise in a visual manner. By teaching a child to memorise visually in an hour or two, that child will go on to learn much more quickly.
Sometimes we do something that is completely inadequate to memorise and go on to complain that we have a poor memory. For example, to memorise a phone number, we repeat: “I must remember that phone number”. That way, you remember the phrase and not the number!
Another way to have a good memory is to be efficient and rational and to make as much use as possible of what you already remember. If you always put your house keys in the right pocket of your trousers, you only need to remember it once. Someone who leaves their keys in several different places will have to remember it 4 or 5 times a day, instead of once and for all.
If you adopt an “anything is possible” attitude, you will see that many things people previously thought were impossible (flying, walking on the moon) ended up being possible. When a child has trouble learning, specialists rapidly come to the conclusion that he or she has a learning disability. But they never mention the possibility of a “teaching disability”.
Children from the ghettos are capable of learning three languages at once, but the way things are taught in school means that the same children don’t learn to read. Therefore, to learn to read, simply relate the image to the word, to the sound of the word you already know. If you know the spoken word, you have already related that sound to an experience. “Cat” is a ball of fur that has claws and meows. In your brain, when you hear the word “cat” you remember what a cat looks, feels and sounds like. Reading only adds the picture of the word to what you already know. It seems simple, and it is.
Prescribing medication to resolve schooling problems is absurd. The saddest thing is that most of the problems for which people are prescribed medication can easily be changed with NLP. Any neuro-linguistic programming practitioner should be capable of healing a school phobia in half an hour. Children with spelling problems should not take more than an hour or two.
The capacity to learn genuinely becomes reality not when you are exposed to an avalanche of content, but when you learn the mechanism, in other words, the structures and subjective sequences that are necessary for learning.
Part 9. The swish
Here is a process that can be used in almost all cases. It has generating effects and it can programme your brain to move in a new direction.
The different steps
- Identify the context, the place where you are uncomfortable or stuck, or the place and the time where you want to react differently. For example: I want to stop biting my nails.
- Identify the trigger image. What you see in this situation just before you start to have the behaviour that you don’t like. For example: I see my hand getting close to my face. This image should be associated. In other words, you see what is happening with your own eyes.
- Create the image of the desired state. The image of how you would like to see yourself after achieving the desired change. It is important that this image really pleases you.
- The swish. Start by placing yourself in front of the big, bright trigger image. Now place the small, dark image of the desired state in the lower right corner. Swish: the small image becomes big and bright and covers up the first image that gets darker and shrinks as fast as you say the word “swish”. Now picture a white screen. And repeat the process 5 times, picturing the white screen between each swish.
- Test Visualise the first image… If the swish has been effective, you will find this hard to do.
Take a new direction
Rather than enduring a certain kind of behaviour, this technique creates a direction. You use what is often called “the self-image”, a very powerful motivator to set this direction. If you see yourself doing something in particular, you only programme this new choice. If you see yourself as a person with different qualities, this new person can generate many new and specific possibilities. And if you know how the brain works, you can impose your own directions on it. If you don’t know, someone else will do it for you.
How to have your problem
Brightness and size have a powerful effect on most people. Distance is another important submodality for many people. If these three criteria are of no importance to the person, you must find out which submodalities have an impact and adapt the swish in relation to this. The most important part of a swish performed artistically is the careful collection of the information you need to set it up in the appropriate manner.
A good way to get this information is to ask: “Suppose I had to replace you for a day. How would I go about it?” You need to teach me to have this problem Every time a person is forced to do something they don’t want to, there needs to be an internal element that is magnified up to a certain point. It has to become bigger or brighter or stronger, or the tone needs to change, or the rhythm needs to accelerate or slow down. Ask the person when it needs to be done and how to go about it. How does this person manage to swish from one desired state to another?
“There is so much more inside our minds than we suspect. There is so much more outside than we are capable of being curious about. ” Quote from Richard Bandler, author of Using your brain — for a change
Made to measure
It is important to use two submodalities simultaneously. If you pull in one direction, a series of nails will hold the plank in place. If you pull in the other direction, the second row of nails will hold it too. And if you pull both sides at the same time, the plank will be released. It is important to tailor your method for change to your needs This involves creating a direction in which the image of the old problem leads to the solution and where the image of the solution creates a response with increasing intensity.
The swish model does not teach people how to behave. It keeps them on the path to what they want to become. Installing this direction is the most important part of what the change can mean.
Final part of the book Using your brain for a change. Postface
Neuro-linguistic Programming is a philosophy
NLP is not a set of techniques. It is an attitude. It is related to curiosity, wanting to know things in order to be able to influence them in a worthwhile manner. We can change anything. The question is to know how and what you are going to do with this technology that you have just learned about.
Be creative and curious
Every time you think that you understand completely, it is time to focus on yourself and say: “This is a joke”. Very often, people forget that they don’t know.
The essence of a creative attitude lies in the creation of a world in which everyone wins because they are ways to create more, instead of having to fight for something limited and having to share it.
Now that you know how to hold your course, the question is: where are you going? Some people drift in circles, others follow the same path every day. So many more things are happening around us than our curiosity is able to keep track of. It’s only that growing sense of curiosity that allows you to capture the enthusiasm that makes even the most mundane, or the most fascinating task worthwhile, fun, and intriguing.
Conclusion about “Using your brain — for a change” by Valérie Roumanoff from the blog Drôle de Maman :
This is the first book I read about NLP. Since then, I have trained to the level of Master Practitioner and I have international certification (NLPTA). I have made a career out of it, because I become a hypnotherapist. Using your brain — for a change genuinely changed my life and my view of the world. There was a “before” and an “after” neuro-linguistic programming. It is a philosophy of life in which complaint, regret and discouragement do not exist.
You can apply it to all areas of life. “Using your brain — for a change” explains the various NLP techniques in a clear and funny way. There are lots of concrete examples that you can apply directly as you read Using your brain — for a change. Don’t wait until you have finished reading “Using your brain — for a change” to start. Do it as you read. The book is a compilation of several seminars. The reader dives into learning with exercises, feedback from participants and the trainer. As soon as I finished the book, I signed up for one of the courses.
- Very rich content
- Clear and concise explanations
- Lots of examples and concrete cases
- Interventions from participants that can help enlighten us about any parts we don’t understand
- The author’s caustic humour and wit: this is a funny book!
- The message is presented in a discontinuous way and does not appear to have been put together according to a structured plan
- The transcription of the spoken word can sometimes give the impression that the author is constantly jumping from one subject to another (especially at the beginning)
- The extremely rich content means that some passages need to be read several times to understand their full importance.
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