Readers will recall in parts I and II of this series, we’ve covered the concepts of deep structure and parallelism and seen them applied to actual work in the RRT tradition. We’ve seen how hypnotic language can be, with its use of unstated propositions, embedded forms, passive deletions, and inferred causalities; we’ve seen how we can make use of classical forms found in great writing, such as holding metaphors or stories in balanced tension, or stringing them together in a series of three’s, or using epistrophe or alliteration to rythmically repeat a word or phrase we want to anchor, all these suggesting it is more than possible to work with language as precise, multi-leveled communication, pinpointing and adjusting mind at the deepest level. This is not content-driven communication, but meta-communication, which accesses the unconscious, even as it overwrites damaging meanings, beliefs, and experiences that have impaired a participant’s life.
In this final part we will look at a potpourri of RRT tools, saying little about ones that are well-known, saying more about ones which have not been so obvious.
- We are familiar already from Level I training with the invisble tense change. This is restating the participant’s statement of the problem (which is often a self-poisoning extension of identity) as something already moving into the past, or better said, restated in a way that suggests the participant stands in the present with the problematic issue no longer existing. For instance, if a client says “I can’t do anything right” the therapist might say, “You’ve been feeling like you haven’t been able to do things right”.
2. Stacking involves taking a familiar term and loading it up with new meanings. This frequently employs liberal use of truisms as we go along stacking the deck in our favor. If one studies RRT inductions, the word “energy” often appears, stacked with other meanings through a series of pairings that can’t be easily denied. The therapist directs the participant’s attention to movements in the hand that aren’t being consciously directed but are happening in close proximity to the therapist’s own hand and casts it as something happening due to their combined energy. Directing attention is noticing and noticing causes it to happen even more, hence attention is energy. This is true. It takes energy to attend to something and paying close attention to any task tends increase the likelihood of results. The participant is told they will feel sensations or continue to notice movement–both truisms in the sense that the participant is already experiencing it. The therapist then states there’s energy in sensations, energy in movement, energy in combined intention, energy begetting energy. Sensations, movement, intention, energy. Energy, a rather pedestrian term by itself, now seems a marker for something numinous happening in the room, a new experience the therapist and participant have caused that is outside the realm of the ordinary, and which will lead to new possibilities. Stating the obvious, using truisms tends to get a “yes” set going. Stacking new meanings onto old terms tends to get the mind going in a new direction.
3. Analogical Marking is using voice tone and rate to various ends. One might use a deeper vocal tone and more distinct articulation with a slight pause before and after the word or phrase to say to the mind “pay attention to this” without saying so out loud. For instance, we could restate the sentence in number one above as “You have not yet felt that you could do anything right”, with vocal emphasis and slight pause surrounding the word “yet”.
4. Simple repetition. There was a fine example of simple repetition in a transcription of a session with a young man obsessively worried about social rejection and the possibility of others holding dismissive attitudes toward him. Jon Connolly used this technique to effectively change the man’s mindset. He starts off saying
“…one thing that’s been to your disadvantage is mind attaching undue importance to other people, to avoid someone being cold or condemning to you. Undue importance because it doesn’t matter how many people don’t think highly of me. All that matters is who I can and am connecting with.”
He goes on to tell several stories. One is of a man finding his true love and another guy pointing out to him there are women in the world that don’t know he exists. Another is of a man digging for gold and finding it, only to have another man point out he dug about a thousand holes previously and didn’t find any gold. Another is of a student afraid to guess on a test in which there is no penalty for guessing. Still another is of a man staking out ten fishing poles on the beach and, similarly, a passerby makes fun of him for accomplishing nothing times ten. Just as this conversation is finishing, one line starts to tug with a fish on it and the passerby asks what about the other nine lines that are seeing no action. In each case, Jon has his character in the story intone it doesn’t matter how many misses there are in life, and that all that matters is that we succeed once in awhile.
What’s really neat about this and all other examples of hidden language, is that the technique remains invisible. Across the span of a couple hundred words, the participant would be caught up in the flow of the stories and a casual observer might conclude Jon is merely talking to or teaching the participant. But to the trained ear, we catch that Jon has counterposed it doesn’t matter (how many misses there are in life) with all that matters (is that we succeed once in awhile) five times, sinking it deeply into the unconscious.
5. Mind Reading. In a way, this tool is not so much about hidden language the therapist is trying to transmit, as much as it’s about the therapist’s use of deep structure and hidden dimensions already present in what the participant has said. There are many examples in archived sessions where a rape victim tells in a dejected tone of having been raped or an addict tells with shame the behaviors they did to support their addiction. Jon might say, “You were thinking this was about you”, or something like it. Mind reading not only conveys deep connection but also says that the therapist has incredible insight and somehow knows deeply about the participant’s experience with the disturbing event, even their thoughts. This builds immense credibility. The trick with mindreading is to stay very close to the participant’s actual experience and say things they have already said a different way, or are implicit in what they’ve already said, thus avoiding disagreement.
6. Incorporate responses of the participant into the RRT process. During an induction, a participant may report an unanticipated bodily sensation or reaction–like a churning in the gut or a spinning in the head. You say, “Perfect. Things are loosening, moving, happening just as they should.” Or perhaps after you finish a clearing, checking the effect, the participant reports some residual upset. You say, “Good, you’re way ahead of schedule. Let’s get it all clear.” Celebrate any shift and incorporate it as the process unfolding as it should. When you eliminate the possibility of failure and turn everything into a success it speaks deeply to the participant’s unspoken question, “Am I too damaged to be helped?” Without saying so, you give your unspoken answer, “No! This thing is not as big or as bad as it seemed. We can do something about it!”
7. Incorporate humor. Build your stories up in overlapping layers of hyperbole and exaggeration. Put the faulty beliefs and meanings that have beset the participant onto yourself (with the participant as the teacher) or into a fable or tale with some vaguely defined protagonist espousing the faulty meaning, belief, or stuckness. A good example of humor is seen in the stories above in the section on simple repetition. By the end of that sequence, the participant was chuckling at the same thinking that only moments before had him by the throat. Humor works in a couple ways. One, by directly poking fun at (and thus de-fanging) the thinking, while keeping the participant safe. And two, humor works from a hidden and more powerful place as a misdirect. RRT has a module for vanishing anxiety. The heart of it is a zany back and forth repetition of the trigger paired with a response of arrogant indifference. It gets so outrageous that therapist and participant are usually splitting their sides with laughter. The misdirect lies not in battling anxiety with indifference, but with the trigger being paired with a mismatched experience, that of laughing. Anxiety and whole-hearted laughter can’t exist in the same space. Brain circuits that fire in tune with safety can’t simultaneously activate circuits of high alert. The mind will jettison one and move toward the other. The pity here is that some therapists are so stiff or overly careful in their work, humor seems to escape them, or at least, be a huge stretch in the office. Be willing to laugh at yourself, at life, and share it with others the way some comedians have (I think of some of the greats–George Carlin, Jonathan Winters, Jerry Seinfeld, Carol Burnett). This will put you in a minstrel spirit and allow you to tell stories that engage clients with humor and move what looked to them like mountains.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this piece and the three part series on hidden language as a whole. As a lover of language, I hope I’ve inspired you to look more at the remarkable opus of work we already have recorded in front of us and to believe in what Connolly has taught us–that language is powerful. It changes people. The time is approaching and is already here when neuroscientists will prove how language literally re-wires the brain. Words are all we have to change people, but the remarkable thing is that with the right words at the right time, change them we can. We follow our intent for the client with a mighty keyring with many keys on it. That keyring includes all the forms hidden language might take and is now at your disposal.