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NLP Swish Pattern: Pragmagraphic Swish

Not too long ago at the Maryland NLP Group, I taught an NLP technique known as the Pragmagraphic Swish which is an NLP pattern by Robert Dilts. This is not the classic “Swish” that many people have learned; instead, it’s a wonderful technique that brings more choice to a previously compulsive behavior.

For example, one great way to use this technique is in helping someone to eliminate their need to eat sugary snacks. In fact, this was an actual example from the class. One of the participants shared that when he even took a little bite of a sweet snack, he couldn’t stop and would then be compelled to keep eating more.

Here were the Class Notes: The Pragmagraphic Swish Article, and this technique being outlined as the NLP Pattern of the Month. Read both of these pages for the full understanding of doing this technique.

With the sugary snacks problem, First I had him get into the state of being in the compulsion. How does it feel when you “Have To” do this behavior — where you simply must have it? The next step is to take a physical step back, and elicit the state he was in just before being in the “Have To” space. This is the “Want To” state. Another way of describing this is to ask, if time continued naturally, would would happen right before he got in that state of absolute compulsion?

Then the third step in the process is that he takes another step back, into what Dilts calls the “?” space, which is the state that comes right before the “Want To.” When I first learned this technique, I was very confused as to what the question-mark state was. I didn’t get it — what was this state supposed to accomplish?

The “?” state is what comes right before the “Want To.” So, what is the state, before the state, that leads to the state… of having to do something? We are 2 steps removed from actually being “compelled” to do it, but it is linear — in other words, if we continued to stay in the “?” state long enough, as time progressed we would then move into “Want To” and then to “Have To,” and in fact, for someone with a compulsion, this is exactly what they’ve been doing. Look at the diagram on the NLP Pattern of the Month page for a visual layout of this.

Now the interesting part of the technique is that after getting into the question-mark state, you then have the person take a step to the right, which you establish as the “Choice/Creativity” state. In this space, you elicit a state of choice, where they could choose to continue doing the compulsive behavior, OR they could make another decision which leads them to a better place.

Then what you do, is move the person back and forth between the “?” state and the “Creativity/Choice” state while playing around with the submodalities, so that you “collapse” both of the states and the natural consequence of being in the new, transformed “?” state is that they are pulled more into creativity and choice, and less into the compulsive behavior.

I find this pattern to be very useful for a situation where someone wants to reduce the impact of a particular compulsive behavior, or even to work on lessening the impact of negative internal voices which was another example that was demonstrated in the class.

My challenge to everyone is to go and USE this technique… If you have clients, use it on every client that you can for a week or so, just to drill it into your brain. This will allow you to have a tool bag full of skills, so that if you have a tough client, you can pick exactly the right technique for them and use it skillfully.

This is a great technique. Read both of Dilts’ webpages on it (He has an entire encyclopedia of NLP patterns online), and if you have ANY questions on this … post a response to this article and I’ll do my best to solve anything that is unclear. Have fun!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

liz fritzlaff April 10 at 10:12 am

This is a really different take to how I have used the swish pattern. It makes sense- I will try it out with my next clients wanting a behaviour change!

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