There is a gag in the Simpson Movie that cracks me up everytime I think about it. Bart is having a miserable time, and says something like, “This is the worst day of my life.”
Homer responds with something like, “No, son, this is not the worst day of your life, it’s just the worst day so far.” Something to look forward to and cheer up over, no?
A few months back, my youngest daughter and her long-time boy friend decided to get married. Almost immediately, the relationship soured. After a few months, both realized it was a mistake. They went for divorce mediation and a quick, uncontested divorce. Today was the final (only) hearing. In less than an hour from the time we arrived at the court house, we were on our way home.
I turned to her and said, “This is not the best day of your life, it’s just the best day so far.” Both of us had a good laugh. The conversation drifted onto Homer’s version of the quip. Suzy said, “That is so wrong to say that to a kid.”
That got me thinking about what therapist say to clients. If they do not know NLP or some other set of techniques that offer real change, the therapist is likely to spend a lot of time getting the client to be comfortable with his problem. That is what analysis does. It makes you comfortable with the problem, but it does not fix it. If that sort of thing was at all useful, Woody Allen would be the sanest man in America.
NLP gives you the tools to actually fix problems, but you have to think differently about them and the client. Here is what I mean. Earlier this week I was doing an NLP demo in front of a group of hypnotist and therapists. The technique required that the client (subject of the demo in this case) run a memory, and change how she runs it.
She started to tell me about the memory. My response was to cut her off and say, “No, I don’t want to share your crap. I have enough of my own. It yours. You keep it. I just want to know if you have a clear memory of the event.”
You would have thought that I was Jack The Ripper. People started yelling about my lack of compassion. Actually, I felt a lot of compassion for her. She was stuck wallowing in anger about an event that had happened weeks ago. The event is over and done with. But she was stuck in it. So, where is the compassion in asking her to describe it, and to analyze it? That is idiotic. It just reinforces it, particularly if the “therapist” starts to sympathise with the client.
Once I established that she had a clear memory, I had her rerun it but in a different way that changed the structure of the memory in her mind. Before she did the process, it was a 9 on a 1-to-10 scale. After, it was a 2. Big difference. We call this approach, “Content Free” therapy. You can work with the client without wasting time on the content. There is nothing useful in the content, anyway. It is just dirty laundry to wallow around in.
I would argue that my approach is a lot more compassionate, since it causes real change in the client. I don’t tell a client how to learn to live with his problem. I guide him through fixing it.
If you want to want to wallow in your problem, if you want to talk about it endlessly, if you want to analyze it, go find Homer Simpson or some other talk therapist. If you want to fix it, find a competent NLP practitioner.