No kidding: the power of negative intention!

Last weekend I was debriefed by my friend Katie Raver on some cutting edge NLP tools she learned about at the recent IASH convention in San Francisco.

One of them was so unexpectedly awesome that I just have to share it! It originated with a Japanese doctor, Masaki Kono, who works with children who have cancer, which you might imagine can be pretty depressing. He only has a few minutes with each patient, and he wanted to get the most out of his time with them.

We’ve all heard a lot about the power of positive intention. Sometimes it seems like a cultural bias or a meme that we need to be positive, that being negative is taboo or at least anti-social and unproductive.

In fact, one of the presuppositions of NLP is that there is a positive intention behind every behavior.

We also know that problems can have secondary gains, such as the caring attention we receive when we’re seriously ill.

Realistically, people get stuck. We set goals we never reach; we have problems that can persist for a long time. Something — an unconscious negative intention — is blocking us from being the person we say we want to be or doing the things we say we want to do.

If that something was conscious, we could probably deal with it. But usually it’s not conscious.

This process can help. It works best when you do it with a partner, one being the guide and the other being the explorer. Then change roles.

  1. Guide, tell the explorer to think of a problem, something that’s wrong that has persisted for a while. Ask what the fear is behind this problem. And what is the fear behind that?
  2. Keep inquiring until the explorer reaches the greatest or core fear associated with this problem. You and the explorer will be able to tell what it is because they will feel some emotion about it.
  3. Now ask the explorer to repeat the core fear this way five times, out loud: “I have been intending to ________________.”
  4. Ask the explorer what he or she is noticing now.
  5. Future pace by telling the explorer that he or she may experience new learnings and even substantial shifts about this topic in the days and weeks to come.

Several people who used this technique have reported back that it is a pretty amazing tool for getting new information about what’s kept us stuck, and just that alone is enough to create a shift!


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