NLP Life Training - 10 Years

Basic Hypnotic Language Patterns 6: Generalized Referential Index - by Matthew Wingett

In his series on hypnotic language patterns, Matthew Wingett looks at the Generalized Referential Index.
Matthew Wingett, Editor NLP LIFE Newsletter
The Generalized Referential Index is part of the group of Language Patterns defined by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in Patterns 1* as Transderivational Phenomena**. Before I go on to look more closely at the Generalized Referential Index in particular, I will firstly outline very briefly the idea behind Transderivational Phenomena.
Although the idea sounds pretty technical, your main aim when utilising language patterns that initiate Transderivational Phenomena is to cause your hypnotic subject's mind to work a little harder with a piece of linguistic information than at first appears to be necessary. In fact, you are going to cause the subject's mind, at some level, to go on a Transderivational Search. 
Still sounds technical, huh? But really it's straightforward. A Transderivational Search is basically a search for the meaning of a piece of information. It happens in communication all the time. In order for you to be able to understand what someone is telling you, you need to go inside your own mind and find some means of relating the words spoken to you with an internal experience. If I say to someone: "Think of your mother" - most people will come up with a very clear idea of a person. The search for a meaning in this case is a very short and simple one. If I say to someone: "Think of a home" - then the same person might think of their own home, or a children's home, or Battersea Dog's home, a friend's home, or an idealised home. Here, the search may be more complex, before their mind settles on the one that they are happy with. Some people, indeed, will ask: "What sort of home?"
The point about the artful vagueness of the language patterns devised by Erickson is that the hypnotic subject is asked at some level to supply the meaning which is most appropriate to them in the context of the hypnotic induction. In this way, the client does not feel that they are being forced and directed by an overbearing hypnotist to do as they are told. This is a very useful way to sidestep a client's resentment or distrust of the hypnotist - a distrust which constitutes what classic hypnotists call "resistance".
So, to summarise, a vague or ambiguous statement causes a transderivational search or a search across meanings. The theory is that the mind picks up one meaning on a conscious level, but misses other meanings which speak straight to the unconscious mind. 
From my experience of doing hypnotic work, transderivational search also appears to work in another way. When transderivational search language patterns are woven in with a whole stream of language, the conscious mind seems to half-detect the ambiguity and becomes occupied in double-checking which meaning is implied. This causes further language patterns which follow on not to be noted by the conscious mind while it is distracted. These further language patterns directly access the unconscious mind, without the conscious mind's critical faculty getting in the way. 
The Generalized Referential Index is one of those language patterns which sends the client's mind on a search for meaning. The way the pattern is created is by removing  
the sentence's subject and any circumstances that relate directly to the client's circumstances from the communication that you, as a hypnotist, are communicating.
To explain: let's suppose that you are encouraging someone to have an expectation of a better future. You could just say to them:
"Well, I understand that you have a problem with anxiety and feel the need to be in control. Now that you have come to me I can assure you that your problems will be dealt with very quickly."
Except of course that someone with anxiety and a need to be in control all the time might well feel that their problem is a) being belittled, and b) that they don't want to be railroaded into a quick cure. And some people, confronted with this sort of approach in a strange environment, might well reply: "Yes, well that's all very well for you to say, but you haven't dealt with my problem yet. And my problem is very special." - Okay, so that's probably an overstatement, but you might well find a critical reaction from someone who is very tense. After all, neurotic tension often springs directly from a highly critical and defensive attitude!
But you could also drop into conversation a few sentences like this:
"I heard about someone once who was struggling, and who did exactly the right thing by seeking out someone to help them. They found that their problems melted away surprisingly quickly."
You will see that there is very little for a client to find fault with in the second case. The second paragraph is just a general statement, talking about generalized events. In the second paragraph, I have taken out all references to the relationship between client and Practitioner, and I have removed all details of anxiety and control. But at some level the client will make the paragraph relevant to themselves - that is, beneath the conscious level. 
The technique for creating sentences with a Generalized Referential Index is quite straightforward. You work out what it is that you want to say. You remove the nouns that make the thing you want to say specific to the client. Then you put in generalized nouns. In the case above, these are: "someone" and "problems".
Below you will find a very clear example of how to convert a sentence to the Generalized Referential Index form. First, I have put the unconverted sentence that states bluntly what the message is, and then I have put the converted sentence afterwards:
You can relax when I speak to you.
People can relax when they hear someone speaking to them.
As a final thought, the content of the sentence you use on a client can be a long way from the specifics of the situation they are actually in. The use of the Generalized Referential Index can thus be the first step in constructing metaphors.
Well, that's it for this month. I'll just finish up by saying that it can be great fun to learn, and people often don't realise just how much learning they can do, in a very short time…
Till next month!
Matthew Wingett is Editor of the NLP LIFE Newsletter, a hypnotist and freelance writer and editor. You can contact him at: [email protected] This article and associated images copyright Matthew Wingett, 2009.

(*For further information on hypnotic language patterns, see Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H Erickson Vol 1, by R Bandler and J Grinder, available from our bookshop, here.)
(**Please accept my apologies if this description of Transderivational Phenomena appears familiar. Last month I included Scope Ambiguity in the class of Transderivational Phenomena. I therefore used the description of Transderivational Phenomena I use here in the section on Scope Ambiguity. I later rechecked my notes and realised my mistake. Scope Ambiguity is in the class of language patterns known as Ambiguities [what a surprise!]. I have now gone back and corrected the previous article, and re-included the outline description of Transderivational Search here. - It appears the confusion patterns I was working with must have started working on me!)




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