Matthew Wingett discusses the technique known as constellation hypnosis, a means of identifying a client's resources and hurdles, in order to help them get to where they want to go
Matthew Wingett, Editor, NLP LIFE
and author of "Turn The Tides Gently"
Much is made in NLP about storytelling and the art of metaphor, and one of the most interesting uses I have found for this is to utilise the story structure while your client is in hypnosis.
Stories have long been recognised as providing healing to clients. A well-formed and appropriate story often seems to provide the missing piece that a person needs to make their psyche feel whole again, working on the unconscious to offer solutions and balm.
One technique for helping a client I was told at the NLP Practitioner training I attended with Paul McKenna, Richard Bandler and Michael Neill some years ago takes this to an extreme. It is called "Constellation Hypnosis".
The procedure has three distinct parts. The first is to talk with the client to discover three specific things:
Part 1: Finding the client's current "constellation" of how they see themselves
1) Resources. What resources do they have to hand? These resources might be anything from an abililty to be determined, the capacity to love, a sound business plan or a specific skill. Whatever these are, they need to be itemised very strongly by the hypnotist. The longer the inventory, the better, so it might take some digging around, especially with a "stuck" client, to get them to really identify the things that are useful and empowering in their lives.
2) Their Desired Direction. What situation or environment do they want to be in, or what resolution do they want? For example, do they wish to be working in a different place, running their own business or free from an abusive relationship and able to enjoy their life on their own terms? Whatever the desire they have, it is good to help them to get a clear sense of what it is that they want from life, and to know that it is achievable and something that is, theoretically, within their power to bring about. For example, wanting to be able to turn back the tides is not really achievable, but buying a boat to survive on the surface of the water is far more achievable!
3) Hurdles To Be Overcome. What stops them from getting to where they want? This again, could be anything. It might be self doubt, it might be that there is actually a person who is perceived as standing in their way, they might have a fear of something, or they might not believe they can make the money to do it. Whatever it is, again, identify it.
Part 2: Turning the client's personal narrative into a new story
After this part of the interview is finished, then you will need some time to work out a trance story which is "custom fit" to the client. It might be that you send the client away, and that you have a think about the components - however you do it, what you are going to do is to make your story work, in symbolic or metaphorical terms.
This means that you are looking for simple and identifiable villains, goals and heroes. You will couch your story in terms of widely recognised artchetypes, and remove them from the everyday drudgery of the now.
I found, when I was taught this technique, that it is quite easy to do if your break the components into widely recognised elements of fairy stories. Witches, wizards, kings, princes, princesses, evil stepmothers, giants can all have their place in this world, and are instinctively recognised by the listener.
I was given 10 minutes, in the training I did, to work out a story. It was my job, when the "client" came back, to put them into trance and then tell them the story I had come up with.
Here is the information I received from the client:
1. This client had said that she wanted to become a successful coach and teach others what would empower them to have a better life.
2. She saw her resources as her personality, her determination and the skills she had learned to take control of herself through NLP, as well as a strong sense of justice. She also saw her resources as her ability to learn new things from those around her, and to apply those lessons in her life.
3. The things that stood in her way were a non-supportive family and an ex-partner who was still trying to make her life hell. He cast a shadow over her life – and she would be required to have some connection with him because she’d had a daughter by him.
Part 3: Delivering the story
The tale that I came up with was a simple one:
Once there was a little witch, a white witch, who found herself trapped in the dungeon of an evil magician. He stole her book of spells that gave her power, and all that was left for her to do was stare out from the bars of her prison. Sometimes she was able to see the stars and the skies, and she dreamed of walking freely under them again.
One day she was handed a book of spells through the bars of her prison by a wise old wizard. It was her book of spells that the evil wizard had stolen from her.
So she went about secretly collecting the things that she needed, using her magic arts to gather them to her.
A pole of hazel wood, and the twigs to make a broom.
A wand that she learned from the book how to wield with a power that made her invincible.
And all the while she would stare up at the stars and at the moon, hoping to walk under them, and enjoy their light.
One day, she uttered a spell from the book that broke down the walls of her prison, and suddenly she found that he cell was nothing at all, except a pile of words. And squirming in the pile of words was a sickly, weak old frog who she trapped in a box and cast on the sea, to be carried away forever.
Now she took the broom she had made and walked out under the stars. Then a new idea came to her. She sat on her broom, took to the sky, and flew upwards and upwards towards the light of the full moon. And in her happiness, she began to shine and shine, so that those on the ground below marvelled at what this new light in the sky was.
So she became a star, the brightest in the sky – and acted always to shine her benign light, this Witch Hazel, to guide those who were lost and take them to safety. Because she was the brightest light in the sky, whom the lost blessed and loved.
I told this tale to my client after I had put her into trance and it had a positive, consoling effect on her, and she came out from it with fresh ideas about what she wanted from her life.
Please note: although this particular story was about stars and the sky, that is not the reason that the technique is called "Constellation Hypnosis". What you are doing is discovering the set of inter-relationships already existing in the client's mind, metaphorically termed a "constellation". You are then offering an alternative "constellation", or set of inter-relationships. The story could just as easily have been set underwater or in a cave. Whatever seems appropriate!
I am not saying that this technique is all that you need to do with a client to help them find a new path, but the patterns it put into her mind clearly eased her and made her feel happier and more confident about seeing her predicament in new ways.
It was a fascinating experiment, and one that shows the healing power of stories and metaphors. It's certainly something you might want to use with your clients!
Matt Wingett is the author of "Turn The Tides Gently" a novella filled with hypnotic language and heavily influenced by his training in NLP. "Turn The Tides Gently" is available from Amazon for Kindle.