The NLP Swish Technique
The Swish is an NLP
technique for dealing
with unpleasant feelings.
The version below is based
traditional NLP Visual Swish and is ideal for people who
are 'good visualisers' i.e. can those who can clearly see and easily
manipulate their mental images. If you do not fall into this category you
can still get quite good results by 'pretending' you can
see your mental images change
as you run the technique.
You can use the NLP Swish
to 'defuse' negative feelings
This is a valuable technique for
managing negative thoughts and feelings about:
The past: e.g.
embarrassing or irritating memories
The present: e.g.
provoked by self-undermining thoughts
The future: e.g.
anxiety-provoking thoughts about forthcoming situations.
How does it work?
Let’s say that....
I am worried about returning to work next
week after a few months absence because of illness, maternity leave, or
stress. ('Worry' is my Unwanted Feeling)
Every time I imagine walking into the
workplace next week I get a churning stomach and racing thoughts. (This
image of walking into work is my Trigger)
I know that my reaction is silly and
irrational – because everything has been arranged with my employers and they are
looking forward to having me back on the team. (Check:
I check does this feeling require me to take
practical action? And in this case it does not - so it is an ideal
candidate for the Swish).
Instead of feeling
worried each time I think of walking into the workplace I want to feel enthusiastic and
confident. (Seeing myself looking confident and
enthusiastic is my ideal Replacement image)
In these 4 points I have got all of the
pieces ready to run the Swish. I have
Unwanted feeling: The
feelings I don’t want
thought or image which evokes these negative
Check: I know my
anxious feelings are irrational i.e.
I don't need to take
practical action - it’s just a silly thought
Replacement image: I
can see myself acting like I wish to be.
I now need to put these together and ‘wire
in’ a new mental programme.
Now for the really clever bit about the Swish...
With the Swish (as with
many NLP techniques) you don't have to struggle with negative thoughts: you
do not need to overcome them or fight them.
Why? Because you
point you thinking in a new direction! You teach your brain a new programme.
In order to have a
thought, whether it's negative or positive, your brain needs a signal or a
Trigger which lets it know that it's time to stop it's current line of
thinking and to start thinking about a new thought.
So, with a negative
thought, your brain needs to know when to run the negative thought and its
associated feelings. It needs a Trigger.
And in the above example thinking about work is,
right now, my Trigger for anxious feelings.
With the Swish you can
teach your brain to use this old Trigger to activate a new programme. In
the above example I teach my brain
to give me a different feeling i.e. feeling
enthusiastic and confident whenever I think of walking into the workplace.
And you can do this by
carefully following these steps.
How you can use
(A) Preparation & set-up
feeling i.e. What do you NOT want?
Identify the thought and/or feeling that you’d like
triggers the unwanted feeling i.e. what do you see or imagine seeing just before
you feel bad?
(3) Check re practical action!
This is very
important. The Swish must only
be used where the situation does not require practical action. For example,
if you have run up debts and are worried by these you could use the Swish to
stop feeling bad – but unless you take practical action rather than just use
the Swish you would end up in serious financial difficulty.
(4) How do you want to feel instead?
Select your replacement feeling – the one you
want the current trigger to evoke. Spend a while reliving this pleasant or
empowering moment to make the memory richer.
Make sure your final version is a dissociated
image (i.e. you can ‘see’; yourself in the image/situation/memory)
(B) Running the technique
1. Think of the Trigger image and…
2. Place a tiny version of the
Replacement image somewhere on the Trigger image and
3. Instantly have the Replacement image
get bigger and clearer – as the Trigger image disappears behind it
4. ‘Break state’ briefly – i.e. look
around you, check your watch, etc.
That’s Round 1. You need to do about 5-7
Rounds to wire-in the new programme.
Do it quicker each time e.g. first
round in no more than 5 seconds then 4, 3, 2, and 1 seconds and a final two or three
Rounds at 1
There's no need to try
to get your images to change perfectly - just quickly. Aim for speed rather than accuracy.
(C) Test it
Having done your
5-7 Rounds 'change state'
by doing something else for a couple of minutes.
Now discover what happens when you
try to recall the Trigger image (i.e. the
original negative image).
If it’s difficult to bring back –
or if the negative feeling is no longer evoked by it – you’re done.
If it does come
back do another 2-4
If that doesn’t work find a better
and more powerful positive Replacement image - and then
run the whole Swish from the beginning.
And if that doesn’t work it could
be that the Trigger is too powerful for the Swish technique – that’s
why we have so many techniques, and more in-depth processes, in NLP.
your skill with the NLP Swish
Like every NLP technique or process the Swish
is best learned ‘live’ in a workshop where you are able to interact with the
facilitator and with other participants -- and where you learn the
background steps before you get to actually do the Swish.
That said, you are likely to get good results if
you carefully follow the above tips.
The method described above is a version of
the traditional NLP Visual Swish technique. It works well for those who are
good visualisers especially if it is directed by a coach or trainer using
NLP language patterns, anchoring, and who is skilled in
recognising non-verbal responses.
To make the benefits of the Swish Pattern
more widely available (i.e. to people who do a lot of
their thinking in feelings or sounds or self talk) we have developed the Pegasus Diamond Swish. We teach
this is our
NLP Core Skills courses yet even here it is left until the final day of
the workshop so that participants are able to incorporate many of the other
skills which they have learned during the workshop in order to make it work
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By Reg Connolly, Director of Training, Pegasus NLP