Clinical Demonstration 6, December 8, 2007 Steve Andreas
Mobilization of Unconscious Processes to Support Healing
All the many different ways to support healing can be conveniently
divided into two complementary aspects:
1. Removing, resolving, or transforming negative obstacles to
healing. Obstacles or “blocks” get in the way of healing, waste effort, and
result in bad feelings, which often result in behaviors and attitudes that
weaken the body’s natural ability to heal itself.
2. Directly supporting the natural healing process positively by
appropriate attitudes, beliefs, activities, etc.
People sometimes know the kinds of chanes that would be useful, but
find it difficult to make these changes on their own. I will probably be able
to demonstrate several of the topics listed below, and I would particularly
like to be able to demonstrate the last two.
Resolving trauma eliminates bad feelings, and the poor attitudes and
beliefs that often result from them. (1, ch. 4, 7)
Resolving internal conflicts or ambivalences allows full congruent
attention to healing. (1, ch. 13)
Sources of stress can be identified; better ways of avoiding or coping
with stressful people or situations can free up energy and attention for
Harmful habits or lifestyles that impede health and healing can be
changed into more positive and healthy ones. (7, ch. 3, 5)
Limiting beliefs or attitudes can be transformed into more positive and
enabling ones, increasing the sense of well-being.
“Secondary gains,” (conflicting outcomes) can be identified; when
alternative ways of satisfying them are made available, they no longer
Anger wastes energy, and may have many other unhealthy
consequences; forgiveness brings peace. (6)
Grief, and the depression that often results is known to depress the
immune system. Resolving grief brings peace, and even joy at having had
the lost relationship. (4)
Resolving shame or guilt removes that interference with healing. (1,
Adjusting the sensation of pain can bring considerable relief and
reduce stress and exhaustion.
Judgments often distract attention from healing, and result in bad
feelings and their consequences. Eliminating judgments restores the healthy
attention to bodily signals that provide useful ongoing feedback about what
we can do to foster healing. (2, vol. 2 ch. 3)
Our spontaneous internal visualizations of illness or disease often
interfere with healing. Our memories of being injured or becoming ill can be
transformed into an alternate memory in which the outcome is much more
Eliciting a detailed visualization of something that you know has
healed automatically in the past can be applied to the injury or disease
process to support healing. (1, ch. 20) [See example given below.]
Andrew T. Austin
Miracle: “Specifically: An event or effect contrary to the
established constitution and course of things, or a deviation from the
known laws of nature; a supernatural event, or one transcending the
ordinary laws by which the universe is governed.”
I cannot help but wonder how different world history would be if
Jesus had gone around boasting of his miracles. I can picture it now, Jesus
by the river with his friends, regaling them with the Lazarus story for the
umpteenth time, or showing off how a mere crucifixion was no match for
His superior talents. The follow-up to that whole set of events might have
been very different indeed. There is a certain wisdom in all holy books about
keeping quiet about miracles, that really should be paid attention to.
For many in the healing professions, performing the apparently
miraculous is a common affair. It is, after all, what one is paid to do. As a
staff nurse in neurosurgery I had a patient with a rare condition known as a
syrinx. Essentially a syrinx is a fluid-filled cavity within the spinal cord that
enlarges over time and can result in devastation to that part of the spinal cord
and nerve roots. Imagine a bicycle inner tube bulging through a split in an
old worn tire.
A 40-year-old man had undergone various neurological investigations
including a spinal tap that had unfortunately resulted in a syrinx. Repeated
attempts at treating this condition had failed, and his situation was looking
When I came across this gentleman he was ashen in color, agitated
and very angry. I wasn’t sure of his understanding of what he was facing or
what he was experiencing, but it did not take great sensitivity to realize that
it wasn’t positive.
“How you doing?” I ask him.
“Fuck off!” he growls angrily.
“No,” I replied, evenly, “I’m not fucking off. What’s up?” I ask
“What’s up? I’m going to be fucking paralysed, that is what’s up,” he
“And how do you know that?” Now I am aware of how terribly
annoying this last question can be. NLP practitioners who have recently
learned the meta-model tend to ask this much too often, and not always with
any thought to why they are asking it. However, on this occasion I knew
exactly where I was going.
This is the sort of situation in which a colleague of mine looks around
on the walls, and says, “Let me see your fortune-telling license,” to draw
attention to the fact that the person is making a prediction about the future
without being suitably trained and qualified.
“What?!” My patient growled, clearly annoyed at both my continuing
presence and the nature of the question. As a health care professional
involved in his care, I really should know more than I appeared to know.
I asked again, “How do you know that you are going to be fucking
paralysed”? His eyes go up and to the left, then up and to the right. Then
back up to the left again.
“There are only so many times that you can put a patch over a
punctured inner tube. When a patch doesn’t work, you can only put so many
patches over the top before you ruin the fucking thing. That is how I know!”
It was obvious that he had a very clear representation of this.
“I think you are wrong on that,” I say quietly. “An inner tube is not a
living thing. It is black, dirty, and dead. Have you ever actually seen a living
spinal cord?” I asked, as I gestured up to his right. His manner changed
dramatically. Now he was attentive and curious, instead of angry. I really
didn’t think it was going to be this easy.
I sketch it with my hands. “A spinal membrane is a living matrix. It
lives. It is a good healthy color, even when damaged; under a microscope the
cells look beautiful. That is why I think you have the wrong picture.” I
move my hands out, as though enlarging the picture.
“Shit!” he says, a better color coming into his face. “I had never
thought about it that way.”
“That’s right,” I say, “you didn’t” and quietly walk away.
Before my long shift was over, this man was eating again and
laughing and joking with the staff. Eight hours later his syrinx was found to
have mysteriously vanished. Eight hours was all it took! It is a testament to
the healing ability that is latent in every living organism. I cannot really
claim any particular credit for this minor miracle; after all, I was simply
applying something I had been taught. (1, ch. 20) But at the time I was
excited. This was amazing, and I just had to share it with the other staff.
A word of advice—don’t ever do this with nurses; they simply do not
understand, and always love an opportunity to ridicule the strange man.
Teach what is possible, but don’t claim credit for making it possible; that is
bad medicine. Since this lesson, I have also learned that the best NLP
masters rarely ever mention NLP when they are working out in the world.
They just do it. (8)
1. Andreas, Connirae, and Andreas, Steve. Heart of the Mind:
engaging your inner power to change using neuro-linguistic programming.
Boulder, CO. Real People Press, 1989
2. Andreas, Steve. Six Blind Elephants, vol. I & II Boulder, CO. Real
People Press, 2006
3. Andreas, Steve. Transforming Your Self: becoming who you want
to be. Boulder, CO. Real People Press, 2002
4. Andreas, Steve. “Resolving Grief” 2002
5. Andreas, Steve. “Resolving Shame” 2002
6. Andreas, Steve. “Forgiveness” 2000
7. Andreas, Steve, and Andreas, Connirae. Change Your Mind—and
Keep the Change. Boulder, CO. Real People Press, 1987
8. Austin, Andrew T. The Rainbow Machine: tales from a
neurolinguist’s journal. Boulder, CO. Real People Press, (November) 2007