It Takes a Brain to Use a Brain

brain-2139197_640It takes a brain to use a brain, and that’s exactly the point of this latest book I read.  At only 123 pages (9 chapters), I tore through Using Your Brain for a Change by Richard Bandler in no time flat.  I’m a big Tony Robbins fan, as most of you Alexandrites know, and after hearing his allusions to “swish patterns,” “anchoring,” and “reframing,” I wanted to dig deeper.  This book was recommended to me by another Tony Robbins fan.  It presents a layman’s understanding of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, which refers to the subjective ways in which we see our world.  This concept is powerful for anyone looking to change the way they see reality.  Now that’s REAL magic, and being a corporate magician, I figured this is right up my alley.  The text is an edited transcript from several seminars that Bandler conducted in the spring of 1982, live, in front of an audience, cutting up and cracking jokes as he is prone to do, and talking about his unique views on changing feelings, thoughts and behavior.  Change is often easier than you think if you use the right method.

At the surface level Using Your Brain for a Change covers topics such as submodalities, learning, etc. – keeping in mind how much of our experience is objective, and how much is subjective.  Bandler points out that the majority of our experience is, in fact, subjective, and goes on to explain how we can radically change our lives for the better by “reprogramming” the bits we don’t like.

The author has stepped out alone to write this wonderfully self- therapeutic book, from his uses and experiences in NLP and hypnosis training from master hypnotist Milton Erickson. I’m quite impressed by NLP because of the changes it can make in people in lightning-like speed.  Simply put, there is nothing your brain cannot accomplish.  Now that’s intriguing.  Bandler provides the steps to take you to levels of brain development that you have not begun to even think about.  You are now in control of what and how you think, concentrating all of your past miseries into one moment and then having it disappear to refocus your energy into the moment which we call the “now.”  He does tend to state the obvious over and over again, but oddly enough, it’s not at all boring.  It’s kind of like listening to a favorite uncle who tells you the same war story each time you see him, but with a slightly different spin, so you sit there entranced and become a willing subject to his yarn.  Bandler’s overstating in no way diminishes the value of the work.  Anyone who knows anything about Bandler knows that he is a master of communication.  Using Your Brain for a Change is an easy read, simple to follow and a lot of fun. Best of all, this stuff really works.

Bandler begins by showing us the faulty way in which we think.  Consider, for example, the old adage “be yourself.”  How do you know when you’re being yourself?  Is your attitude merely based on your past?  What if you did something completely out of character and had great success with it?  Is it not “yourself” who did it?  It’s more the image you identify with that makes this notion of “yourself.”  Why be “yourself” when you can be something so much better?  The problem with brains is not that they can’t learn.  It’s that they learn too well.

Next, Bandler introduces the concept of submodalities, which are the finer distinctions of your visual, auditory, and kinesthetic representations.  For example, if you think about something you like that you want to dislike (say alcohol or tobacco) the pictures, sounds, or sensations of what you like and dislike are probably of a different size and in a different location, intensity, etc.  You can therefore change the size and location of what you like to what you dislike and thus stop desiring alcohol.  Pretty useful, huh?  Bandler offers excellent breakdowns of “the fast phobia cure,” “the belief change pattern,” and “the swish pattern.”  This is stuff that Tony Robbins also talks about, which I highlighted in a blog entry over the summer.

Bander also goes into belief change, learning, and understanding confusion, which enables you to contrast the different pictures you make in different states, and how you can change them and make them more useful.  The book also has simple “Recommended Practices” to help get your mind into a desired state.  I used some of them on sleight-of-hand conditioning for my corporate magic shows with some success.  I also applied them to getting rid of unnecessary mental baggage, like anxiety about calling a client, for example.  However, I found some exercises hard to do, like imagining I am in the control booth of a theater, watching myself watch myself on the screen, or running a movie of my memory backwards.  These “watching yourself”  techniques seem to be the basis of his approach to changing states.

Other techniques that Bandler offers are making a memory larger, or brighter, faster, or clearer, or just the opposite: smaller, dimmer, slower, or fuzzy.  I found this takes some practice.  For instance, if I have a bad memory that I want to stop from harming me today, it isn’t so much the memory that bothers me, but how I think about it.  So changing the way I remember it, be it faster or slower or dimmer or brighter, isn’t the same thing as changing how I think about it or the fact that I continue to think about it at all, if I’d rather not. We seem to remember the very things we want to forget, and forget the very things we want to remember.

I should point out that Bandler has a wicked sense of humor.  He pokes fun at psychologists and explains why they do more harm than good, and why NLP is so effective.  Amusing and relevant cartoons are also provided by Gustav Russ Youngreen to help you along as Bandler teaches how to look at things from different viewpoints: yours, old people, young people, the ceiling, one hundred years in the future.  He tells you to make your happy times bright and your sad time duller.  He also has some good points on motivation.  What motivates you to do something?  Is it the good results of success or the advantages of avoiding problems?  Bandler not only states various truths about how we think on a day-to-day basis, but in also providing the technology to “train your brain” to provide the results and the life you desire.

If you expect to use the techniques highlighted in this book to reach a desired outcome in your thought process, you can not just read it once and set it aside.  You might achieve change if you do the exercises once.  However, many thoughts and ways of acting are habits you will repeat over and over, so the careful reading and rereading of Using Your Brain for a Change will give you the ability to take control of habits so that you can change them and gain control of your reality.  If you practice the simple techniques in this book and use them as if they are the most important things you can ever practice, you will transform your way of behaving.  And transformation is magic.

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