All behaviour has a positive intention

All behaviour has a positive intention is one of the presuppositions or operating beliefs of NLP. At first blush this sounds a little unlikely. A cursory glance in the newspapers will show a huge range of cruel, stupid and just plain nasty behaviour.

That’s the point while the behaviour may be all those things the intention behind them was positive in some way.

Just think back for a moment, there has probably been a time when you have done something flat out stupid, if you look behind what you did to what you wanted to achieve I imagine you will be able to find something positive in the intention, even if the implementation left a little to be desired.

Of course this presupposition is impossible to prove but it’s a very useful point of view to adopt when dealing with people.

I heard a very nice version of this principle at work whilst listening to a podcast of a studio discussion between two cancer patients; Leroy Sievers, a journalist with terminal cancer, and Elizabeth Edwards amongst other things a US senator’s wife also suffering from cancer.

An audience member asked a question about ‘saying the wrong thing’ to cancer patients. He felt he had put his foot in it some years before with a friend who was dying from brain cancer and he still felt guilty about it after all this time.

“How do you handle the situation when a healthy person says something insensitive?”

Elizabeth Edwards answered .

‘I had a 16 year old son who died in 1996 and I had a lot of people say some incredible things to me. And I got some wonderful advice from someone that had lost a brother, and he said:

People will say the wrong thing but know that they intended to say the right thing“. ‘

‘And I’ve always kept that in mind however stupid the things other people say and believe me that was not the stupidest thing I’ve heard by some considerable distance. I always know that they meant to say the right thing and I think that all of us keep that in mind ‘

‘And there are times when I don’t want to hear it, when I’m on the campaign trail I’ve had people come up to me and want to give me a hug and say “My wife died of the same thing that you died of [sic]” and I don’t know what to say to that’

The presenter then offered this reframe: ‘It’s just a premature condolence’. Which provoked a laugh from her saying “That makes me feel so much better”.

The Purpose Of Life

Here’s an engaging animation on the purpose of life. It’s an unlikely combination of a part of a talk by Alan Watts and an animation from the makers of South Park.

Years ago I attempted to read a battered, second hand bookshop copy of Watts’ “Tao: The Watercourse Way” without success. Perhaps I would have found a cartoon version more approachable.

The Strange World of the Placebo

Ben Goldacre a doctor and writer has just completed a fascinating two-parter look at the strange world of the Placebo on BBC Radio 4.

Starting with the story of Eliasha Perkins in the 18th Century and his ‘Perkins Tractor’ a device reported to provide miracle cures by taking away bad electrical influences. It’s funny how bad electricity/magnetism/energy seems to be a popular theme in complementary/alternative therapies. The Perkin’s Tractor provoked one of the first attempts at evidence medicine by Dr John Higham 18?? who conducted a blinded trial of the Perkins tractor and found that the effects could not be accounted for by the tractor itself but by the attitudes and beliefs of patient.

From this start Goldacre covers the effectiveness of the placebo effect in pain control, mood disorders and many areas of medicine. As a strong advocate of evidence based medicine some of the evidence seems quite improbable.

  • Placebo inhalers causing bronchio constriction or dilation depending on what the patient was told.
  • Heart pacemakers that were not switched on having the same effect as active pacemakers including physical changes in heart muscle.
  • Placebo treatments provoking the production of dopamine in the treatment of Parkinsons disease suffers
  • … and so on

It’s an impressive track record for inert substances. The Placebo effect – perhaps it should be called effects – seem to depend on a mixture of conditioned response, beliefs, expectations for the patient and the kind of ritual associated with the therapist/doctor giving the treatment.

In the second episode he continues the exploration of the effects and the relationship between the placebo effect and alternative medicine by way of shamanism and sham acupuncture. Finally he discusses the ethical dimensions of balancing the placebo effect and informed patient decisions.

Ben Goldacre has a bit of a reputation as a debunker of alternative medicines in his (excellent) Bad Science column in The Guardian, but rather than being a hostile sceptic of the field his open minded and thoughtful approach is very engaging. It’s a fascinating introduction to the improbable word of the placebo and how we might make better use of it.

Practice makes perfect

There are two opportunities coming up in the Newcastle area to practice your EFT and or NLP skills.

The EFT Cafe is returning after a summer break with an exploration of a process I have been developing with clients to make resolving unpleasant memories more comfortable. EFT makes resolving traumas very straightforward and comfortable. The Stunt Double Process as I’m calling it is a way of softening the trauma resolution process still further. To find out more visit the EFT Cafe website or drop me a line.

The NLP Cafe is also restarting after a summer lull. Appropriately the first meeting will be around the theme of Procrastination and Getting Things Done using NLP. The NLP Cafe is a structure NLP Practice group we meet monthly to explore different ways of using NLP to improve our lives. This meeting is on September 16th at 7pm at St Oswald’s Hospice Teaching Centre in Newcastle. Visit the NLP Cafe site for more information.

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