The Toronto Hypnotherapist

Hypnosis and Toronto Hypnotherapy with Allan Clews.

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Learning to Say 'No': An Exercise - Tuesday September 11, 2012

Posted on September 11, 2012 at 9:05 PM

I used to have a real problem saying 'no' to people. So I know exactly what Thomas de Hartmann felt when Mr. Gurdjieff put him in a position where this became so painfully obvious (*see the bottom of this post to read de Hartmann's story). I felt de Hartmann's pain as I read it because I have felt those feelings inside of me.


Now in order to understand this exercise, it is necessary to be acquainted with the various elements involved in it. So let me properly set it up, so-to-speak.


There is a hypnotic language pattern involving the use of Tag Questions that was developed by Milton Erickson and isolated as a distinct pattern by the founders of NLP, John Grinder, who had a Ph. D. in Linguistics and his one-time student and collaborator, Richard Bandler, whose genius was his ability to intuitively model other people and effortlessly act, mimic and step into their abilities – something they called Modelling.




Now to use a Work example: "you could wish for both inner and outer freedom, COULDN'T YOU?" With the part in capitals "COULDN'T YOU?" being the Tag Question.


If you have something that you would like to bury a little deeper in a sentence so it doesn't stand out as much, you use a Tag Question. This is because we always remember the last bit a little bit better than we remember the bit at the first or the first bit [to use a little 'bit' of a hypnotic confusion language].


So we can use Tag Questions if we want to do the linguistic equivalent to what a magician does when he distracts you and deflects your attention.


Phrased more therapeutically: "I know you can forget all about that, CAN'T YOU?" [and notice from a therapeutic perspective – by using the word "that" instead of stating the problem, I pushed the problem even further away].


You can even play with the tense if you wanted to create a little more confusion and throw it slightly off-balance by deliberately mismatching tenses [and modal operators]: "I know you can forget all about that, HAVEN'T YOU?"


Now over time the use of this technique has been expanded as therapists have come to understand it. So if you have two pieces of information and you want one to remain more in your conscious awareness and the other to be slightly buried. You bury the one piece by saying it first, so the other is kept more top of mind.




Getting back to the thrust of this post. People who think they have problems saying 'no', do not have any problems saying 'no'. They could walk to the top of a hill and yell 'no' until they went hoarse. The inability to say 'no' is a social inability, it comes from the impulse of wanting to be liked and accepted. So in de Hartmann's (and my own) case it wasn't really an inability to say 'no', we got tripped up on the social aspect.


The two ideas, binary concepts, polarities, that underlay this in my case were:


"I want you to like me/how can I be of service" (that is, I want social approval);




"what's in it for me".


Or the polarity of: Social-Approval versus Self-Interest.


Now the way to heal yourself from being stuck in the "YES" position is not to reflexively adopt the "No" position.


So if you, like me, [and yes, for those in the know, I did this deliberately – and for those of you who didn't notice anything, look how I just put a little instruction in there: 'you like me']... so if you, like me, know what it is like to have this switch stuck in the affirming position, and you want to bring more balance into the process; the next time someone asks you to do something that pulls up those feelings that de Hartmann so succinctly described, you might quietly say something like the following to yourself (and this is positive/negative) or even to the person who asked you:


"Even though a part within me wants you to like me," then hold one of your hands out in front of you and physically represent this part with your hand, "another part within me," and hold out your other hand to physically represent this part [or using Work terminology – this 'I'] within you, "insists that I ask you: what is in it for me?"


[Please note: this little act of involving the hands was something that Grinder and Bandler discovered made this type of a process even more effective, so always include the hands when doing this.]


Now returning to what we said above, we can change the emphasis, or the way we represent this polarity by flipping it around. That is, we can phrase it positive/negative or negative/positive depending on which part we wanted to bury and which we wanted to bring to the front.


The reverse of the above is:


"There is a part within me," hold out one of your hands, "that insists I ask, what is in it for me? Even though another part within me," holding out the other hand, "wants you to like me."


If you want to say 'no' to someone, this technique will allow you to play with the polarity (something that can only be done from the reconciling position). If you want them to focus on the denying part, then put that at the end. And if you want them to focus on the feel-good affirming stuff, you can soften it by putting that at the end and leaving this top-of-mind.


The harsher lead in to 'no' (or the affirming to the denying): "Even though a part within me wants you to like me, another part within me, insists that I ask you: what is in it for me?"


The softer lead in to 'no' (or the negative to positive): "There is a part within me, that insists I ask you, what is in it for me? Even though another part within me, wants you to like me."


And whatever you do, always remember to use your hands.




(*"One morning when I passed through the center of Essentuki, I noticed a poster advertising a special evening... Later that day when I walked with Mr. Gurdjieff and Dr. S., I spoke of this quite casually.


"Doctor, you hear? He's inviting us to the club this evening. What? Will you invite us for supper?..."


"This was bad. A supper during the inflation cost a tremendous amount of money and I no longer had an income coming in each month. But there was nothing for it but to go ahead with this plan, because I hadn't the courage to say no. That evening I took 500 rubles (in former times a supper in the best restaurant would have come to no more than two and a half rubles) and went to the club. It was almost empty... Now my hell began. Mr. Gurdjieff played with me as if I were a child to whom one wished to teach a lesson. "Well, doctor, since he's treating us come on; it would be nice to start with some vodka and hors d'oeuvres. Then later --" It went on and on. I vividly remember to this day the oranges he ordered, because I did not have the courage to tell Mr. Gurdjieff I didn't have enough money and ask him to lend me some until we got home. How could I get out of the situation? It was agonizing. Finally I decided to tip the waiter and send him to my wife for more money... [F]inally the money was brought and the I paid for everything. The bill came to about one thousand rubles, enough for us to live on for half a month.


"Next morning Mr. Gurdjieff came to see us, and gave me the money I had spent on the supper. This was another extremely painful moment—not from the ordinary point of view, but because I realized I did not know how to behave like a grown-up man. Mr. Gurdjieff had told me so several times, but only now did I believe it. That morning Mr. Gurdjieff was not at all as he had been the evening before; there were not reproaches, no raillery. All he said was that what had happened had been done for my sake."


Thomas de Hartmann p 30-1 Our Life With Mr. Gurdjieff).

Categories: Thoughts and Reflections, Hypnosis

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