NLP Memory Manipulation - Change the Content of your Memories
- Chris Harrison
- 16th July 2007 - Updated 15th October 2013
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We’re going to begin with something so obvious that once you get it, you'll be shocked at how many people don’t seem to be in control of it.
I have a friend who had a phobia of worms, not a very common phobia, and one that doesn't really make much sense.
I can’t remember anyone being attacked by a worm; I can’t remember reading stories in the newspapers about deaths caused by worms, and I've personally never had an unfortunate experience with a worm, but well - she was afraid of worms.
So when I managed to pick myself up off the floor and stop laughing, I had to ask her what was it that made her scared of worms because when I think about a worm, or see a worm, my response is, well, somewhat under-whelming.
So, this is what she told me:
Whenever I'm gardening, if I put a trowel in the ground and begin to pull it back, I visualize in my mind, a worm coming up with the trowel.
Its a really big fat worm, much larger than a usual worm, more like a fair sized snake.
I can see the slime all over it.
Then as I lift the trowel up, the worm is flicked upwards, really quickly and comes flying up towards my face, covering me in slime.
Sometimes it even ends up in my mouth.
Yuck. Now I understand why she doesn't like worms!
So even though this actual event never happened to her, and was ‘all in the mind’ the idea of it was so horrible that unconsciously she believed this was going to happen if she dug the garden.
One of the keys here is that your brain is not quite as clever as you think it is, and for some people it's not even that clever!
In fact your brain cannot really tell the difference between what happens on the outside and what happens on the inside.
My friend's brain reacted to the idea of a worm flying into her face in exactly the same way it would have reacted if it was a common event, and was really likely to happen when she dug the garden.
But don’t worry, because there is one important difference between the inside and the outside - You can change the things on the inside.
What if instead of visualizing a worm flying into her mouth every time she picked up a shovel, my friend saw a worm emerge from the earth, smile at her, thank her for helping him to the surface, and then crawl off on his way.
Would she still be scared?
And would that image be any less valid than the image of the worm flying through the air?
Definitely not – on both counts, though if she makes the image too 'cutesy' she may start gardening just for the sake of digging up worms – especially if she’s a bit on the lonely side.
Now before we turn this into a technique we need to cover a couple of simple NLP elements.
Firstly, whenever you remember a memory, you remember the event using representations of your senses (well what else is there?).
You remember what you saw, what you heard, what you felt (internally and externally), what you smelt, and what you tasted.
For most purposes, we’re only interested in the three of the five senses.
These are referred to in NLP speak as modalities, and the three we’re interested in are the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (feeling/body sensations) modalities.
Also, whenever you remember a memory, you are only remembering a representation of the memory; You are not remembering what actually happened.
You are remembering what you remember happening but through the filters of your beliefs.
In a sense you are remembering what happened in a manner that allows you to not have to question what you think about yourself. In other words, if you believe you have no confidence and you remember someone talking to you strangely before rudely walking away at a social event, then you probably reach the conclusion that it was your fault because you were boring, not because you were so loud you intimidated them - you reached the conclusion that matched your beliefs about yourself.
So, back to the technique.
I'll describe it in a simplified form and give a few examples and ideas, and then it’s up to you to take it as far as you wish.