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The “swish” is probably the performance enhancement technique of choice for good visualisers.  Richard Bandler, co-founder of NLP, suggests that performance sabotage occurs when we flash up in our mind’s eye an image of ourselves failing.  A compelling self-defeating direction for behaviour becomes installed.  This undesired self-image may be semi-conscious, but is often entirely unconscious.  NLP proposes using the same process, this time with a desired self-image, and consciously.  Why not flash up a compelling image of yourself with all the capabilities to succeed?  Better still, let’s link the desired self-image with a cue image representing the actual situation.  Then, when you’re actually there, the desired self-image pops up more or less automatically, creating a resourceful direction for your behaviour.  This is the so-called “swish” pattern, probably one of the most useful techniques in NLP.  Hang on in there, though, because a few mental gymnastics are required to do it successfully.

1)   Select an issue to work on

  • Choose a situation where you would like to respond differently. This might relate to another   person or to changing a habit.

2)   Formulate your cue image

  • Picture the situation as if it’s happening or about to happen now. We call this the cue image     (CI).  It needs to be associated – seeing the situation just as you do when actually there, as           opposed to adopting the dissociated perspective of an onlooker watching you.  We want the        desired self-image (DSI) to be triggered by the situation itself and this is more likely to     happen if you picture it as you actually see it at the time.
  • Imagining the CI vividly may elicit the feelings you tend to experience in the situation   Set it aside for a while.

3)   Formulate your desired self-image

  • Conjure up an image of yourself having made the change, or at least dealing better with the   See yourself with such capabilities.  Nothing too specific is indicated here because   you’re creating a general direction for your behaviour.
  • It’s best to see only yourself in the image with nothing in the background. This is sometimes    called an “uncontextualised” image.  You may want it to trigger off in a variety of situations,      something which might be precluded by being too specific.
  • Ensure the image is appealing – something you really want and can hardly wait to have. You   should be practically licking your lips in anticipation.  You could change a few submodalities       to achieve this.  Use colour brightness, for example, to make the image more motivating.
  • Also ensure that the DSI is ecological. Would being this way lead to any adverse         consequences?  If so, modify or tone down the image so that it’s more appropriate.

4)   Link your cue image and desired self-image

  • Bring back the CI. Put it on a big screen filling most, if not all, of your visual field.  Make       sure the brightness is turned up so that you’re now looking at a big, bright CI.
  • Next, you’ll be using a screen within a screen technique. A good example of this is the kind     of television where you can watch one channel in the main screen and track another in a       smaller screen somewhere within the main screen.  Bring in the DSI in a smaller screen, say,     in the bottom right hand corner of the large CI screen.  Turn down its brightness.  The DSI           needs to be the opposite of the CI at this stage – small and dark.
  • The next, and critical, step is to strengthen the DSI and weaken the CI. Do this            simultaneously and rapidly, only taking a second or so.  In a few moments’ time, count from            one to three and say to yourself “swish” (or “switch” – the swish technique might be better           called the switch technique).  As you say “swish” or “switch”, literally switch the two images             Do this as quickly as you can.  The CI ends up small and dark, the DSI big and bright.         If you find initial difficulty with the simultaneous aspect, at least focus on the DSI and have         it blitz the CI, which may end up out of the picture entirely.
  • Take a few moments to enjoy the good feelings elicited by the DSI. Really allow them to        sink in.  Then take a short break.  If you’ve been carrying out the procedure with your eyes             closed, open them and look around.  Think about something else for a few moments.
  • Then do the same again. Snap straight back into the very start of the process, with big, bright CI and small, dark DSI.  There’s no need to crystallise the CI.  Just allow it to sort of be there         and then obliterate it with the DSI.  One, two, three…switch!  Savour the feelings associated    with the DSI again.
  • Take another break, then do it again…and again. 5-10 times generally does the trick.

5)   Test out

  • How do you know when the swish pattern is likely to be effective? Provisional success may    be indicated by finding the CI becoming harder to resurrect as you proceed with the        The CI may also become progressively smaller, darker, more distant, etc; or it         may begin spontaneously to trigger the DSI; or it may seem less emotive.  All of these are           favourable signs.
  • The only sure way to find out is to test out in reality. Put yourself in the situation represented             by the CI and notice any changes.  One of the advantages of this technique over, say,       resource anchoring (see section 6) is that, generally, you don’t have to do anything in the     situation itself.  All the work is done beforehand.  The change occurs spontaneously.


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