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Cultivating the attitude of Proactive Pronoia

“A Blast from the Past” - article originally posted in NLP MasterCLASS newsletter 2007

Cultivating the attitude of Proactive Pronoia

Contributor ‐ Steve Crabb

I had arrived early for work, with an hour to spare before seeing my first client of the day, I decided to go to the local café over the road from my clinic for a cup of coffee and a bacon sandwich. I don’t remember the last time I had visited the place, I usually use the plush Italian deli coffee shop with the nice rich espresso coffee and the delicious pastries but unfortunately it was the time of day when the mothers gather with the baby rug rats and take over the place. What I really wanted was a bit of space to read my book and relax before starting work and the quiet submodalaties of the greasy spoon were far better by comparison then the noisy screechy submodalaties of the Italian deli/crèche as long as I only focussed on auditory!

The café was empty and so I went to the counter to order.

“How are you? It’s been a long time since we have seen you?” the café owner asked.

“I’m great” I said, my usual response with of course a command tone down, I sometimes vary this response with the occasional “I’m wonderful” both of which are true!

Then I made a mistake....a big mistake.

“So how are you?” I asked.

“Oh you don’t want to know” he said, and he was right. “Isn’t it tough, everyone is so depressed and worrying about the economy its enough to make you ill, what with the credit crunch no one has any money to spend...look the place is empty”

This happened before the “credit crunch” became relabelled as a “recession” and it cant be long now before its re categorised as being a “depression”; although if you went to this café the owner was holding his own depressing pity party way ahead of time.

I remember thinking to myself as he was talking “its not so tough, I’m not depressed, I’m not worrying, I’ve got money to spend, I’m in here and sure this place is empty but the Italian deli is full up with mothers buying £3 cappuccino’s and little chocolate biscuits at £5 per 100 grams.”

As he was talking to me and explaining just how bad life was I held out my money and a thought popped into my head. I remembered on a Trainers Training in London, John LaValle talking about how to deal with snooty hotel staff. He must have had a bad experience when checking out of his hotel because his advice was that when they go to hand you the final bill reach out to take it ….hesitate so they loosen their grip on the sheet of paper then whip it back quickly. If you time it right they get a lovely juicy deep paper cut right across the palm of their hand. Cruel but very, very satisfying.

The story resonated with me because a few months before the training I had visited Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland, it was a last minute decision so when I walked in with my 4 Sainsburys plastic carrier bags full of wet climbing clothes the reaction from the hotel staff deserved a paper cut. If only I had known then what I know now.

But here was my chance to experiment, this guy was trying to ruin my day, I was feeling good and all I wanted was a coffee, a bacon sandwich and my book and he was determined to install anxiety.

I moved my hand away just before he could grasp the note and there it was .....instant arm catalepsy!

As he continued to talk about high banking charges, declining property values, job losses blah, blah, blah. I slowly moved my hand and the note to my right, his hand followed. This was an excellent exercise in pacing and leading, had I moved too quickly I would have lost rapport but with slow movements his hand followed the notes totally unconsciously towards the scalding hot coffee steamer in the middle of the counter.

Many years ago a client came to visit me at my clinic it was a freezing cold day and a thick frost was on the ground, she had obviously been caught out by the sudden cold spell as she had no coat on and was shivering. I opened the door “It looks a bit fresh out” I said as she walked into the warm room.

“Will you stop being so bloody optimistic its freezing cold “she laughed.

The thing is we all have choices; the way we choose to interpret what’s going on around us isn’t fixed. Nor are we obliged to comply with or listen to negative social hypnosis whether from the news media, friends, and family or café owners. We have control and can choose to change our perspectives, we can see the glass half full or the glass half empty, some people will not only see the glass as half empty but they know for sure that its eventually going to evaporate away or someone will knock it over and you will probably get soaked as well as them.

I eventually got my coffee and my sandwich and got to read my book. There was one other customer who came in after me he must have been a regular because when he was asked “How are you today?” he answered “You know.... up and down, today I’m mostly down”.

Try this experiment for the day.

Notice how often there is bad, depressing or negative news or when someone you are talking to either shifts their referential index to “you” or uses universal quantifiers to include you and the rest of the human race into their misery or depression or half empty glass world. Each and every time you notice something negative laugh with manic glee (inside your head or out loud is optional) and say to yourself not me “I’m great...I’m is good”

Please note: No café owners were harmed during this experiment.

Have Fun and remember practice makes better.

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