Steve Andreas’ NLP Blog

NLP Articles, News, and Tidbits about Psychotherapy and Personal Development

Damon Cart Interviews Steve and Connirae Andreas

Damon Cart of NLP Gym visited recently and conducted two short interviews with Steve, and one with both Steve and Connirae. These interviews were candid and unrehearsed, so the topics discussed varied considerably.

Here is the first of the three informal interviews. The next ones will be posted in the coming weeks.

Interview with Steve part one (18 min.):

The Term “Meta” a dialogue between Michael Hall and Steve Andreas concludes with a response from Michael Hall at…

At this point we have each had ample opportunity to present our positions; it will be up to the reader to make whatever use of them that they can.

Steve Andreas Celebrity Roast at ANLP Conference

Many thanks to Brian Van der Horst, who spent a lot of time and effort organizing a “celebrity roast” in honor of Steve Andreas held May 19 at the annual ANLP conference at London Heathrow. A film of the Steve Andreas Acknowledgement Celebration is at:

The slide presentation in the film is at:

The individual videos that people sent for this event are in this folder:

The “Livre d’Or for the event contains contributions of others who sent Steve written salutations:

And finally, the presentation and overview of the forthcoming book about the Andreas’ contributions: “Fine Distinctions—The Life and Work of Steve and Connirae Andreas” is at:


Digital vs. analog change, part 2

This is a follow-on to a conversation about resolving forgiveness being digital, rather than analog, with Rob Voyle, a colleague who has specialized in teaching our method for reaching forgiveness. That conversation was a follow-on to two previous posts about scaling: “On a Scale of 1-10, How useful is Scaling” and “More About Scaling.”

Rob sent me an extensive email, and I responded. After sending it, I thought that it might make an interesting blog post. Rob and I reviewed it to be sure it would be clear to a reader, and this dialogue is the result. The kind of detailed comments Rob offers are nice stimuli for me to respond to and learn from, because otherwise they might never come to the forefront of my attention.

Rob: I have been focusing on leading forgiveness workshops teaching clergy how to help someone forgive, and also doing forgiveness retreats where people can bring their resentment and leave without it. I have found the 0-10 scale helpful to track what is going on and what may still need to be resolved. When I ask people to think of someone they resent, they will often think of someone who evokes anger/resentment as the primary emotional response. But upon working with them I have discovered that they actually have several different emotional responses clustered together which they call resentment.

Steve: Yes, sometimes there will be a mixture of feeling responses, and then you need to sort them out, ideally ahead of time. For instance, “You still resent this person; do you have any other responses that are mixed in with that? For instance, some people are disappointed, others have regret about lost opportunities, or grief about the lost relationship, etc.” Once sorted out, each one will need a different method for resolution, and once resolved, my experience is that each one will be digital, so there is no need for the analog SUDs scale.

Rob: I think using an analog SUDs scale is misleading. The change in response is not gradual but in significant discrete blocks. For example, after completing the forgiveness process most will have a very digital response and the level will be 0. A significant number (probably about 1 in 10) will often have a 9 to 3 reduction. However the remaining 3 points of distress are not actually due to resentment, they are usually grief. They still miss the loss of a relationship, or the loss of a desired future because of what the other person had done. On one occasion the remaining distress was residual trauma that needed resolving.

Steve: Yes, exactly. Each response will resolve digitally, so an overall SUDs scale will be misleading

Rob: On the other hand, several have reported a reduction to 3 or 4, they are often unsure about the level and it appears volatile, in that it could easily go back up to a 6 as they think about the situation. In this situation there has not been a digital response. This type of response I have found to indicate that there is an objection to forgiving, or the “relocation” of the image has been unsustainable.

Steve: Definitely find all objections, ideally before mapping across.

If “the ‘relocation’ of the image has been unsustainable,” I always assume that indicates an objection, and typically there are a LOT of objections to forgiving. The other possibility is that the “target” experience of resolution isn’t quite the right one. There is a nice example of this in a previous post about resolving hate.

Rob: One of the most striking examples of an objection was with a man with whom I had done all the steps, satisfied all objections and still had a widely fluctuating level of resentment. Almost as an afterthought, when I was ready to give up an admit failure, I asked him if there was something to learn from the experience. “If he was to encounter a similar situation in the future what would he do differently?” He paused, considered the possibility and said, ‘Yes.’ He allowed the experience to teach him what to do differently and then future-paced that learning. He then turned and very dramatically said, “It is gone.” I was amazed at how his unconscious mind would not let him waste the potential for learning.

Steve: That is a lovely description of the basic task of all change work (including the forgiveness process): to learn from the past and apply it to the future, so that the new response is resourceful and automatic.

Rob: What I found was that many participants had very little clarity about what they were actually experiencing when I would ask them to think of a person that they resent. Some would be angry, others hurt, others afraid they would encounter the person again and be hurt again. Many would confuse hurt and anger and many would be angry that they would encounter the person again tomorrow at work, or in a family situation.

Steve: Yes, the positive function of anger is always to protect against a repetition of the harm that was done. Clients will only be willing to “let go” of the anger when they have a more resourceful response.

Rob: Very few were aware of grief but after resolving resentment they would still have a lower intensity negative emotion, which upon inquiry was grief. They were recognizing a relationship was over and missing the possibility of the good things that had been in the relationship.

On reflection, to be truly accurate, I should say to the client, “As you think of this person and what happened, on a 0-10 scale what is your current level of distress.” And then track the distress as being made up of discrete experiences of resentment, grief, and or trauma.

I tried this in the most recent training. I invited people to rank the overall intensity of distress, (using a general term for their negative emotional experience) on a 0-10 scale and then invite them to break it into how much was anger, how much hurt, or how much was grief. I didn’t really find it helpful and took up too much time in a group setting trying to get specific.

Steve: “Distress” is a very general term that could apply to many different kinds of unpleasantness, so using that word is an invitation to mix different things together. I think it’s better to be specific, after using the forgiveness process. “Do you feel any anger or resentment now?” Assuming a “No” response, then ask, “Do you have any other unresolved feelings or concerns?” and if so, find out what they are. And it’s even better to do this at the beginning if you can.

Rob: On reflection I think my best strategy is to begin with the resentment, especially since that is what was advertised and has drawn people to the retreat or training. As I mentioned, very few are initially aware of grief and only discover it after a layer of anger was resolved.

Steve: Good point, especially in that context.

Rob: Here are several other things that I have found important to be aware of. Often I have found that people will have at least two different resource locations. People I have forgiven and now trust, and people I

have forgiven and still don’t trust because they are essentially untrustworthy.

Steve: Yes, absolutely. You need to keep forgiveness separate from “trust” or anything else the client has combined with forgiveness. Again see my previous post on resolving hate for an example of this.

Rob: Some people aren’t initially aware of that distinction and will put the “untrustworthy” image, in the trustworthy location. Clarifying these objections and finding the appropriate resource location will usually result in a profound digital response and the level will result in a highly sustainable 0 level of distress.

Steve: Yes, I agree.

Rob: Probably a third of the people in my classes also have the added problem that the person they are forgiving is someone that they will continue to encounter such as work mate/boss/family member and will most likely continue in their hurtful ways. Developing and future-pacing additional resourceful responses toward the forgiven but untrustworthy person is crucial.

Steve: Sure. And often they need more than just an emotional state resource. They may need very specific behavioral choices to protect themselves in the ongoing relationship.

Rob: Making the distinction between forgiveness (how I deal with my past) and reconciliation (an agreement between people about how they will be together in the future.)

Steve: “Agreement” requires the cooperation of the other person, which is an ill-formed outcome because it’s not under the client’s control, and may not be achievable. Best to teach them skills and behaviors that don’t require agreement.

Rob: This is a very important distinction, especially for church people who radically confuse the two and naively assume forgiveness means I have to trust everyone.

Steve: Again, it’s crucial to separate forgiveness from trust, or any other belief that is mixed together with it.

Rob: Reconciliation is a huge value in church settings and from my experience in these settings, it needs to be clearly distinguished from forgiveness. Giving people the freedom to forgive and not to be reconciled is extremely important. I have created Rob’s Rule of Reconciliation: “Never be reconciled to someone who does not share your values.” I make the point that while Jesus forgave the Romans as they were pounding nails in his hands he was never reconciled to the mission of Rome. It is amazing how that one point can be a freeing revelation to people.

Steve: I think that “reconciliation” is a word that has many such troubling connotations. I don’t use it, and I suggest avoiding it altogether, unless the client uses it. If the client brings it up, ask them to tell you in detail what it means to them, to discover what they may be assuming.

Rob: I have used three different ways of responding to the grief response to rebuild their sense of the future. I have used the process of having them imagine the qualities of the person as glowing cards in their hands and casting them into the future.

Steve: I love that piece, developed by Robert McDonald, and clients usually love it too. It’s such a nice nonverbal invitation to unconscious processes to scan the future for new opportunities to have the old valued responses that were lost.

Rob: I have also had the person future-pace the specific value that was violated by inviting them to imagine them sharing that value with others they will encounter. This seemed more appropriate when the relationship itself did not seem to have much of value, but a significant value of the client’s had been violated.

Steve: That’s a more conscious-mind way of doing the same thing, as long as “sharing that value with others they will encounter” is sensory-based, and not just intellectual. There is still the drawback that the conscious mind’s selection of “others” will be narrower than the unconscious, so some valuable opportunities may be missed with that approach.

Rob: Depending on the context, in some workshops I do a preliminary exercise in which people remember a series of life-giving values as golden threads that weave through their life and out into their future. If people have that resource I will use it and it has been effective in resolving the grief. In all of these cases the resolution of grief has also been quite digital.

Steve: That’s basically fine. However “golden threads” may not fit for some people, for whom “guiding light” or “compass needle” or “cloud of knowing” would be a better fit. Whenever you offer content, offer at least 3 examples, followed by, “or whatever fits best for you” to give them the option of finding their own metaphor.

Rob: I have found the golden thread exercise to be helpful when resolving trauma. When dealing with trauma I have also found many people will have some “residual” distress, which also is a grief response (“I can’t have a life because of what was done to me”) rather than a trauma response. Again these are very discrete, digital responses and not analog.

Steve: Sure, “I can’t have a life because of what was done to me” has a digital “not” in it, and it is also a prediction about the future. My favorite initial response to that kind of belief is to lean forward expectantly and extend my hand, as I say, “Let me see your fortune-telling license.” That is usually a surprising interrupt that is useful in focusing their attention.

Or you can say, “OK, let’s test your fortune-telling ability. Predict what I’ll say two minutes from now, and write it down on paper; I’ll tell you when the two minutes are up, and we’ll compare what you have written with what I say.”

Or you can ask about several predictions they made in the past that didn’t happen, to build a database of failed predictions.

Rob: Running the golden threads through the person’s history including the distressing event and on out into the future has been highly effective in resolving this residual grief response.

Steve: Can you say more about that? It’s not entirely clear to me how that is useful, and I’d rather not hallucinate.

Rob: In the golden threads of life exercise I invite a person to think of things that they deeply value, especially the timeless and not the temporal experience. For example a specific person is a temporal experience of the timeless quality of friend. I find that distinction helpful when doing Robert McDonald’s exercise of casting glowing cards out into the future. We don’t want to imagine a very specific future with a six foot tall, blond hair, blue-eyed (or other temporal quality) person, but with the qualities of kindness, sense of humor, strength of personality.

Steve: Yes, absolutely.

Rob: So we can take the quality of friendship and imagine it as a golden thread, and watch it go back through time connecting other friends they have had and going back out into the past before they were born, and then out into the future. I repeat the process with other things that they value in their life. Some have woven a band of gold threads in their mind, others a rope or cord. I imagine beams of light would also work.

Steve: That all sounds useful, basically a substitution of golden threads for glowing cards. Threads or cords will help build a sense of continuity, which will be particularly useful for a client who experiences their life as fragmented, broken up into unrelated chunks.

Rob: When people have experienced hurt in the past that wouldn’t qualify as PTSD but is still experienced as a hurt, I’ll invite the person to transform the submodalities of the visual representation of that “hurt” experience to the submodalities of other neutral emotional experiences of that time in their life. I have found trauma pictures are often “fuzzy” or “blurred,” as though the person doesn’t want to see what happened. When resolved they spontaneously become clear. The person is able to see clearly what happened without having a painful emotional response to what happened.

Steve: Yes, that is typical—and very useful when a traumatized person needs to testify to the details of events in court.

Rob: Then from the present moment in time I invite them to look back as they watch the movie of their entire life, with the painful experience in its correct place in their timeline up to the present moment. This will result in a significant change in response.

However, there will be some people who will have a significant amount of hurt remaining. I invite them to then see the golden thread going back through their past, through the event that used to be painful, and back to before they were born. I then reverse their awareness and as it comes back through time and they see it passing through the time that used to be painful they can see it possibly getting frayed, and they can be aware that it was never completely severed and then to watch as they go through their present and out into the future.

Steve: Thanks for all the clarifications. That is basically a way to put the difficult experience in a much larger time context, seen from the perspective of the present. That will tend to minimize the difficult experience, so it’s generally a very useful intervention that will often result in a digital shift.

Rob: Usually I will have used a 0-10 scale of their hurt prior to the exercise. Changing submodalities of the painful event will result in a change in response of say 8 to 3. The golden thread will invariably resolve the final 3 points. From our discussion I see these as digital and not analog, they are discrete steps rather than a gradual reduction in the person’s pain. While the exercise may be reinforcing the dissociation from the painful event, I think it is actually resolving grief by restoring hope of a future life worth living.

Steve: I think that is a nice distinction.

Rob: This past Lent several of the clergy I have taught have run forgiveness programs in their congregations. The best story was of one of a priest’s parishioners going through the process and then went to her work and did it successfully with several of her co-workers.

Steve: Great! Feedback doesn’t get any better than that!

Rob: Once again I am deeply grateful to you for your work and insight.

Steve: Thank you for your diligence in making good use of the method. 

Rob can be reached at: robvoyle(at) or

Terry Real Case Report Commentary

In the May/June 2016 issue of the Psychotherapy Networker, Marian Sandmaier asks several therapists:

“What’s Your Most Memorable Therapeutic Moment?:
Six Master Clinicians Share Their Reflections”

In his piece, “The Found and the Lost,” Terry Real describes his work with a couple in difficulties. In the following excerpt, he recounts a tragic event during his ongoing work with them:

Driving her daughter Carrie home from a friend’s house, it was Sylvie’s goodness that compelled her out of her car one snowy New England night to help another car that had skidded on an icy curve and got stuck on the shoulder of the road, caught in a snow bank. That’s when a second car skidded in exactly the same spot, careening into the first car, and then careening into Sylvie and Carrie. Sylvie had multiple fractures in an arm and both of her legs. Carrie died within minutes.

When her husband Ben called me the next morning, he was weeping, grief-stricken for the loss of his daughter. But he was also worried sick about Sylvie. She was in the hospital on a high dose of morphine, and “between the drugs and the shock, she’s pretty much out of her mind,” he said. “She keeps waking up and asking for Carrie: ‘Where is she? Where is she?’”

And no matter how many times Ben tried to tell her, and no matter how he put it, she would not let in that her daughter was gone. “She turns her head, changes the subject, acts like I haven’t even spoken,” Ben said. “You’ve got to help,” he said urgently. “She’ll listen to you. She always listens to you.”

When I walked into Sylvie’s hospital room, the profusion of flowers and gifts had the opposite effect of cheering me. It looked like a funeral home. While I’d tried to prepare myself, the sight of her was shocking—tubes everywhere, both legs and one arm in traction, her face swollen almost beyond recognition. I sat next to Ben and took her good hand. “Sylvie,” I said, “Something terrible has happened.” She closed her eyes. We went round and round for 5 minutes, 10 minutes. I felt cruel, sadistic.

At one point, Sylvie looked at me, really looked at me. Her eyes grew wide. Then she swung her head away from us and sobbed, letting out raw, heart-wrenching sounds.”

After many minutes, she turned to Ben. “Go home and get Carrie’s old fisherman’s sweater.” Her voice was trembling, urgent. “It’s in her bottom drawer.” Then she turned to me. “You’ve got to make sure she gets it,” she told me. “She’ll need it. She’s cold. She’s dead.”

Carrie was buried in that sweater three days later. It seemed like half the town had come out. Friends and family squeezed into every church pew, a sea of kids spilling out the steps and into the street. I sat close to the family—Sylvie propped up in a portable hospital bed, Ben standing next to her, holding her hand, straight and stiff in his handsome new suit.

Over the next several months, I went to their home as often as I could. About three months into it, Ben pulled me aside and confessed that since the accident—and unbeknownst to Sylvie—he’d been keeping a blog. He’d been pouring his anguish out into the internet, garnering thousands of followers from all over the world. I read the posts; they were shattering. Later on, I asked his permission to excerpt an early entry, entitled “Holding My Breath.”

People ask me if I miss her. Actually I don’t, not yet anyway. Maybe I’m in shock or some kind of denial, but I actually feel close to her. I feel her in the air, the sky. She’s with me now as I write. What I miss isn’t her, but us, the two of us together. The back and forth, teasing—what she called, “talking smack.”

Everything froze the minute they told me. My heart stopped, my world stopped. Since then, I’ve hovered somewhere between here and god knows where. I’m the ghost. I don’t think I’ve taken a full breath since. I don’t really want to. If the whole thing started up again—if I begin to live again—it would mean that the world will go on without her, and that’s just not thinkable. I can’t imagine accepting that. There can be no world without her in it, laughing and alive.

Ben told me he was keeping his blog secret from Sylvie because he was afraid it would hurt her too much. But shortly after our meeting, a friend spilled the beans to her. She went right to her laptop and read every entry. “It was amazing,” she told me at our next visit. “Here was my poet’s heart—the man I loved. I fell for him all over again.” She took his hand. “It’s not just the blog,” she explained. “It’s Ben. The way he’s showing up for his own feelings. And the way he’s showing up for mine.”

Ben squeezed his wife’s hand. “We’re holding each other up, best we can,” he said. He was looking at her, not me. “We’re in this together.”

About six months after the accident, we sat together, each of us locked into what felt a heavy, interminable silence. Three people breathing, each of us thinking what Sylvie finally spoke out loud. “I lost my daughter,” she said, “and found my husband.”

You hear that the greatest single predictor of divorce is the death of a child. You hear that no force on earth is more capable of ripping apart a loving union.

But not always.

Steve Andreas comments:

Is this a dramatic, heart-rending and touching account? Absolutely!

Is it a “Most Memorable Therapeutic Moment?” No.

If that statement seems surprising to you, pause to review Terry’s account, and consider why I would say that. . . .

Firstly, though it’s not explicit, the “therapeutic moment” apparently refers to Sylvie’s reading Ben’s blog entries, and being deeply touched by them. However, it was a friend who “spilled the beans to her,” (not Terry, despite the fact that Terry had earlier knowledge of the blog). Ben’s blogging healed the gulf between this couple, without any therapeutic intervention by Terry, so it wasn’t a “therapeutic moment,” no matter how wonderful the result.

Secondly, Terry made a gigantic blunder when he insisted that Sylvie realize that her daughter was dead, and he shows not the slightest recognition of this mistake. Sylvie had already made it abundantly clear, both verbally and nonverbally, that she didn’t want to know that her daughter was dead. “She turns her head, changes the subject, acts like I haven’t even spoken,” These facts alone should have been sufficient reason for respecting her wish. But apparently driven by some idea that Sylvie should “face reality,” Terry continues to confront her, until she finally gives in. “Sylvie,” I said, “Something terrible has happened.” She closed her eyes. We went round and round for 5 minutes, 10 minutes. I felt cruel, sadistic. At one point, Sylvie looked at me, really looked at me. Her eyes grew wide. Then she swung her head away from us and sobbed, letting out raw, heart-wrenching sounds.”

In addition to Sylvie’s clearly expressed desires, there are plenty of objective reasons for waiting until later for her to “face reality.” With Sylvie “in the hospital on a high dose of morphine, and between the drugs and the shock, she’s pretty much out of her mind,” clearly she’s in a severely diminished mental state, not able to think clearly, or process the news of her daughter’s death well. With “tubes everywhere, both legs and one arm in traction, her face swollen almost beyond recognition,” she has quite enough to contend with already, without the added mental and physical stress of accepting her daughter’s death. “Then she swung her head away from us and sobbed, letting out raw, heart-wrenching sounds.”

So what would I have done in response to her urgent asking for Carrie, “Where is she? Where is she?” while at the same time honoring her need not to know? Utterly simple. A soft, “Carrie can’t be with us” is truthful, and to the point. Then I’d quickly follow with questions designed to elicit fond memories, which will give Sylvie an experience of Carrie’s presence, which is what she wants and needs. “What’s one of the things you most enjoy about Carrie? Is it her humor, her honesty, the way she walks in the door after school? The way she tilts her head? What’s special about her?” If Sylvie returned to her urgent question, Where is she?” I’d simply repeat, “Carrie can’t be with us,” and again immediately follow with additional questions, “What subjects in school does Carrie enjoy most? Can you think of a recent special memory? Did she ever have a crush on one of her teachers?” continuing as long as necessary until Sylvie relaxes into a pleasant memory, so that she can concentrate on the immediate task, recovering from her injuries.

Eventually, of course, Sylvie will need to be told that Carrie is dead—or she may come to that realization on her own. Depending on Sylvie’s condition and readiness, and other circumstances such as the scheduling of the funeral, this could be as little as a few hours, or as much as a few days.

Later Terry reports, “Ben squeezed his wife’s hand. ‘We’re holding each other up, best we can,’ he said. He was looking at her, not me. ‘We’re in this together.’ About six months after the accident, we sat together, each of us locked into what felt a heavy, interminable silence.”

This is a pretty good indication that they are both still grieving, and could benefit greatly from experiencing the NLP grief process, which could have resolved their grief in a session or two, saving them six months of therapy. However, since most mainstream therapists aren’t trained in this method, that’s too much to expect.

I have listened to a number of Terry’s webinars, and found them far more useful than most, particularly when he demonstrates what he would actually say to a client in a particular circumstance. I have also read his book, The New Rules of Marriage, and found it useful in the same way — though I think “guidelines,” “tips,” or some other gentler word would have been better than “rules,” which inevitably sets up a rigid “should” to be followed. Perhaps the publisher “overruled” Terry on the title.

I sent the post above to Terry, inviting him to respond. Here is his reply:

I am delighted with Steve Andreas’ serious consideration of my work and I welcome him as a colleague. I must say, though, that moments taken out of context can be a bit misleading. 

Had he been present, Steve would have witnessed the repeated torment of Sylvie waking from stupor, frantically insisting on knowing the whereabouts of her child, being told her child had been killed, howling, slipping back into torpor, only to have the same cycle repeat every 20-30 minutes. A Groundhog Day in hell. 

Of course the husband and medical staff had tried a softer approach: as in, “She can’t be with us now,” followed by attempting to distract. Sylvie was having none of it. She wanted her daughter and she wanted her now. Vagueness, distraction, or superficial bromides were useless. The husband asked me to do what I could to end this repeated torment and I did what I could.

Sylvie wasn’t happy after the news got through to her, but she did begin to find peace. 

I would not infer that the heavy silence that fell on this family six months after the death of the daughter indicated anything other than normal grief, which I’d be in no rush to take from them. It is a sacred part of the relationship to their daughter that remains, and in my mind, utterly appropriate. 

Steve Andreas responds:

Terry is quite right that I wasn’t present; I had only Terry’s written account to go on. There was no mention in that original account that the “. . . medical staff had tried a softer approach: as in, ‘She can’t be with us now,’ followed by attempting to distract.” And I’m sure that “Vagueness, distraction, or superficial bromides were useless.” Although my suggested response could also be described as a “distraction,” it was very specifically designed to elicit in Sylvie a felt sense of her daughter’s presence, which is what Sylvie wanted and needed.

Of course my suggested intervention might not have succeeded, even if sustained. However, even though the medical staff may have started with “a softer approach,” apparently they quickly defaulted to direct confrontation. “. . . Sylvie waking from stupor, frantically insisting on knowing the whereabouts of her child, being told her child had been killed, howling, slipping back into torpor.” With that unfortunate background, it would have been very difficult for Terry to shift direction and do something more useful.

Finally, many people share the view expressed in Terry’s closing paragraph on what appropriate grief is, and that “grief work” is a lengthy process of “saying goodbye.” If they could witness the transformation from tears of loss to tears of joy that results from reunion with the lost experience based on the opposite principle of “saying hello,” they might change their minds — but that is another discussion.

I sent all the above to Terry, in case he wanted like to add anything further, and have the last word. He replied, “It’s fine, thanks.”