I once explained this technique in a post entitled “5-Step Technique for Taking Control of Your Feelings and Thoughts Now,” but I affectionately refer to this technique as the “Color Spin Technique.” I’m pretty sure Richard Bandler said that a Hindu prayer inspired him to use this approach. It’s one of my favorite techniques, and I’ve found it to be handy in liberating my mind from any quick feeling or idea that might be unpleasant. I usually describe it as shifting gears in my mind. It only takes a few seconds to execute it, and now I have a wonderful demonstration to illustrate it with.
My cousin, Will, came to Nashville so that he could take the MCAT, the entrance test that often determines what quality of medical school you could attend. Now Will is a pretty bright guy, but he had a lot riding on this exam. Understandably so, the more stress he was under, the more difficulty he had recalling information. He described it as something clouding his ability to fully produce an answer, so I offered him a strategy for removing that cloud.
It’s important to mention that not only is a really smart guy, he has also allowed me to play with his mind before. Beyond being a wonderful and trusting hypnosis subject, he had also been practicing some mindfulness meditation in preparation for this exam. Before I elaborate on our experience, I invite you to watch this video.
Will starts off by explaining what how his problem manifests. As he describes his experience, I ask for as much detail as he can provide. He talks about how high the stakes are and the onset of his stress over a period of time. It’s very important that I get him to qualify and quantify the presenting issue. All hypnosis is simply refocusing someone’s thoughts. It’s important to understand from where the subject is starting.
I ask Will to close his eyes and put his mind in a place where that same stress can manifest. He may have even imagined that he was taking his test and got caught on a difficult question. Then I start by asking him on a scale of 1-10 how profound that stress and fear felt. If he can quantify his feeling somehow, he can quantify the amount of control he has or doesn’t have over it. If you notice, after he answers “9,” I ask him to crank it up to 10. The ironic thing about this part of the exercise is, as long as he is feeling that stress on purpose, he is already learning to control it.
Part of what makes stress so hard to control is the fact that it’s subjective. So the next part is all about pretending that it isn’t subjective. I ask him where he feels that stress in his body. We unconsciously process emotions with our bodies all the time. That’s why people say things like “carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders” or “butterflies in his stomach.” So I asked him where he was holding his stress. When he answers his chest, shoulders, and head, I expected him to have a picture of these body parts in his mind already. It didn’t seem like much of a stretch for me to assume that in that picture, the emotion took some form. That’s why I asked what color it was. Sometimes, people would rather answer with a vibration or a texture or a temperature. It doesn’t matter either way, and if you are having trouble “noticing” a color, you’re always welcome to assign a color to the feeling.
Then I have him focus his attention on his breath and imagine that he is pushing that negative energy out of his body as he exhales. At this point, he is disassociating the feeling from his person. After I subtly give the suggestion that that energy is spinning, I tell him to reverse the direction of the spin so he can reverse the polarity of the emotion. As change begins to take place, it doesn’t take much for him to imagine the color changing into something he likes more. Since it naturally changes to the more positive (after all, that is the point of the exercise), he’s happy to welcome that new feeling/color back into his body with a breath.
After he receives that new feeling, I ask him where that stress is on a scale of 1-10 again. If he had said “7,” I would have had him do the exercise again. Also, had he originally given me a sound, I may have told him to imagine it getting softer and softer. There are limitless ways to apply this technique. If you don’t feel like you have control of a thought, create a map or a model for it in your mind. If you can change the map, you can change the thought. Just remember that your imagination is the most important tool your unconscious has, and it will get easier to shift gears in your mind.