How to Really Unwind

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners.

by Mark Andreas

After I got to know her a bit I asked Diane, “What is the first thing you want to change?”

“The anxiety,” she responded immediately.

Diane had come to me because of dangerously high blood pressure over the previous ten months. She’d been living with a lifetime of anxiety resulting from being abused as a child. She was on medication (Labetalol) in an attempt to bring her blood pressure into the normal range, but even so her systolic blood pressure would spike nearly every afternoon, reaching as high as 210, and requiring additional emergency medication (Clonidine). Her life was on the line. An average of her highest reading each day over a period of four months was 181.

After we met weekly for a month this reading lowered to average 155 over the next 76 days. Soon Diane didn’t need the emergency med at all, and we transitioned into meeting once every two or three weeks. When she gave me her average highest reading for the same 76-day period one year later, it was down to 134—an overall decrease of 47 points. Her diastolic pressure (the resting pressure of the system which is less immediately responsive to treatments for anxiety) had an even greater decrease by percentage, going from an average of 96.2 in the first 90 days we worked together, to 68.5 for the same period a year later (which was the time of the Colorado flood when she was forced out of her home and we were unable to meet for two months).

In my first session with Diane, I asked her if she was experiencing any anxiety right now.

“Just a little bit,” she said.

I asked her, if she felt comfortable doing so, to close her eyes and step back into a time when she felt the anxiety more than a little bit. I noticed her neck tighten and her face tense.

“And where do you experience the feeling of anxiety?” I asked. She said it was like a tight lump behind her breastbone. I asked her to tune into the sensation of the feeling and notice more details. “Where does it start and where does it go to?” I asked.

After a few moments she said, “It’s like it comes in through my nose and goes down into my chest and compacts right there.” (She gestured over the center of her breastbone).

“OK. The feeling of anxiety goes in through your nose and down to compress in your chest area. This is the path of the feeling. My next question may sound strange, and that’s because it is. As the feeling starts in your nose and goes down to your chest area, does it spin clockwise or counter-clockwise along this path?” To be extra clear I invited her to open her eyes as I gestured with my hand in front of my own body, showing the two options.

“Looking down from the top of my head, it goes counter-clockwise,” she said.

“Great, now close your eyes again, and notice the feeling in this counter-clockwise spin along the path starting at your nose and going to your chest.”

“Actually it doesn’t stop in my chest,” she said. “When it hits my chest it goes back up and out my mouth. It’s like it goes in my nose, spirals down like it’s compacting coal in my chest, and then the feeling comes up out my mouth leaving my chest all compacted.”

“Great awareness. So now, as you notice the spin along the path from your nose down to your chest and up out your mouth, you can allow the spin to begin to slow [slowing my voice] until eventually… it switches from counter-clockwise to clockwise along the same path. In through your nose and spinning clockwise down to your chest area and back up out your mouth. It can even speed up faster with this new spin, and then settle into the speed that’s most comfortable.”

Diane’s neck and face relaxed, and she took deeper breaths. “Wow,” she said. “Now instead of compressing more coal down there, it’s like the new spin is sending down buckets that are digging up the coal and tossing it out my mouth!”

“Give yourself as much time as you like to experience this new way, as things are decompressing.”

After several minutes she said, “I have a sense this is going to take a while.”

“That’s fine. Now that it has this new direction, it can continue to operate with this new twist as long as is useful. Now, ask inside, ‘Is there any part of me that has any objection to having this new experience in place of the old anxiety?’ ”

After a moment she said, “No. This is amazing. Now I realize my life has been chaotic and feeding this. I can change that.”

“Wonderful. Now, because all of you is happy to have this new way of being, you can imagine a future situation in which you would have felt the old anxiety, and notice how it feels now.”

She closed her eyes and stayed visibly relaxed.

“It’s really different,” she said, breathing deeply.

“It’s important to realize that this isn’t a process to use on your symptoms just like another drug,” I told her. “Some people use it that way and just get even more out of balance, continuing to do all the things that stress them out because they can get away with it for a little while longer. But there ends up being a high price. We don’t want that. Instead you can use this as a process to tune in more and more to the natural and important feedback your body is giving you about what it needs, such as the important feedback you already got about making your life a lot less chaotic. Once you learn to completely tune into and listen to your body’s feedback, you won’t need this process at all.”

She opened her eyes and nodded vigorously, so I could tell this made a lot of sense to her.

Diane practiced this spin reversal process as a meditation each day, especially any time she felt anxiety starting to come on. I also gave her the task of tuning in more and more to her body so she could start to notice the barest hint of anxiety. Once she got good at that she could notice the feeling that came just before the feeling of anxiety, thus receiving her body’s feedback before getting to the level of anxiety.

Often people don’t believe this process will work until they try it themselves. Consciously, people often find this process doesn’t “make sense.” But our language reveals our unconscious internal experience all the time. People commonly say they are “wound up” or “spinning out.” Most of them simply don’t realize how accurately they are describing their internal experience. This process is one way to “unwind” and “put a new spin on things.”

Mark Andreas is an NLP trainer and personal change coach for clients from around the world.

To learn this and other NLP processes, and have an engaging half-day experience of some of what NLP can offer hypnotists & hypnotherapists, sign up for the ACHE pre-conference course “NLP for Hypnotists” with Mark Andreas.

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