Originally published in Rapport Magazine, Autumn 2019, under the title “Rethinking Transformation: Accessing Deeper Levels of Change.”
All children go through stages of development on a physical level. We shepherd them from newborn baby status, to “crawlers,” followed by “toddlers” who learn to walk and run. Childhood is followed by adolescence, with it’s accompanying body changes, followed by the mature adult form. While each person is unique, there are predictable stages of physical development that are universal.
What if there are also universal “stages of consciousness” we all go through? If so, understanding these stages would help us in supporting our clients—and ourselves. When we know the stage the client is at with respect to a particular issue, we can choose a method of change that matches this stage, and gently guides them to the next.
So what are these stages of consciousness? The understandings I have about this now came from my personal journey. About 20 years ago, a devastating health crisis led me to rethink everything I thought I “knew” about transformation and change. I’d been teaching NLP (including my favorite, Core Transformation) when this sudden turn of events brought all my activities to a screeching halt, and led to a period of what could kindly be called “hibernation.” I had the sense that I was in big trouble on multiple levels, and whatever I was dealing with seemed to require some kind of knowledge or wisdom that went beyond anything I knew.
Out of this (and the ensuing search for answers), came a new way of working that I call the Wholeness Work. I first used this method with myself, and began feeling like I was personally on the right track again. When I started teaching it to others, I received some interesting feedback. Not everyone of course, but especially some of the experienced NLPers told me, “This is changing how I think about all of NLP.”
This got my attention because the same thing was happening for me. Through my personal experience, and observing the changes in clients and workshop participants, I began to see how this work is both an expression of NLP, and perhaps extends how far we can go with NLP. Perhaps it can even add something to the conversation on the evolution of human consciousness.
On a physical level, a newborn child can only make use of a diet of breast milk or something similar. As the child develops, it gradually has the ability to digest and benefit from the nourishment in solid food. In terms of movement, when we’re in “pre-toddler” stage, we benefit from all manner of floor-based activities, including crawling, scooting, etc. Learning to dance is irrelevant—until later.
So far I’ve noticed at least six “dimensions” or “axes” along which our consciousness dependably shifts as we evolve. Here is a summary of three of these dimensions.
(Please note it doesn’t always happen in order, and sometimes a stage can be skipped.)
Dimension 1: Orienting the Unconscious
Stage 1. When stuck in a problem state, our unconscious thought processes could be described as “oriented toward the negative.” At the unconscious level, usually we (or our clients) are playing habitual movies that go into the future and assume a negative outcome.
For example, let’s say someone has a health issue. At this stage, even if the person is attempting to “think positively” about healing, at the unconscious level they are playing movies of fear, suffering, decline or death. If dealing with a motivation issue, the person might think of a task they want to do, while the unconscious plays movies about how it’s going to be difficult, impossible, or hopeless.
Stage 2. We use changework methods to reorient the unconscious in a positive direction. The natural self-healing method (described in Heart of the Mind, Chapter 20) is an example of this. When using this method we elicit the person’s current representation of the illness (usually a still image of ill health, or a movie of decline), and “recode” it to match something the person “knows” will heal automatically on it’s own. The Grief Resolution process (also in Heart of the Mind) is another example of re-orienting the unconscious toward the positive.
Stage 3. Here we completely let go of needing to set any direction for the unconscious. Both positive and negative “direction” is released, and we can be fully present with how things actually are without needing to overlay beliefs or assumptions or meanings. This experience is difficult to describe in words, but easy to experience by practicing Wholeness Work. For someone at Stage 1, with the unconscious oriented toward the negative, going directly to Stage 3 can seem frightening—like “giving in” to the negative outcome. However, someone who’s already “mastered” Stage 2, and can experience the unconscious automatically oriented positively, can usually easily follow a Stage 3 process that ecologically releases all “direction setting.” They experience how doing this is the opposite of “giving up.” It is fully inhabiting life however it is, and giving our bodies the maximum opportunity to heal. The direction of experience is automatically chosen by “the wisdom of the system.”
If you’re familiar with Core Transformation (CT), you might recognize that CT makes a gentle transition from Stage 2 to Stage 3. Core Transformation asks “What are you seeking” and follows this to an experience of wellbeing where there isn’t anything we need to seek. Wholeness Work takes this shift of consciousness a bit farther.
Dimension 2: External to Internal to Essence
Stage 1. We have a problem and assume nothing can be done about it.
Stage 2. We believe change is possible, but assume the necessary change agent is something outside ourselves. We want the right medicine to cure us. This is the stage where the Placebo Effect can work well. The Placebo Effect actually harnesses whatever “power” our own consciousness has to create healing, but we can maintain our belief that we’re being cured by something more powerful than we are.
Utilizing this belief in a powerful external “medicine” can be useful in getting a shift if even part of our consciousness is at this stage. I remember once deciding to take a “placebo” medicine. Even knowing it wasn’t “real,” I felt some comfort in taking it.
Stage 3. Now we recognize we have the capacity to produce the placebo effect ourselves. Our thoughts can sometimes be the medicine that cures us. The “natural self-healing method” is an example of this.
Stage 4. We begin experiencing an essence within that doesn’t need healing or curing. We experience that everything is already fine, before and whether or not a “cure” happens. It can sound trite to just say this in words. However, in the Wholeness workshop, we go through a series of formats that lead to experiencing this in a way that feels significant, and also I believe maximizes the body’s capacity to heal.
Keep in mind that sometimes Stage 1 and/or Stage 2 thinking is true. Sometimes things can’t be changed, and other times a “cure” does need to come from the outside. When we do Wholeness Work, we discover ourselves more able to “change the things we can change, accept what can’t be changed, and have the wisdom to know the difference.” When there is a deep and genuine letting go of having to be healthy or well, on all levels, then our physical body is actually in the best position to heal. The full relaxation and “de-stressing” of the system, that happens through this level of letting go allows the body’s physical systems to do what they’re programmed to do, which is to heal and repair. It can also open us to better intuition in navigating what path to follow on the physical level.
In this stage of transformation/acceptance/letting go, we may find ourselves experiencing something similar to Stage 1, but in a different way. We are at peace with the reality that we all die at some time, and never know our time in advance. We are also at peace with the reality that sometimes “miracles” do happen and recoveries occur that have no known physical explanation. In this stage we discover we can experience all of this while loving whatever is unfolding.
Dimension 3: From Force to No Force
This is among the most significant dimensions of transformation stages.
Stage 1. The person is stuck in the problem state. (In the training we become clear on how the problem state is maintained through unconscious force in the system.)
Stage 2. The person seeks “breakthrough” methods. They recognize change can happen, but believe it’s only possible through strong force, or willpower, to “overcome” our limitations.
Stage 3. We use subtle effort or force to create change. While change methods at this level take subtle effort, they help us shift in a positive direction and can be very useful.
Stage 4. Methods at this stage “undo” the force or “inner coercion” that exists in our system. Now we open ourselves to a way of living that’s not based on force at all, but is based on including everything and on wholeness. One benefit of this is increased spontaneity—context-appropriate, non-planned responses to situations as they arise—i.e. wisdom. And humor. It’s a radical shift in consciousness. It’s not possible to fully experience this stage using effort or force, even subtle. I find myself coming to a deepening understanding of this as I continue to use Wholeness Work in my own life.
At the 2020 ANLP Conference Masterclass, we’ll explore together how Wholeness Work methods give us a precise and reliable way to move gently and kindly through the stages of transformation, to some Stage 3 & 4 experience. We may discover some “problems” just melting away as we do this, and we’ll learn the other three axes of transformation.
When we understand its depth and range, Wholeness Work offers deeply meaningful ways to support ourselves and our clients in an ongoing journey of continuing evolution and transformation.