By Richard Bandler…
This Report Transcription is taken from a recent ‘Evening with Richard Bandler’ Event
Over 40 years ago, I was studying with computers. Now, where I lived was in a house owned by a
psychiatrist. The psychiatrist let me live in his house because he was going to India to find himself.
And I can’t tell you how weird that sounded to me. I grew up on the streets of a fairly rough
neighbourhood, and when this man looked at me and he said, ‘I’m going to be gone for a year, to
find myself,’ I have to admit I was tempted to tell him he was right here! But when he said I could
live in his beautiful house in the Santa Cruz mountains, I just smiled at him and went, ‘Good luck!
And if you find yourself give me a call and tell yourself I said hello!’
Now when I got there I started reading his books about psychiatry and he had an enormous
number of books, and he was very involved in what was called the Human Potential movement; so
he had books by people like Albert Ellis and Carl Rogers and Fritz Pearls. In fact, it turned out he
knew most of these people and actually had published a lot of their stuff. And when I was there,
this very famous family therapist named Virginia Satia showed up, and I got this phone call saying
she was going to be there, and would I keep an eye on her and make sure she was comfortable
and if she needed anything to help her. So I left a note: ‘If you need anything, I’m right up the road,
just give me a call.’
And I was outside working on my car, changing an oil filter, and they had actually given me the
wrong filter, which is bad, because when you let the oil out of your car, and the filter, it’s the wrong
one, and you have brand new oil, you have to put the bad filter in and pour all the oil in. So I was
in a really cranky mood. I was spewing up obscenities and stomping around… I didn’t have a
garage, it was outside.
Suddenly I looked up and there was this woman in red high heels with a dayglo green dress, huge
horn rimmed glasses, she was about 6ft 2, staring at me with a big smile. And I turned around and
I looked at her and I said:
‘Can I help you?’
And she said, ‘As a matter of fact, I can’t seem to light a fire.’
Now, as I walked down, I said, ‘So you’re Virginia?’ and she said, ‘Yes,’ and I said, ‘I heard that
you do psychotherapy.’
I’ve always loved the name psycho therapy – don’t you love that name? Just something about it
appeals to me. And I asked her, I said, ‘What exactly do you do?’ And she began to explain to
me, what she did... And to this day, it doesn’t make any sense. The more she described it to me,
the more weird it sounded and I finally said, ‘Does it work?’
She said, ‘What do you mean?’
I said, ‘Well does it work?’
She said, ‘Well I’ve been very fortunate, that I’ve been able to help a lot of people that no one else
has been able to help.’
And I said, ‘Like who?’
And she said, ‘Well, psychiatrists. I work a lot with schizophrenics that are hospitalised and I
discovered if you bring their whole family in, they don’t seem so crazy.’
And I went, ‘Really?’
Now being somebody that studied systems this seemed very interesting to me. So Virginia offered
to take me with her. She said she was going to a training up at a mental hospital, and she didn’t
drive very well (and I can guarantee that’s the case!), so I drove her up. She was doing some
training with the staff, and when I watched her work, everything she did seemed to make perfect
sense to me, if you looked at it in terms of what she did...
...The questions she asked, she was very systematic in her behaviour, but yet everybody in the
room leaned over and said things to me like, ‘Isn’t she so intuitive?’
Well of course, we’re all intuitive, whatever our knowledge of language is, we know what a well
formed sentence is, whether we learned grammar or not. If you say to people things like, ‘ideas
furiously sleep green,’ you don’t have to study language to know it’s not a well-formed sentence of
English. Your brain goes, ‘Wrong!’ And it doesn’t matter what any grammarian tells you. It’s not
until you go to school that you start screwing up your language and people start telling you what’s
proper and improper. But in terms of native language, intuitively, we’re hard wired for it. Even
though syntax in German is different than English, you learn what well-formed syntax of your own
language is. - To the degree that when I say, ‘colourless green ideas sleep furiously,’ you know it’s
more well formed than the last one, but not well formed enough. Because the structures that we
understand, the way in which we learn, is very defined. We don’t have intuitions, we build
The reason people used to not learn the skills Virginia had, was because they had a way of
justifying it. They thought she could do what she did because she was her, not because she was
her having skills that could be learned - and that you can learn to retrain your intuitions. To me, in
medicine, a diagnosis becomes a really good one when it tells you how to cure somebody. Or at
last what research to do to find out.
But psychology had a problem with research. This was the other misnomer for me. All of the
people in the field of psychology doing clinical work hated the people doing research who were
much better than the people doing clinical work and looked down at them, because they were busy
Now, if in the field of medicine the researcher didn’t talk to the doctors, we would all be dead. But
in the field of psychology they were getting away with it. Even at the college I was at, they stayed
in different places. There were the experimental psychologists, and the clinical people, and they
wouldn’t talk to each other, not even at the college! At the college, you’d take a class from the
clinical people and they’d tell you things about stimulus-response conditioning. About how rats
have no memory and no cognition, they memorise everything and it’s a series of motor
movements. Which is the most ludicrous thing I ever heard.
If you grew up in the inner city like I did, rats think, plan,
they have blueprints, they do team work, they have
watchers, they can figure out how to trick traps! And later in
my life, I went to one of these research facilities, where the
experimental psychologists showed me this new 10 million
dollar facility, back when 10 million dollars was actually a lot
of money. They had built these sophisticated mazes, and
they put these rats in them and the rats would run through
the maze and get the cheese… and then the scientists were hooking electrodes up to their brains,
all kinds of weird things. And I finally asked them, ‘So you really believe that the rats don’t have
any way of imagining where they’re going? That this is all motor movements and stimulus-
response?’ And they went, ‘Absolutely!’ And I went, ‘Okay, is swimming and running the same for
a rat?’ And this one researcher went, ‘Of course not, it’s a totally different activity.’ So I took wax
and put in the side of the maze, filled it up with water, put the rat in and it swam, right to the
The researchers didn’t like that. I looked at them and I said, ‘How do you explain that?’ There’s
only one way to explain it, the rat thought about it. It thought, ‘The cheese is down there at the
end, in the same place. If I swim, instead of run, I get the cheese, and the researcher gets the
Now, as I looked at what these researchers were doing, and I looked at what the clinicians were
doing… when I started out there was close to 150 schools of psychotherapy, and I do love the
name psycho therapy, because some of them were more psycho than others! Including such
wonderful things as Gestalt therapy. So I started perusing through them.
After Virginia, I went to all kinds of things. I went and met Fritz Perlz at Esalen Institute and they
told me he worked with crazy people, and when I got there I was convinced he was right. The
person that sent me down there, sent me down there because Fritz needed an editor, and I also
worked as an editor. And when I got there I went in the room and there were a whole bunch of
people sitting around on pillows, and a guy in director’s chair smoking cigarettes, three or four of
them at the same time - I think there were two in the ashtray and one in his mouth. There was a
guy sitting on a chair, and there was another chair which was empty. And he said, he said, as
clear as a bell, because I don’t know where it all started, but he says to the guy, ‘Put your father in
the chair.’ And the guy goes, ‘Okay,’ and looks at the chair. And I was waiting for his father to get
up, but apparently his father’s been dead for years! And I didn’t find that out until later, but he then
says, ‘Tell your father you’re angry!’ And the guy looks at the empty chair, and goes, ‘I’m angry!’
And Fritz says, ‘Say it louder.’ And he says, ‘I’m really fucking angry!’ And Fritz goes, ‘Scream!’
And he goes, ‘I’m angry!’ And he goes, ‘Hit him!’ And the guy attacks the fucking chair. And I
remember sitting there, my jaw had to be all the way
down to my knees, and I looked at this and I thought,
‘This is supposed to make you sane?’ And I said to
the person sitting there, ‘Is his father here?’ And the
person looked up and said, ‘No, his father’s dead.’
And I said, ‘Is he here?’ Because I thought maybe
he’d killed him earlier in the day. And he said, ‘No, no, he died 20 years ago.’
So here’s a guy, talking to his dead father. Actually he’s really talking to an empty chair by the
way. I tried this Gestalt therapy stuff, they made me do it. I didn’t want to but they made me, and I
like to try things out. And the guy told me to put myself in the other chair, so I got up and sat in it,
and they said, ‘No, just put yourself in the chair.’ And I said, ‘I did.’ And they said, ‘No, no, go back
to the chair you were in, and imagine yourself over there.’ And I went, ‘All right.’ And I don’t even
know why I was doing this. And then they said, ‘Tell yourself you’re angry.’ And I said, ‘I’m really
getting angry! Quite angry.’ And he said, ‘Scream it.’ So I screamed it and then he said to hit him.
So I smacked the therapist – pow, just like that! Popped him one, right on the nose, chair went
over backwards. I have to admit I did feel better! But saner… hallucinating dead relatives or
yourself, getting angry and beating up antique furniture… well, I have a black belt in Gestalt
therapy. I fear no furniture! But it doesn’t make you saner.
So I started looking at the work Virginia did. Virginia took people who had psychosomatic illnesses
and got them to stop doing it.
Now I met a very famous Englishman at this time, a guy named Gregory Bateson, and when I
wrote The Structure of Magic which was my thesis, it was a description of what, systematically, the
good psychotherapists were doing with language. I didn’t find, that out of this 150 schools,
anybody in any school of therapy could systematically help anybody with anything. Every once in
a while, somebody would get better. But not only did they not know why, they didn’t want to know
why or how. They thought if you did, you would be manipulating people.
By the way, to manipulate means to move from one place to another on purpose. But if you say it
with bad tonality, it sounds like it’s evil incarnate. That’s manipulative! You see, if you put your
dishes on the table, on purpose, rather than throwing them randomly out, you’re manipulating the
plates. You bad person!
So when I looked at all this, as we call, mishegoss, I decided I could use the skills that I had to go
through and see if I could figure out the difference between when a psychotherapist actually got a
result and the rest of the time, which was most of it. Because they were all arguing about who had
the right approach, when none of them could systematically do anything - which is a really bad
track record. But they had lots of reasons why. For example, most of them boiled down to, ‘It’s the
client's fault.’ 'Oh, you’re being resistant. That’s why you’re not changing.' My favourite, ‘You’re
not ready yet.’ That’s kind of like when you test the turkey in the oven, you go, ‘Oh, the turkey’s
not ready yet!’ Except you don’t charge the turkey 100 bucks an hour! There’s the difference!
Now when I looked at all of this I thought, ‘Well we need to be more systematic,’ so I got together a
group of doctors, and some psychiatrists, and I said, ‘Look I want to do a different kind of research.
I want to do research that will provide you skills in how to get results. So tell me what’s difficult?
What do you find really, really difficult?’ And the first thing they said to me was phobias. I went
‘phobias?’ And they explained to me, they said, ‘yes, there are some people that just the thought
of something terrifies them.’ So, I went with a psychiatrist who was going to see a phobic for the
first time, because I wanted to know what they did. The person came in, and the psychiatrist said,
‘First I need to know what you’re phobic of?’ And the person stopped and goes, ‘I’m afraid to even
talk about it.’ See, to me, I would have thought, ‘Well they have a fear of talking,’ and started with
that maybe. But anyway, he said, ‘Just give it a name,’ and I love it, the guy goes, ‘It’s name is
Barbara.’ That’s like naming your penis or something I guess. And the psychiatrist prodded him
for another 20 minutes and finally he said what it was, that he was afraid of dark, which is kind of
hard to avoid because it happens every fucking night. And by the time he said it, I have to admit, I
laughed. Apparently that’s not considered Kosher when people are doing therapy, to laugh at
them. I’ve since learned it’s actually a lot more helpful. If you laugh at it, maybe they can. They
always tell you you’re going to look back and laugh! My policy is don’t wait so long!
But anyway, this guy, this went on and on. He was there for
three hours going on and on about how he protected himself
with night lights and he left lights on all over the house. He
even had lanterns in case the electricity went off. He was very
well prepared to maintain this fear for the rest of his life. And
the psychiatrist started asking him… what the psychiatrist
considered very relevant questions. He said, ‘Well, when did
this start?’ And he goes, ‘Well it goes back as long as I can remember.’ And the psychiatrist went,
‘Mmm.’ Wrote something on his notepad, then leaned forward, raised an eyebrow and said, ‘Tell
me about your relationship with your mother.’ And I remember sitting there thinking, ‘That’s kind of
nosey!’ And I asked the psychiatrist afterwards, ‘What was all that?’ Because he talked about it
for 30 minutes with this guy about, you know… he said, ‘Was your mother affectionate?’ And the
guy said, ‘Well, I guess.’ And he goes, ‘Was she very affectionate?’ And the guy went, ‘Well no,
she would hug me and stuff.’ And he said, did she ever touch you inappropriately?’ Whatever that
means. Sounds like a leading question if you were in court. But anyway, he said, ‘No.’ And he
said, ‘Did you ever want to see your mother naked?’ And he looked and said, ‘I don’t think so.’
And the psychiatrist said, ‘Ahh.’ And I looked over at his notepad and he wrote down the word,
‘repressing’ which for those of you that don’t know, that’s synonymous with the word ‘hiding’.
Repression, in other words if you’re not agreeing with me it’s because you’re hiding it from
yourself. That’s another way of saying I can’t be wrong. I like that. I can’t be wrong. I’m very
rarely wrong but then I don’t have any opinion so it’s easy.
But anyway, being the kind of guy I was, I asked the psychiatrist, I said, ‘Would you mind if I tried
something?’ And he said, ‘What?’ And I said to the guy, ‘Okay, I don’t really want to know about
your mother, I want to know what happens when you close your eyes.’ And the guy goes, ‘What?’
I said, ‘When you close your eyes. Is it dark in there?’ And the guy said, ‘What do you mean?’ I
said, ‘When you close your eyes is there a light on in your head? Because every time you blink
you cut out the light.’ And I said, ‘Try it. Put both hands over your eyes and tell me if it’s light or
dark.’ And he goes like this, and he goes, ‘Well I can see things.’ And I said, ‘Well there must be a
light on somewhere. So how could you possibly be afraid of the dark? If there’s a light on inside
your head all the time, you really have nothing to worry about. You’re afraid of this for no reason.’
And the guy looked at me, and he goes, ‘You know, that makes a lot of sense.’ That I didn’t know!
But it just seemed… I said, ‘Tell you what, cover your eyes,’ and I had noticed there was a coat
closet when we came in, because they put my coat in it, so I went in and turned the light off in the
coat close and took all of the coats out. I walked him up like this into the closet, and closed the
door. And I told him to count to ten. And then I opened the door and I said, ‘Did you count to ten?’
He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Okay, this time, start at 10 and count to 1 and when you get to one open
your eyes. And when you open your eyes there’ll be no lights on, it will be completely dark but
you’ll feel fine.’ And he counted to 10, I opened the door, I said, ‘How do you feel?’ He goes,
‘Stupid.’ And I said, ‘Why?’ And he said, ‘Because I’m standing in the closet?’ And I said, ‘Is it
more stupid to be comfortable in a dark closet, or to be afraid of the dark every night?’ And he
started to laugh.
Now, I then got the idea that what we needed to do, because I investigated… I called all kinds of
guys that I knew that were shrinks and psychologists that I’d met over the year… kept asking them,
‘What specifically do you do to make a fear go away quickly?’ This guy was not so afraid, I took
him outside in the dark, in fact we had to hunt for dark because it was San Francisco and there
isn’t a lot of dark around. So we went up just the right streets. And I kept saying to him, ‘Be afraid
here.’ And he’d go, ‘Right now?’ And I’d go, ‘Yes, right now!’ I’d go, ‘Is this not dark enough, we’ll
go further down the alley. Are you afraid now? How about if we move two feet and be afraid?’
And suddenly it became a silly thing and he started laughing because what he was really doing
was recalibrating and learning, which is the thing human beings do really well.
Now, over the years I’ve found loads and loads of ways of doing this. But when I started the first
phobia project, it was because I was dissatisfied with what psychotherapy had created. So I put an
ad in the newspaper and I said, anybody that had a terrible overwhelming fear, and got over it –
heights, spiders, snakes, don’t care what it is – if you got over a fear, I’ll pay you 100 bucks to talk
to me about it. Then everybody that came in, I gave a lie detector test to, to make sure they really
had a fear, because a lot of people were just after the money. And I
weeded it down to roughly 80 or 90 people, and then I had them all
describe to me how they got over the fear, and almost every one of
them told me the same story.
It went like this: they said, 'well for years and years and years I
suffered with my fear of escalators, and I couldn’t go near an
escalator. I figured out ways round escalators. I wouldn’t go to places with escalators. And finally,
one day, I got totally fed up and I looked at myself being so afraid and I thought, Enough is
enough. And I took myself some place while I was angry and I rode up the damn escalator. Since
then I’ve never been afraid.
Now, it occurred to me that this might not be a bad idea if people did this without waiting 20 years.
Especially if you do a lot of therapy in the meanwhile, it gets expensive. Or worse - because a lot
of the people I met who had had too much therapy started with one fear and after a few years of
therapy, they had a whole bunch of them. That's because they used these techniques where they
had them go back and relive things. Psychology likes you to relive problems, that’s another thing I
found very hard to understand. It’s not bad enough that some shitty thing happened to you. You
have to go back and relive it, because we all know how having the same experience over again
doesn’t reinforce it!
Now as a person who used to train dogs, the more you do the same thing, the more you get the
same response. So the whole notion of reliving trauma didn’t seem like a good idea. But as it was
explained to me by a psychiatrist, ‘It releases anger or it releases the pain.’ So it’s kind of like
you’ve got a big bag inside you and you have a bad experience and it fills with pain, and every time
you relive it, it squeezes and squirts the pain out somehow. And I examined the human body in an
autopsy, and could find no such bag. I tried all kinds of things, it just doesn’t make sense.
Fortunately they’d invented this new machine called the MRI. It showed you pictures of the brain.
So what I did is I got every doctor I knew, every psychiatrist…to send me a claustrophobic. I
loaded them all into a bus! No, it gets worse than that! I covered the windows first. And I told
them that was for their own protection. Rode them across town in this thing. Because it was so
expensive MRI’s in those days, they only allowed me to use the machine at night, I had to pay my
own technician and I had to pay a fee, it was very complicated. And the technician, it was very
hard to talk him into it until he said, ‘What are you going to do?’ And I said, ‘We’re going to
photograph fear.’ And he looked at me and he went, ‘What?’ I said, ‘I’m going to take people and
terrify them and you’re going to take pictures of the brain and tell me what happens.’ And he
looked at me with this morose look, and he went, ‘Really?’ And I said, ‘Right!’
Now in those days an MRI was a little tube and they laid you on a little plate and you went into this
dark little tube – perfect for claustrophobics don’t you think? The only problem is if you move too
much you don’t get a good picture. That was the hard part for me, but being a musician I knew you
could solve any problem with something called gaffer tape. So one by one I brought these people
in. After having been in the bus for way too long, they were still freaked out, and I would look at
them and go, ‘How are you feeling?’ And they’d go, ‘I don’t know man, my heart’s beating, my
heart is racing, I’m really very upset.’ And I’d go, ‘Why don’t you lay down and relax for a minute?’
And they’d go, ‘What is this?’ I go, ‘It’s a device that will help you to feel better,’ and then I’d start
duct taping them down. And they’d go, ‘Why are you doing that?’ And I would say, ‘I don’t want
you to fall off if you fall asleep.’ And when I did the one on the forehead, they’d look up and they’d
have that, ‘Oh shit,’ look on their face. Then we’d press the button, and they’d go ‘rrrrr’ into the
tube and you’d hear, ‘Ooooh!’ but they couldn’t move, and I’d give the signal to the MRI guy, and
you’d hear, ‘pht, pht, pht,’ that lovely sound the MRI makes, and we’d roll them out and we’d go
and look at the pictures.
Well, it turns out everyone had almost the same picture. Oddly enough. One
hemisphere going completely nuts and the other doing nothing. And I thought
to myself, ‘Aha!’ So I took these claustrophobics, and fortunately there was a
small closet, I do like closets – and I took one of them, and the guy came out
and he was still a little bit upset for some reason – he came out and was
shaking like a leaf, and he goes, ‘That was absolutely horrible!’ And I said, ‘Good, can I give you a
pill?’ And he said, ‘Oh yes,’ and I handed him a tennis ball. And he went ‘What’s this?’ And I said,
‘It’s my kind of pill.’ He goes, ‘What should I do with it?’ I said, 'throw it from your left hand to your
right hand.’ And I had him throw it back and forth like this. Immediately he calmed down, like this,
because in order to do this you have to use both hemispheres. And I had him calmly walk over
and look at the small closet and I said, ‘Is it a small closet?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Walk in.’
He walked in the closet and I closed the door. He sat in there just fine. I opened the door and
said, ‘How do you feel?’ He said, ‘Fine.’
Now this is really good for claustrophobics, I don’t recommend it for driving phobias. And it’s also
the first step. Once I understood that you could suspend this, I needed to have a way to come up
with a technique to get fear to disappear.
Now over the years I’ve come up with a whole lot of formulas to do things, and tonight I want to
show you some of them, because as we began to take inventory and started to look at how people
subjectively do things… I started asking people questions. I wanted to be able to sort things out. I
wanted to be able to sort them out in a way where I knew how people made distinctions. For
example, with people who had phobias, I wanted to know how they knew when to start being
afraid. Because somebody with a fear of heights doesn’t walk up, look over the edge and is afraid,
they’re afraid before they even get near there. Some of them are afraid on the ground. And since
you’re only born with two natural fears – LOUD NOISES and falling – all the rest of them you
Now, some of your fears are probably good. People who are afraid of snakes and don’t know
anything about them probably shouldn’t be sticking their fingers in snakes. Alligators – a good
thing to be afraid of. There’s that alligator guy that used to dance with the alligators – well he knew
about alligators, so he wasn’t so afraid. Of course he did get killed, but not by an alligator.
To me there are things that can hurt you, for example, buses. First time I came to London I
discovered buses come from the opposite direction! I remember looking down at the street and it
said, ‘Look this way.’ And I went like that, and there was a bus about to cream me, and I was
almost stepping in the street and part of my body went ‘fear’ and then I did that flight reaction thing
of jumping backwards, and it turned out it was actually somebody pulling me backwards.
Somebody grabbed me by the collar and yanked me back, and since then, when I go up to the
street, I now know why my mother said, ‘Look both ways before crossing,’ because you might be in
Now, the thing is, is we understand that this is what happens, then we begin to understand that
consciousness is made out of something. So I began to have these doctors, and most of them
were GPs, who had bad luck sending people to psychiatrists, and some of them were psychiatrists
that were dissatisfied with what they were doing. So we would get together and take groups. We
tried different things. One time we did claustrophobics, the next time we did height phobics, and
then we switched from phobias to other things, because they started asking me, they said, ‘What
do you do with depressives?’ And the answer seemed simple to me, ‘Cheer them up!’
I got a subliminal tape one time, I do love this. The subliminal tape had suggestions that you
couldn’t hear. Do you think that’s a good idea? And it had the sound of the ocean and it was on a
loop and just went round and it was the most un-oceany ocean sound you’ve ever heard. It was a
long time ago. And this tape loop played and apparently even though I couldn’t hear it there were
words underneath saying things that would make me less stressed out. And I had a little difficulty
believing this, but being a scientist I went to the place where they were made, and I made my own
tape. Under it, the sound of the ocean, I put 100,000 suggestions that were much like this:
'Everything’s going to freak you the fuck out! Be nervous. Argghh! That’s horrible.'
I put the sound of the ocean over the top. And I went to a place called The Centre for Stress,
because boy can psychologists name places! I taught a seminar at a place called The Centre of
Mental Retardation. And apparently it was working! I love this – people give me their card, it goes
Alcoholic Counsellor, and I always look at it and go, ‘You know you can get help for this.’
Educationally Handicapped Teacher – aww!
The place I went to was called The Centre for Stress. Not stress relief, not, The Centre for
Comfort, not The Centre for Handling your Problems, but the Centre for Stress. And it pretty much
was by the way. The people in there were wringing their hands and biting their tongue. There was
some guy grinding his teeth. And I went in, and the person introduced me and said, this is Dr
Bandler, he’s done lots of amazing works, this is his book. And he has a new project he wants you
guys to participate in. And I went in and I said, ‘Do you guys know about subliminal tapes?’ And
almost every one of them did and one guy said, ‘I tried it.’ And I said, ‘Well I’ve made a new one,
it’s very different than the others.’ Which was true. And then I described to them incredibly
hypnotically and scientifically about how I had put suggestions underneath this, and if they listened
to it while they were driving, while they slept, and several times during the day, their level of stress
would slowly begin to disappear to the point where all of the things that made them stressed would
suddenly seem totally unimportant. In fact, right now, if they stopped and
looked at themselves being stressed out every day, a voice in their head
would say, ‘I’m sick of this, I’m totally fed up with this. I hate this. I want
to be able to have the same thing happen and be calm as calm could be.’
The same thing the 100 people had told me.
Now basically I’ve taken 10 minutes to give a few verbal suggestions. This tape has 1000,000
verbal suggestions because they copied them and made them happen really fast so that you
couldn’t hear them.
People went home and I came back a month later and I asked everyone to turn in their tapes, and
no one would. I said, ‘You have to give them back.’ And they went, ‘I don’t want to give it back.’
And people started to say, ‘I didn’t bring mine with me.’ And they’d look at their bag and go, ‘I
didn’t bring it. It’s not with me, I don’t have it.’ And I finally said, ‘Well, what happened?’ And they
began… 'The more I listened to it, the more relaxed I got.' So actually, a few verbal suggestions
that you actually hear seem to over ride the ones you don’t. Which makes sense to me. But not
only were they suggestions, they were suggestions designed with hypnotic language patterns,
because I seemed to discover that all these psychotherapists, whether they knew it or not, were
doing hypnosis. And really good hypnosis, but really bad suggestions most of the time.
For example, I saw this: a person came in and the therapist said to him, ‘How was your week?’
And the person said to him, ‘Well, things seemed a lot better.’ And the therapist went, ‘They
seemed that way!’ And the guy went, ‘Well, yes.’ 'And what else did you feel?' And the person
goes, ‘Well I was nervous one time.’ And he goes, ‘What made you nervous?’ Like that was more
important than the good parts of the week. Let’s focus on the shit in our lives! And let’s amplify it.
Let’s make it the biggest thing in our minds so that we can get good at it and do it every day! That
way we can stay in business!
Now, to me, realising these things, I began to design things. And I want to demonstrate a little bit
about what I learned. So I’m going to need a little help because unfortunately I don’t bring my own
clients with me because I find there’s enough people who have enough horse shit no matter where
I go. So is there anybody in here that had a bad memory and you think about it way too much and
it makes you feel bad. You do sir? You seem smiling an awful lot for someone who’s got a bad
memory! I beg your pardon? There you go! Do you smile when you think about this? No – and it
makes you feel really bad? Has it done it for a long time? Okay, why don’t you come up here and
(Audience applause. A man goes on stage with Richard Bandler)
Richard: Where’s your name tag?
Man: It’s in my jacket.
Richard: Are you really in this seminar?
Man: Yes sir!
Richard: Hey, we’ve got somebody who snuck in! Take him out and draw and quarter him please!
Just sit, that’s all right.
Man: In the chair?
Richard: (Pause) You’re a complicated guy aren’t you? (Audience laughter) Okay, now you don’t
need to tell us what this is, that’s not important, it doesn’t matter what it is. So how often do you
think about this?
Man: Most days.
Richard: Okay, how do you know when to have a day off?
Man: I’ve been working on it.
Richard: You’ve been working at what?
Man: Trying to think of other things.
Richard: 'Trying'. That sounds like you’re failing. If I say I tried to open the door, it means I didn’t
by the way. But anyway, when you think about it, it does make you feel bad?
Man: It does make me feel bad.
Richard: Okay. Do you think about it once a day, ten times a day?
Man: Probably three, five times.
Richard: Okay, and when you think about it, how long do you think about it?
Man: Up to three hours.
Richard: Per time?
Man: Per time.
Richard: That’s like nine hours in a day.
Man: Yes, I think about stuff a lot.
Richard: No, you think about one thing a lot, because there’s no day left!
Man: Yes, I think about it when I’m doing other things, I think about it all the time.
Richard: You think about it all the time? Well, you think about it nine hours a day. Okay, well let’s
be conservative and say…
Man: It’s been getting better.
Richard: It’s been getting better? Does that mean like seven and a half? Alright…
Man: Probably down to an hour a day.
Richard: Oh, an hour a day. Well that’s only about 5000 hours every ten years… but not a lot of
time, there’s nothing you could do with 5000 extra hours in the next ten years. Do you know how
much sex you could have in 5000 hours. [laughter] Are you married?
Man: No Sir.
Richard: Do you have a… you don’t have time to be married. Do you have a girlfriend?
Man: These two things are related.
Richard: Aha, okay.
Man: So if I think about sex then I’m back to thinking about her, so…
Richard: Well you can be, but if she’s not there it’s not as much fun... then you’re actually having a
relationship with your right hand. Hey baby, it’s you and me tonight! [laughter] I love you!
Richard: Now, let me ask you this: when you think about this, I have a guess, because I’m a very
intuitive person, Virginia taught me to be intuitive… that the memory itself is either life-size or larger
Man: Larger than life.
Richard: Larger than life. So it’s not only do you have a movie in your head, you have an IMAX.
Richard: Okay, that’s cool, so how big is it then? Is it as big as this room?
Man: Bigger than the…
Richard: I’m talking about the picture in your head, size wise.
Man: The universe fits inside the picture, it’s an existential kind of…
Richard: I don’t want to be existential, I want to be literal. When I say it’s larger than life, is the
Man: It’s as big as Boston and New York.
Richard: Yes, well but when you visualise something the size of Boston in your head, how big is
Man: As big as this room.
Richard: So you have a gigantic screen inside your head with a big fucking horrible picture?
Richard: And do you have a big wall in your house?
Man: Not at the moment.
Richard: You don’t have any walls in your house?
Man: We have walls, but there are probably a few that are big…
Richard: Fairly good… okay. If I came in and painted the most horrible thing you’d ever seen on
the wall in your house, would you leave it there?
Richard: But you’d leave one in your head?
Man: That seems to be what I’ve been doing.
Richard: Okay, it seems to be what you’ve been doing? It seems… it’s not really what you’re
Man: No it is, that’s what I’ve…
Richard: Just say, ‘yes’ when the answer is yes.
Man: Yes sir!
Richard: You want to use that penis again? [laughter] Alright, now we’re going to try a little
experiment because the brain is designed to remember and to forget. And both of those things are
good things, especially if you get to choose which ones are which. And it’s not so much that you
forget things, it’s that they don’t affect you viscerally, because when you think about this it makes
you feel bad enough and of course you do it
again and again and again, and then you have
to have some crappy internal dialogue to go
with it, just because…what would a picture be
without some sound? In fact, you should really
Richard: You’ve got an orchestra?
Richard: Oh my God, there you go It’s the whole work of art isn’t it? You know, if you’re going to
destroy your life why screw around? Violins, the whole thing. Yes, that’s great. Well if you’re
going to be stupid do it in style, that’s what I say.
Now what I’m going to ask you to do is really quite simple, okay. Don’t do it until I’ve finished
giving you the instructions because I don’t want you to do part of it I want you to do the whole
thing. What I want you to do is I’m going to have you close your eyes and look at this big, fucking,
nasty picture, and the minute you start to see it, I want you to shrink it down to a circle this big and
I want you to start flickering it between black and white. Okay. You understand. Okay, you
ready? Take a deep breath, close your eyes, look at the big bad picture… shrink it down… blink it
black and white, blink it black and white, blink it black and white….
Okay? Now, one more thing I want you to do. Okay, that’s good enough, you’ve got it, that’s
simple, I know how the brain works. I don’t understand what Freud did, I understand something
that works. It’s a little different.
Now the other thing I want you to do, is I want you… you know this memory, however long it went
on, it’s got a beginning and it’s got an end. Otherwise… it may be three hours long but who gives
a shit? You know where the end is. Okay. You may replay it a few times, but wherever it is, I
want you to look at the last picture, in a minute, not yet, don’t jump ahead. I want you to look at the
last picture and then I want you to rewind it to the beginning as fast as possible, so everyone’s
walking backwards, talking backwards, back to the beginning, and we’re going to throw in a little
circus music to make it interesting.
Man: Okay, close my eyes yes?
Richard: Yes, ready? Close your eyes, jump to the end, start running it backwards, [music] all the
way to the beginning and stop!
There we go. Okay. Now all you did was two things. It took us about three or four minutes.
You’re convinced this was a bad thing right? Feeling bad about this, right?
Richard: Okay, now I want you to go back and look at it again. [pause] Can you make yourself
Richard: [laughter] I can put it back if you want?
Man: Thanks for that, that’ll do just fine. Thank you very much.
Richard: Well we’re not done yet though.
Man: Oh no!
Richard: Well I worry about things, I’m a worrier by nature. What are you going to do with the
4000 hours? Have you thought about that?
Man: Well revenge was one of the things…
Richard: Then you’re still thinking about it. Do you want your future to be squarely aimed at your
Richard: Do you know the best thing about the past?
Man: It’s in the past.
Richard: It’s over. That’s the best thing about the past. You know the best thing about the future?
You can do all kinds of wonderful fucking shit. You can do things you haven’t even dreamt about
yet because you’ve been too busy replaying this bullshit over and over again. If you worry about
the past, it reappears.
I had a friend once that got jilted by his wife. Her name was Christina, they were friends of mine
and I didn’t see him for about a year, he went off and practised depression until he got really good
at it. And he would come over and he would go, ‘Do you think you could help me with the
depression?’ And I said, ‘No, you’re doing a fine job!’ So, finally one time he came over and I did
a little something and he was feeling pretty good, and he left… then I get this call that he’s getting
married. It’s only 30 days later. And I went, ‘Uh oh!’ And I went over and the weirdest thing was,
not only did he find someone like this woman, she looked exactly like her. She looked exactly… it
was scary! And I accidentally kept calling her Christina, which was not a good thing to do by the
way, that doesn’t make you a very good friend, but I just couldn’t help myself. I would say, ‘Oh
Christina would you pass me the sugar?’ And she would go, ‘I’m
not Christina!’ And I would look at him and go, ‘Is she or is she
not? She might be, and if she is, she’ll do the same thing!’ But he
married her and she jilted him. So thank you very much, you did
Now this brings up the idea, see, because… how many years have you been doing this again?
Man: Since 2003.
Richard: Not a mathematician are we? Six! [laughter] We’ll get to learning strategies later in the
lecture! One… two…three… then we start over again…one, no that’s two!
You see when I started doing things like this, psychologists would look at me and they’d say, Well
Richard you just don’t understand.’ And I’d go, ‘I’m good at that.’ The trouble with understanding
is that you can think you’re right when you can’t do things. 150 schools of psychotherapy that
thought they were right when they couldn’t change people on purpose. When people would come
in and go, ‘I’m plagued with this bad thing,’ you could tell a therapist ‘til you’re blue in the face,
they’d even have you relive the bad things and the break up, and they’d have you imagine your
girlfriend there and tell her off and… all kinds of crap. You can’t imagine the humiliating things they
make people do, and you know… I had to watch this stuff to try and figure out where the good stuff
was. But also in the process it taught me a lot about the belief systems. Because believing that
people are broken is opposed to the fact that people are good learners.
You learned to replay this memory over and over again. Therefore you could play all kinds of
things over and over again. You did it in great detail, you did it in great big pictures. Imagine, if
instead you built this big belief that was a room size belief that said your life was going to be
superb, you were going to find happiness, you’re going to be determined, successful, you’re going
to persevere in business and persevere in finding perfect relationships and doing all the wonderful
things you can do on planet earth. Probably it would drive you to have all kinds of different feelings
– just a suggestion mind you!
Now, as I began to see other people’s clients, because as they would bring them in, I was only
searching for the way to do things. And in fact I tried things. For example in New Orleans there
was an institute for shyness. And I didn’t think that was necessarily a good thing but the guy
running it asked me… he was in one of my seminars, and he said that he’d been seeing this
group… By the way, group therapy for shyness is kind of interesting enough itself, not as
interesting as group treatments of sexual addiction however. When I heard Michael Douglas,
when he had some problems, went to group therapy for sex addiction, I thought, ‘Well that’s kind of
a self-fulfilling prophecy! You sit around with a whole group of people and this woman goes, ‘Oh I
just can’t turn down sex.’ And you go, ‘Me neither, my phone number is this…’ You know. ‘We
should go out and have coffee and talk about it!’ ‘In fact, I have a canister in the back seat of my
But anyway I went to this group shyness thing and when I got there, the guy had said, ‘Do you
think you can give my people a boost and help them along?’ And I said, ‘I don’t do boosts, I do
changes. If I get in the room I’m going to ask questions and find out what’s going on,’ because
most of the time people are pretty good about telling you things, if you really listen to them. The
trouble with psychology is they interpret everything. When I was perusing through the field of
psychology I went to an ‘encounter group’ and this was a group psychotherapy thing and we all
went and sat in a circle and they gave us 16 pages of rules to follow to communicate effectively.
And the first one was, ‘Don’t ask questions.’ Which I can’t do that one, that’s not a rule that I can
follow so I had to ask the group leader, ‘Why can’t we ask questions?’ And he said, ‘Mr Bandler,
we don’t ask questions here, we state the feeling behind them.’ I said, ‘Oh okay, I feel I want to
know why we can’t ask questions.’ And he said, ‘Because it blocks us from our real feelings.’ And
I said, ‘Oh, maybe you’re right, I really feel I want to know why we can’t ask questions.’
He looked at me and he went, ‘Maybe you’ll learn something by watching.’ And he turned around
and said to this woman, he said, ‘Louise, how are you doing today?’ And she absolutely burst into
tears. It was like clock work, it was like it’s now time to begin and bang, she went off like an
explosion, crying and sobbing and muttering something about her father and blah, blah, and she
was going on and on and on, and he kept asking repeatedly, ‘And how do you feel about that?’
Which, by the way, I later found out, translates in psychotherapy language to, ‘I have no fucking
idea what to do about this!’ So if a therapist looks at you and goes, ‘And how do you feel about
this?’ it’s basically their way of saying, ‘I have no fucking idea what to do at this moment and I’m
hoping something pops up along the way.’
But then he turned back and looked at me and I had my arms and legs crossed, and by the way
that was to keep from laughing, because I thought the whole thing was rather silly. And he said to
me, ‘You’re closed to new ideas.’ And I said, ‘What?’ And he looked at me, and he said, ‘Your
arms and legs are closed. You’re closed to new ideas.’ And I looked down at my legs and I said,
‘That’s not where ideas go in! I don’t think!’
Anyway, I’ve always thought I was pretty open, I have some wild ideas and I’ve listened to people
with great ideas from all over the planet, and a lot of the things I’ve learned I’ve learned from
people that didn’t even know they were teaching me. Like at the Shyness Clinic. I asked this guy
at the Shyness Clinic, because after listening to them go on about how they couldn’t meet people
and they couldn’t this and they couldn’t that, I finally turned around and I asked this guy, ‘Are you
sure you’re shy?’ And he goes, ‘Oh I am, very shy, deathly shy.’ And I go, ‘How do you know
when to be shy?’ And he said it in one sentence, he said, ‘When I don’t think people will like me.’
And I went, ‘Oh that clears it up totally! Utterly!’ And the psychologist that took me in goes, ‘What
do you mean?’ And I said, ‘Well I know exactly what to do now, do you?’ And he said, ‘About
what?’ And I said, ‘To make this guy so he’s not shy anymore. He told me, were you listening?’
And I said, ‘What did he say?’ Because he taught something called active listening, and
apparently the activity is distorting what you hear into something else. He said, ‘He said that
people will dislike him.’ And I said, ‘No he didn’t, he says he does the activity of not thinking that
people will like him.’
So I sat down, there was a cocktail lounge next door, I sat down and said, ‘Look, in a moment
you’re going to go next door. I want you to imagine walking in, there’s a table with three people,
you go over and talk to them, and they just like you so much and they talk to you. And you go up
to the bar and there are two people and you talk to them and they like you. There are three pretty
girls in the corner, and you go over and introduce yourself and they’re cheerful and like you. And
then you talk to two people and they don’t like you, and then you talk to two and they do like you,
and you talk to two and they don’t like you, and you talk to three and they do like you.’ And I said,
‘Do you want to go next door? Go over for 10 minutes and come back.’ He went next door and
didn’t return. So I finally said to the psychologist, ‘Go over and get that guy!’ And he came over
and then the psychologist came back and said, ‘He doesn’t want to leave!’
Now the thing is I believe most of the time people will tell you what you need to know if you really
listen. Somebody like him will come into my office and go, ‘I had a break up in the past and I blew
it out of proportion.’ Because that’s what you did. When it happened… how big was she in the
picture? Like 20ft high or something, 18, 16, 15? Was she really that tall? So if you have this
Amazon woman, breaking up with you in this bad picture… you know, excuse me, but if you can’t
laugh at that, you have to suffer for the rest of your fucking life. It’s only when you put things ‘in
perspective’ which means making the pictures smaller. You see years ago I became famous for
kind of a stupid thing. Psychologists claim to be observant, that’s what they always said, ‘I’m
observant.’ Not only were they observant, they were objective about what they observed, which
meant they interpreted behaviour. And they had this way of going, ‘Mmm,’ writing shit down, it was
So I came along and started asking questions about their hallucinations as well because
somewhere along the line they missed something which is utterly fucking obvious. Now when I
taught at the university they required that I give a final examination, and they came to me and they
said, ‘Last quarter you didn’t give a final examination.’ And I said, ‘Well the kids spent three
months with me, I should know how well they’re doing.’ And they said, ‘Well that’s not acceptable
under the university rules, you must give a final examination.’ So when it came time to give the
test I had everybody… I told them it was going to be a very rigorous test…and I wasn’t going to
write the questions down so anybody could steal them, I was going to ask them and they were to
write the answers down. So they came in and they all sat there nervously with their pieces of
paper and I said, ‘Okay, what colour are your mothers eyes?’ And they all went, ‘What?’ And I
said, ‘Answer the question!’ And they all did this [indicates an eye movement], they all went, and
wrote it down, except for about 10 of the people. They all had their watch on this arm, they just
happened to be left-handed. They did this [indicates an eye movement]. Then I said, ‘Would you
like an animal with a giraffe’s body and a
rhinoceros’ head?’ And they all looked to the
opposite side. Then I said things like, ‘When
you lay down and you slide into a warm bath, do
you float?’ And they all went, like this.
[indicates an eye movement] Now, when I was
doing this, I didn’t expect it, but after the test was over I went to the neurological library, to the
science library, looked the neurology journals and I find a weird experiment by a woman named
Dorothy Komora where, you know your eyes jiggle all the time like this…because if they didn’t the
world would disappear. And to prove this, a neurologist attached to the eyeball, photographs, so
that you were looking at a photograph of a house and as your eyes jiggled, of course, the nerves
habituate, and you have to fire a nerve, then the one next to it, then the one next to it, so your eyes
move all the time. Any nerve that’s repeatedly fired just stops working. But when they did this, the
picture went white and disappeared. And of course the neurologist said, ‘What was it a picture of?’
And oddly enough a large percentage of people looked up into the left, because it turns out,
remembering visual images, the more complex they are, the most people have to access visually,
and we have a neurological accessing cue.
Now I put this in a book many, many years ago - although last month this was just discovered - I
read it in the New Scientist... apparently somebody just 'discovered' this 40 years later. I started
teaching psychotherapists that they could actually see something and that it did have meaning.
But it wasn’t about whether you were opened or closed or repressed or a good person or anything
like that, it told you how they were neurologically representing their experience.
We have senses, we can hear things and we make pictures of it. We can hear things and repeat it,
we can hear things and have feelings about it. In fact most of verbal language is represented as
tonality. The difference between hypnotic language and verbal language is tenuous at best. Most
of you have no idea how you’re understanding what I’m saying now, and I am a hypnotist. So you
don’t stand a chance, it’s already too late! Think about that!
Now when I told these doctors and these therapists that I was going to go and study with Milton
and learn hypnosis they freaked. They went, ‘Oh no, don’t learn hypnosis!’ And I went, ‘Why
wouldn’t I learn something?’ ...They said, ‘Oh no, hypnosis is bad and it doesn’t exist.’ Good
combination, don’t you think? And I’d go, ‘Wait a minute, hypnosis is bad, and it doesn’t exist?’
And they’d go, ‘Not really.’
Well actually in 1955 the AMA decided it does exist but it can only be used to treat hysterical
symptoms. For example, hysterical paralysis. This is where your leg is paralysed but there’s no
neurological reason for it. And so… I was a little confused about this, because being a
mathematician, we sort of like things that are different than other people. And when they told me
this, I said, ‘Well why wouldn’t I want to use hypnosis?’ And they said to me, ‘It’s because it only
treats the symptom.’ And I went: ‘That’s a good thing isn’t it?’ And they went, ‘No, it’s not a good
thing. If you suppress the symptom it’ll come out somewhere else.’
Now when you tell mathematicians that we get excited. That’s all we do. We squeeze these
numbers and these pop over here. We love doing that. So I went, ‘Really?’ And they went, ‘Oh
yes.’ And I said, ‘So I take that guy with hysterical paralysis, I get the paralysis out of that leg, and
I give him the best erections of any man that ever lived.’ And they went, ‘No, it has to come out
somewhere bad,’ And I went, ‘That is bad, real bad.’
Now, as it turns out... their belief was that things couldn’t evolve in a good way, and that treating
the symptom was a bad thing. That really the important part of therapy is discovering who you
really were. If you don’t like yourself, and here’s the paradox, first you must accept yourself the
way you are, then you have to find out who you really are. Even the order of that sounds wrong to
me. First you should find out who you really are and then maybe accept yourself. But then if you
find out who you really are and you don’t like yourself why should you accept it? If you could learn
to be a fucking idiot, you should be able to learn to be somebody interesting, somebody nice,
With all this pathology talk I became interested in education because I decided it was a learning
process. So I took a class at the university on education and there wasn’t any of it going on! So I
asked somebody I knew, I knew somebody who was a principle of a school and I said, ‘I would like
to try something at the school as an experiment. And he said, ‘What?’ And I said, ‘I want you to
give me all of your worst students for an hour a day for one week,’ And he said, ‘What are you
going to do?’ And I said, ‘I’m going to try to get them to the top of the class.’ And he looked at me
and said, ‘You’re very idealistic,’ and I said, ‘I’m fucking crazy! But if it can’t be done you have
nothing to worry about.’ So I went in and had each of the teachers give me a learning disabled
student or two, and I had the teachers give me a list of what they couldn’t do. And at the top of the
list of every single kid, was spell. They all were bad spellers, in fact they were very specific about
their bad spelling. They go, they’re fifth graders, they were all fifth graders, and they said, ‘He’s not
even spelling at the first grade level.’
Now I’m a little confused about this grade level thing because I think it’s an artificial concept. I
don’t think in the universe there really is such a thing as grade levels, and I really don’t believe that
words… they’re in the spelling books by grade levels, but I really don’t think there’s such a thing as
a third grade word and a fourth grade word and a fifth grade word, I think somebody at a publishing
company made this up so that they could sell loads of books. But it’s very convincing until you
take a good look at it. Because when I went to school, every year they gave me a different book to
learn to spell, and on the front of it, is said, 'puh-honics'. Now if you can’t spell phonetics
phonetically it can’t be a good system.
So I took these kids and set them in this little office and I said to them, ‘Look kids, do you know
why you’re here with me.’ And this little girl looked at me and she goes, ‘It’s because we’re stupid,’
and I said, ‘That’s right!’ [laughter] And they all looked like this, and I said, ‘But you’re not as
stupid as me! I was the stupidest kid ever, so I’m going to teach you all how to cheat and never
get caught.’ And they looked up and they went, ‘Really?’ And I went, ‘Yes, but you can’t tell
anybody. If they ask what we’re doing in here, just say I’ve been punishing you. And if they say
how, say, ‘Well he makes us do things.’ And they go, ‘What things?’ And you go, ‘I’m
embarrassed to talk about it.’ [laughter]
So, what I did is I took the words in their spelling book and instead of leaving them little typed tiny
words, what I did is I wrote each letter big. We used to have blackboards in those days so I got to
use chalk, with a different colour [he begins to write the word "COLOR" on the board], oh this is
England I remember, you have an extra letter in the word colour! Is that right? That’s not right is
it? There we go. That’s the trouble with learning to spell phonetically! But anyway, we did each of
the things and I said, ‘Close your eyes and make a picture of the word,’ and I asked them the
question, ‘What colour is the ‘L’?’ because in order to answer that it must be a remembered image.
Now I did this with each of the words, 10 words, per week, for the
whole school thing. We went through each of them, made a picture
and I’d go, ‘Tell me the letters backwards, tell me the letters
forwards, tell me what colour the ‘O’ is, tell me what colour the… we
didn’t have a U because we were in America… ‘Tell me what colour
the ‘R’ is?’ Now, in order to answer those questions… now once
they did ten words, then I had them do the next ten, the next ten, at
the end of the week I brought in my kids and I sat down with the
teachers and I said to the teachers, ‘Pick a spelling test from this
year.’ And they said, ‘What do you mean?’ And I said, ‘You know
how many spelling tests they have to take this year, pick any one of
them.’ And so they picked one and I said, ‘Okay, give it to one of
the kids, you pick one, give it to one of the kids, you pick one, give it
to one of the kids…’ So each kid had a different spelling test. And
each kid got all ten right.
The next day the principal called me into his office, and she said, ‘The teacher’s are afraid you’re
doing something satanic.’ And I told them ‘I am, it’s called education!’ Because if you teach kids
how to spell it’s easy! But if you’re making little tiny picture of words this fucking big in your head
it’s hard to read them so when you have a word like procrastination, or phenomenology, you
know… the word and it starts with an ‘f’ and you look at it… You see I like to take teachers, when I
teach teachers about this, I go, ‘Sound out the word ‘caught’. C….T…
German’s almost phonetic, but English is the language that witches made: 'I before E except after
C!' - And a few other times! [laughter] 'Long A, short A…long O, short O…' Ooh – that’s clear.
And beware of silent letters! If they’re silent, what the fuck are they doing there? I’m sorry, call me
pernickety, but every time I see a word like ‘height’ I think, what the hell are the ‘g’ and the ‘h’ for?
Right, you know? And even if it was h-i-t-e so that the e makes the i long, why don’t we just make
the i longer? Why do we actually have a long i and a short i? Why the hell do we have all this
stuff? ‘Oh because we didn’t have computers in those days, we had typewriters and pens, and
once something’s cast in stone we should leave it that way forever. That’s the truth don’t you
think? After all it took me twelve years to go through elementary school, it’ll take everybody that.
You go, small school, middle school, bigger school… that way you’ve suffered and tortured through
the same things over. For twelve years they mark out every mistake you make, every word you
misspell, every math problem you get wrong… so you train your brain to look for what’s wrong, not
to look for what works! The only thing that I did that was different is I stopped modelling and
understanding failure and started only understanding success. I started asking questions of people
that could spell, and teaching people who couldn’t what to do. Just like I had done with the
computers. People who got over phobias, got over phobias.
Now, I don’t believe that psychiatric patients are incurable. When I was at that hospital the first
time, it’s a terrible thing, because the psychiatrist giving me the tour, for lack of a better term, he
was fucking nuts, just to tell you the truth. He was director of training and we stopped halfway
through the tour, because he took me into the back wards because I said I want to see some really
whacked out back wards people, you’ve got some really looney ones? So we went into the back
wards and we went into this room and there was a woman and she was in a padded cell, a real
padded cell, and I went, ‘Wow, she’s got to be really fucking nuts, I love this.’ Because I’d heard
from psychiatrists that schizophrenics were like another calibre of looney. It had a little tiny thing
like you’d have in a jail cell, a window, and she was in there. There was even a table they could
strap her down to, but she wasn’t strapped down. And when we went in she turned around and
said, ‘Do you have a cigarette?’ And the doctor said, ‘You already had your cigarette today.’ It’s
really hard to stay addicted with only one cigarette a day I would think. But he was nice enough,
he said, ‘I’ll let you smoke one more if you talk to the nice doctor.’ And at the time by the way I
wasn’t Dr Bandler, I was… I hadn’t got my degrees yet, but I just nodded… talk to the doctor…
doctor of lurve! So he pulls out a cigarette and gives it to her and he pulls out a book of matches
and she reaches for it and he goes, ‘Ah, ah, you know the rules!’ And he strikes the match and
lights her cigarette, she takes a hit off it and he takes the cigarette away from her. And after she
exhales he hands it back to her and she takes another hit.
And I’m thinking ‘What the fuck’s going on?’ So I said something subtle. I looked at him and said,
‘What the fuck’s going on? Why don’t you just let her smoke the cigarette?’ And he said, ‘I’m
afraid she’ll hurt herself, she’s here because she tried to kill herself.’ And the woman turns to me
and she goes, ‘Well that’s not really what happened. I was being beaten up by these black women
in the wards, and I knew the only way to get out of there was to fake a suicide, and I’ve told them
that but they don’t believe me.’ And the doctor goes, ‘Aha. We talked about this before Brenda.’
And then she looks at me and she goes, ‘You want to see me scare him?’ She said this right in
front of him! And I went, ‘Yes, yes, I’d like to see that!’ She looks at him and she goes, ‘I was
talking to the entities last night doc,’ and the doctor gets really uncomfortable because there are no
entities, and she goes, ‘They said you’d say that.’ And he goes, ‘You know if you keep doing this
you’re going to have to have another set of treatments.’ And I’m thinking, ‘She’s in a fucking
padded cell. What more treatments could you get?’ And I looked at him and said, ‘What
treatments?’ And he said, ‘Electric shock treatments!’
By the way, I don’t know who’s idea that was… was there a psychiatrist who was really
depressed? He was at home in his workshop making a lamp and he stripped the ends off the lamp
and he forgot to put the wire back right and he stuck it in the wall and went….wawawawawa… and
he went, ‘I feel better!’ [laughter] So he went to the hospital and he took a couple of paddles and
put it one somebody’s head and went…boom…scrambled their brains in the hopes they’ll come
out better this time. I don’t think ECT is really a good idea, I don’t consider it therapeutic. In fact I
don’t think the idea of locking nutty people up together is the best idea.
That ward with all those fucking crazy people in it – there was a guy behind the couch who popped
up like a pop tart every couple of minutes like this… the next time, I went back down and went
back into the Day Room, and I hid behind the couch and when he popped up I went, ‘Boo!’ Which
you’re not supposed to do to paranoid schizophrenics apparently…because I scared the doctor
and the doctor went, ‘Why did you do that?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know it just seemed appropriate
somehow.’ And he was going, ‘Everywhere we’ve gone today you’ve done something strange.’
And I said, ‘Well I know what I’m doing.’ And he didn’t question it. I guess that’s because he
But then the guy who popped up behind the couch, I said, ‘Why do you keep doing that, why don’t
you just stay down?’ And he said, ‘Because the CIA is after me.’ Unfortunately for him I have
contacts at the CIA, I have friends, so next time I came, I brought them with me. Well, guess what,
if a schizophrenic is not in touch with reality (that’s what the doctors told me)… then my theory of
schizophrenia became very simple. I decided that we’d change reality so that they’re right, then
they won’t be crazy any more. You should have seen the look on the doctor’s face when I showed
up with two guys in black suits, with creped soles on their shoes. And when they came in they
flapped open their ID, like this, and the doctor looked at it and they said, ‘We’re from the CIA,
we’ve come to see George.’ This doctor’s world collapsed in one fucking instance. He’d been
telling this guy for 8 fucking years that this was a delusion! And he looked at me and he goes,
‘Are these guys for real?’ And I said, ‘Yes! George told me they were after him so I was
compelled to report him.’ And the doctor went, ‘Really?’ And I went, ‘Trust me doc!’ So we went
and got George and said, ‘George it’s time to go, you know they've been after you…’ and George
said, ‘What are you talking about?’ And they flapped their ID’s out. And sure enough George
looked and went, ‘Oh shit!’ And he looked us straight in the eye and he goes, ‘Don’t you guys
know I’m schizophrenic?’ And we went, ‘We don’t believe you George.’ And he goes, ‘No really,
ask the doctor.’ And the doctor now, wasn’t sure. [laughter] The doctor went, ‘Well George, they
said they’re after you! I’m sorry I doubted you.’ And George goes, ‘You’re all crazy! You’re all
Now I’ve done a few of these kinds of things over the years. I got quite a reputation from doing it,
but being a physicist, I think you have to motivate people to want to change. And part of why I said
the things to him about wasting all of these hours and making
him feel stupid is the moment that people start to laugh at their
problems, well guess what, they change chemically. We grow
millions and billions of neural cortical pathways in our learnings,
and in order to alter them we have to do something to flatten
them out, be it ever so microscopic. Out of the billions of
cortical pathways in your mind, the way one fires as opposed to
another has to do with size. They have a chemical charge, so
that out of a billion cortical pathways the reason one thing
happens as opposed to another, like you have one memory as opposed to another, that you visual
one size of letters as opposed to another, is because it goes down this chain and the thing comes
out the end. This is part of why when you lose your car keys and you look all over the house,
they’re always in the same place. That sort of thing. And even though you know it’s going to
happen, you forget a name and you go, ‘I shouldn’t forget this name. I shouldn’t forget this name.
I shouldn’t forget this name.’ The next time you see the person, you go [blank look]… Well that
doesn’t mean something’s broken, it means you’re just using the machine inappropriately. The
same machine that’s applied… the reason he’s shaking his head, yes, is he now knows the same
machine that gave him those bad feelings can give him good ones. And it’s not just true for him,
it’s true for all of you.
I put a book out about a year ago called Get the Life you Want, because I decided it was better to
write to people than to tell them through therapists. Because it gets distorted along the way and I
know some of you are therapists and personal coaches and doctors and all kinds of people helpers
– you can use it too, it’s all right. But in the book I broke it into three pieces. The first part is called
getting over it, and the second part of the book is about getting through things. There are some
things that just require perseverance and determination and a little good sense. Typically when I
do things in groups like this one person comes up to me at least, and says, ‘How can I quite
smoking?’ And it’s like the easiest thing in the world, you don’t put cigarettes in your mouth. And if
you must put them somewhere, shove them up your arse! After that you won’t want cigarettes so
much. Stick them up your arse and then look at the cigarette and go, ‘No, I don’t think so.’
But you see, the problem with quitting things is when I started out, dealing with addictions and
smoking and… believe me I have really rich clients, they are so rich they get themselves into
trouble… the name of that trouble is called cocaine… You’re not supposed to raise your hand
when I say that by the way! I’m sorry I wasn’t requesting…I called cocaine and somebody
went…[hand up. laughter] I guess that’s an involuntary response. But…cocaine, yes, I’ll take
some…no, no, no… I’m not giving out cocaine, I’m giving instructions about how to stop things!
Because the trouble is, I’ll ask them, I’ll go, ‘Have you ever just quit?’ And they go, ‘Hundreds of
times.’ When somebody’s going to quite smoking they always take the bad feelings that you get
from withdrawal as a message to smoke and that’s not what they mean, it means you’re doing the
right thing. You go through withdrawal – every time you start to feel nervous and anxious and like
you really need a cigarette, it means you’re kicking the habit. And people say to me, ‘But I have to
smoke,’ and I go, ‘Look, you have lots of desires you don’t act on, so you can take a little tiny piece
of tobacco and feel a little craving and just go, this craving means that I’m this much closer to not
being a smoker.’ You do it for three or four weeks, you don’t think about it anymore. And in fact if
you really set something up for yourself, where you make a big, giant bright picture of yourself
achieving what you want... See it’s one thing to just have to quit, it’s another thing that you’re going
to be able to sit in a room full of people you’ve been smoking with for years, and they’ll be lighting
up and you won’t. You have no idea how much that will annoy them! It makes it worth quitting, it
really does. They light up and go, ‘Would you like one?’ and you go, ‘No, I quit.’ And they’ll start
in on you, ‘Doesn’t it bother you that I smoke?’ And you go, ‘No it makes me know where the
cancer is.’ And they go, ‘No really, after you have a meal don’t you want a cigarette?’ and I go,
‘Aha, another hypnosis war,’ and I go, ‘No, I don’t want that cigarette but you can smoke both
ends.’ Think about it. [laughter] I don’t play fair. I don’t like to play fair, it’s just not right, it’s not for
Anyway, the most important question then becomes the last one, which is how do you get to
things, and the most important one is aiming your life in a good direction. So once I find out from
people what it takes to get them over something, because it’s really not that much, I have to figure
out a way of filling their time. For example most people are asking what can go wrong. They have
internal dialogue, questioning, people even tell me they come up and they go, ‘I suffer from
insecurity,’ and I go, ‘Are you sure?’ They always say yes! It’s just one of those things!
‘Absolutely, insecurity, that’s me. Absolutely positive I have insecurity!’ Because the thing is, if
you can be certain about your insecurity you should be able to be certain about something more
relevant I would think. Then there are people that come up and they go, ‘I am an insomniac.’ And
I go, ‘I am a human being.’ People tell me they have depression and I tell them to put it on the
table. And they go, ‘What do you mean?’ And I go, 'You’re the one that’s said it.’
But you see when your brain thinks of something as being separate from you instead of being an
activity, then you don’t examine how you’re doing it and what you’re doing, and you begin to think
it’s impossible. And it’s my job… and most of you are professional communicators… whether you
realise it or not, your job is to make the impossible possible by changing the way people make
decisions, the way they think, the way they feel, the pictures they make, what they say to
themselves and the way in which they organise their feelings. And there are roughly 350 of you in
here. I don’t know that you’re all supposed to be here and I don’t even know how much of each of
you is here. But I do know that in a room this size there’s a large number of you that have stage
fright because it’s the biggest phobia of all and we owe this to our educational systems.
Educational systems are constantly calling you up in front of a class and making you feel bad, so
lots of people learn, by going to school, how to be terrified. Are there a few people in here with
stage fright? How many of you have stage fright? Raise your hands. If you were to come up here
you know you’d be terrified? Now, isn’t that cool that you can know ahead of time? I just think
that’s the neatest thing ever, don’t you think? Raise your hands, it’s really a large number of you.
Raise your hands don’t be shy, raise you hands. Now, what’s your name? Marta? You know that
if you came and stood up here and talked to these people you’d be afraid? Yes. Okay. How do
you know that? Because you think about it? And when you think about it what do you do so that
you can be afraid? Well, now you’re making yourself afraid, but what do you have to do to do that?
Like, if I wanted to fill in for you for a day, and I wanted to be terrified, what would I have to think in
order to be afraid? You think of getting yourself up on the stage? So do you see yourself calmly
walking up and turning around with calmness and assertiveness? You do see that? So how does
seeing yourself be calm, scare you? Oh you don’t see yourself, you see people and they’re all
curious and interested and looking at you with smiling faces? How does that scare you? I beg
your pardon? So you see happy people in this audience? Are they normal sized people? So you
just see normal people, looking interested and it scares you? I’m confused, how does that scare
you? What do you mean it just looks scary? When you get scared where does… they what? And
that matters? Okay. So do you see some of them
in the audience not being friendly or is it that you
don’t know which ones are unfriendly that scares
you? Because I could give you a map, they always
sit in the same chairs! That would make it easier,
that way you would know who would scare you.
But let me ask you this, when you get scared,
okay, because in order to be scared, it’s just like
your eyes, they have to jiggle… when you get
scared, take your finger like this, hold your finger up. When you get scared does your fear start…
where does it start in your body? It starts in your stomach, and where does it go? Because it can’t
hold still. It goes up, when it goes up, does it go up and then down like this? Or does it go
backwards like this? So it comes up, does it go from the inside out? Yes, comes from the inside
out, so it tumbles forward. So in order to keep your fear going you have to keep this feeling
moving like this otherwise you’d get lazy and you wouldn’t be afraid. Okay.
Now let me ask you to try something. All I want you to do is to close your eyes, and see the
audience, get the fear going, hold your finger up so we can watch the circle go… and move your
finger with the fear, close your eyes, see the big scary audience, move your finger in the scary
direction, there it goes… keep it going like that, now spin it a little faster and you’ll get a little more
afraid. And then start to slow it down, slow it down a little more, and start to spin it in the opposite
direction so that your fear actually goes backwards. Move your finger backwards. That’s right,
spin it backwards, take a deep breath in through your mouth, slowly let it out and open your eyes.
Keep it spinning backwards, keep it spinning backwards, now stand up, go ahead, stand up, keep
it spinning backwards, backwards, that’s right… walk out to the aisle [woman calls out "God!" from
nervousness]. No, but he does work for me from time to time…that’s alright, come up here, it’s
alright, just sit down for a second if you would…and I’ll show you something.
[The woman joins Richard on stage.]
Richard: If you turn your chair like this, they all disappeared, isn’t that good? Now, we’re going to
try a little experiment, okay. All I want you to do is hold your hand up like this all right? Have you
heard that I'm a hypnotist?
Richard: Now since I’m a hypnotist I’m going to use a really old line. I want you to look into my
eyes. Now my theory of hypnosis is a little different. When I hypnotise people, the way I do it is by
going first. So you take a deep breath and I’ll take one at the same time, right. Only this time take
a deep breath in through your mouth and slowly let it out through your nose. That’s right. Now if I
move my hand I want you to match it, so if I go like this, move your hand over, go like this, if I go
up, you go up, if I go down you go down. Here we go. Just keep watching me... that’s right. Now,
all I’m going to do... just relax it’s fine... you’ve got to keep breathing otherwise you die! That would
be bad for business by the way. Take a deep breath in through your mouth, now you look in my
eyes, and here we go, I’m going to just start relaxing and suddenly you’re going to relax too… here
we go… that’s right. Keep looking…that’s right. Close your eyes, just relax, everything’s going to
be fine, because if you relax and just settle down and go inside, you’re going to make a little
change…you’re a nervous little bunny you are…that’s right… now what I want you to do is go back
in your mind and I want you to find a pleasant memory, something from a long time ago that you
haven’t thought about in years. I want you to go back and see what you saw, hear what you heard
at the time, and get back that good feeling, and spin it round and round, spin it all the way down to
your toes, and all the way up your body, because good feelings are where strength comes from.
It’s not by overcoming your fears that you get through them, it’s by building a foundation inside
Once you remember you could feel this good, you can start to think I should start to feel this good
more of the time. I should feel more relaxed more of the time. So go back and look at this good
memory. What we’re going to do is make it twice as big. So you’re feelings get stronger, turn up
the picture and make it a little brighter, so your feelings get stronger, smile a little bigger, that
always helps to smile, and to breathe in through your mouth and slowly out through your nose.
Now if you think about facing an audience, it scared you because you were thinking about what
you didn’t know. And what you don’t know doesn’t really matter. The most important thing is how
you feel and how you sound, because if you feel a voice inside your head sounding awkward, if
you hear yourself being nervous, it makes you nervous. So I want you to go inside and practise, I
want you to practise a sleepy voice. I’m going to say a sentence, and I want you to repeat it in
your head. 'Aah, I’m really, really nervous.' Go ahead, say it in a sleepy voice inside your head.
'I’m really, really nervous.' Then say to yourself, 'I’ve got to worry, really worry…aahh.' Because
when you have an internal voice, no matter what’s it saying, if it’s calmer, so will you be. Because
right now, in a matter of moments you’ve begun to relax and the more you relax the better you feel
and accidentally you get smarter at the same time. Because you see, as soon as you spun that
feeling backwards when you were sitting in the audience it began to feel different. Something
important was happening at that moment, you were training your neurology to feel different.
Now I want you to pull back up the picture of the audience in your mind and spin the feeling in the
reverse direction and take this good feeling with you. Because already when you look at the same
picture you made before, it doesn’t scare you at this instance, it’s not such a scary picture. It was
only scary because you had a bad habit. You learned it, and you mastered it, but now you have
two things, you have one that says I could get really terrified and you have one that says maybe
not so much. It may take you a while to be comfortable but we don’t really like comfortable public
speakers, they’re boring. I had them in school, I had professors that were like sedatives, they were
so comfortable. You need to take all of that nervous energy and convert it into excitement. So I
want you to go back in your memories and flick through these things and look here and there, and
find a time when you were really excited about something, going on a trip, going to see a band,
going to see a friend, and take that memory and look at it and remember what it feels like to be
excited, and take that feeling and notice which way it’s spinning, and spin it faster. Spin it like a
wheel, let it spin inside… and keep it spinning, you got it spinning? Okay. Now keep it spinning
and open your eyes... That’s right... Look at me.
See, you feel better already right? Okay, now let’s turn around and look at them. Let me tell you
things about them, I’ve very psychic. For example, this guy's talking to himself so loud he’s given
himself a headache. This guy hasn’t thought about anything in three years, other than…[laughter]
Just kidding. I would never rat you out in front of 350 people! But you see… these poor people
way in the back that can’t see nothing, right, and then when they go home they’ll go, ‘I really had
trouble seeing…’ and that’s because they sat at the back and that’s because they’re
procrastinators… well they are, they go, I’ve got plenty of time,’ and then we sent out ambiguous
things. We said it was going to start at six and then at seven, I know, they did it to me. They said,
‘We’re starting at six,’ and I said, ‘Why are we starting so early?’ And then they said, ‘We’re
starting at seven.’ And I was already dressed and here. And I was disappointed, so we split the
difference, and yet we’re still starting.
Now you’re sitting here looking at them, and you feel much more comfortable don’t you, than you
thought you would? So we’re going to stand up now. Try that, stand up, keep that thing spinning
inside, take a deep breath, look at them and say, ‘Hello!’ ‘Hello!’ [laughter] Excuse me, you have
to inhale before you speak! Okay. You do this, you take a deep breath, you go, oooh, and then go
Richard: There you go, that’s good. Does that feel
better? Right. And then you see, if you really want
to get their attention you say something that will…
you go, ‘Tits’! And if there’s a neuro-linguistic
programmer out there they’ll go, ‘Which tits?’
[laughter’] Which is an interesting name if you think about it, which tits… it’s a spell, witch tits… I
have witch tits… they have a spell. And how do you spell tits? Forwards or backwards, it’s all the
same. Now, if you take a deep breath right now, give me your hand…take a deep breath, okay,
look out at them, now what I want you to do, I want you to close your eyes for a minute, go inside
and remember that exciting memory. Because I’ll tell you, if you can put this fear behind you,
what’ll happen is that it will open up all kinds of opportunities in your life. And if you can feel a little
different, you can feel a lot different. If you can be excited about this thing, you can be excited
about anything. So what you do, is you look at this memory, you let the feelings of excitement
come in. You remember that smile we were working on, the giggle and stuff, you keep the smile
and you open your eyes. And you look out and you realise, they’re more fucking afraid of us than
we are of them! [laughter] We have a microphone, they don’t. We can embarrass them and if
they try to embarrass us no one will hear them.
Woman: They’re all smaller.
Richard: They do look smaller. Isn’t that funny, they do. They look pretty small right now. They
look almost half the size as to when you first came up here don’t they? Isn’t that weird? And
they’re still shrinking! Poor little things. Don’t you feel sorry for them now? Little tiny people out
there – aawww! You feel better?
Woman: I do!
Richard: Good. Right, then you have to do one thing for me. Just to get over your fears and stuff
so that I know you can do it, because every once in a while somebody is a little rude to you in
public, you need to memorise a phrase I’ve found that’s very helpful. So I just want… I’m going to
yell it out and I want you to yell out the same thing too. [He whispers the phrase in her ear]. I’ll
count to three, and I want you to go…ready? One, two, three… you have to say it out loud. If you
could do this you could say anything couldn’t you?
Richard: Right, so let’s get it over with and everything will be downhill after that. Ready, one, two
Woman: Fuck off! [laughter] [applause]
Richard: Thank you very much. You see the alternative to going and making it so that you take
your resources and face your fears, is… when you go home they’re going to say, ‘What did you do
in the seminar tonight?’ ‘I told 350 people to fuck off!’ [laughter] Everything else is going to seem
small now isn’t it? Was it a big problem or is it a small problem? Disappearing as we speak.
You see whether it was somebody who is supposed to be… because I’ll tell you, I’ve encountered
all kinds of things. In the same hospital I was telling you about, we went out of the building into the
building next door. Chiselled on the side of the building was the term, ‘Chronic Ward’. For those of
you who didn’t take Latin, chronic means permanent. And when I looked at the good doctor, I said,
‘Why does it say chronic?’ And he said, ‘Because it’s the chronic ward.’ And I said, ‘Does that
mean these people are not leaving?’ And he said, ‘It’s highly unlikely.’ And he said he’d been
there for 5 years and no one had left yet. Now, when I went in, they weren’t doing anything with
the people that were in there. Especially the catatonics. As I went by, literally his voice began to
lower to a whisper and there were two of us there with the good doctor, and we literally both began
to whisper, until one of us said, ‘Why are we whispering?’ And the guy said, ‘Well, the catatonics
are in there?’ And then I said to him, ‘Catatonics aren’t supposed to be able to see and hear are
they?’ And he laughed and said, ‘Oh I guess it’s just force of habit.’ I’m not sure which habit that
was but… anyway we went in and there was six people in the catatonic ward, because I guess it’s
a good idea to put all these quiet people together so they won’t disturb each other…
I’m not sure about the thing, to me putting people who are totally loony in the same place together
so they can all be loony together it’s got to be the worst idea ever. It seems to me if somebody has
lost touch with reality, you should put them with people who have a much better grip on reality than
them, and are perhaps more stern about it. Milton, one time, there was a guy who thought he was
Jesus Christ, and Milton walked up to him and said, ‘I heard you used to be a carpenter?’ Now
what’s he going to say. He went, ‘Yes.’ And he goes, ‘I have a job for you.’ Took him outside in
the back of the hospital and they were doing construction on the wing, and he put him to work with
a bunch of guys with their ass crack hanging out of the back of their pants. And this is in the South
of the United States, what we refer to as the Bible Belt… and the odds of your surviving calling
yourself Jesus Christ with this group of people is about slim to none. If they were in Texas, not
only would their butts be having out but they’d all be wearing guns, it would be slim to none now!
But anyway, Milton told this story and I often thought, ‘That just doesn’t seem like enough to me,
we need to make this more intense.’ So for a long time I’d asked doctors, ‘Do you know anybody
who’s got that delusion about being Jesus Christ?’ Now finally a psychiatrist tells me, he goes,
‘Well Richard, you know you asked me two years ago about that Jesus Christ… I got transferred to
a new hospital and we have a guy that’s not only Jesus Christ, but he’s a pain in the arse.’ And I
went, ‘Really?’ And he went, ‘Oh yes, it’s a private 90 bed hospital and this guy rips the sheets up
every day and sits on the bed and blesses everybody that comes in.’ And he said, ‘I tried to talk to
him and he thinks he’s Jesus,’ and I said, ‘Well, is he?’ And they said, ‘Well obviously not.’ And I
said, ‘Okay.’ And I looked at the calendar and I thought it’s not time to help him yet, but it is
I waited until Good Friday, good for me but not so good for him. Now I went to the lumber yard,
and I used to work for an American football team, doing things, and two of the linemen which are
the biggest of football players said to me once, when I helped them do something, they said,
‘Richard, if ever there’s anything we can do for you, just ask.’ That’s something they will never say
again. Because as we’re driving up to the hospital and these guys are in Roman Legionnaires'
outfits, with their legs hanging out and a little skirt, they said things to me like, ‘We’re going to get
you for this.’ And I said, ‘But you said anything!’ Now we stopped at the lumber yard, and when I
went into the lumber yard, guys that work in lumber yards are a lot cooler than I thought they would
be, because I came in with drawings I had made… a large set of crucifixes, 4 x 6 beams, about 12
feet long and then a beam that went across that was about 6 feet, and the guy at the yard looked
at the plans and said, ‘Do you need these notched?’ I mean, he was just as cool as cool could be.
And I said, ‘Okay.’ And then he gave me 16 penny nails to hammer them together and he told me
that…and I said, ‘Would this be strong enough to hold an 180lb man?’ And he went, ‘Yeah.’ And
he said, ‘When do you need this by?’ I said, ‘I need it today, it’s Good Friday it just won’t wait.’
And he said, ‘Well I can have it done by 11, and I came back at 11 and he’d made me a crucifix.
So we went up to the hospital. I brought a few of my grad students with me, and before we went in
I set up seven of the crosses on the hill and tied my grad students to them… and… being tied up
there they kept saying, ‘Why are we doing this Richard?’ And I said, ‘It will all come clear later on.’
So my Roman Centurions brought in the lumber, I put on a yarmulke and a tool belt and went into
the room. He was on the bed in the sheet, and he walked in and he said, ‘Good day my fellow
men.’ And I turned round and said, ‘You, Jesus Christ? Right?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ And I said,
‘Good.’ And he said, ‘Are you a doctor?’ And I said, ‘No, I am a carpenter. By the way, I need to
take a few measurements. Could you lay out on the bed please?’ He laid out and I measured him
long ways. I said, ‘Could you hold your hands up like this please?’ And I measured him. I took a
big red felt pen and I put an x on his hand. And he looked at the x and he looked at me, while the
two Roman Soldiers were laying the beams out on the corner of the bed. Then I pulled out a 16
penny nail and I put one on this end table and one on this end table, and crossed his feet and put
another x. And he looked at me and said, ‘What are you doing?’ And I said, ‘Well it’s Good
Friday… good for me but not so good for you!’ Then I took a big five pound ball and began
hammering the cross together. And when I hit that thing, the whole room shook, the bed shook,
everything shook. And you could see through the sea of schizophrenia something was beginning
to clear up. He looked at the one hand, he looked at the other hand, and he made a beeline for
the fucking door!
But I had two Roman Centurions who knew that was going to happen! They crossed their spears
and said, ‘Where are you going?’ And he said, ‘I need to see my doctor, it’s really important.’ And
I dragged him back to the bed. I said, ‘Sit.’ And I took out the thing and I began hammering the
other nails in, and he started going through this thing that his name was Melvin Shwartz and blah,
blah, blah… and I kept saying, ‘Will you shut the fuck up?’ And he finally ran to the window to
open it and he opened the window and there was seven crosses on the hill! [laughter] He turned
and he looked at me and went white as a fucking sheet, and he went, ‘This isn’t funny!’ And I
looked at him and I said, ‘Well actually it is!’ And to this day I still think it’s funny.
Anyway, I learned more about psychiatry that day than I’d ever learn from a psychiatrist. He had
more jargon and terminology and stuff about what caused it and the complex and…something
about how he was feeling much better too… suddenly he didn’t want to be Jesus Christ so fucking
much! I think the glamour of it had disappeared somehow. By the time his psychiatrist came in the
room, because he was screaming at the top of his lungs, the shrink finally came in, he ran over to
the shrink and he goes, ‘Look I’m Melvyn Shwartz, all that delusion stuff has gone, it’s over, I’m
feeling much better, please, who are these fucking people?’ And he said, ‘I don’t know who they
are?’ Because he didn’t know I was bringing two black guys dressed as Roman Soldiers… and the
guy kept pointing to the window and going… and when the doctor looked out the window and saw
the crosses he looked at me with terror in his eyes, and I looked at him and said, ‘Does the story of
Judas mean anything to you?’ If not, we could go into that one…
I also had one that was John the Baptist…axe me about it… that would be the wrong thing to be in
this situation… you could lose your head so to speak! But to me, if you can bring people to the
point where reality… where they get a good cold look at it, you’ll be surprised. Now sometimes I’ve
had to be a little more covert with people. And sometimes overt. But for the most part over the
years, what I’ve learned is if people have the desire they can change really fast.
Now sometimes I’ve had to do really outrageous things, I don’t have to do that so much now as I
have more skills, I have the skills to be able to get people to do things. So let’s do something
together shall we? So if you would put your notebooks down and your sharp objects… I try to keep
the sharp objects in my hand. Keep your feet uncrossed for the moment, put your feet on floor.
What I want you to do is take your hands, lift them up like this, put your palms together, and this
time leave them together, so your palms stay touching and lock your fingers together with your
palms touching and then squeeze them really tight for a moment, and then hold them up like that
so you have your two index fingers out and stare right in-between them, and your fingers will get
sucked together. And the more they get sucked together, the more I want you to wait for the
moment they touch. Take a deep breath, close your eyes and go inside and find a pleasant
memory. Because somewhere in your past there’s a wonderful pleasant memory and I want you to
see what you saw when you were there, hear what you heard, wiggle your toes and smile from
your feet all the way up to the corners of the mouth. And if you want, you can let your hands go
down, but if you can let them go down only one neuron at a time, take a deep breath again and
slowly let it out and just relax.
Because there’s a lesson you can get from this evening. If somebody can disappear an old bad
memory in an instant, by running it backwards, if people can get rid of phobias, if I can scare
schizophrenics straight, if I can get psychiatrists to give up having the largest suicide rate of any
profession and start using techniques that work, people always say I must have encountered
tremendous resistance… actually I’ve encountered none, because no one can resist doing
something that works better. Kids, once they learn to make big pictures of words, learn how to
spell. NLP is now a huge field full of lots and lots of technology.
But if you go inside and say inside your head, in a soft and comfortable and sleepy voice, ‘relax’
and if for a moment in your own imagination, you see yourself sleeping tonight and dreaming,
perhaps your unconscious has been close enough to hear me, and perhaps it will remember the
following suggestions. Perhaps it’s a good idea for you to take some of the old crap in your life and
run it backwards. Take some of the bad beliefs and bad ideas and shrink them down. Because if
for a moment right now, you stop and think of a good decision you made in your life, just for a
second, think of a good decision, it was a good decision then and it still is now. And then go and
think of a bad decision you made, and then take a little inventory. Are the pictures in the same
place in your mind? No matter how clear they are, are they as close as each other? Is one black
and white, is one colour? Is one a movie and one a slide? If you go through and find out the
things that are different, if you have a voice, is it on the right, the left, the front, the back… and
does it have a different tone? Good decision voice, bad decision voice. And the feelings, when
you think about the feeling of a good decision, does it roll forward, tumble back, go clockwise,
counter clockwise? Because when you find out the difference between a good decision and a bad
decision then you can concentrate on making better decisions for the rest of your life.
And one I would appreciate you making now, is to decide that when you sleep and when you
dream tonight you let the learnings and the understandings that I’ve been trying to apply in your
mind, that it doesn’t have to be hard to work, in fact, the stuff that works is usually pretty easy. The
fact that he could suffer for years with a bad memory and in a simple blink of an eye shrink a
picture down, blink it back and forth and it doesn’t bother him any more is the wonder of human
learning. What separates us from rocks… gold knows what temperature to melt at but it has very
little choice about it. Human beings have a choice about how they’re compelled to live. About
what they believe and about what hopes they have. If you go in and think on purpose.
You see the idea of moving things, because if you have a belief that you can’t really be happy and
you take that picture and you put it in the bad decision category and you shrink it down and blink it
black and white and build a new belief, because we all believe the sun is coming up tomorrow…it’s
England so we may not see it…but most of you believe there’s going to be a tomorrow or you
wouldn’t spend your last night on earth here, you’d find somewhere better to go. So, I know you
believe it, and even though you don’t answer out loud, if I go, ‘Is the sun coming up tomorrow?'
And in your brain you say, ‘yes’. You make a picture of the sun, you have a certain feeling.
And what that is, is the foundation that you can use to build big shiny beliefs that could propel you
into the future. You could take your old crappy pictures… paint over them in your mind, and put up
great ones, ones where you see yourself doing the things you want to do, having better
relationships, disappearing your worries, disappearing your fears. The technology to do this exists.
One of you came and asked, ‘How can I learn this stuff?’ Well I’ve written dozens of books, I’ve
made dozens of video tapes, and there are literally thousands of people in this country who’ve
been through NLP training and if you ask them about it they’ll probably feel compelled to tell you
about it. Because after all, I’m a good hypnotist, I make sure they will! I want this knowledge to be
spread around. I want you to teach your kids that they’re not learning disabled, there aren’t
learning disabilities, but there are teaching disabilities. And if
your teacher can’t teach your kids, then find somebody who can
do the task and teach them how it’s done. It’s not that hard to
spell, it’s not that hard to write, it’s not that hard to do math, lots
of dumb ass people do it, believe me, I hang out with them all the
time! And I’m not really that smart! I’m just determined. When
people tell me things can’t be done, I always do them.
Now, if you open your eyes I’d like to tell you about a bad
suggestion I got. I had a stroke about seven years ago, and
afterwards they did some MRIs and they did some tests and this
lovely doctor, I was actually whacked out of my head on
morphine…and I was feeling pretty good, I had been in pain but after they gave me this button I
could press… every time I pressed it I felt pretty good. In fact, they made it so it wouldn’t work all
the time because I had a tendency to repeatedly hit it! I wanted to play rhythms on it…. Finally
this doctor came in and he said, ‘How are you feeling?’ And I went, ‘I feel pretty good.’ And he
goes, ‘Well I have bad news for you.’ And I pressed the button, and I said, ‘Don’t care!’ And I
looked and he had a wheelchair. And I said, ‘Are we going somewhere?’ And he said, ‘No, I want
you to meet your new best friend.’ Now I’d done the Gestalt therapy thing, so I was a little high and
I said, ‘Doc, there’s nobody in the chair!’ I’ve done this before. And I looked at the chair and I said,
‘Get out of here!’ And the doctor said to me, ‘No, no, I’m afraid I have to tell you you’re never going
to be able to walk again.’ Well we see how well that worked out!
But he believed it, he was doing the right thing. Because I said, ‘Why are you telling me this?’ He
said, ‘You’re going to have to face up to the truth.’ And I said, ‘Why should I start now, I’ve never
faced up to the truth? I don’t like the truth. I don’t like facts. And I’m a physicist, I know better.’
Because as physicists, guess what the smallest thing was when you went to school… the atom.
They all told you the atom was the smallest thing. And then they told you it had three parts. Didn’t
they? The neutron, the proton and the electrons multiple – so not just three parts, there were two
parts and then a whole bunch of other parts.
Well as physicists, we found out, even though Neil Schwartz won the Nobel Prize for this, a million
bucks he got, that’s a lot of fucking cash…we found out there’s no neutron. We found out it wasn’t
the smallest part. Now we have particles. We got inside the particles, we found out there’s
nothing. So it turns out that the raw stuff of the universe is all smoke and mirrors minus the smoke
and minus the mirrors. Now, what this tells us is reality – what’s it made out of? Well as human
beings, think about what reality is made out of. This building was created because somebody
imagined it, which just goes to show you, you could have a better imagination. [laughter] But at
one time there were no houses and we ran out of caves and people started imagining building
places to live out of stuff, and they’re everywhere. At one time there were no cars…and people
begin to imagine them and now there are cars. Every year people get paid to sit around and
imagine new cars. The truth is, reality is made from imagination. On this planet, which is different
from the other planets as far as we can see we have a force called consciousness.
Consciousness is the thing that undermines all the laws of physics. And given that that’s true, the
more you use consciousness to guide your behaviour, the more you can change what goes on in
your physical universe, and certainly, that includes your body. Now they say stress causes illness,
well maybe happiness creates health. I think being happy is a good thing. I find if I can fill my
clients' days with happiness they don’t take time to be depressed, and most of them are depressed
or anxious or fearful because it’s the thing they know the best. They just learned to do it really well.
They may have a crap life but they’re an expert at it. Phobics remember when to be phobic. They
never go in the elevator and go, ‘Oh shit, I’m afraid of elevators!’ It just doesn’t happen that way!
She doesn’t get up and half way through a lecture go, ‘Oh God, I’m afraid of public speaking…phh
it was right there!’ Given that we can learn these things, when we make the big decision where we
decide to change our life, it becomes immensely plausible.
So if you’ve learned nothing else from this evening, learn whenever people say to you it’s
impossible, when they say to you, you can’t, when they tell you, it can’t be done, your kid can’t
have this, your kid isn’t smart, you’re not pretty, your tits aren’t big enough… and people are going
in trying to use a knife to become a prettier person. You want to be prettier? Be happier. The
minute she smiled, wasn’t she prettier? Isn’t that true? If you’re really happy you get pretty. You
know… there are limitations, I can only get so pretty…! But I got a lot of wear and tear on the
And when you leave here tonight, when you sleep and while you dream, new ideas are going to
seep in your mind. Because the next time you hear yourself saying, ‘I just can’t,’ a little voice is
going to giggle and maybe you’ll try a little harder. And the next time your kids say to you, ‘I’m not
smart enough,’ you’ll say to them, you’ll go, ‘Maybe it’s not you, maybe it’s your teacher that
doesn’t know how to teach you.’ And maybe you’ll take the time to realise that if they felt better,
and you teach them to make the right pictures and do the right things, everybody can do this stuff.
Excuse me, people tell me they’re not musical, there’s no music gene, we just went through the
whole genome and there wasn’t one with a treble clef in it! I’m sorry, that’s not the way it works.
You’ve got good strategies in your brain to spell, you spell. You’ve got good strategies to learn
music, you learn music. You’ve got good strategies for art, you play art. And if you spend more of
your day being happy, than being miserable, it becomes another habit. It’s one I recommend to all
So with that, I’d like to thank you all for coming out and thank you very, very much. It’s been fun.
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