The NLP Swish Technique
With the Swish Technique you can quickly change how memories or worries affect you. If the negative thought evokes a powerful feeling you can ‘disconnect’ this feeling from the thought and replace it with a more empowering feeling.
This is a valuable technique for managing negative thoughts and feelings about:
- The past: e.g. feelings from embarrassing or irritating memories
- The present: e.g. feelings provoked by self-undermining thoughts
- The future: e.g. anxiety-provoking thoughts about forthcoming situations.
How does the Swish work?
Let’s say that….
- I am worried about returning to work next week after a few months absence because of illness, maternity leave, or stress. (‘Worry’ is my Unwanted Feeling)
- Every time I imagine walking into the workplace next week I get a churning stomach and racing thoughts. (This image of walking into work is my Trigger)
- I know that my reaction is silly and irrational – because everything has been arranged with my employers and they are looking forward to having me back on the team. (Check: I check does this feeling require me to take practical action? And in this case it does not – so it is an ideal candidate for the Swish).
- Instead of feeling worried each time I think of walking into the workplace I want to feel enthusiastic and confident. (Seeing myself looking confident and enthusiastic is my ideal Replacement image)
In these 4 points I have got all of the pieces ready to run the Swish. I have
- Unwanted feeling: The feelings I don’t want
- Trigger: The thought or image which evokes these negative feelings?
- Check: I know my anxious feelings are irrational i.e. I don’t need to take practical action – it’s just a silly thought.
- Replacement image: I can see myself acting like I wish to be.
I now need to put these together and ‘wire in’ a new mental programme.
Now for the really clever bit about the NLP Swish technique…
With the Swish (as with many NLP techniques) you don’t have to struggle with negative thoughts: you do not need to overcome them or fight them.
Why? Because you point your thinking in a new direction! You teach your brain a new programme.
In order to have a thought, whether it’s negative or positive, your brain needs a signal or a Trigger which lets it know that it’s time to stop it’s current line of thinking and to start thinking about a new thought.
So, with a negative thought, your brain needs to know when to run the negative thought and its associated feelings. It needs a Trigger. And in the above example thinking about work is, right now, my Trigger for anxious feelings.
With the Swish you can teach your brain to use this old Trigger to activate a new programme. In the above example I teach my brain to give me a different feeling i.e. feeling enthusiastic and confident whenever I think of walking into the workplace.
And you can do this by carefully following these steps.
How you can use the Swish
(A) Preparation & set-up
(1) Unwanted feeling i.e. What do you NOT want? Identify the thought and/or feeling that you’d like to replace.
(2) Trigger? What triggers the unwanted feeling i.e. what do you see or imagine seeing just before you feel bad?
(3) Check re practical action! This is very important. The Swish must only be used where the situation does not require practical action. For example, if you have run up debts and are worried by these you could use the Swish to stop feeling bad – but unless you take practical action rather than just use the Swish you would end up in serious financial difficulty.
(4) How do you want to feel instead? Select your replacement feeling – the one you want the current trigger to evoke. Spend a while reliving this pleasant or empowering moment to make the memory richer.
Make sure your final version is a dissociated image (i.e. you can ‘see’; yourself in the image/situation/memory)
(B) Running the technique
1. Think of the Trigger image and…
2. Place a tiny version of the Replacement image somewhere on the Trigger image and
3. Instantly have the Replacement image get bigger and clearer – as the Trigger image disappears behind it
4. ‘Break state’ briefly – i.e. look around you, check your watch, etc.
That’s Round 1. You need to do about 5-7 Rounds to wire-in the new programme.
Do it quicker each time e.g. first round in no more than 5 seconds then 4, 3, 2, and 1 seconds and a final two or three Rounds at 1 second each.
There’s no need to try to get your images to change perfectly – just quickly. Aim for speed rather than accuracy.
(C) Test it
Having done your 5-7 Rounds ‘change state‘ by doing something else for a couple of minutes.
Now discover what happens when you try to recall the Trigger image (i.e. the original negative image).
If it’s difficult to bring back – or if the negative feeling is no longer evoked by it – you’re done.
- If it does come back do another 2-4 Rounds
- If that doesn’t work find a better and more powerful positive Replacement image – and then run the whole Swish from the beginning.
- And if that doesn’t work it could be that the Trigger is too powerful for the Swish technique – that’s why we have so many techniques, and more in-depth processes, in NLP.
Develop your skill with the NLP Swish
Like every NLP technique or process the Swish is best learned ‘live’ in a workshop where you are able to interact with the facilitator and with other participants — and where you learn the background steps before you get to actually do the Swish.
That said, you are likely to get good results if you carefully follow the above tips.
The method described above is a version of the traditional NLP Visual Swish technique. It works well for those who are good visualisers
The version above is based on the traditional NLP Visual Swish and is ideal for people who are ‘good visualisers’ i.e. can those who can clearly see and easily manipulate their mental images. It works especially well if it is directed by a coach or trainer who uses NLP language patterns, anchoring, and who is skilled in recognising non-verbal responses. If you do not fall into this category you can still get quite good results by ‘pretending’ you can see your mental images change as you run the technique.
To make the benefits of the Swish Pattern more widely available (i.e. to people who do a lot of their thinking in feelings or sounds or self talk) we have developed the Pegasus Diamond Swish. We teach this is our NLP Core Skills courses yet even here it is left until the final day of the workshop so that participants are able to incorporate many of the other skills which they have learned during the workshop in order to make it work more effectively.
More about negative anchors or hot buttons:
Other articles related to NLP Anchors
More information about NLP
By Reg Connolly, Director of Training, Pegasus NLP