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Pseudo-Orientations in Time: Outframing Addictive Behaviors

"Pseudo-Orientations in Time: Outframing Addictive Behaviors." National Association of Social Workers, Institute on Addictions, Fordham University, NY, NY. May, 2001.

Richard M. Gray, Ph.D.

Pseudo-orientation in time is a hypnotic technique pioneered by Milton Erickson and popularized significantly by Scott D. Miller and Insoo Kim Berg in the Miracle Method (Erickson, 1954; Miller and Berg, 1995). It appears in the literature of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) in various forms including the Smart Outcome Generator and timeline interventions (Andreas and Andreas, 1987, 1989; Bodenhamer and Hall, 1998; James and Woodsmall, 1988; Linden, 1998; Robbins, 1986). It represents a significant addition to any clinician's toolbox and is not limited to hypnotic contexts. This paper will briefly define pseudo-orientations, provide a rational for their efficacy and note several examples for use in addictions treatment.

A pseudo-orientation in time is an exercise in which the individual projects him/herself into a desired future for therapeutic purposes. It can be used to clarify goals and outcomes, to create motivation for change, to eliminate resistance to change and to elucidate the path to desired goals.

This technique was formulated by a utilization of those common experiences and understandings embraced in the general appreciation that practice leads to perfection. That action once initiated tends to continue, and that deeds are the offspring of hope and expectancy. These ideas are utilized to create a therapy situation in which the patient could respond effectively psychologically to desired therapeutic goals as actualities already achieved. (1954, p.396)

Erickson suggests that the power of the technique lies in the client's experience of change as a pre-existent fact and its reliance on the unconscious mind's ability to create a future that incorporates his hopes and dreams. The pseudo-orientation in time is used ... to create a therapy situation in which the patient could respond effectively psychologically to desired therapeutic goals as actualities already achieved.

" This was done ... using, ... a technique of orientation into the future. Thus the patient was able to achieve a detached, dissociated, objective and yet subjective view of what he believed at the moment he had already accomplished, without awareness that those accomplishments were the expression in fantasy of his hopes and desires (ibid.)"

The essence of the technique is the assumption that we can actively participate in the process of creating futures by accessing creative possibilities that already dwell within. This process, of awakening unconscious resources to build creative futures, was named pseudo-orientation in time.(Rossi, 1986).

Erickson emphasized that the technique takes advantage not of conscious fantasies which emerge fully formed and dismissible as mere imaginings, but on unconscious desires that represent preexistent goals and directions.

Unconscious fantasies ... are not accomplishments complete in themselves, nor are they apart from reality. Rather, they are psychological constructs in various degrees of formulation, for which the unconscious stands ready, or is actually awaiting an opportunity, to make a part of reality. They are not significant merely of wishful desire but rather of actual intention at the opportune time (Ibid. P. 421).

Most simply, pseudo-orientations consist of sending an individual into another time or frame in which the problem at hand has been solved or the desired goal already obtained. Miller and Berg state the most basic formulation in their Book: The Miracle Method (1995):

Suppose tonight, after you go to bed and fall asleep, while you are sleeping a miracle happens. The miracle is that the problem or problems that you are struggling with are solved! Just like that! Since you are sleeping, however, you don't know that the miracle has happened. You sleep right through the whole event. When you wake up tomorrow morning, what would be some of the first things that you would notice that would be different and that would tell you that the miracle had happened and that your problem is solved? (Miller and Berg, 1995, p. 38).

The use of pseudo-orientations presupposes several things 1) The client already possesses the skills or abilities (resources) necessary to reach those goals. 2) Motivation often is established most powerfully from positive goals. 3) Imagined results can have the impact of actual experience.4) Problems are generally not maintained in the same manner in which they were established. 5) Given the opportunity, clients will create meaningful futures rooted in their own capacities.


A pseudo-orientation in time assumes that each individual has within him or herself resources that are sufficient to solve the problem at hand or attain the goal sought. That these resources are not always apparent to the conscious mind is more often the problem than any presenting pathology.

Resources are any experience or any memory of an experience that the individual has had. It may as likely be an imagined experience or a role play. Any or all can serve as a resource. The idea that people posses these kinds of resources was central to Erickson's approach and forms one of the basic presuppositions of NLP (Andreas, 189; Bodenhamer and Hall, 1998; Bandler and Grinder, 1975; Bandler, Grinder, Dilts et al.; Haley, 1973; James and Woodsmall, 1988; Linden, 1997; Robbins, 1983).

Erickson reflects the basic understanding of resources in the following: passage:

Hypnosis is not some mystical procedure, but rather a systematic utilization of experiential learnings -that is, the extensive learnings acquired through the process of living itself.... For example, mention may be made of hypnotic anesthesia or hypnotic amnesia, but these are no more than learnings of everyday living organized in an orderly, controlled and directed fashion. For example, nearly everyone has had the experience of losing a painful headache during a suspense movie without medication of any sort. Similarly, everyone has developed an anesthesia for the sensation of shoes on the feet, glasses on the face, and a collar around the neck....

All of us have a tremendous number of these generally unrecognized psychological and somatic learnings and conditionings , and it is the intelligent use of these that constitutes an effectual use of hypnosis. (Erickson and Rossi, P. 224).

It was the significant contribution of Bandler and Grinder to make clear that these same capacities were available in non-hypnotic states (Bandler and Grinder 1975, 1975a, 1979; Bodenhamer and Hall, 1988; Dilts, 1993; 2001; Gray, 2001.).

Often the resource remains unrecognized until the pseudo-orientation creates a specific resonance with it. Thus, in The Miracle Method, Miller and Berg ask the client to think of experiences of non problematic behavior that occurred before they were patients. Pretreatment change is analyzed in terms of when, where and with whom the event occurred. Exceptions to the problem behavior are adducted as examples of resourceful behaviors that can be used to instantiate the miracle in

Many substance abusers regularly have long periods when they do not drink or drug problematically. Rather than being an expression of the dry drunk syndrome, they are here understood as experiences of the goal behavior-resources for future change.

Central to the solution-focused approach is the certitude that, in a persons life, there are invariably exceptions to the behaviors, ideas, and interactions that are, or can be, associated with the problem. There are times when a difficult adolescent is not defiant, when a depressed person feels less sad, when a shy person is able to socialize, when an obsessive person is able to relax, when a troubled couple resolves rather than escalates conflict, when a bulimic resists the urge to binge, when a child does not have a tantrum when asked to go to bed, when an overresponsible person says no, when a problem drinker does contain their drinking to within a sensible limit, etc. ( Cade and O'Hanlon, 1993, p. 96).

A set of resources may also be identified from the perspective of the future resource state. Once the client is experiencing the future-solution state, they can think back to experiences in their life that made this possible. That is, from that place in the future, they can think back to times that are now particularly relevant to the solution. They might ask themselves to think of 5 pretreatment experiences that were crucial to making this future resolution possible.

The author often uses pseudo-orientations to design strategies and to adjust his own behavior from the point of view of a more expert and accomplished future. One of his favorite practices in this alternate future is to remember a list of past memories that were crucial in forming the attitudes and abilities that made this future possible. In a practical setting one might ask the client:

Now that you have attained this outcome, and find yourself enjoying these feelings, think back over you life back to a time, a time, perhaps, before we met, when you experienced feelings that have now become important in allowing this new reality to come into being. Think back, in a comfortable and relaxed way, in the same way that you would remember a pleasant trip, or a good book, and remember, really remember, a few experiences that set the stage for these present, pleasant feelings of resolution and completion.

From this vantage point, the technique uses the phenomenon of state dependant memory to revivify resource states that are foundational to the experience of the solution.

State dependant memory generally refers to the tendency to more accurately remember events that occurred in physiological conditions that are more-or-less similar to the current state of the organism. Thus, drunks are more likely to remember things learned while drunk while they are drinking, happy people are more likely to remember happy times, depressed persons are more likely to remember being depressed. By the same token, depressed persons find it difficult to remember being happy, addicts find it difficult to remember managing without drugs and happy people tend to forget that they were sad or depressed. Erickson and Rossi suggest that post-hypnotic and traumatic amnesias are just such state dependant effects. Individual states of mind/body dependant upon the level of cortisol and other stress related substances have a similar effect. When we are stressed we tend to remember stressful events (Rossi, 1986; Rossi and Cheek, 1988; Huffman, Vernoy and Vernoy, 2000).

State dependant memory is described by Rossi as a form of memory that is more diffuse then either classical or operant conditioning. It is a function of the state of the body with regard to hormonal flux and neuro-modulators. It provides the physiological context that frames the other species of learning (Rossi, 1986)..

Pseudo-orientations in time take advantage of this phenomenon. By fully associating into a future characterized by experiences of fulfilment, empowerment or, more simply change, the client becomes more capable of remembering resources that would enhance the memory of behaviors consistent with the imagined outcome. In general, active participation in a fantasy of the empowered future creates a physiological state that enhances the probability that the participant will remember resources, exceptions and breakthroughs that are consistent with the desired future.


Pseudo-orientations in time have the advantage of enhancing motivation to change on several levels. Motivation is often inhibited when we face unknown or unfamiliar tasks. By previewing the future in a full sensory experience, we remove some of the threatening aspects of the unknown. Further, by having the experience of final success in the imagined enterprise, the fear of failure can be partially depotentiated. In many ways, the simple, imaginative roleplay involved in the pseudo-orientation constitutes a desensitization of fear of failure in that specific context (Scheele, 1998; Wolpe, 1958; 1982; Schaeffer and Martin, 1969).

This of course is part of the utility of Erickson's design. As originally discussed with Rossi, it was very important that the Orientation be accomplished in dissociated mode. It was observed through the mechanism of a crystal ball as if it were an objective event viewed from a distance. He explains that this allows the client to have an experience of what that outcome would be like without the difficulties engendered by the actual experience of the target state. It then becomes a specific experience of practicing the task from a distance. Thus it is a... "detached, dissociated, objective and yet subjective view of what he believed at the moment he had already accomplished, without awareness that those accomplishments were the expression in fantasy of his hopes and desires (1954, p.396.) "

Motivation is further enhanced by ensuring that the future goal is linked to the needs and desires of the client. Too many false starts are the result of wrong motivation. In harmony the wisdom of classical substance abuse literature, the goal must be something that the client wants. It cannot be done to satisfy others or to meet external demands it must come from within (Cade and O'Hanlon, 1993; Rossi, 1986; Miller and Berg, 1995).

Once again, Erickson's original formulation requires that the future imagined be a reflection of an unconscious direction, a nascent personal direction that already awaits fulfillment; not some unrealistic fantasy. To this end, he went to great pains to ensure that the future was rooted in unconscious directions and fulfillment not subject to conscious direction(1980).

In order to ensure intrinsic motivation, our preferred use of the technique emphasizes the client's focus on inner directions. In the first example, below, the technique is rooted in a centered, positive experience, usually of self-esteem or self efficacy. This provides a certain level of guarantee that the outcome specified will be neither superficial nor aimed at an outer audience. Insofar as the root resource represents a genuine revivification of personal resources, clients will tend to produce personally meaningful outcomes. In the second example, the process itself, requires the client to assess the future and determine whether or not it is appropriate. It becomes in fact, an evaluative engine which often has the effect of inspiring the client to seek out an alternate goal or outcome.


As long ago as 1933, Clark Hull held forth the idea that every imagined or observed action was accompanied by minute motoric responses that imitated the motion in a precise manner. Bandura's work with modeling and social learning strongly suggests the same mechanism and recent studies of the effect of television violence on the behavior of children tends to confirm that passive watching and imagined participation both enhance the probability of behavior. That same mechanism has been confirmed on the level of neural structure with fMRI studies. Recent fMRI studies of the human brain reflect the fact that imagined activities activate the same loci as the actual performance of the activity. Other studies have identified specific loci devoted to imitation (Iacoboni, Woods, et al., 1999; Mazziotta, 2000).

Imagination has been identified as predictive of behavioral improvements. Ostrander and Schroeder (2000) report how imaginary practice helped the Russian Winter Olympic teams to sweep the field in the 1979 games.

As Erickson knew, imagined practice bears results in practical experience.

Creating Meaningful Futures

One of the central presuppositions of the technique and of the Brooklyn Program in general is that every person has a unique set of gifts and abilities which uniquely define their place and function in the world. Using a biological metaphor one might say that there is a human ecology and each of us is prepared for a specific niche in the world. M. Scott Peck has aligned this idea with spirituality and declares that spirituality is about knowing one's place in the world.

From a Depth Psychological dimension we may imagine along with Jung that every person is drawn by the archetype of the Self to the manifestation of an inborn but for the most part unconscious potential. Within each of us this potential for self realization acts as a direction and a call to something more (Jung 1966)

Ira Progoff, One of the great interpreters of Jung suggested that there exists in each person a protoplasmic image. An image like a series of photographs representing the fullness of what one might or should become. This image represents a developmental pathway that leads to fuller and fuller approximations of what it means to be completely one's self. James Hillman. described essentially the same phenomenon as a calling. A direction to which each person is born and in which all of life takes on meaning (Progoff, 1959, Hillman 1996, Gray, 1996).

Each of these formulations imply that all else being equal, the human unconscious is moving towards a maximization of potential: the best life possible under the circumstances. By assembling the resources available in line with this developmental path, the therapist can take advantage of the internal impulse towards growth and self realization.

In some cases, despite the presumption of this positive intent, people do get stuck in patterns that are no longer truly useful. This is the genesis of many of the continuing problems encountered in therapeutic settings. Nevertheless, Erickson, The NLP community, the Jungian, Humanists and Solution focused communities have a specific faith the unconscious' innate tendency to move towards a goal of complete manifestation of individual potential.

Problem Maintenance

It is a by now a truism in the world of solution focused treatment that problems are not maintained by the same behavioral structures that gave them birth. Problems are more often than not continuing answers to very different problems than those that they originally served. By turning to future solutions and currently available resources, significant progress can be made in a short time (Grinder and Bandler, 1975, 1975a, 1979, 1982; Andreas and Andreas, 1987, 1989; DeShazer, 1994; Miller and Berg, 1995; Cade and O'Hanlon, 1993). Haley notes: " ... Erickson puts a primary emphasis upon shifting them towards success in work and love. He does not usually review their past with them, nor does he help them to understand why they have problems (1973, p. 86.)."


This paper will explore 2 techniques For accessing pseudo-orientations in time. One is rooted in a present experience of a positive state and makes use of time-line imagery. The second uses a standard NLP technique usually called the Smart Outcome Generator.

Timeline Technique.

The first technique is a guided visualization that relies on timeline imagery derived from the work of Tad James and Wyatt Woodsmall (1988). Timeline work is rooted in the observation that most persons in Western society, organize time linearly. Normally-organized people often have their past behind them and their future in front of them. Evidence for this comes in the regular use of linguistic metaphors that refer to the past and future in spatial terms: "Look ahead into the future." "Leave that behind you." Put that behind you." "The future lies before you." See also Dilts (1993, 1999), Bandler, (1995);Bodenhammer and Hall, (1988) Andreas and Andreas, (1989).

Accessing the timeline to experience that organization can be as simple as thinking back to the last big holiday or other event that you may have celebrated.

When you think about that event, where do you naturally look to access the memory. Point to it. Think of the same event two years before. Point to it. Now think of a memory of the same holiday from a time when you were much younger. Point to that. Now, trace a line that connects those memories with the each other. Follow that line all the way back to a spot that marks your birth. This is your past time line.

For most people, the past will lie to left and behind them. For the future a similar process is used to access imagined examples of future events.

Where do you think you will celebrate your next birthday. Notice the location of that representation. Point to it. Two years from now where do you think you'll be living. Point to it. In ten years, what will you be doing for Christmas (or any other holiday). Point to it. Again, draw a line that connects the representations and follow it back to the present.

The future is often to the right and ahead. Various other arrangements are possible. The main concern is that past and future can be discerned one from the other (James and Woodsmall, 1988; Dilts, 2001; Linden (1995). In actual experience of the technique it is often unnecessary to evoke the timeline before the visualization because of its near-given status as a linguistic metaphor. It is also sufficiently described in the visualization itself.

There are two possible starting points for the actual visualization: one begins with the experience of a powerful positive state; a second begins with a statement of a problem condition and imagines a time when the problem has been solved. In both examples the client is led through a visualization of floating up over his/her body and viewing their timeline far below.

As practiced in the Brooklyn Program (Gray, 2001), the technique begins with a strong positive resource state that has been assembled over a period of several months. In general the state used represents a sense of personal strength, self-esteem and continuing identity. In other contexts, a positive experience that the participant would like to experience more often may be used. They might also access the resource state that best fits their current state of need.

In the earlier part of the visualization the participants are led through a process that encourages them to access and enhance the experience of the memory. That is, by changing some of the sensory dimensions of the experience of the memory the feeling is enhanced.

In general, the participant accesses the state and is led through a visualization like the following (ellipses indicate pauses):

Relax, take a deep breath, and think of an intensely pleasant, empowering memory. One that you would like to experience more every day. Choose one moment in that memory, the very best moment and allow it to become very intense. If it's a picture, imagine yourself as you step all the way into it.

When you've gotten there... just enjoy it for a while.... Really enjoy it.... Make the picture bigger and brighter.... Bring it closer.... Notice if there is sound.... Make it clearer ... and notice ... the direction of the sound. ... Continue to enhance that memory, and ... as it grows particularly intense, ... give me a little wave ... so I know you're there.

One of the important insights of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is that the intensity of imagined or remembered experience is dependent upon the subjective richness of visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory and gustatory data that comprises the memory or fantasy. As a result considerable effort is expended increasing the sensory depth of the resource state. The language used is Ericksonian in form and aims to provide an intense positive experience. More details on this technique appear in Bandler 1995, Bandler and Mc Donald (1988);Bodenhammer and Hall, 1988; Dilts, 1993, 2001; Gray, 2001).

The visualization language continues. Here it incorporates the observation of Marghanita Laski (1961) that ecstatic experience often includes a sense of movement or development.

Now, as you pay close attention... to the qualities ... of this pleasant ... resource state,... you can allow it to ... continue to increase ... within you.... You may wish to notice ... the direction ... of it's ....flow ... within.... You may wish to notice ... the sequence ... of the onset, ... the progression of the state. Find the center of the state.... Find the very heart of it,... and notice, ... really notice, ... how it expands ... and grows ... and increases ... from there.... And find yourself wondering ... how it would feel ... if you allowed it ... to continue ... to increase ... for the next 5 days ... the same way ... it's increasing now.... Let it become twice as strong,... twice as intense.

Using language intended to focus the experience on the kinesthetic aspects of the memory, the visualization proceeds with a dissociative fantasy. This fantasy encourages the client to float above the current circumstance to a vantage point where all of their life is stretched out as a metaphorical timeline far below. It continues with the odd phrasing that characterizes Ericksonian trance-work in order to enhance the ambiguities that enhance the trance experience and the separation of consciousness from normal waking consciousness.

Begin to notice ... how it spreads and flows;.. how it expands and grows. Allow it to expand ... through your entire being. And as you ... allow this feeling ... to expand ... through your entire being; ... you can begin ... to feel yourself ... floating up, and up ... out of your present posture, ... up above the room. As you allow this feeling, ... as you allow this experience ... allow it to continue, ... to find yourself moving, ... moving upward, ... upward, floating ... Floating ... above the building. Upward. Allowing it ... to increase and pulsate ... to grow and flow ... all the way through. It lifts you up ... and you can begin ... to see the city ... or the town below. And as you continue ... to enjoy this state ... ever more intensely, ... ever more completely, ... you could ... perhaps ... see your time line, ... the line of your life ... stretched out below. Down there is the past, ... way back there ... is the day of your birth. In the other direction... glowing and shining ... welcoming gently, shining with hope ... see the tomorrows ... that you already have ... yet to know. And as you allow this feeling .... to grow and increase, .... to flow and to fill

... every part of your being, .... you can find yourself drawn ... towards one of those futures.

The experience of the timeline, like every other part of the visualization is accompanied by continuing suggestions that the feeling state being used continues to become more and more pleasurable, more intense and more the character of their life. This leads to the increasing concretization of an abstract future that is found "out there" on the timeline. It is compelling and naturally draws the client to itself as it resonates with the feeling of the positive resource state.

A future in which... this feeling becomes ... the normal aspect ... the daily reality...of your life. And as you pay attention the increase of feeling, .... its increase and flows .... as it glows, and it shines ... as it sparkles ... more intensely ... from the midst of your being, ... you can find yourself drawn ... drawn down towards that future ... down towards that time line ... to a place ion that timeline .. to a place that shines ... to a place that glows ... with promise. A place that attracts you ... and reflects back to you ... in an ever increasing manner, ... power and strength.

Allowing this feeling ... to increase and to spread... you can find yourself settling ... settling into that future. And paying attention ... attend to this feeling ... the feeling begins ... populating this future ... with people, and places with artifacts and things,... with all of the things ... that let you know ... that this is where ... and this is live and work. That this is the time ... and this is the place ... where you have accomplished ... the desires you've been seeking.

Having arrived at the future in which the problem is solved, or the positive resource state has become the positive reality of everyday life, the visualization begins to populate the experience with the accouterment of everyday life; the people places and things that are a natural part of real life. All of the authors who treat pseudo-orientations agree that the more complete the experience, the richer its detail, the more familiar its feel, the more powerful the change becomes (O'Hanlon and Cade; Erickson and Rossi, (1954), Robbins, Linden (194)).

And, because this future is rooted in a specific resource or resources (the initial state), the resources themselves determine the characteristics of the future experienced. So, every detail is grounded in its own resonance with the resource state.

As used in the Brooklyn Program, the resource state that is used as the foundation of the meditation has been specifically designed to constellate a sense of the deep Self, the archetype of wholeness. Our purpose is to awaken a deep level of identity and direction that will then center future goal seeking in terms of Jung's idea of Individuation, Progoff's protoplasmic Image and Hillman's calling ( Jung 19.; Progoff, 1959; Hillman 1996; Gray 1996, 2001).

Once more, it is important to emphasize that the entire procedure depends upon the state dependent affective links between the present experience of the positive future and past experiences with which it resonates.

And this is the feeling ... the natural feeling ... of the life you've created ... for you ... for yourself.... And allowing that feeling ... to increase ... and to resonate ... with this place and time, ... you begin to see ... more and more details. ... noticing ... where you are sitting ... or where you are standing ... or where you are lying.... Becoming aware ... of the clothes you are wearing ... of the people who surround you ... of the people who support you ... who have always ... support you ... all along. And as you look... at the things around you ... the feeling intensifies ... and as they gain clarity ... you begin to know, ... really know ... who you ... really are ... and what you do ... in this future.... And, ... with a certain amount ... of familiarity and clarity ... of comfort and thankfulness, ... you begin to realize .... just where you are ... and when you are, ... and what you've been through ... and what you've accomplished.

As the visualization proceeds the client is encouraged to become increasingly aware of the future as a familiar present. It is populated with people and things and must necessarily have a past. It has become so familiar, in fact that they can begin to remember how they arrived there. In Erickson's words it becomes:

... a detached, dissociated, objective and yet subjective view of what he believed at the moment he had already accomplished, without awareness that those accomplishments were the expression in fantasy of his hopes and desires (Idem, p. 261).

Since that objective future-present must have a past, and that past must have logical precursors leading up to it (the present experience of the future), the client can begin to reconstruct a plausible past for this plausible future. Framing this construction as the memory of a 'process already accomplished' enhances the perceived reality of the present experience. By linking backwards from the future the results, we connect each link in the chain of behaviors that created it to this present experience of a future-perfect. Just as we remember the last things that made our presents possible, so in the pseudo-present orientation, we construct the steps that brought us here (see Cade and O'Hanlon, 1994 and Bandler and Grinder, 1975).

And as you take the time ... the time to remember, ... really remember ... the steps that you took ... that brought you here, ... you can begin to remember ... the last thing you did.... The thing that made ... all of this ... possible.... And, ... with a certain sense ... of familiarity, ... of comfortable confidence, ... relaxing in a way ... that's right ... for you, ... you can begin to remember ... all of the choices ... that you made, ... the decisions, ... the actions ... that you took ... that made all of this, ... possible. ... And as these feelings increase ... in familiarity and comfort, ... as you begin to recognize ... how much effort ... you've put into ... this well deserved ... time of your life, can, perhaps ... remember the steps ... that you took ... concretely, ... one at a time, ... beginning back there ... in the early months ... and the first few years ... of the 21st century. ... And there's a certain pride, ... a certain sense ... of accomplishment .... that adds ... to this ... increasingly powerful ... sense of who ... you really are. And ... as you begin ... to really remember ... the choices and struggles ... the actions and victories ... that brought you here, ... to this moment.

Having gained the experience of a familiar future, and imagined past -events that bridge between it and the factual present, the positive resource state that served as resource is re-evoked as a vehicle for return to the present.

And that feeling ... that glows and pulsates, ... that shines and sparkles, ... that increases, ... and fills ... this future ... with a sense of incredible pleasure, can begin ... to lift you up ... connecting then with now, ... and now with then, ... bridging ... between future and present, ... the past and the presents ... that all come together ... in this ... possible ... future perfect ... place. ... And again ... floating upward ... with ever increasing ... sense of pleasure and confidence, ... of renewed strength ... of this feeling. ... You begin to float ... back ... into the present ... carrying with you ... the realization ... of all ... that you are ... capable of ... in such a short time. ... And finding yourself ... floating safely back ... to your own body ... in a comfortable way ... into the present time, ... you can feel a certain ... certainty ... knowing who you are ... who you are becoming, ... and allowing that feeling ... to expand and increase ... through your entire being ... until you feel ... much, much better ... than you have ... in a long, long time ... knowing.... really knowing ... the futures that await you ... ready to begin .... making the choices ...that are yours. ... You can return to the present, ... feeling wonderfully well ....and ready to begin ... NOW.

The Smart Outcome Generator

As noted, the Smart Outcome Generator is regularly represented in te literature of NLP. (Andreas and Andreas, 1989, Bodenhamer and Hall, 1988; Robins, 1986, Linden, 1998) In the context of brief therapy it is appears in shadow form as the insistence by Cade and O'Hanlon (1993), Miller and Berg (1996), and others that the outcome or miracle sequellae be specified in minute detail.

The procedure sets up 4 root criteria as follows: 1) Positive outcome; the goal must be stated as a positive outcome. 2) The goal must be under the clients personal control; it should be active, not passive. 3) Sensory richness, concreteness; the goal must be represented by a concretely verifiable objective act or artifact. 4) Ecology-real life consequences; how will this change affect your life and the lives of the people around you (Andreas and Andreas, 1989; Bodenhamer and Hall, 1988; Cade and O'Hanlon, 1993; Miller and Berg, 1996; Robbins, 1986, Linden, 1998)? As the criteria are applied, the outcome becomes more and more real in the client's experience. Each step through the exercise introduces another level of complexity, another level at which the target outcome is integrated into the client's reality. Each step produces another round of practice, of trying on the target behavior in "a detached, dissociated, objective and yet subjective..." manner (Erickson, 1954, p. 396).

One of the interesting consequences of the exercise is that persons who have chosen a superficial or ill-considered goal often find that as the goal becomes more real to them, the less they want it. In the author's experience, one student who was pursuing a nursing career realized in the middle of the process that she had never actually considered what exactly it was that nurses do. When she actually projected herself into the filth, misery and long hours connected with the profession, she realized that nursing was not for her..

The following steps provide a series of operations that identify a goal, assure that it meets the root criteria of positive statement, personal control, sensory richness, ecology check. From there it proceeds with the pseudo-orientation per se and its accompanying remembrance of how the client got there.

As used in the Brooklyn Program the exercise provides a concrete venue for the working out of life goals that were defined on a feeling basis in other exercises. The NOW state (mentioned below) is a complex conditioned response that, at this point in the program, provides a strong feeling of personal identity, self-esteem and centeredness. For most of the participants it includes a sense of personal direction or place in the universe. Using this feeling as a base, most clients are able to avoid superficial or ill-considered outcomes..

Find an important outcome and apply the steps to it. Take your time, do it in writing and think carefully about it. Choose a goal that flows out of the positive experiences work lists or access the NOW state and spend some time with it discovering which outcome would be most consistent with that feeling. The goal may be occupational (What do I want to be doing five years from now?). It may be educational (What is my next level of educational need? What kind of education do I need to become what I want to be?). It may be relational (How do I want to relate to my husband or wife or children or parents or friends differently?). It can be task oriented (I want to have more choices about when or if I smoke. I want more choices about how and when I eat).

Use the following procedure to create and test your outcomes.

1. Is it stated in the positive, or can it be stated in the positive?

Don't think about what you don't want. A goal has to be stated as a positive thing, something you can hold in your hand or put in a wheelbarrow. I want to get my AA is a good goal. You can see yourself at graduation. I want more choices about smoking is a good goal. You can see yourself holding the pack, throwing it away, putting it aside, etc. I want to stop smoking is a non-goal. How do you see not-doing something? If you've started with something negative-"I don't want to X any more." or "I want to stop xing."-- find a new, positive way to see it or state it.

The first criterion requires that the goal be positively stated. Positive goals have qualities that can be imagined. They can be seen, moved towards, and manipulated. They provide a focus for attention. Negative goals are much more diffuse. As their focus is negative, they can lead anywhere so long as it is away from the object.

2. Is it under your personal control?

A proper goal must be under your control. It must be something that you can do: saving money to buy a house or business, getting the training and connections to make a career change, finding new ways to change the way I think or behave. All of these are good goals. These are all things that you could do. If you could find the means and have the motivation, all of these things are choices that would be under your control.

Personal control also includes reasonableness. Is the goal you want realistic, or should it be broken up into subgoals or outcomes?

It is not uncommon for people to set goals or outcomes that depend upon some deus ex machina- winning the lottery, being rich, having fame- all are inappropriate both through their lack of specificity and through their dependence upon external agency..A motivating goal must be doable by the client. It must be specific enough to be manageable and within the capacity of the individual to complete on his/her own.

3. Can you specify three different ways in which you will know that you've gotten it if you get it?

How will you look when you have it? How will you feel? Who will be there? What will you see and feel? The more fully you can imagine getting it, the more powerfully motivated you will be to get it. Use all of your senses. Make believe that you are there and you can see it and feel it and touch it. It is really important in this step to really try to feel and see and hear and taste and smell your success. The more senses you can use the more motivating the goal will become.

If you're thinking about a business, think about the deed or licenses, hold them in your hand, feel yourself signing the deed, writing the menu, opening the front door on the first day of business. How will it smell? Can you smell the ink on the presses? Can you smell the food cooking in your ovens?. Can you feel the hand shake from the boss and see his face as you are given the promotion? Can you see your family smiling with pride as you receive your license?

For this step, specify three of these kinds of things that will really let you know when it's yours.

Sensory specificity, concreteness is a crucial part of realizing any goal. If there is no way to test that you've attained it, you do not have a well-formed outcome. An important part of this process is the idea of the TOTE process defined by Miller, Galanter and Pribam (1960). These authors outlined a cognitive heuristic that lies at the root of many effective behavioral interventions. It consists very simply, of setting up success criteria, (T) operating upon the environment to effect the indicated change(O); Testing for success (T) and either ending the operation(E) or continuing the process until the success criteria are met (Dilts, 1993, 1995). .

4. Do you want this all the time? Is it appropriate everywhere? Should it be limited to a specific context?

As we make a goal realistic, it is important to realize that it may not be appropriate at all times and places. Where do you want it, where don't you want it? Where would it be in the way?

Part of your job in making an outcome real, is to discover if there are places where I don't want it. If my goal is to start jogging every day, will I expect myself to do it when I'm sick; in the middle of a blizzard? If I'm saving for a house, are there other things that might come up that may cause me to slow my pace? If I'm working on a degree, must I become a study-holic or are there times and places where I will not want to be locked down with my books. If I'm looking for a raise, will I still want it if the boss demands sexual favors or if I discover that he is breaking the law? If I'm buying a house or car and there is a question about its operability or title, will I still want it?

What are the problems that limit your goal? Use these to make it more real and specific.

5. What will it change in your life and in the lives of the people around you?

Real goals have real consequences. When you are sober, you will have new friends and new relationships. How will this work for you? Who will support you? Who will resist you? What will it cost in terms of relationships? What will it get you? Are you willing to take the chance? What will you gain in terms of new opportunities?

When you enter a new business or a new neighborhood, there are also changes in your life. How many hours will you have to work now? How many nights, how many weekends? Will you be better off or worse off?

Ecology, how change integrates with the rest of a person's life, is a crucial part of any therapeutic enterprise. By having the client consider the ecology of the sought-after goal, three things are accomplished: 1) The goal is integrated into the entirety of the clients experience. It is not simply a thing in itself but part of the fabric of existence. 2) By taking the time to assess the impact of the sought-after change, the outcome is further integrated and customized so as to meet the real world needs of the client. 3) The act of integrating and evaluating the outcome makes it more real in its consequences and more real as a potential motivator. Failure to include ecological considerations have destroyed otherwise powerful interventions (Grinder and DeLozier, 1987).

One of the crucial events often triggered by just such an ecology check is the decision by the client that the outcome is for one reason or another ill-fitting or ill-advised. At this point, the following instruction is particularly apt. It can be important to emphasize here the root NLP presupposition that there is no such thing as failure, only feedback ( Bandler and Grinder 1975, 1975a, 1979; Bodenhamer and Hall, 1998; Linden, 1997; Robbins, 1986).

By this point, some people discover that the goal that they started with may be inappropriate. If this has happened do you, congratulations, you have made a crucial discovery about yourself and avoided one of life's major pitfalls. Take a few minutes to get centered and focus on that sense of really knowing what it feels like to have made this good decision. You may have even discovered that there is something else that you would really like to do instead. If there is, work through the exercise again using this new outcome.

When you discover that you still want your outcome and that the exercise has made it more appealing than ever, continue with step 6.

At this point, having created all of the prerequisites for a powerful experience of the anticipated goal, the client steps into the future and begins to experience the future outcome. For most people doing the exercise, the careful processing of the steps provides more than enough information for the creation of a powerfully motivating experience.

As used in the Brooklyn Program, this step and the exercise more generally have been preceded by several weeks in systematic practice in visualization. Participants have developed significant expertise in changing the submodality structure of their experience and revivifying resource states. Here we ask them to use those same skills to create a sensory experience of their anticipated future

In practice the participants are talked through these last steps as a group (or individual) visualization exercise. In this case, rather than using the quiet ambiguous language of Ericksonian practice, the tone is more demanding and request fast- paced responses to sensory based questions: What do you hear? From what direction does the sound come? Who is there with you? Who is not there? What does it smell like; take a deep breath and smell it.

The written instructions work well as they stand. The verbal cheerleading of an external prestige figure can provide a more powerful experience. Even the untutored reading of the given instructions to another participant can enhance the experience significantly.

6. Experience now, in your imagination, how you will look and feel, what you will see and hear when this is a reality.

What we are doing here is getting in touch with your future self. The self who has already accomplished your goals. It is important to feel and identify with this future you because he/she will show you how to get were you want to be.

Go back and get the image. See yourself in bright color. Experience the people around you. Think about how you will feel and how those around you will respond.

You can start with the three things that you used to let yourself know that you had it. Build from there and find yourself standing there, having it. Go through all of your senses. Step all the way into it. See it, feel it and hear it from your own perspective. How do you feel having it? How do you hold yourself? Move into that same posture. What do you say to yourself? What do the people around you say?

Once you have a real picture of yourself having what you want, get into it. Enjoy it. Feel it and continue to feel it.

Here we have moved into a fully associated future experience. With this transition, we also are very careful to use the present tense. It is no longer about how the client will feel but about s/he feels NOW, already having it in their possession.

7. Move backwards from the final realization of the goal to discover the steps that make it possible.

Now, from that place, where you can see it and feel it and taste it and hear it, look back towards today and find the steps that got you there. Begin with the last step, the finishing touch. Really be there. Ask yourself "What was the last step that I made that put it together?" Take your time. When you've answered that question, ask: " What was the step before that? And before that?" Take the time you need to find the steps that got you there. Keep the state, feeling like you've already got it. This will guide your mind to the steps that got you there.

Having had the future experience of a desired outcome, the client now adds the capacity to remember the steps that led to the success. In this situation the logic of getting there is best understood by moving backwards from the goal-state towards the problem state. If the client is successfully enjoying the goal, there are certain logical preconditions for that outcome. The last action or decision is the most accessible. Once that has been "remembered," the logical "yes-set" is established for finding the other parts of the sequence. Moving backwards from the solution has the further advantage of linking all of the intermediate steps between the problem state and the solution state to the positive affect associated with the solution.

8. List the five steps necessary to get from here to there.

Think about the steps that you just learned from the future you. Break the list into 5 steps that you can handle. If necessary, the five steps can be five subgoals and you can do the process on each of the subgoals.

Here the participant writes down the five steps and the exercise is essentially over.


The two examples provided here have been used to good effect in both group and individual sessions for the solution of day to day problems and as part of a systematic program of substance abuse treatment. In their simplest application both techniques provide a significant tool for the exploration of possible futures.

In a casual conversation with the operator of a local business, the author was advised that her business had become stalled at what she had always considered an intermediate stage. For some reason she was unable to commit to the changes necessary to transform her scents and soaps shop into the spa that she had envisioned. The author suggested that she take some time to herself and begin to imagine what it would feel like to have completed the work necessary and to have the fully functioning spa open and turning a profit. Once she was able to really envision that, she was to find the steps backward to the chores necessary for getting from there to here. A week later, she reported that she had experienced a new excitement about the project and had begun to clear the space necessary for the realization of the Spa. 6 months further on she continues to make significant progress towards realizing her dream.

In the context of substance abuse treatment there stands the success of the Miracle question. In our experience, it is not uncommon for persons who have never really considered their future to have a powerful, emotional experience of personal futurity. One of the important effects of the pseudo-orientations in the treatment of substance abuse is the crucial gift of the experience of a drug or alcohol free future. One client, participating in the Brooklyn Program, reported that a recording of the Future Perfect meditation, presented here as the timeline technique hd become a continuing part of his choice to remain clean and sober. He claimed to have realized that he HAS a future in which drugs play no part and he has decided to work towards that future..

For many others, the Smart outcome generator, along with the future perfect meditation has provided a logical connection between present activities and future possibilities. This, of course is a crucial marker in change work of any kind. Prochaska makes the crucial point that most of the successful change observed when applying the stages of change model is predicted by the movement from Pre-contemplation to Contemplation. That transition is itself marked by the development of a future goal that is more valuable to the client than the loss of the problem behavior (Prochaska et al., 1994).

Another advantage of the pseudo-orientation in substance abuse treatment is its capacity to bypass the conscious objections to the possibility of a drug -free or successful future. Further, because when done correctly it aligns purpose with the deeper intentions of the archetypal Self, it tends to produce powerful self-motivating states. Several clients in the Brooklyn Program have reported on the week following the exercise that they have actually sought out information and taken the first steps towards entering college or getting other training. Importantly, the task that arise out of the exercise are motivating because they are meaningful to the participant and rooted in their own meaning criterea.

Pseudo-orientation in time provides a powerful tool for awakening change through the experience of believable, relevant futures. It can serve to provide meaning, motivation and purpose by organizing resources for the realization of nascent possibilities that represent the deepest desire of the human heart.


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