Peter McNabIntroduction

In my work with clients, I often come to the point where the person cannot move on due to an internal conflict; it is as if two parts of them want two different things and, of course, they end up with neither. The conflict has to be resolved somehow. Prior to discovering NLP in 1989, this was often a dead-end in my work. Since 1989, however, I have been using the gentle yet powerful NLP technique known variously as The Visual Squash and Outcome Integration. Four years later I discovered the Enneagram and another piece of the jigsaw was added as I now had another way to work with clients.

In my NLP work, I would have to try whichever process felt right and I find that some processes worked with some people but not with others. As I had no way of being able to discriminate, I just tried everything with everyone. I got results but it wasn’t very elegant and also took some time. With my new knowledge of the Enneagram, I started to recognize that certain Types respond better to certain NLP techniques and processes. As a result, I could work faster and more elegantly.

It worked the other way around too. Many of the NLP techniques and processes helped to reveal Type so that I was also able to help people find their Enneagram Space more quickly through what they revealed about themselves in some of the more linguistic NLP work.

The place where these two worlds overlap most obviously is the process that I am about to describe and with Core Transformation, which I shall write about at some future date.

As you read about the Visual Squash and either take yourself through it or consider guiding someone else through it, you will start to recognize that the internal conflicts that we are exploring are Enneagram-based. This will be revealed in the metaphors that emerge, very often at an unconscious level. Sixes very often have a scared part and a courageous part; Eights may have a very strong part and a weak part; Ones may suffer from two parts that are both Right, and yet want different things; and so on. Sometimes I may point out these patterns; at other times I use it as data to inform my work with the person when he or she is processing at a more conscious level.

I would love to hear from others who are already using Visual Squash (or indeed Core Transformation) to share thoughts about how we can use NLP to inform our Enneagram work, and how we can use the Enneagram to inform our NLP work. But more of this later.

The Presentation

My presentation at this year’s IEA Global Conference in Burlingame took the form of an introduction to the process, a demonstration of the process, and allowing participants to work in pairs exploring the process. But rather than write up a description of the session, that might only make sense for those who were there, I thought that it might be more useful to adapt something that I have been writing for the second edition of my book. This is a much fuller description of the process for resolving internal conflict.

There is enough information here for you to take yourself and/or another person through the process, but I would recommend getting together with a friend or colleague and exploring it together the first time that you experience it.

I would love to receive feedback or questions from those of you who choose to give it a go knowing that the worst thing that will happen is that it won’t work; the best that can happen is pretty magical.

Please also remember that this process is for resolving conflict between two parts; if there is only one part, it will usually be more appropriate to use the Six Step Reframe process.

The Visual Squash

This process is particularly good when there is an internal conflict (although it can be adapted for use with individuals or teams as a way of resolving external conflicts).

The first question to ask is: how do you know that you have an internal conflict? Often when I am working with someone, this emerges out of the language that they are using, their tone of voice, and also their body language. This is not a specific technical skill, but more a matter of observing and listening, being curious and interested, and asking questions.

Back to the original question, how do you know that you have a conflict? Sometimes the answer is obvious, when people actually say something like, “well, part of me wants to ‘x’, but another part of me wants to ‘y’.” Surprisingly, to me, when I repeat this back to the Explorer, it is often outside of their conscious awareness, even when they emphasize the separateness of the two parts by pointing to different places as they point to the two “parts”, either outside their body or in different parts of their body. The simple act of mirroring this behaviour by pointing out what they have just done starts the process of bringing the conflict to conscious awareness.

For others, it is the awareness of internal voices, which may be also be located inside or outside the person’s body. They may be the voice or voices of the Explorer but just as often the voice or voices of other people. The important thing to note is that they will have different messages.

Another way in which conflicts manifest themselves is through feelings in the body. By feelings, I really mean internal sensations, or e-motions. Sometimes they are in the same general area of the body, but more commonly, they are in different areas such as the head or the throat, the chest, or the belly. At other times, the difference is more about the left and right hand sides of the body part, often matched with language such as “on the one hand I want ‘x’, and on the other hand, I want ‘y’.”

What is manifesting, however, is a situation where there are two parts of the person that want different things; such as, “part of me wants to binge, but another part of me wants to diet”, “part of me wants to go out and party, but another part of me is tired and wants to stay in”, “part of me is scared, part of me is courageous”, “part of me wants to smoke, part of me wants to quit”.

The irony is not only that we cannot have both of these things, but also that each part is stopping the other from achieving what it wants.

If we think about this through Enneagram eyes, I am sure that you will already have started noticing that there may be information here about type, although I would urge you to hold this lightly as an hypothesis at this stage.

One of the first things that we need to do is to communicate with the parts. This might seem easy but can actually be problematic, and particularly, as is so often the case, if the Explorer perceives one part as “positive” while the other is considered as “negative”. If real communication is to be achieved, it is really important that we, as the Guide, are neutral regardless of how much the person is biased towards one part or the other. Milton Erickson used to say that it is more important to get rapport with the “Parts” of the Explorer than with the Explorer.

For these reasons, it is often necessary to send the conscious mind away while working with the parts. I will often ask an interrupting conscious mind to perform a task such planning the evening’s menu and shopping for it, or counting down from a million in sevens. This gives the conscious mind something to do rather than interfering in the process by trying to apply logic to a situation that cannot be resolved in that way. If it could, then it wouldn’t be necessary to even consider applying this process as the problem or issue would have already been resolved. This is particularly important when working with intelligent “Head” people. They need to know that their logic has “failed”.

However the parts have manifested, it is important to acknowledge and recognize them and their value and importance to themselves, to the Explorer, and to you. This may take some time as often the parts, and particularly the ones perceived as “negative”, are often very young, have been around for a long time, and have also often been ignored or punished or bullied. If there is a history of this, they expect it to happen again, hence the importance of establishing rapport with them and really letting them know that you are going to listen to them.

Another important presupposition is that the part perceived as being negative has a positive intent, not only for itself, but also for the person. This fact has often been lost sight of. It is incumbent upon us to regain the perception that the part is in reality “positive” and has positive intentions for us.

To achieve this, it is important that the person goes into what we could call a “light trance”, closing their eyes and resting their hands palm upwards on their knees. You then start asking about the issue and how the person knows that there is a conflict. Once you have established contact with the parts and acknowledged and valued them, and let them know that you really want to communicate with them, you ask each part to “step” on to the person’s open palm. This might seem odd but generally happens very quickly once the right amount of groundwork has been done.

The next piece is one of my favourite parts of NLP as you ask the person to take a look at each part. Sometimes they are miniature versions of the person, either at different ages or dressed differently to reflect the different aspects of the self that they represent. Mostly, however, the response is more abstract – it may be an animal, real or fantasy, a concrete object, a colour, a shape, or even energy. Whatever appears, it is important to thank it for appearing and to welcome it, and to state that even if we don’t yet know what it wants, we are sure that it will be something positive.

Prior to this stage, there may be a need for some negotiation, but this is fine as long as time has been spent building rapport. Each part needs to know that it will be coming out on to the hand, and that it is merely a matter for them to decide which comes first and on to which hand each will go.

Once they are on the hands, you have to ask each hand in turn what it wants. Clearly, one of them has to go first, but this is usually OK as long as the other knows that it will have its turn next. This verbal acknowledgement of fairness and sticking to the “rules”, is important and usually leads to and easy and clean process, where objections are easily dealt with as long as the rules are clear and explicit and adhered to.

The next stage is called “chunking up”. In turn, although it is possible and OK to alternate, we ask each part what it wants, and then ask the part what it would get if that outcome were already achieved. We continue asking this question until there is no more for the part to say. What happens is that each part wants the same thing, or something as close to that that it makes little difference, as the other.

If I diet then eventually I will get peace, whereas if I binge I will also eventually get peace, or whatever it is that the part wants.

At this point I ask the parts if they are aware of one another and often they are not. If this is the case, I get them to turn and face one another (up to this point they have usually been “looking” at me) and just get to know one another and to acknowledge that the other exists.

This can be quite a transformative moment as often they have been completely unaware of one another up to this point or else assumed that the “other” was an evil or alien part that is completely wrong. This is why it is so important that I am neutral and accepting of each part despite whatever the other part or the person themselves think of the part.

Once the parts have gotten to know one another, we can start the process of finding out what each part wants for itself and also for the person. It is important here also to point out, and it is almost always true, that neither part can have what it wants because the resources needed to achieve this are held by the other part as well as the other part having the power and the influence to stop the other from achieving its outcome. Neither can achieve their outcome, and they both sort of know this.

If appropriate at this point, I will set up an anchor by touching the underside of the hands in turn as each part accesses this important realization.

By this point, the two hands have already started to move as each part comes to realize the value of the other. If not, then I ask each part how it can reach its outcome knowing that what it needs is on the other hand. Very often they have come together by now. If not, I ask what would emerge if the best resources in each hand, from each part, were to be placed in the middle. Watching the physiology carefully (and there are often few words from the Explorer throughout all of this process, making calibration to physiology absolutely essential as it is the only way to have any inkling as to what is happening for the Explorer), it is fairly easy to know where you are in the process. When the hands come together, or the resources of each have come together and are being held by both hands, there is usually a significant shift in physiology. Breathing usually slows down and becomes deeper and lower in the body. Blood rushes to the surface with a consequent heightening of colour. Any tensions held in the face disappear as the Explorer becomes more relaxed.

I allow this new situation to settle before asking where this feeling belongs. Often the person will already have started to let their hands move closer to the chest and I encourage this; obviously, we don’t want such a lovely feeling to stay outside the body and all it takes is a little encouragement for the Explorer to allow the feeling in, and then to spread throughout the whole of their being. Once this has been achieved, the next thing is to ask not just how this feels now but also how it will affect those times in the future when there would have been conflict before. This is the all-important “future pace”.

Once the Explorer has integrated this feeling, I suggest that they might want to choose an anchor, just in case they need to remind themselves of this feeling in the future. This is actually seldom needed as the integration of the new feeling is usually complete by this stage, but I always prefer a “belt-and-braces” approach, just in case.

Once the Explorer has opened their eyes again, I don’t really want to talk about what has happened at a conscious level and it is quite common for the person not to know what they are going to do in future, but they do have a definite sense that it will be different from what they have done in the past. It is quite common also for people to tell me weeks later that when looking back they found that they had behaved differently but that this hadn’t been a conscious choice.

I believe that this is an important part of the process because over-analyzing could undo the good work done. What can be fun is to talk about what they saw on their hands. Remember that this is most often metaphorical and often surprises the Explorer as me much as me: a pig and a wall becoming a rainbow, a globe and a brick turning into a cloud. There are many delightful surprises at this stage. I never analyze this or try to interpret what has happened, knowing that something remarkable and magical has often occurred.        

Visual Squash or Outcome Integration – The Procedure

(With thanks to Connirae and Steve Andreas)

1.  Identify the two conflicting parts and ‘name’ them.

2.  Place each of the parts on to the upturned palms. Describe each part fully, what it looks like, how it sounds and feels.

3.  Access the outcome and positive intention for each part.

4.  Chunk up to a shared outcome.

5.  Invite each part to turn to the other and recognize each other’s existence. Let each know the outcome and positive intention of the other. Let each understand that the mutual outcome is not being met because the two parts are in conflict. Point out that the resources that each part needs to achieve the outcome are held by the other part.

6.  Either invite them to come together and create a new part that will achieve the outcome, or create a new part between them that includes all of the best of each of the two parts.

In most cases, by now the hands and the parts will have come together. If not, invite them to allow this to happen.

7.  Invite the explorer to allow the new integrated part to come into the body and spread throughout the whole of their being – physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual.

8.  Invite the explorer to think of times where there might have been a conflict and to notice how different this is now that they have the full resources of the new integrated part. Invite the explorer to consider other times and places where this new resource will be useful.

I believe that there is enough information about the process for you to be able to use it, but would recommend that you work in pairs initially, taking one another through the Visual Squash as I think it is important that you have experienced what happens before you take others through it. If you have any questions about the procedure, please get in touch and I’ll do my best to help.

It would also be great to hear from those of you who have already used the process, or are about to, so that we can share how we can use it in our Enneagram work.

Peter can be contacted at [email protected]