Tim Brunson DCH

Welcome to The International Hypnosis Research Institute Web site. Our intention is to support and promote the further worldwide integration of comprehensive evidence-based research and clinical hypnotherapy with mainstream mental health, medicine, and coaching. We do so by disseminating, supporting, and conducting research, providing professional level education, advocating increased level of practitioner competency, and supporting the viability and success of clinical practitioners. Although currently over 80% of our membership is comprised of mental health practitioners, we fully recognize the role, support, involvement, and needs of those in the medical and coaching fields. This site is not intended as a source of medical or psychological advice. Tim Brunson, PhD

Enhancing Performance using Space/Time-based Techniques

by Tim Brunson, PhD

Altering the space/time encoding related to a person's performance of a specific task may accelerate the unlearning of poor behavior and thought patterns and facilitate the rapid re-programming of new ones. My approach to space and time elements of encoding serves as a significantly different approach regarding how coaching and psychotherapeutic interventions can be employed.

The use of time in mental health and performance coaching is not new. Freudian psychoanalysis is essentially a set of techniques in which clinicians get their patients to mentally travel to various times in their lives for the purpose of laboriously changing the encoding that is integral with their memories. There has been little innovation when it comes to the application of temporal phenomena until Tad James, PhD, developed his Time-Line Therapy.

The other factor that has always been missing from time considerations is that of space. Einstein contented that space and time are synonymous – a fact which is mind-boggling to most non-physicists. However, if you consider how the space/time continuum is constantly integral with the multitude of techniques used by the practitioners of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, you will easy find that both space and time are ubiquitous in just about all therapeutic techniques.

When a thought or memory is held within a person's conscious awareness consider how he or she is addressing the factors of location, duration, speed, and direction. It is well known that an associated thought is more impactful than a dissociated one. For instance, should subjects experience the memory as if looking through their own eyes, their emotions and feelings will be much more intense. Likewise, if a memory is seen as being in slow motion it will be more impactful than one that is sped up. The Double Dissociation Phobia Cure often includes having the subject experience the initial sensitizing event at a much faster rate previously experienced when it was recalled – and revivified. This is an alteration of both duration and speed. And lastly, like James' Time-Line Therapy each event is experienced as having a very definite pattern, which clearly places the subjects' past, present, and future in a specific location – which when altered changes their feelings significantly.

Why does this work? If you consider that the brain's major function is pattern preservation, you will understand that the brain will react more intensely when something is perceived to be a challenge to previous understanding and habituated reactions. Thus, when one item is perceived as being more of a threat than another, the brain's reaction will be much stronger. Hence, this explains why you react more emotionally to an associated memory – and to something which is experienced as happening very slowly.

In scientific terms when an item is considered more of a threat it happens within the person's peripersonal space and time. Anything experienced outside this here-and-now bubble can be called extra-personal. In other words, if something is perceived as within your "territory" and in the immediate present, you will take it much more seriously than if it occurs far away and/or remains either in the distant past or future. As the brain will learn more rapidly peripersonal space/time perceptions, the performance coach's task is to get clients to begin experiencing – that is to say, mentally rehearsing – it as if it is happening in the here and now.

This is not very difficult at all. The imaginative capacity afforded all human beings by their advanced right orbitofrontal cortex – which is the brain matter located just above the right eye - gives you a wonderful ability. It allows you to instigate a wonderful sensation as you experience the dessert from your last or next feast as if you are presently experiencing it. It can make all your fantasies a present reality as well. On the other hand, it can be a curse should you not develop the ability to control it. Indeed, recalling a disturbing experience from your past or imagining an undesired fear occurring in the future will throw the body into a significant revivication, which can cause anxiety and panic attacks and even become manifested as arthritis, skin disorders, and even tumors.

The performance coach's goal is to help his or her clients use the imaginative capability to accelerate their mastery by helping them experience a particular task as if it is happening within peripersonal space and time. For instance, when working with golfers I will have them mentally rehearse their golf swing in excruciatingly slow motion over and over again. I will get them to imagine the ball flying through the air as if they are holding it in their hand for the entire journey. And, I will have them experience the sight, feelings, and sound as if they are hypersensitive to the ball's drop into the hole – hundreds of feet away.

This sounds simple. However, I don't stop there. What is important is for the coach to recognize how his or her clients encode a task in their mind. For this purpose I go back to the four perceptual variables, which I mentioned earlier. Again, these are location, duration, speed, and direction. Early on in our conversation I will get clients to describe to me exactly how they performed the task both well and poorly. I will carefully note their comments in terms of those variables. For instance, as they recall a time when they performed masterfully they almost always were associated. However, this unfortunately is normally the case when they recalled their poor performance as well. How long did it seem to happen? Often the great performance is remembered as a brief period in time; the poor one is definitely recalled in slow motion. Additionally, I note any directional clues.

When I design a guided imagery my goal is to de-program the negative memory by changing its encoding. If it is recalled as being associative, over a long period, slow, and following a specific direction, when referring to it I will make it dissociative, brief, quick, and follow a different pattern. When getting them to imagine the expert performance it will obviously be associative, of long duration, extremely slow, and following a direction which they normally relate to positive experiences. Obviously, this will make the event more peripersonal and thus assist their brain in more rapidly encoding the new skill. Once this is repeated, they rapidly develop the appropriate neural networks associated with masterful performance.

Space and time considerations have always been a part of mental, physical, and coaching techniques. The deliberate use of the four perceptual variables of location, duration, speed, and direction both as an assessment and design tool and as a developmental intervention represents a somewhat alternate way of viewing the transformative process.

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