Feeling Worse to Feel Better: How Amplifying Problems Can Lead to Solutions

Filed under: Hypnosis Training

How Making It Worse Helps Make It Better

Sometimes you must deliberately make your client’s problem worse. If that sounds strange or even insane, keep reading.

Imagine you're carrying a backpack. Every day, it gets a little heavier, a bit more burdensome. And then someone comes along and says that to lighten this load, you should add a few more rocks. 

Sounds crazy, right? It would be if you were carrying a bag of rocks. But as a metaphor for someone’s problem, it makes sense. It’s actually an important key to helping your client ease their problem or get rid of it altogether.

Let’s dive in deeper so we can explain how making a problem worse on purpose can pave the way to its resolution.

It's Weighing You Down

Measuring the Weight of the Problem

Let’s go back to the backpack full of rocks. To effectively address any problem, first, we must gauge its intensity. How heavy is that backpack, really?

That’s one of the things we do at the initial interview with a client. After we decide we want to work with them, we measure the problem on the SUDs scale. To learn more about the initial client interview, click here

But what the heck is that? Well, it’s your way of measuring the intensity of a client’s problem – the weight of their backpack. SUDs stands for Subjective Units of Distress. Don’t worry, it’s actually much simpler than it sounds.

You’ve probably been asked for SUDs before, you just didn’t refer to it as that. Remember when a doctor asked you how bad you were feeling on a scale of one to ten? That was them checking your SUDs. The only difference here is that you’re not (necessarily) dealing with physical pain, but any discomfort caused by a particular problem, physical or emotional.

You should ask the client how bad that problem makes them feel on a scale of one to ten. The end goal is to get it to zero – not even one, but zero. You should always aim to get rid of the problem completely. But the process of getting there might involve taking it up to ten. As the old saying goes, the night is darkest just before dawn.

A pivotal tool in this journey is what we fondly refer to as “Mike's magic SUDs question”: explaining to the client that the target is zero, but asking if 1 or 2 would be okay. This question serves a dual purpose: it sets the expectation of complete resolution while also providing a psychological cushion. If, in the end, they can’t get it to zero, they’ll still be satisfied with the results.

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Awakening the Pathways to Healing

This strategy is contained in the ADAC model. ADAC stands for Activate, Dissociate, Associate, and Collapse. This sequence ensures that we can get rid of any problem if each step is done thoroughly. And since the first step is to Activate the problem, what better way to do it thoroughly if not by activating it to its full extent?

After inducing a hypnotic trance, we ask the client to describe how that problem makes them feel. What physical sensations do they experience in relation to that problem? It could be a tightness in the chest when feeling anxious, a heaviness in the shoulders carrying the weight of stress, or any physical manifestation of their emotional or psychological distress. Once they’re able to identify these sensations and describe them on the SUDs scale, we ask them to push it higher. That will send them the unconscious message that they are the one in control.

That wouldn’t normally be possible, but in hypnosis, we're opening the door to their unconscious, allowing them to access and engage with deeper aspects of their experience. When we activate the physical sensations associated with the problem, we also create a direct bridge to the neural pathways connected with it. Like lighting up a map of the brain, this activation highlights the routes that cause the problem, setting the stage for targeted therapeutic techniques to follow.

This process also leads the client to a very important realization: they discover that if they have the power to intensify their discomfort, they also have the power to diminish it. You don’t have to explain that to them. Let their unconscious mind figure it out. After amplifying the problem to a 9 or even a 10 on the SUDs scale, it also sets a new baseline for the problem, making it much more noticeable when they start feeling better.

Navigating the Path to Resolution

Post-activation, the stage is set for intervention. This is where the magic happens, where the strategies and techniques tailored to the individual's needs are applied. Whether through further hypnosis, neurolinguistic programming (NLP), or other techniques, the intervention is designed to navigate through the activated neural pathways and initiate the process of change.

Following the intervention, it's crucial to measure the impact. This is where measuring SUDs comes back into play. By reassessing how bad the problem feels on the SUDs scale, we get a clear picture of how much it has improved. Don’t be scared of repeating this cycle—intervene and test—several times. Each iteration is an opportunity to refine and adjust, ensuring the intervention is hitting the mark and moving the client closer to relief.

Squeeze It

Squeeze the Lemon: Pursuing Complete Resolution

In the pursuit of healing, we don’t want just partial relief. We’re not settling for merely feeling "better" when complete resolution is the aim. This is the essence of "squeezing the lemon"—extracting every last drop of distress, leaving nothing behind but relief and empowerment. It's about persisting until the SUDS score reaches zero, ensuring the client isn’t just feeling better, but awesome and empowered.

The beauty of the ADAC framework is its broad applicability. Whether in hypnosis, coaching, or any form of personal development work, these principles offer a robust foundation for facilitating change. They empower practitioners to guide their clients through their issues and towards clarity and relief.

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