Turning Negative into Positive: The Power of Backfilling in Hypnosis and Everyday Life

Filed under: Hypnosis Training

by MMH Team

You don’t want your life full of empty spaces, do you?

In this blog post we’re going to explain the concept of “backfilling” and show you how important it is for hypnosis sessions, but also in everyday life.

The term “backfilling” is something we learned from our friend Karl Smith, the creator of the brilliant Kinetic Shift protocol. It’s a concept we’ve long been using, but we love Karl’s term for it, and we’ve adopted it. It’s meant to emphasize the importance of replacing removed negatives with nurturing, positive experiences.

By adopting the principle of backfilling, we embark on a journey of continuous growth, ensuring that every space cleared of negativity blooms with potential and positivity.

In this blog post and accompanying video, we'll dive into the applicability of the principle of backfilling in hypnosis and across various aspects of life.

Understanding the Nature of Backfilling

The principle of backfilling finds its roots in Aristotle's observation that "nature abhors a vacuum." This ancient wisdom highlights an innate tendency in the physical world to fill empty spaces, a concept that holds true in the realms of our minds and lives. When we eliminate negative thoughts, habits, or influences, we are left with voids that, if not consciously addressed, can inadvertently attract more negativity or simply revert to old patterns.

Therefore, backfilling is about intentional replenishment. It’s the conscious choice to populate these newly vacated spaces with positive, enriching experiences and habits. This approach is not just about preventing regression but actively propelling ourselves forward. This ensures that every void created by the removal of a negative element becomes an opportunity for positive transformation, mirroring the natural inclination of the world around us to fill empty spaces with new life.

The Pitfall of Unintentional Backfilling

Let's relate Aristotle's wisdom to the everyday process of making lifestyle changes. Consider the act of adopting positive behaviors such as exercising regularly or eating nutritious food. Each of these actions involves removing a past behavior that was harmful or no longer useful and replacing it with something that promotes well-being.

However, it's not just about making room for new things; it's about what we do to fill this newly empty space. To bring this concept to life, let's consider a common experience: purging old clothes that no longer fit or serve us, possibly donating them to charity. In the wake of this decluttering, many of us feel an almost instinctive urge to fill the newly emptied closet space with new purchases. Without mindful consideration, this can lead to acquiring a bunch of items we don't need or even want, simply because the space was there to be filled. This scenario is a perfect example of how unintentional backfilling can cause us to fill empty spaces in ways that are not beneficial.

Recognizing and avoiding the pitfall of unintentional backfilling is crucial for anyone on a path of personal development. By choosing to fill our lives with intention and purpose, we can ensure that each step we take away from negativity moves us closer to a life filled with growth, fulfillment, and genuine happiness.

Backfilling In Everyday Life

Backfilling in Everyday Life

As we mentioned, backfilling has a broad applicability. It applies in hypnosis just as in everyday life. By recognizing backfilling in various aspects of life, we can start to see patterns of behavior and thought in a new light, understanding the importance of what we choose to fill our lives with after making space by removing the old and outdated.

Curating Your Life's "Junk Drawer"

Each of us has a metaphorical "junk drawer" in our lives. It's that catch-all space where things we don't know what to do with end up; a mix of potentially useful items, forgotten projects, and things that simply no longer serve a purpose. Just as a literal junk drawer can become cluttered and unmanageable, so too can our lives. It's time for an audit—a careful examination of what's in our drawer, what needs to go, and, importantly, what positive elements we should introduce in their place.

The Art of Life Auditing

Viewing your life as a "junk drawer" in need of sorting is not about self-criticism but about honest self-reflection and the willingness to declutter. Start by asking yourself: What habits, thoughts, or relationships are taking up space without adding value? Are there commitments or beliefs that drain your energy rather than replenish it? Identifying these elements is the first step toward making room for more constructive and fulfilling alternatives.

Empowering Questions and the Reticular Activating System

The power of transformation also lies in the questions we ask ourselves. Empowering questions are those questions that lead us to find solutions, recognize opportunities, and appreciate our strengths. Questions like "What will I do today to remove all the junk from my life and replace it with positive and constructive things?" shift our focus towards positive aspects and possibilities, laying the groundwork for meaningful change.

This process of asking and answering empowering questions activates the Reticular Activating System (RAS) in our brains. The RAS acts as a filter for the information that gets through to our conscious mind, influencing our perception and attentiveness. By focusing our questions on positive and empowering themes, we effectively program the RAS to highlight opportunities, resources, and traits that align with our goals and desires. This selective attention mechanism helps us to better recognize and seize the opportunities for growth and improvement that we might otherwise overlook.

Guiding Personal Transformation

Understanding the role of the Reticular Activating System in guiding personal transformation emphasizes the importance of intentional thought and focus. As we audit our life's "junk drawer," deciding what to keep, what to discard, and what new elements to introduce, we should do so with focus and awareness. 

Backfilling isn't just about physical or behavioral change; it's about reshaping our mental and emotional landscapes as well. Imagine replacing the habit of self-criticism with one of self-compassion, or substituting aimless scrolling through social media with reading books that inspire and educate. Each act of replacement is an opportunity to not only declutter but to enrich and enhance our lives on a deeper level.

By applying the principle of backfilling consciously and intentionally, we can ensure that these opportunities for growth and improvement are not wasted but are instead harnessed to their full potential.

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Backfilling in Hypnosis

In therapeutic settings, especially within hypnosis, backfilling serves as a cornerstone principle for facilitating lasting change. Hypnosis allows for direct communication with the unconscious mind, offering a unique opportunity to remove negative beliefs, habits, or traumas. But removing these elements is only the first step. The process of backfilling becomes crucial in ensuring this negative baggage doesn’t return. Instead, it’s replaced with positive, empowering beliefs and patterns.

A compelling example of backfilling within a hypnosis-related context is Mindscaping. This technique involves guiding the client through a visualization process, mapping out their internal landscape to identify and address issues. When a negative element is identified and removed, the space it used to occupy is not left empty. Instead, it's intentionally filled with positive imagery, symbols, or experiences. This act of backfilling within the mindscape ensures that the client's unconscious mind accepts and integrates these positive changes, ensuring that the client won’t revert to their old patterns


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The Importance of the Initial Interview

The initial interview is the foundation upon which the transformative work is built. It allows the therapist to gain insights into the client's experiences, beliefs, habits, and goals. This understanding is crucial for tailoring the backfilling process to meet the client's unique needs and circumstances.

Techniques for Installing Positive Replacements

Once a clear understanding is established, various techniques can be employed to facilitate the removal of negative elements and the installation of positive replacements. These techniques offer a toolbox for practitioners aiming to guide their clients through effective and lasting change.

Submodality Shifts

Shifting submodalities involves altering the sensory qualities of our thoughts—such as brightness, volume, or distance—to change how we feel about them. By tweaking these details, we can transform a negative memory into a less impactful one, or enhance a positive experience, making it more empowering. This technique is a powerful tool for emotional regulation and personal transformation, allowing individuals to consciously influence their internal representations and, consequently, their emotional responses.

Click here to learn more about working with submodalities.


The ADAC model, mirroring John Overdurf's Meta Pattern, aligns closely with the concept of backfilling in its structured approach to personal transformation.

ADAC stands for “Activate, Dissociate, Associate, and Collapse”. It begins by identifying (Activating) a negative aspect that needs removal. Through Dissociation, individuals gain the necessary distance to view the issue objectively, preparing the space for something new. In the Associate phase, this space is intentionally filled with a positive state or behavior, embodying the essence of backfilling by replacing the negative with a beneficial alternative. The Collapse phase then integrates and solidifies this positive change, ensuring the newly backfilled area is reinforced and sustained. This model exemplifies the backfilling process by systematically removing negatives and intentionally replacing them with positives, ensuring lasting change.

Mike Mandel’s Six-Step Tapping

Our original Six-Step Tapping technique, often associated with EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), is a method that combines tapping on specific acupressure points while focusing on a particular issue. This technique can help clients release emotional blockages and replace them with positive affirmations and beliefs. It's a powerful way to address the emotional aspects of the backfilling process.

Watch Mike and Chris explain the 6-step tapping method in the video below. Don't forget to check out our Youtube channel as well.

DSiH (Direct Suggestion in Hypnosis) and Empowering Questions

Direct Suggestion in Hypnosis involves the use of positive, affirming suggestions directly to the client's unconscious mind during hypnosis. This method can be particularly effective for installing new beliefs and behaviors because it bypasses the critical conscious mind, allowing for deeper internalization of positive changes.

Learning to ask empowering questions is very helpful in crafting direct suggestions, as it aids in pinpointing the exact changes an individual seeks to make. By uncovering a person's core desires and motivations through these questions, a practitioner can tailor direct suggestions that resonate deeply with the individual's goals and values. This alignment ensures that the suggestions are not only accepted more readily by the unconscious but also more effective in fostering lasting transformation. 

Click here to learn how to craft direct suggestions in hypnosis.

It’s also a good idea to teach clients how to use empowering questions. This practice encourages clients to focus on solutions, possibilities, and their own strengths, fostering a mindset of empowerment and self-efficacy. By learning to ask themselves the right questions, clients can navigate challenges more effectively, shift their perspective towards positive outcomes, and maintain progress even after the therapeutic process has ended.

Breathing in Changes

This technique involves using controlled breathing to help the client internalize positive changes. Using direct suggestion, you can help clients associate each breath with the acceptance of a positive belief or the release of a negative one, enabling them to anchor new, empowering states. This process helps to make the transition from old to new more tangible and integrated into the client's being.

Breathing also relates to the Grinder model, which states that one’s internal state can be changed by changing their physiology and breathing. By ensuring clients engage in deep and full breathing during the therapeutic process, we facilitate their ability to reach a resourceful state, crucial for implementing change. 

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Embracing Backfilling for Lasting Change

The principle of backfilling, as we've explored, offers a profound framework for personal growth. It encourages us to view every removal of something negative—not as an end in itself but as a fertile ground for positive growth.

Integrating the principle of backfilling into our lives requires a conscious effort. It's about making deliberate choices of what we allow into our mental, emotional, and physical spaces. By adopting a mindset of intentional replacement, we can ensure that each void created by the removal of a negative element is filled with something that enriches and improves our lives. This could mean adopting healthier habits, fostering positive relationships, or cultivating a mindset of gratitude and resilience.

Taking Your Journey Further

Ready to unlock your full potential in both hypnosis and personal growth? Join us at the Mike Mandel Hypnosis Academy (MMHA) and embark on a journey that goes beyond traditional learning. Whether you're a professional hypnotist looking to refine your skills or someone eager to learn hypnosis for your own personal development, MMHA offers the comprehensive tools and supportive community you need.

At MMHA, we ensure our students are equipped with the tools to practice hypnosis effectively and apply its principles to their own lives. Dive into our extensive library of resources, participate in interactive sessions, and connect with fellow students dedicated to achieving excellence in hypnosis and beyond.

Join the Mike Mandel Hypnosis Academy today and start transforming lives—starting with your own.

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