*This article is designed for those with a practitioner knowledge of NLP*
In the NLP Conference 2023 Masterclass, I’ll be exploring some key techniques for developing Inner Wisdom (IW). IW is best described as the quality of being able to make choices based on knowing what is right for you and that requires some important skillsets. The first is being able to understand situations clearly
by focusing on what is occurring in the here and now, rather than being driven by unhelpful past experiences. Second is tapping into your deep resources of inner guidance and your immense capacity for change. Third is channelling your ability to pause, reflect, and make thoughtful decisions that ensure your actions fit with what you want to achieve in life.
In this article, abridged from my book on Inner Wisdom Techniques – the Coach That’s Always There, I’ll be exploring the concept of ‘Gateway States’ that is so central to developing IW.
States and Gateway States
As NLP practitioners, we are familiar with states. We recognise there are two main state-based issues that affect many people (and that includes us from time to time):
- We are often unaware of when we’re in the wrong state
- Many of us don’t know how to move, by choice, into a better state
Arguably, much of our NLP work helps clients develop this awareness and this state-changing skillset. You may also have noticed that, although there are many possible states, clients often require more access to a sense of calm, confidence, motivation or perspective to work through their issues. These states are awesome at helping change but, when combined with Gateway States, which provide an extra ‘something’ that enhances that change process, change becomes easier and even more accessible.
I first came across them when working with people who had experienced something almost magical at a moment of profound change in their life. Accessing these specific states seemed to transform what happened next. They redrew their map of how easy change could be, and how they felt about themselves and their future and, often, their whole worldview. It was almost as though these states were a catalyst for change or a wormhole that provided a shortcut from one phase in their life to another. Sounds interesting, right?
Due to the limited space here, I’d like to explore four of the seven Gateway States along with a starter exercise to get in touch with them. We’ll cover them in more depth in the masterclass.
In a previous article, I described my journey through recovering from a serious hand injury. Along that road, while being presented with medical opinions telling me there was no way to get movement back in my hand, I had to find a way to stay open to the possibility of recovery, trusting myself, and that I could find a way. This first Gateway State is that sense of deep trust in ourselves and is often combined with a sense of knowing that things are unfolding in the way they should and that we can sense some greater plan at work.
When we get in touch with this trust, it allows for a deeper sense of our potential for change. Our direction onward becomes clearer. It connects us with what we know is deeply important and our big life goals and sense of purpose or ‘mission’ become clearer. Trust allows this ‘mission’ to become our guide to all that we do. It makes obstacles feel like they are just part of the journey rather than being a dead end or a full stop. As a result, the future feels like something we can flow and dance through because we have a constant centre, a solid certain place to come from. It means that it doesn’t matter how things shift and change around us; whether the path to our goal is straight or winding, we know, when we are connected to trust, that there will be a way and we will find it.
This second Gateway State of being kind to yourself is essential to our health, happiness and success. It is often used to mean the same as self-compassion, although technically self-kindness is defined as one of the three elements of self-compassion (the other two being, first, a recognition of the shared human experience – realising that this is not just happening to me, that we all go through difficult times; and second, mindfulness – being able to observe our emotions in an accepting way yet not being swept away by them). Developing self-kindness has been found to be linked to reducing our response to stress(1). Doing this has many health consequences, positively affecting brain function, heart, digestive and immune system health and reducing addictions, habits and substance use (2–5).
Yet being kind to ourselves is a skill that is deeply unfamiliar to many people. There is a question I’ve used for many years that I think identifies this issue well. It is, “If you treated your friends as you treat yourself, would you have any?” For many people, the answer is no. If they spoke to other people in the same way they speak to themselves, their friends would run a mile and they would probably be sacked from their jobs for being unpleasant towards their colleagues. So, if a client is being hard on themselves, or if you’ve been treating yourself with less kindness than you would show to somebody you care about, then this Gateway State will be invaluable.
We’ve all seen practitioners who are incredible when working with their clients but don’t find the time to apply the same amazing skillsets to themselves, putting themselves at the bottom of the kindness pile, having no me time etc. Imagine how much easier changing things would be if we could bring a deep sense of self-kindness to any errors, mistakes or missteps we made as we work through the stuff of life. If we can bring kindness to old unhelpful patterns we see in ourselves and in the reactions of others, how would that help smooth our path on that journey?
Curiosity is one of my favourite Gateway States. It describes that state of mind we get into when we’re intrigued by something new. We’ve suspended our judgement about what we think we’ll find, and we’re open to whatever we discover. It’s the opposite of having a fixed mindset, where we feel we already know how everything is or where we have prejudged how something will be.
Curiosity is particularly valuable when we find ourselves dealing with something unexpected that gets in the way of our plans. Quite often, we will respond to these unexpected events as failures, or something being wrong. We may feel stuck, blocked, criticised or that we’ve been made to look bad. This
is where getting into the Gateway State of curiosity provides such a powerful shift in perspective. It allows us to step away from the trap of expecting things to be a certain way and being annoyed that they are not. Instead, curiosity makes us intrigued about what new pieces of information may appear that show up a portion of the world that is unfamiliar to us, that is filled with innovative perspectives and unexpected opportunities.
It’s something that Adam Grant, Wharton Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, says that some experts may need to embrace more. He argues that the more familiar we become with our field, the less we might see new and unexpected things. He considers that two of the most important skills we can have are those cornerstones of curiosity: the ability to rethink and unlearn.
The Gateway State of Shift is a simple one to understand and incredibly powerful to use. It describes that moment when suddenly everything changes. Where you have a sense of a door opening to a whole new future or that a switch has been flicked on. Suddenly, the world feels radically different, and everything that was stuck is now in flow. It’s that vibrant experience of everything being possible.
When we experience life from the Gateway State of Shift, it reminds us of how much infinite possibility there is in the world. How we are powerful agents of change and how what we do does make a difference. Just by connecting with this state, our neurology and filters of perception become awake to the possibility of something completely different showing up. There are so many examples in everybody’s life of this. It might be the extraordinariness of having a baby, embarking on a brand-new career, moving out of an old stifling relationship, starting a new adventure, uncovering a spiritual realm to your life, recovering from a serious illness, coming across some wisdom in a book, film, song or conversation that makes you feel completely different about your life.
Using the Gateway States
I’m hoping as you’ve read these brief descriptions of these Gateway States that they’ve sparked and awakened something in you, as they have in so many others. They provide a great vacation from some of the more usual types of states we can habitually find ourselves in, such as self-doubt, self-criticism, boredom, difficulty, and impossibility.
At the conference, we’ll be exploring techniques that use these states to help make powerful change, but to start I recommend this brief exploration exercise:
Choose one of the Gateway States that you feel called to today. Spend 10 minutes transporting yourself back to a moment from your life when you felt this extraordinary quality showing up. Relish those feelings, sensations, and shifts in perspective. Connect with that sense of possibility that comes from stepping into a world filled to the brim with this. How does that make things different?
I hope this serves as an introduction to Gateway States. There’s much more to be said so I look forward to seeing you at the Masterclass at the 2023 conference and on my course on Inner Wisdom Techniques. In the meantime, if you want more on this, you’ll find my Dû book here…
1. Rockliff H, Gilbert P, McEwan K, Lightman S, Glover D. A pilot exploration of heart rate variability and salivary cortisol responses to compassion-focused imagery. Published online 2008:9.
2. Davidson RJ. Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosom Med. 2003;65(4):564-570. doi:10.1097/01.PSY.0000077505.67574.E3
3. Parker P, Banbury S, Chandler C. Efficacy of The Rediscovery Process on Alcohol Use, Impulsivity and Flourishing: A Preliminary Randomised Controlled Study and Preliminary Cohort Study. EJAPP. 2020;4(13). doi:https://www.nationalwellbeingservice.org/volumes/ volume-4-2020/volume-4-article-13/
4. Ditto B, Eclache M, Goldman N. Short-term autonomic and cardiovascular effects of mindfulness body scan meditation. Ann Behav Med. 2006;32(3):227-234. doi:10.1207/s15324796abm3203_9
5. Zeidan F, Johnson SK, Gordon NS, Goolkasian P. Effects of Brief and Sham Mindfulness Meditation on Mood and Cardiovascular Variables. J Altern Complement Med. 2010;16(8):867-873. doi:10.1089/acm.2009.0321