Emotions As Passengers, Not Drivers: Choosing & Changing Your State

A long time ago I promised to make a book using Tom Hoobyar’s NLP stories. He and I got a good start on it, and then life interrupted, and Tom passed on. So Susan Sanders, a good friend and stellar NLP’er, and I took the beginnings of a manuscript Tom H had created and turned it into a completed work.

Today you’re getting an excerpt directly from the book, and one you haven’t seen before.

To my delight, the book has gotten really nice reviews from the people I was able to offer early copies to. While I’d love to have sent you one, you didn’t get a review copy because the quantity was very limited. Here is how the people – experts in the field of NLP – who have seen it are responding:

“NLP: The Essential Guide” is a most welcome book in the land of NLP. The conversational style allows technical concepts to be easily understood and readily applicable. Finally a book both for someone new to NLP and yet a great practical reference for the veteran. “NLP: The Essential Guide” is a liaison between reality and the amazing discoveries of NLP.” – Michael Grinder, National NLP Directory of Education

“NLP: The Essential Guide” is a richly personal journey. You’ll enjoy the anecdotes as you’re guided through exploring how applying the principles and teachings of NLP anywhere and everywhere can make life easier and happier. A unique introduction to NLP where you will experience NLP not so much as a set of concepts, but alive and living.” — Connirae Andreas, author of Core Transformation.

“This is a book written to teach the reader “how to” put the principles of NLP into practice. It was written by two of the most interesting and passionate NLP practitioners in the world. This comes across in a fashion that makes it easy reading and “real” learning, i.e. the explanations and exercises impart new and useful skills. It will teach a serious reader, the nuts and bolts of the “operating software”, with which the mind works while dramatically improving their lives and communications with other people. It’s one of the best introductions into learning NLP in print.” — Frank Bourke, President and Founder, NLP Research & Recognition Project

‘A well organised, practical guide to making NLP work in your life, the personal stories make it easy to relate to and bring the book alive’ —  Joseph O’Connor, author of Introducing NLP, The NLP Workbook, and Coaching with NLP

“There must already be at least 200 introductions to NLP, including our own book, Heart of the Mind, published 23 years ago. Why yet another? What is special about this book is that the authors apply the patterns and methods in many different areas of their own lives—thoroughly, and with care and creativity. It may seem a bit wandering at times, but the journey always ends with a heartwarming and human resolution.”

—Steve Andreas, author and publisher of the NLP Classics

“Tom and Tom can explain anything and make it clear, motivating and do-able. I highly recommend “NLP: The Essential Guide”. Great stories and techniques to live your life by.” — Shelle Rose Charvet, Author “Words That Change Minds

Published by William Morrow/Harper Collins, it’s available for pre-order now. Frankly the pre-order prices almost embarrass me. I don’t want to quote them here ’cause I don’t know, and have no control, over how long they’ll last. So click through to your favorite bookstore and reserve yours now.

Emotions As Passengers, Not Drivers: Choosing & Changing Your State

Excepted from the forthcoming book,
“NLP: The Essential Guide” by Tom Hoobyar, Tom Dotz, and Susan Sanders

To be released Jan 29, 2013 Harper Collins, © NLP Comprehensive Reprinted with permission. http://www.amazon.com/NLP-Essential-Guide-Neuro-Linguistic-Programming/dp/0062083619/ref=lh_ni_t

1,029 words, 4.2 minutes average reading time (plus optional 15 minute process)

“…People make important shifts when they treat their feelings as options instead of as things they have to endure. You get to make choices here. How much of a difference that will make for you depends on how much time and energy you put into using these skills.

As you get more and more tuned in to how you feel, it will become easier go back behind the feeling to notice the image or the sound that triggered the emotion, or the body feeling. During the next couple of days, I encourage you to notice the emotions you’re having and to immediately explore what’s behind them. Ask yourself: “When did that start? What was I thinking just before that started?” First, you’ll find the thinking you’re aware of, then look beneath that. Was there any image in there or was there any sound that teed up the feeling? Was I making a comment to myself that sort of biased me… flavored things… and took the energy out of something… or made me particularly happy?

You’re likely to find that you’re talking to yourself all the time and so are other voices. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a whole Greek Chorus of voices in my head that are chiming in spontaneously noticing things and commenting, in some way, on everything. You’ll also find there are lots of images flashing that you largely ignore. After all, if we pay too much attention to these movies in our heads, we’ll never get anything done. But they are, in fact, going on all the time. As you become aware of them, you can make changes. The good news is that, given a better choice, your brain will continue to choose that better option.

Curiosity: A Preferred State

Once I learned NLP, here’s what I did to address my personal frustrations, irritations, and anxieties. I call it the “Curiosity Shunt Installation”. (Refer to the link at the end of this chapter to access a detailed summary of this process.) I did some research on emotions and I found that the emotion of curiosity is really a curious emotion. It’s a very neutral and engaging emotion that affords you greater flexibility.

All parts of the body like curiosity. Curiosity actually helps grow T cells! It helps grow new synapses in the brain so the immune system gets stronger. People function better when they’re engaged and curious.

When you’re curious about something, a lot of the blocking self-talk and images go away. Once you’re curiously exploring the answer to something, it’s amazing how a lot of negative stuff just disappears and how this state of information-gathering opens people to new possibilities.

Here’s what used to happen for me when I was managing a manufacturing company. When I got frustrated I would think of what was frustrating me. A vendor didn’t ship a part on time so we couldn’t meet our manufacturing deadline, so we were going to be late shipping stuff. We were going to get a bad reputation. Then I’d start all over again. “Well, the vendor wouldn’t ship on time, so yada yada yada,” and it was a loop.

The more I did the loop, the more frustrated I got. As you might imagine, I did the same thing with feeling irritated or feeling anxious. “Suppose this goes wrong. Then this would happen and this would happen. Then suppose this goes wrong. This would happen and this would happen.” Same damn loop. You get the picture.

I thought it would be really nice for me if as soon as I became aware that I was stirring up one of these negative unresourceful and unproductive states I would remind myself that I could be curious instead.

So immediately I’d think, “That would be really nice. As soon as I start feeling irritated, I’m going to get curious about the cause of this irritation.”

Well, that put me in a whole different frame because then I was curious about the cause of the irritation rather than mad at it. And, I’d want to know what caused that irritation. Was it me? Was it the other guy? Was it something I missed somewhere? Could I have done it better? How could I change it? How could I make peace? What curiosity did was kick my brain onto a completely different track.

Sound good to you? I hope it does. Because it resonated for me, I studied how frustration, irritation, and anxiety worked in me. I began to notice exactly how each of these feelings began. Then, I looked at what happened just before that.

You may be surprised to discover that it’s not different experiences that create these familiar feelings. It’s not, “Well, it was this vendor, it was that guy.” No, no, no. It’s not that. It’s actually what you said to yourself about that or it’s the picture you make about that. The emotions are triggered by a cue. The cue is going to be the same even though the stimulus is going to be completely different because the cue leads you to the emotion. It’s so well-rehearsed, it happens really fast. It’s a flash just like greased lightning.

Because it’s a fast, automated process, it’s sometimes difficult to find what’s driving us. The only way to do it is to slow things down, take a few deep breaths, and run the mental movie at half speed, quarter speed, or 10% speed really slowly, back before you had the feeling. And to discover, just before you had the feeling, what happened.

You’ll be amazed and amused. You’ll find there will be an image or a phrase that will trigger you, and here’s how to proceed.  To quickly summarize, it’s three steps. You find the cue for the emotion, you start to defuse the cue, and immediately replace it with a future you who doesn’t have this issue and who’s curious. Play with this process and you’ll experience a profound shift.

The Curiosity Shunt Installation

This process works like magic when you take the time to fully recall the memories that are asked for. To change your mind, you need to use your complete attention and be specific. Play “full out” and in less than 15 minutes you’ll experience more control over your feelings than you’ve ever had before.

Get Ready: Establish a benchmark of your current state.

  • Think about the feeling you want to change.
  • On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest), assign a rating to this feeling.

Step 1: Set up 3 anchors on the floor.

  • On one piece of paper, write the name of your “Boogeyman” feeling; then put that paper on the floor in front of you.
  • Take a second piece of paper and write the word “Curiosity” on it, and drop it a step away from the “Boogeyman” space.
  • Label the third piece of paper “Decontamination” and place it a step away from the “Curiosity” space.

Step 2: Stand in the “Boogeyman” space.

  • Remember the last time the Boogeyman got you with the negative feeling/thinking loop.  Recreate the specific circumstances; How did it start?  What were you saying to yourself? Where in your body was the feeling?  Describe it.
  • When you’ve recreated this experience in detail, step out of it onto a blank space on the floor. That’s right, just step forward out of the “Boogeyman” space and leave that feeling there behind you. You can even shake it off physically to make sure you leave it there in the “Boogeyman” space. It will remain there. Your unconscious knows where it is.

Step 3: Step into and stand in the “Curiosity” space.

  • Remember the last time you were really curious about something. When was it? What specifically were you curious about? Did you picture it in your mind? If you were to see it in your mind at this moment, what would you see? What might you have been saying to yourself? What feelings were you feeling?
  • When you’ve recreated this experience of curiosity in detail, step onto a blank space on the floor.

Step 4: Step onto and stand in the “Decontamination” space.

  • Now, think of a powerful physical pleasure. Something like swimming, skiing, bicycle riding, getting a massage, sitting in a hot tub, really enjoying a refreshing shower.
  • Remember the last time you had the experience. Recall it in specific detail. Were you indoors or outdoors? What was the weather like? Where did you have this experience?  How did it feel, physically?

Step 5: Install the Shunt – Boogeyman, Curious, Boogeyman, Decontamination

  • Go to “Boogeyman”. When the “Boogeyman” feeling begins to come up step directly into “Curious”.
  • When you have the “Curious” feeling remembered strongly, put your hand gently on the part of your body where curiosity lives. Hold it as if you were trying to keep the curious feeling from being blown away or shaken loose.
  • Keep holding it in your body and step directly into the “Boogeyman” space. Notice how you’re now curious about what caused the Boogeyman instead of just feeling it.
  • Now step directly into “Decontamination”.

Step 6: Re-Install the Shunt – Boogeyman, Curious, Boogeyman, Decontamination

  • Step into “Boogeyman” and as soon as the feeling starts step over into the “Curiosity” space again.
  • Remember where curiosity is in your body. Touch it and hold your hand there.
  • Now step directly onto the “Boogeyman” again. Notice how taking more curiosity into the space has made the feeling change a little bit more.
  • Once again, step into “Decontamination” and remember your pleasurable experience – how it actually felt physically.
  • Step out of Decontamination onto a blank space on the floor and say your zip code backwards.

 Step 6: Automate the Shunt – See yourself as a blur, then be yourself

  • Now you are ready to move a little faster. While standing outside the spaces, see yourself going through the process you just did, faster and faster. Boogeyman, then step into Curiosity, then to Boogeyman, then to Decontamination – faster and faster.
  • Finally, imagine that you are going through the process yourself, but faster than you could ever do it in the flesh – faster and faster.  Whew!


The desired outcome is to become curious and wonder what is triggering the Boogeyman feeling – instead of getting caught in the loop. How is it for you now when you think about the feeling you had at the beginning?

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