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"Kinesthetic Swish"*
by Steve Andreas


        In their recent Anchor Point article (September 1998, pp 33-37),  Michael Hall and Debra Lederer present a procedure which they call  "The Kinesthetic Swish Pattern."

        I am sure that the pattern they present is useful to clients, since it includes the following elements or patterns:

     1. "At least" four spatial anchors ("as many as six to ten," including two different dissociated meta-positions which are used repeatedly).
     2. Full elicitation of a specific problem state and stabilizing the  kinesthetic response with touch anchors.
     3. Elicitation of the visual, auditory tonal and digital cues (but not the kinesthetic cues!) for the problem state.
     4. Overlapping from the localized kinesthetic response to a visual and auditory representation of the response.
     5. Acceptance, validation, and thanking of the part responsible for the problem response.
     6. Asking for the positive intent of the part responsible.
     7. Asking for an alternative outcome (which is likely to be a meta-outcome) if the intent elicited is not "considered strongly positive."
     8. Identifying and accessing a specific resource response in all rep. systems.
     9. Using submodalities to amplify the resource state.
     10. Amplifying motivation by questions containing positive presuppositions.
     11. Moving physically between problem state and resource state repeatedly.

        Since many of those elements can bring about profound change either by themselves, or in smaller combinations, I'm sure that the entire process can produce good results.  Indeed, it has so many change processes built into it, that a NLPer would have to be extraordinarily inept to fail with it.
      However, by no stretch of the imagination is this process anything like the swish pattern (kinesthetic or not), and the NLP community is not served by describing it as such.  In fact, this process has only a simple element of the swish pattern (chaining from the problem state to the resource state.  Chaining of states occurs in many other patterns and interventions other  than the swish, and in the swish the chaining is accomplished by linking analog submodalities as they change, not by moving from one space to another.
      I would like to describe the basic elements of the Swish pattern as we characterized it many years ago (1,2) in order to contrast it with the foregoing.


I. Associated Cue Representation.

     1. The first element of the pattern is an associated representation of the perceptual cue that triggers the problem behavior or response.  In the visual system this will be an image, in the auditory system a sound or voice, and in the kinesthetic system it will be a tactile  (or proprioceptive) sensation of an external event.

     I need to mention here an absolutely crucial distinction when  working in the kinesthetic system, that between:

    1. Perceptual kinesthetics that register heat, cold, pressure, movement, position, etc.  These are perceptions OF events.

    2. Meta-kinesthetics that evaluate what is perceived. These are perceptions ABOUT events.

     Just as I can see an image or hear a song, and have the  meta-kinesthetics of disgust or joy about what I see or hear,  I can experience a light sensation moving on my chest as a crawling  insect or as my lover inviting my attention--with quite different meta-kinesthetic feelings ABOUT the kinesthetic perception.

     Because the perceptual kinesthetics and the meta-kinesthetics exist in the same system, it is sometimes difficult to precisely discern which is which. Perceptual kinesthetics are sensed primarily by the skin, and particularly by the hands, face and other more sensitive areas.  In contrast, meta-kinesthetics  are usually sensed primarily in the torso,  particularly along the midline.  However, aspects of these emotional responses may also be felt in any part of the body.  Fundamentally what we need to do is distinguish between the perception OF an event and the evaluation ABOUT an event.

     The cue in a kinesthetic swish will always be a perceptual kinesthetic:  the associated feeling of a hand on my neck, a feeling of weightlessness, an itching sensation on my legs, etc. In some cases the cue may be an imagined or constructed external kinesthetic perception.

II. Dissociated Evolved-Self Representation. 

     This is a dissociated representation of my evolved self for which the cue situation is simply no longer a problem.  This representation   needs to be realistic and believable, positively motivating, and usually  uncontextualized (unless you want the new response to occur only in a  limited context).  It is not a representation of myself exhibiting a  specific new behavior or response, but a representation of myself as  generally competent and easily able to cope with a wide range of situations.
     It is not widely recognized that this element of the swish pattern  directly builds a new piece of self-image or self-concept, and this is a very significant element in the power of the pattern.

     The self-image is a recursive element of personality, since the person imaging the self-concept is also the subject of the image--like a mirror mirroring a mirror. It is also a feed-forward system, establishing a goal to be approached. The manner of getting there is not specified, nor is the specific behavior or response that will fulfill the  promise of the image--that is left entirely to the person's unconscious  mind, and this is one reason why the pattern is so generative. It is also incredibly fast. The new response is often selected and in place at the end of the first swish, and usually in place after five repetitions. I have been using and teaching the swish for over 15 years, and I still have absolutely no understanding of how the unconscious mind is able to  work so fast.

     In the visual system, the self-image is a disssociated image of myself,  showing in my posture and expression the confident ability to cope with a wide range of difficulties easily.

     In the auditory system it is hearing my own voice coming from in front of me, over there, with my competence evident in the tempo, tonality,  resonance, expression, choice of words, etc.

     In the kinesthetic system the dissociated representation of my body is created by reaching out with my hands and touching my evolved self in front of me. I feel with my fingers the warmth, solidity, posture, movement, muscle tone, etc. that represents my competence and ease in dealing with the kinds of situations that the cues introduce.

III.The Submodality linking mechanism.

     Finally, the cue is linked to the evolved self-image by changing two analog susbmodalities that:

     1. can be varied continuously over a range, and

     2. can amplify the response to both the cue and the evolved self representation.
     In the visual system, size and brightness amplify the response to any image for most people, and the "standard" swish that is often taught utilizes them. The cue image starts out big and bright, and the self-image starts out small and dark.  Then the cue image swiftly shrinks and darkens at the same time that the self-image gets larger and brighter. 

     This creates a particularly strong chaining effect, because the two  images are linked over the entire range that the submodalities are varied.   If the cue image blinked out and then the self-image blinked on, this  digital shift would create a much weaker link between the two than an  analog shift. For some people, using other analog submodalities such as  color, transparency, distance etc. may work much better than size and brightness.

     After the linking, the client is asked to blank the screen, and then to repeat the linking. The blanking is to insure that the linking goes in only one direction. Without the blanking, there could be a "yo-yo"  effect.     

     In the auditory system, closeness and volume are similar to size  and brightness in the visual system, and will work for most people.   The cue sound or voice starts out loud and close and the self voice starts out distant and very soft.  Then the cue sound decreases in volume and moves away at the same time that the self voice becomes  louder as it comes closer.  One can use other submodalities such  as stereo/point source, location of sound, tonality, echo, etc., when  those are more impactful for a particular person. 

     In the kinesthetic system, one choice is to use extent and intensity  (again analogous to visual size and brightness).  The cue feeling starts out very intense over the entire body, and the self kinesthetic is faint and part body.  Then the cue feeling  diminishes in intensity and extent at the same time that the self representation increases in intensity and become whole body. A short period of absence of feeling or random  sensation is analogous to a visual blanking before repeating the swish.  Again, other kinesthetic  tactile submodalities could be used, such  as location, temperature, pressure, etc. as long as they amplify the  response to both the cue and the self representation.

IV. Other Elements.

     There are a number of other important details in designing a swish pattern, such as selecting an appropriate cue, and what to do when an increase in a particular submodality amplifies the cue, but a decrase in the same submodality amplifies the self-representation.  However, what  is presented here are the fundamental elements of a swish pattern,  illustrated in each major sensory system (VAK).

     This leads us to an interesting question:  "Can a swish be designed in the olfactory (smell) or gustatory (taste) systems?"  The cue representations would be easy, but I have not succeeded in figuring out how my self-image would smell or taste as an indication of evolved competence. If someone reading this succeeds in doing this, I would be very interested to hear about it.

      A kinesthetic swish is a straightforward adaptation of the  principles of the visual swish to the kinesthetic system. As in any other  swish, there are a number of ways to design one, using different  submodalities. Here are specific instructions, using intensity and location, that Robert McDonald has been using since the mid-1980's.

The Kinesthetic Swish Process©

Find a situation to change by:

a.  remembering an upsetting feeling from your past, or

b.  thinking of an upsetting feeling associated with your future, or

c.  recalling an upsetting experience and letting that experience become a feeling you can locate in or on your body.

1.  Identify the Cue Feeling: an upsetting feeling on or within your body (associated). This feeling should be a sensation, not an emotion.

2.  Break State:  "What's your telephone number, backwards?"

3.  In front of you, physically sculpt your Desired State Feeling within or on an evolving, future you (dissociated), a you who has already solved your felt issues.  He or she is being different, is not perfect, but feels confident, resourceful and has a sense of humor.

4.  Now, gently press the evolving, future you with Desired State Feeling down into the ground in front of you, as though you were setting the spring in a "Jack-in-the-Box."

5.  Break State:  "What's your telephone number, backwards?"

6.  Now, as you begin to sense the Cue Feeling, allow that feeling to rapidly diminish as it moves down your body and into the ground (as though it were being drained or squeezed from you, like toothpaste  from a tube).

7.  Simultaneously, sense the evolving, future you (which has the Desired State Feeling) spring up from the ground in front of you.  And as the evolving you is coming up, place your finger-tips on his or her shoulders, feel him or her facing you, and feel the radiating sense of internal confidence, resourcefulness and humor coming from within him or her.

8.  Now, feel a gentle rain coming from the sky and washing over you (break state).  The gentle rain washes away the wonderful, evolving you and your arms return to your sides.

9.  Slowly repeat numbers 6, 7 and 8 at least three times.  Then 3 times fast.

10.  Test:  Try to get the upsetting feelings.  If there are no upsetting feelings, the process is complete.  If you can still get the upsetting feelings, ask for the positive intention of the upsetting feelings, satisfy them with reframing and, when ecologically sound, repeat the Kinesthetic Swish.

© Copyright 1988-1999 Robert McDonald, 366 Hihn Street, Felton, CA  95018


1. Bandler, Richard (1985).  Using Your Brain--for a Change. Real People Press.    

2. Andreas, C. and Andreas, S. (1987).  Change Your Mind--and Keep the Change.  Boulder, CO. Real People Press.

*Anchor Point, Vol. 13, No. 11, November, pp.32-

©2000-08 Steve Andreas