“Scheduling Unconscious Responses”*

by Steve Andreas


         A number of times in my life I’ve been annoyed by needing to use a bathroom (“number two”) in the middle of the day.  Sometimes this rudely interrupted activities that were a lot more important or fun, and sometimes it involved a frantic search for facilities where they were scarce or nonexistent.  “Holding on” sometimes worked, at least temporarily, but besides not being much fun, it often resulted in constipation.

         I decided it would be much simpler if I satisfied that need early in the day, so I wouldn’t be bothered by it later.  But how could I get my intestines to cooperate with my plan?  Just sitting on the toilet in the morning didn’t work very well, and straining usually didn’t work very well either.  At some point I thought of using presuppositions of time, and I found a simple way that works well and quite easily.  While brushing my teeth, shaving, eating breakfast, or any other regular morning task, I say to myself, “I wonder if I can finish (shaving) before I feel a strong urge to use the toilet?”  If I don’t feel sufficiently moved by the end of shaving, I say the same thing (or some variation) while eating breakfast, or whatever I’m doing next.  Quite soon I find myself with a need to use the toilet.  After doing this for a while I have found that I naturally feel an urge to do my dump every morning without any conscious talking to myself.

         The more general form of this pattern is “I wonder if I can finish (conscious task) before I feel a strong (unconscious response).

         There are many uses for this presuppositional pattern (besides the one you’ve already thought of).  First, identify an unconscious response that you (or a client) want to occur “spontaneously” at a particular time or in a specific context.  Then think of an activity that occurs (or could occur) just before or during that time or context.  Fill in the blanks and start talking to yourself.  And do pay attention to your tonality.  A truly interested, open and curious tone works best for me.  I doubt that a snarling tonality or one dripping with controlling “have to’s” would work well for most people.

“I wonder if I can finish shaving before I feel fully alert and awake.”

“I wonder if I can finish undressing before I feel powerfully aroused and excited.”

“I wonder if I can finish this sentence before thinking of other fascinating ways to use this simple little technique?”

         *Anchor Point, July 1998, Vol. 12, No. 7