Using the Pendulum One (R7)

NLP provides a box of eclectic tricks the application of which is infinitely variable depending on what you find and in accordance with ecological guidelines. Once a set of procedures has got into the muscle, as Robert Dilts says, the really skilled facilitator is always alert to possibilities and athletic enough to vary things according to what crops up, pacing & leading the person they’re working with exactly as suits a process. Ian McDermott always used to say that until he got going he never knew exactly what he would pull out of the box, never knew what would be an appropriate fit in a particular case. But it’s true that I often have  ‘pendulum’ on the brain, representing the nature of human experience as it does.

I was talking to a friend who was clearly under a great deal of stress, long term out of work, somewhat mentally disturbed, constantly worried.

I said in an off-hand kind of way, “So how would you like to be?”

“Calm!” came the answer quick as a flash, suggesting to me that my friend did have a concept of how things could be. You can’t say you want to be ‘calm’ unless you already know a bit about it, know, maybe, what you are talking about.

I suddenly thought to myself that ‘calm’ was probably somewhere at the bottom of the pendulum swing: we’d already reached the end of the process described in The Law of the Pendulum (16th March 2012) without going through the motions, as it were; now it was maybe a question of working backwards to establish what was at either side of the pendulum swing.

Setting aside for the moment the implications of ‘being calm’, I asked, “So what’s it like when you’re not calm?” There was a short pause.

“I feel that people are getting at me for not having a job. That makes me feel insecure when I’m with people but also because I don’t have paid income. I get paranoic & feel people are talking about me. That makes me feel generally depressed then I get fearful of the future and a kind of general hopelessness sets in…”

I thought to myself that that sounded like a bundle of things that existed on one side of the Pendulum Swing—worth running with that as a provisional hypothesis.

“And Then…?” Being Artfully Vague…

“I’m really lucky to be in a flat. Since I’ve had the flat I’ve been able to shut the door on it all. It’s great to be able to escape from it all…” Body relaxes. Breathing slows.

“And that’s OK…?” knowing that it probably wasn’t.

“Well, no, then I start to feel lonely & cut off and I need to contact somebody—to be with people again but I’m afraid that when they find out my circumstances they’ll not be so welcoming… I go from feelings of paranoia to escape over and over again.”

So there’s the swing of the pendulum—from, let’s say, ‘paranoia’ to ‘escape’, ‘being with people’ to ‘being lonely’ and back again, over and over, never pausing at the bottom of the swing where it’s possible that energy could start to be accumulated.

I had written the key words on separate bits of paper which I arranged on the floor in clusters that would offer a Pendulum Experience as my friend associated into what was written on the bits of paper by standing on them and moving between the two clusters.

I watched carefully while this happened several times, prepared to stop things, or go off on a different tack if there were signs that the experience was too much. My friend seemed to be strong enough to cope, perhaps being aware that the word ‘calm’ was also there at the midway point.

After around five minutes of ‘swinging’, during which time we elaborated on the key words, I suggested a gradual settling on ‘calm’ and from there a look at the two other alternatives up there on either side… Laughter.

“So What is ‘Being Calm’? I Asked

“Hopeful… Being cared for… Being like it was when I was a child… I get very tearful about reading now…”

“Step out of ‘calm’ for a moment…”

“When I was young I used to read a lot. Now, after a page or so, the darkness comes down…”

“You said you wanted to be cared for… How about finding out how to care for yourself?”

“How do I do that?”

“Some way of getting into ‘calm’ maybe… Getting to a sort of childhood innocence…” My term, my suggestion deriving from the statement ‘Being like it was when I was a child’, but it seemed to make sense otherwise it would have been rejected, I am sure.

With appropriate gestures I demonstrated the process of taking the energy that drove hopeless inner dialogue, leaving the dialogue behind and taking just the energy from the head down into the solar plexus, grounding, centring, feeling the feet resting on a planet going at thousands of miles an hour through space and time to get back into a self that was separate from all the things at either extreme of the pendulum swing… An Other-than-conscious process…


“I feel that I could tackle reading now by breaking it down into small bits to start with, organise it so the darkness would stay away… Get back to how it was before…”

My friend’s concept of ‘calm’ seemed to have come from childhood. My hunch had paid off.

“Or go forward into how it can be…” I tossed in.

After this I got my friend to stand in the centre of what had now become the ‘calm system’ in bits of paper on the floor and tell me what emerged from the system.


“I wonder how we could make this stick…?”

We proceeded to go back down the timeline to collect up events that were labelled ‘success’  to put in a conceptual knapsack—there proved to be many occasions of resourceful behaviour.

We future-paced all of this into forthcoming job opportunities and an upcoming ten week course. My friend will take the new knapsack along through all this.

An indication that this had meant something quite important was the fact that my friend picked up all the bits of paper and carefully stored them in a notebook. I always take this as a guide to ‘success’… But I don’t get too excited about it for myself.

3 thoughts on “Using the Pendulum One (R7)

  1. I recently fell under a spell, or bout of anger that as we all know can harm the body in all sorts of ways. My first reaction to this negative state was to ask myself why. This type of reaction only serves to increase the anger, like fighting fire with fire. How easy it is to forget and to try and think my way out, it all seems amusing now, but just a few days ago, this energy was wrapped around my throat. The thing about these exercises (the pendulum above, or the enneagram in other posts) is that they work. When we take the time to go through the steps of each exercise, it feels like we’ve been transported to a high cliff, or a clearing in the woods. There is something else that happens each time we take part in one of these exercises, and this has more to do with our own personal narratives. My experience is that after the shift happens and we feel centred again there’s another aspect of the exercise that happens a bit later. This has something to do with what Colin said at the end of this post,

    I always take this as a guide to ‘success’… But I don’t get too excited about it for myself.

    This place of neutrality feels like it has moved through my body. And this is a much better sense of things, much better than wasting my time asking, Why, and spinning my wheels. It seems the negative energy feeds off the panic, those pesky I’s that say: If only I’d done this, or If only I wasn’t such a screw off, If only I was like someone else.


  2. Colins post reminded me so much of my first trainings when we were told that there was no such thing as a “difficult” client only a therapist with too little flexibility or who didn’t follow the rule of requisite variety.

    What a lovely commentry of the willingness to be absolutely “client led” and the courage to follow hunches (no doubt from the right brain drawing attention to what needs attending to).

    Many thanks again Colin.


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