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How to Take Control of What Is Controlling You

What would you think of someone who really wanted to play mind games so that he could covertly influence people to do what he wanted them to do? To most people, it sounds at least a little sleazy and more than a little selfish.

Now what if I add that the person in question is living under an authoritarian regime? And that it’s a woman who might have to depend on her skills in covert influence to sustain her life, freedom and ties to her family. How do you feel about the mind games now?

As an NLP (neurolinguistic programming) trainer, I work with lots of clients who arrive wanting to play mind games. Some of them frame it in the socially acceptable language of therapy and coaching: they want to “motivate” or “help” other people. Others frame it in the language of sales, “I want to sell more” or “I want to close more deals.” And some call us on the phone and ask, “Will this help me get girls?” We are probably the only training that is sought in equal measure by people who want to pick up dates and by people serious about helping others overcome trauma, anxiety or other obstacles to well-being.

We can help all of these people, although often not in precisely the way they expected when they googled NLP for the first time. People with power and experience find that NLP calls on them to check in with their assumptions, their demons, and the voices in their head. To heighten their influence over others, they need first to become more aware of the way their own experience is shaping their ability to read people, to make choices, and to assign meaning to what happens in their lives. People who hunger for enough influence to survive or feel better often find they need to become more conscious of the relationship between what they observe in others and what they want congruently for themselves and from themselves.

What is controlling you is outside of your control, but it is not outside your influence. Whether you are limited by the rules of powerful authorities or by the criticism of voices in your head, you cannot break free. You need to wriggle free: to move in small increments until you achieve the momentum and mobility you want. In NLP, we call these increments “shifts,” the small changes that indicate that significant change is on the way. When you make a shift in yourself, you alter your state or your mindset to gather new information and make different choices. When you get someone else to shift, you build an agreement that motivates and moves.

Shifts happen when you begin to notice two things:

  1. what information is available that you’re not using yet?
  2. when have you experienced the thing you want in another form or context?


People train with us because we give them the tools to make shift happen. We don’t promise that they will control anyone’s mind (not even their own) but we do offer a better measure of control over the choices they make and the impact they have. Some of them learn to loosen the grip that their past has on their future. Others learn that they have more influence than they thought over what other people notice or choose to do.

All of them choose training because it gives them access to the trainers’ belief that they will find what they need to have more control and the trainers’ perception of where shifts are possible. The trainers point the way to shift and the students make shift happen.

When you control your ability to shift, you find that you influence others without mind games and that you look forward more often than you look back. It’s not a control game: it’s a game played for control of your own well-being and the impact you will have on others.



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