Neuro-Associative Conditioning

Neuro-Associative Conditioning

Today I’ll finally share the gist of Neuro-Associative Conditioning or NAC. NAC is a form of (re) programming habits. I learned about NAC in Tony Robbin’s Personal Power ll which according to Wikipedia “is the best-selling personal improvement program of all time with more than 35 million tapes distributed worldwide.

The audio program is really old, my digital copy is recorded from tapes, probably from the 80’s or early 90’s. How did I end up listening to such an old program? I just had a strong intuition that there was something important to learn from Tony, and the books — although they are great — somehow felt as if they didn’t do justice to his unique skills. But this old tape program seemed like a great choice. I was right, Tony is giving his all, without holding anything back in this one.

Now to the topic of this post. As Tony explains, there are many forms of therapy and all work in one way or another in different time-spans. It is just that some therapies take years to finally yield the expected results. He first became famous by performing Neuro-Linguistic Programming on live television with great success. Basically challenging other therapists to bring their most difficult patients and curing them in less than 30 minutes on national TV.

He soon noticed though, that NLP didn’t always work. In some cases, people went back to their old habits after some years. Tony wanted a cure-all, fail-proof therapy. So he changed his metaphor and approach. One day somebody came to his house to tune his piano. The guy said that he’d be back next week to retune it. After Tony asked him why he needed to retune it, the guy explained that it had been in this state for so long, that it would go back to its old state. So he’d need to recondition it several times before it stays the way it should.

That’s where Tony came up with his new metaphor. Our brains just don’t work with singular programming. We have to constantly condition ourselves, every day. Just like a physical workout needs to be something we do every few days at least, it’s much more effective if it’s a lifestyle.

So how can we condition ourselves? Tony found out by trial over many years, that it is absolutely necessary to that we first feel like we absolutely must change. We must have leverage over ourselves, in other words.

Get leverage over yourself

The reason why some people can’t change their conditioning is that they don’t really want to. Tony makes sure that every patient he sees is absolutely committed to change. For example, his patients — some of the most difficult patients he takes on personally as a challenge — first have to go through a waiting list and pay a great amount of money. Then if they finally are lucky enough to see him, they have to first convince him that he should help them. He explains that he only works with people who change after a singular session. Once the patient convinces Tony that she absolutely must change by listing a long list of reasons, then his job is easy, he only needs to interrupt her pattern.

Interrupting the current pattern

Interrupting the patients limiting association can be done in many ways. Tony does whatever it takes to interrupt that association or conditioned response pattern. For instance, if someone has a phobia of elevators, Tony makes them stand up every time they think about an elevator. He sometimes uses pretty outrageous ways of interrupting patterns. On one occasion, for instance, a woman started to cry while explaining the current situation with her husband.

At the beginning of his career, he would have consolidated that woman with encouraging words like, don’t worry we’ll figure out a solution to this problem. The problem with that approach is as he says, everybody does that. It isn’t an effective way to stop behaviors, sometimes it even reinforces that behavior. He instead poured his glass of water over the woman. The woman started laughing and shouting: “Are you crazy or what.”

Tony: “Perhaps a little bit you’re right, but tell me about your husband.” After a while, the woman starts once again, this time she doesn’t start crying. Tony asks, “but you where crying before, remember? Why were you crying?” Sure enough, the woman starts crying once again, Tony pours some more water over her. Her state changes immediately with laugher. In fact, every time she thinks about her husband she starts to laugh and is able to cope better with her situation as a result.

Now, this might be an extreme example but it serves perfectly to make the point. Patterns are best interrupted in outrageous ways. You just have to get creative and not shy away from uncommon methods. An exercise I absolutely love is looking at the ceiling or to the sky while putting on a big smile, lift my shoulders and shifting my chest forward while taking deep, powerful breaths. Now I try to feel depressed. It is impossible. Instead, I use to burst into laughter because it feels so strange. That’s the power of interrupting mental patterns by using the body’s language.

Creating a new pattern or association

Once the old pattern is interrupted, it has to be replaced by a new one. A great example of creating a new association happened when Tony tried to change a woman’s fear of committing to her relationship. She feared commitment because she associated commitment with pain due to her families indifference to her love when she grew up. Tony asked her if she’d ever driven a car. That kind of interrupted her pattern immediately. “Well, of course!”. He then proceeded by asking her what would happen if she’d encounter other cars on a really small lane high up in the mountains. “Is it possible the other person isn’t as committed to security as you are?”

“Well, of course!”

“Then how can you possibly ever drive like that without knowing?”

“Well, you just have to trust!”

That’s what Tony was looking for, he brought her to the right answer. She needed to trust in order to fully commit to her relationship. She understood that even if her husband didn’t reciprocate her love and commitment, she’d find someone who would.

And just as that, a new association was formed.