I went to the cinema recently. On a day a mobile phone company has tried to usurp as their own, with its offer of 2-for-1 tickets; hence Orange Wednesday. And I’m all in favour of more people going to see films. But the thing is, it means you get a lot more of them packing the lobby. So when I turned up, there was a queue that would have taken twenty minutes to wait in — and the film I wanted to see started in ten. That’s the film itself, not the package of ads and trailers before it.
Fortunately, there is a solution to these situations. I’ve got a cinema membership card, and the idea is you show that to the people at the reception desk, and they give you a ticket for whatever film. Only, once — in a similar situation — I’d flashed the card at the person waiting to check tickets before you go into the screens, and he’d let me in. It helped that I approached him with a confident manner, and that we’d spoken before. I figured I could do that again.
Only, this time it’s different. The guy wanting to check the tickets is with a woman who has the same job. They’re both around 20. And what goes through my head is that he’s not going to want to lose status with her by letting an older and larger man in. I decide on an extra layer of bonhomie to smooth the situation — but it doesn’t work. Backfires if anything, as he repels my charms and denies me access to the screen.
And he’s right to do so. After all, it’s his job to let people see films on the basis of collecting their tickets, and I don’t have one. But still, he’d thwarted my desire. Where was my mojo, when I needed it? I shuffled away and headed home, stopping only to spend money needlessly to provide myself with some form of consumer experience in the absence of the film I’d wanted to see.
Of these things, life is made. But where’s the Jedi mind trick that would have got me what I wanted? How come I didn’t find one this time, when I did on that other occasion? Is it possible that even thinking of such things as Jedi mind tricks gets in the way of the smooth flow of life? Well, yes. Notwithstanding however many people declared themselves to be Jedi when the last UK Census was counted (and, by the way, if I was looking to do any drug busts, I’d know exactly which homes to target after that declaration) the number of people with that kind of training and skillset would seem to be zero.
So, how come those kind of tricks are possible — sometimes? Well, in my experience at least, they happen when I’m not thinking of them as tricks at all. They’re to do with the adoption of an attitude, a way of playing in the world, of riding with it rather than trying to impose a template on it. Which, with my fleeting thoughts of young male territorial behaviour, is exactly how I’d approached things in the cinema that second time, as opposed to the first occasion, when I breeezed through.
All of which connects, in the vernacular of NLP, to the matter of state. Only, there’s more to it than that. At least if we assume that state is merely the configuration of resources that an individual has at a given moment. That’s part of the picture. But only part. That’s a stance which gives primary status to the ‘operator’, and plugs into that notion of the individual with the most flexibility in the moment doing something that gives them an edge, gets them through their TOTE as quickly as possible. That’s why Richard Bandler gave an alsatian a Practitioner certificate on one course, since it achieved its goals effortlessly.
But think about it. Useful a model as it is, the TOTE doesn’t actually exist. It’s a handy way of thinking about things, but no more than that. It serves a purpose if it helps people realise that the model they’re utilising is an arbitrary one, and that it can be changed when that map ceases to have utility for those using it.
There’s something larger at stake here. The bigger picture is one in which the vocabulary of spiritual practice is of more value than that of NLP. All the tools and whatnot you learn on those courses when you’re doing those exercises in groups of three are only any good if and when they help you to shift who you are and how you are in moments when it matters. When, in other words, they allow you to get you out of your own way. When second nature is aligned to the first nature of reality itself.
And there are times that happens, and people talk about flow states, and the Tao, and peak experience. And there’s other times when you experience pique when your desires are thwarted. More often than not, because you privilege whatever pitiful offering you’re presenting to the world over the world itself. Like I did when I tried to get into the cinema the other day. And not just then, either. Far from it. But I can get, will get, do get, nearer…