Richard Bandler helps eliminate Snake Phobia on National TV, Sept 9 2015

Watch NLP Co-Founder Richard Bandler use NLP to eliminate Michael Strahan's phobic response to snakes -- in minutes (with Kelly Ripa bringing over a BIG snake at the end to test Michael's response). Spoiler alert: It worked ridiculously well.

I use some NLP terms and phrases in this blog entry that you may not know.  If you'd like any such words explained, add a comment at the bottom of the page using "Disqus comments" and I'll reply there.  Thanks!

September 9, 2015: NLP Co-Founder Richard Bandler used NLP to help eliminate National TV show host's phobia of snakes, on the air.

On "Live! With Kelly & Michael", Kelly Ripa co-hosts the "Live!" show, with football legend Michael Strahan, after Regis Philbin left the show in 2011. Strahan has struggled with a phobia of snakes his entire life. Three years ago, celebrity Hayden Panettiere threw a rubber snake at Michael, seemingly for entertainment purposes. And of course, Strahan freaked out, to the tune of audience laughter. It was a horrible thing to watch.

Finally, Kelly Ripa and the show's producers did the right thing, and hired NLP Co-Founder Richard Bandler to work with Michael Strahan on the air.

If you've got a phobia and hope watching this would help you fix yours, you'll need to do more than watch the video.

For those of you with phobias, don't expect them to go away just by watching the video. Richard doesn't use the standard "NLP Fast Phobia Cure" pattern in this clip; instead he customizes his process based on the answers (verbal, paraverbal, and nonverbal) he receives from his subject, Michael Strahan.

If you want to work on something like this, find a skilled Practitioner (or Master Practitioner, or Trainer). A Practitioner should be able to use the standard NLP Phobia pattern with skill and effective languaging. A Master Practitioner or Trainer should be able to customize the intervention to optimally suit the client. A Trainer may very well be able to help a client rid themselves of a phobia without them ever knowing its being done, depending on the specifics (some Master Pracs, too, depending on who trained them).

So how well did Richard do?

It's obvious, by the end of the segment -- based on Strahan's ability to hold a large snake by himself, comfortably, that he had experienced a profound shift in his responses. There's no arguing the result:  Richard got the result he was aiming for with Michael; the phobic response was eliminated! So let's look more closely at what Richard did, and explore what did and didn't work.

Go ahead and review the video in full, once, before reading any further. I'm going to refer to specific events and occurrences in what follows.  You can always come back and review specific spots.  But watch the whole video once on your own, first.

Richard is introduced to the audience at 0:30.

Richard starts to work with Michael at 1:18.  Initially he's aiming to get rapport through pacing statements that gain agreement and understanding, and to prepare Michael for receiving some instructions.  He also calms Michael by pointing out that he does, cognitively, what everyone who's afraid of snakes does.


The first visualization didn't quite work...

At 1:35, Richard asks Michael to "take the great big picture, shrink it down to the size of a quarter, and 'brbrbrbrbrbrbr'... blink it black and white."  

Strahan didn't give us a lot of positive indication that he had completed Richard's initial instructions quite fully, apart from verbal, so Richard repeated it succinctly: (big picture, shrink it down, blink it black and white).

I don't think the first visualization quite worked. I think Michael followed some of the instruction, but didn't have enough time, or was having trouble visualizing; but either way, the phobia wasn't thoroughly gone yet.  At this stage, Richard would have noticed that he needed to do more.

How about Richard's comment "Blink it black and white?"  What might that have accomplished?

I've never used that phrasing, but it certainly sounds intriguing (and its a very succinct suggestion).  Often by changing the visual aspects of our imagery, that changes the feelings we experience in response.  

I'm guessing Richard has found that phrasing to be both succinct and effective in getting clients to rapidly change pictures from color to black and white.  It may also be a confusion tactic and/or pattern interrupt meant to ensure any color in the imagery goes away, and any old unwanted feelings dissipate.

Using the word "TRY" seems to have been effective.

At 1:50, Richard assumed Michael had completed the first visualization, so he interrrupted Michael's attention, asked Michael to focus on himself, then he tested the initial results, by asking Michael to look at the picture and TRY and be afraid.

The use of the word TRY is not accidental. The use of "be afraid", without any pausing to mark out the phrase as a command, is not accidental. The command "be afraid" (while using very calm tonality) is a suggestion that can't be easily or properly followed, so the client has trouble eliciting a state of fear in his memory. Richard didn't ask if Michael could FEEL FEAR.  He said, calmly, 'try and be afraid.'

He also didn't say try TO be afraid.  That could be easier for many people to accomplish.  Instead, Richard uses the conjunction AND.  "And" links the two activities, (a) Try, and (b) Be Afraid.  Logically, if you fail at either A or B, you fail at (A AND B).  In other words, this causes Michael's brain to understand that failure with either side of that suggestion, means failure at both.  It's quite subtle, but very effective.

My opinion: it's very difficult to successfully follow that suggestion (try and be afraid).  Most people would fail, which is a very good thing.

Michael's failure to follow that suggestion allows Richard to get some of the result he wants from Michael, through "confirmation bias," which helps tilt things in the right direction. Michael would think, "I'm trying and I can't be afraid."  That would lead Michael to begin thinking that his fear is already gone (or is in the process of going away).

Michael finds he can't "try and be afraid", and responds with surprise, saying "I'm good."  And Richard confirms the result, ensuring Michael knows it was the big picture that scared him (not the snake itself).  Michael confirms.

One of the most important and subtle moments, thanks to (1) a reframe, (2) an auditory suggestion, and (3) changed visual submodalities:

At 2:12, having just deepened Michael's trust and sense of Richard's credibility, Richard casually says, "now that the picture's out of your mind, (and tosses it off to Michael's right, over Richard's right shoulder, past Richard's face).

In my opinion, this is an enormously relevant and influential part of how Richard helps Strahan change, but few people would notice it, because Richard immediately follows it with aspects of the traditional NLP Fast Phobia Cure, not allowing us or Michael a chance to dwell on what he's just done.  But these three seconds -- from 2:12 - 2:15 -- are in my opinion, critical.

If we review those moments, we see Michael blink and glance off in the direction of where Richard visually pretended to throw away Michael's inner imagery.  The inner imagery was part of the mechanism by which Michael would begin to feel fear.  So, move the image away, and the fear response can be interrupted or changed.

Michael was, in essence, following Richard's verbal and nonverbal instruction, and watching his inner image move away off to the right.  If the image automatically caused emotion in the past where his mind used to find it, and later the image isn't where it would normally be, often that can make accessing the old fear, more difficult or even impossible.

If someone initially has zero emotional choice in response to a given stimuli, and later on, we make their own inner stimuli difficult to achieve, the emotional response changes. In effect, we're giving them a new sense of choice and possibility that replaces panic with calm.  Obviously, that's empowering.

Richard then induces a potential swish pattern, between double-dissociation, and a calm future.

From 2:15 to ~2:30, this is quite impressive (but doesn't work as expected).  Richard has already done most of the changework at this point, in my opinion, and casually sets up a choice for Michael between a doubly-dissociated view of his old phobic response (notice, Michael looks at the picture of his phobic response, calmly!), and a calm image of walking over and touching a snake.  

He then asks Michael which picture he would prefer.  Richard knows most people would pick the calm picture, but unusually, Michael makes a conscious and calm choice to prefer the old fear response.

Why did Michael calmly choose a fear response, and how did Richard reverse that choice?

Some people love to hang on to their fears even when they're no longer necessary, for a variety of reasons, including familiarity.  And often, if someone doesn't believe change can be as fast as NLP'ers know it can be, they will find ways to hang on to their expected fear response, even if they end up discussing the fear response calmly or with humor.

So Richard asks Michael to explain why he would pick the fear response, Michael calmly says "Well I don't want to go over there and touch the snake."

Richard then asks Michael to look at the second picture of him going over and touching the snake, and asks if he looks afraid there, notice that Michael doesn't have any hint of phobic response there. He stares, and then says, "Umm, no."  His facial expression indicates there is some unexpectedness to his discovery.

Richard asks "So, when you look at yourself not being afraid, what makes you think you wouldn't want to do it?"   Michael replies, "good question."  This goes a long way towards unraveling some of Michael's conscious preference for the old fearful response -- that he was familiar with.

I believe that at this point, the initial changework was already done, the fear response was eliminated, and Richard still needed to do some follow-up work to ensure the change was integrated over Michael's long-term future.

As a point of study, notice that Michael seems to go into a light trance, from 2:50 to ~2:56.

How Richard 'locked in' Michael's future calm responses to snakes, permanently:

As of 2:50, I believe the necessary changework had already occurred at that point, but Michael wasn't consciously aware of that, yet.  

Richard would inevitably know that any client's potential belief that a fear is not yet gone, can help bring it back.  So the overall work isn't done yet, and I believe Richard's next steps are all aimed at convincing Michael that his fear is in fact gone, using time distortion (how long is that?  A long time!), confusion techniques (352 days in a year??), and future pacing ('Multiply it by 10 years.  20 years' ... 'an enormous amount of time to worry about just one thing, that you could be using to do anything you want.').

This work initially confuses Michael (intentionally) and leads him to empowering visualizations that are interrupted by the commercial break cut at 3:38.  Presumably, Richard then finishes the work in a way we don't get to watch.  When the break comes back, Richard has moved Michael on to a meditative breathing response, in preparation for testing his response to a real snake.

The final result:

After the commercial break, from 3:45 to 4:00, Richard leads Michael from his seated position, over to Kelly Ripa's location, where she is standing, carrying a large snake (possibly a boa constrictor or python, roughly six feet, or two yards/meters in length).  Michael seems completely calm, throughout the experience, 

And, by 5:19, Michael is calmly holding the snake, fully on his own.  Success!

What don't we know?  What can't we see, or what else may have happened?

Unknown #1:  To what degree he and Michael may have spoken before they were on set being recorded together

Unknown #2: Richard's precise intentions behind each pattern or behind his overall approach

Unknown #3: Whether or not there was any kinesthetic anchoring happening behind Michael's back (as Richard has often used, onstage, at his seminars).  Perhaps he anchored moments when Michael was calm or when he was laughing (i.e., when he was feeling resourceful) and then firing the anchor at the moment the new choice point arrived (between two photos).  In which case we could say that the anchor wasn't fully successful.  But all this is mind-reading or conjecture.  Stick closer to what we know, what we can see and hear (sensory verifiable info!).

Unknown #4: If Richard calibrated anything I didn't, which is likely, since he was there in person, and we weren't!  Also likely, because after all, he's Richard Bandler! 

Another perspective on this video

I'm pleased to refer you over to Steve Andreas' blog, where Steve published his valuable observations in his review of this same video.  Different perspectives, different insights.  Enjoy!  

Neither of us had read each other's reviews before publishing our own; I had posted most of the above on Facebook in Septemer 2015, but only finished organizing the content from those posts into a blog post in January 2016; Steve doesn't use Facebook, and he published his review in October 2015.

Want to be able to influence, inspire, and change minds this easily?

I hope you enjoyed this blog entry, and invite you to keep reading my other blog entries!  I'm a fan of nuanced communication; I believe nuanced in-depth NLP skills are where the real golden lessons are to be found.  Perhaps you agree that online NLP has gone too far towards the "quick to consume" and meaningless.

I invite you to consider my 10-day NLP Business Practitioner courses!  Learn more, here.

Thanks for reading and enjoy!