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NLP Technique: What’s the name of that movie?

By on September 9, 2014
Karl Binder

In this blog post we will be revisiting the idea of the movie that we discussed in a previous blog post. Remember we all have movies that play on our inner movie screen and that these movies have soundtracks with a verbal (words) and tonal (tone and other non-verbal) element.

It turns out that each of these movies has a title. The title is the meaning of the movie. To take a simple example, if I want to make myself a cup of tea I will (consciously or unconsciously) run a movie in my mind of the various elements of making a cup of tea: walk into the kitchen, look to see if their is water in the kettle, fill the kettle with water, switch the kettle on, and so on. The meaning of this movie is something like, “Making a cup of tea”. Simple.

But when someone has a problem, it may be caught up in the titles of the movies they are playing inside their mind. Read on to discover how.


Your hypnosis client comes to see you with a problem. We have discussed in a previous blog post those clients who describe their problem with a long story. The story represents to soundtrack to a movie they are playing in their mind. And that sound track is a narrator describing the movie.

But other hypnosis clients describe their problem in a different way, they say something like, “I’m afraid every time I have to speak in public”. This is the title of the movie they are running in their minds. In fact, they are almost certainly running a number of different movies, each of them showing them having to speak in public and being afraid. And each movie has the same title, ‘I’m afraid every time I have to speak in public’. This is the client we will be considering today.

How to respond:

Ultimately our outcome for the client will be to have them experience a more resourceful movie, but also to give a title to that movie that is more resourceful.

We can change the movie using the ‘changing the inner movie’ technique explained in an earlier blog post, or using a more sophisticated technique such as Change Personal History that we will explain in a later blog post. But we still have to retitle the movie. So one the change work has been done on the content of the movie, you will ask your hypnosis client,

“What does it mean to you to know that this is different now?”

Or more directly:

“If this new experience were a movie, what would the title of the movie be?”

NLP theory and neuroscience:

Neuroscience research suggests that we have a part, or collection of parts, in our brain called a ‘working memory’. The working memory consists of a movie screen, soundtrack and movie title. In many ways the title is the most important part of the movie, because it gives meaning. Suppose you imagine a bird, what is the meaning of that picture to you? Suppose it is a bird in a cage, what is the meaning now? Suppose there is a cat approaching the bird cage, what is the meaning to you now? Suppose the bird is Tweety and the cat is Sylvester, what is the meaning now?

By changing the title of a movie, we change the meaning, even in the content remains the same. What is the meaning of this to me? This is a vital piece of any change work when dealing with a hypnosis client’s issue that is going to recur. Supose your client says, “My boss is always mean to me, that means he hates me”. This is their movie title. We could retitle the movie to “My boss is always prickly, that means he must have a tough life, I pity him”. The facts stay the same (the boss’ behavior) but the meaning changes.

Putting it into practice:

Sometimes hypnosis clients do not come to see us because of a specific behavior they want to change, perhaps they smoke, or bite their nails. But more often they come because of a meaning they are putting on the world around them. “I have to fly and that means airplanes are scary”, “Someday I am going to die, and that means I should be afraid”.

Recognizing when your hypnosis client’s problem is a ‘meaning’ they are creating, rather than a real world behavior they are engaging in, allows you to know when to begin to relabel their movies. This relabeling creates new meaning. Consider the client with a fear of speaking in public. The meaning they are putting on this is usually, “They are going to judge me”. Changing this meaning to one aligned with their values, “They are here to learn from me”, or “They want me to succeed”, changes the meaning and subtly begins to shift the problem.

And when the problem is transformed, the hypnotist should ask, “What does this mean, now?” inviting the client to find a more empowering title, perhaps, “I love sharing knowledge!”

And when they know they have changed, “What does it mean to you, to know you have changed now?“, “Wow, I can change I can be who I want to be!”

Each reframe, each new title, gives more power to your client.

So once again the steps are:

  • Listen for the title, the meaning, the client is putting on their experience
  • Challenge that title using NLP content or meaning reframes (what else could that mean)
  • Change the content using the ‘changing the inner movie’ technique
  • Ask the client to find a new title for the new movie
  • Ask the client to find a title for their transformation

Other applications:

Because we all play inner movies all the time, and each of these movies has a title (meaning), movie titles are ubiquitous in our lives, and the lives of our clients.

Beginning to listen for these movie titles, those short and snappy things we say to describe the meaning we put on the world, allows us to understand our hypnosis clients better. And by doing so we can retitle these movies to create choice and shift our clients problems quickly and easily. And that is the meaning of this blog post.

Photo courtesy of and Karl Binder


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