The Mind Backtracking Technique:

 Will the Thought at the Back of Your Mind Please Stand Up!


Reviewed by Lynn Timpany, NLP Trainer.


Anchorpoint (June 1997) featured an excellent article by Michael Hall and Bobby Bodenhamer describing  The Mind Backtracking Technique.  The process is based on the principle that behind every emotion lies a thought or an idea.  By backtracking to the thought behind the thought one moves from the surface structure closer to the deep structure


This idea  is also present in a similar form in the technique developed by Tad James called 'Drop Through'.  Krishnamurti also used a similar form in a couple of different ways in his work with people


If you keep dropping through or backtracking thoughts where do you get to?  Hall and Bodenhamer say it well in their article;


"What lies at the bottom?  The Void, the Nothing, the Unspeakable realm, the quantum, God, ultimate reality, etc."


The Mind Backtracking Pattern


The pattern begins (and pretty much continues!) with the statement:


"And behind that thought whirling in your mind lies another thought...So as you allow yourself to notice... what thought  do you find back there?"


Using this directional question that swishes the mind backwards offers a profound and simple way to take a client back to the Void of nothingness and then onward to various resources.


I have used this technique many times now.  In every case so far the process has lead to valuable insight and often dissolution of the problem.  If, as some of us believe, our thoughts create our reality, then this process may be a powerful way to re-create it!


John's Dilemma:

A client of mine, whom I shall call John, had repeatedly noticed a challenge in his new career as a student teacher.  He had been having difficulty with discipline in a class of 13 year olds, feeling fearful and anxious when dealing with the many disruptions

We had previously set outcomes, collapsed anchors, swished, time lined 2 or 3 times, parts integrated at least twice, strategies changed, and metaphored, all in a solution focused way.  Things had changed quite a lot, yet, again,  John reported fear and overwhelm in trying to maintain order in a particularly difficult class.  Obviously there was something else going on!


This is what happened using Mind Backtracking.


    John said he had felt scared and anxious trying to control a class.

     I asked what he was scared of (recovering deleted material)

     "I don't know if they will accept my direction or challenge me."

     "So, you aren't sure that they will accept your direction?    And behind that thought... whirling in your mind lies another thought...So as you allow yourself to notice... what thought  do you find back there?"

     "That they might call my bluff"

     "And behind that thought that they might call your bluff there lies another thought...what is that thought?"

     "I don't know what to do next.  There's confusion and fear and panic."

     And John.. behind that confusion... there's another thought.  What is that thought?"

     "I'm a failure"

     "And behind that thought there's another thought... if you knew ...what is the thought behind that thought?"

     "I'll be rejected ...ridiculed."

     "And behind that thought that you may be rejected and ridiculed.  What is the thought behind that thought?"

     "There's something wrong with me. I'm a mistake. I'm not the full quid."

     (John became quite emotional and made a big physiological shift.  The sentence was clearly marked out in younger,  strained sounding voice.)

     "And behind that thought that there's something wrong with you.  What's the thought behind that?"

     John paused for a while then began to look very relaxed and smiled.

     "It's karma"

     "And behind that thought that it's karma, there's another thought... if you knew ...what is the thought behind that thought?"

     Smiling again.  "It's not too bad...  I guess I'm here to face it."

     "And behind that thought that it's not too bad and you can face it, there's another thought... what is the thought behind that thought?"

     "I guess I need to learn how to operate, or I could leave teaching, but I don't want to do that.  There must be heap's of options about how to respond."

     John began to get quite excited and started leading the conversation to possible ways to deal with the class!

     When we tested out and future pace various scenarios he wasn't able to access the old response at all!


    When we talked about the mind backtracking process John recalled being teased by an older brother  and being told he was stupid and 'not the full quid'.  At the age of 5 or 6 this was likely a strong imprint type experience.  We cleared this event, anchored some resourceful states  and future paced some new responses.  The results have been excellent.  Several weeks later he reported that the situation had totally changed.  He felt calm and resourceful and was enjoying his teaching.


The process works by associating into a problem, getting the thought that drives it and then asking the series of backtracking questions that take thought back to the experience out of which it came and ultimately to the Void.  When we get there we have arrived at a place of pure potentiality.


It feels great, try it yourself!  (Making notes as you go helps when you're following the process alone.)  I have used this tool now in many varied types of situations with myself and clients and have found it to be exceptionally useful in all instances so far.


My appreciation flows to Hall and Bodenhamer for sharing such a lovely tool.