NLP Mini Course: How to Be Optimistic Today

nlp association dissociationIn NLP, the term “state” refers to how you experience yourself and the world at any given moment in time. Your state changes constantly – food, oxygen, internal and external stimuli play a role.

In NLP jargon, a psychological state can be either associated or dissociated. In an associated state, the person experiences self and the world as if immersed in it. In a disassociated state, the person perceives him or herself as if from a distance – as a more objective observer. There are times when each is appropriate . . .  the trick is to choose wisely.

Try NLP association and dissociation for yourself:

Remember a fun time and associate with it. Immerse yourself in it, seeing what you saw and hearing what you heard at the time, as if reliving the experience. This allows you to recapture the feelings you felt at the time.

Now, dissociate from the fun memory by pushing it away into the mental distance. Look upon it from far away as a neutral observer would do. When you do this successfully, you retain the information (what you were doing and what was going on around you). However, while dissociated, you don’t re-experience the same feelings. You are removed from the situation and merely observe.

Optimists tend to associate with positive events in their lives and dissociate from negative ones. They use good feelings from past successes to stay motivated and view failures from a detached point of view. Conversely, pessimists associate with negative events and dissociate from positive feelings; using past perceived failures as a lens to view the future.

To experience more positive feelings, a person can associate by asking the following questions

  • How do I feel in this situation?
  • How does this move me?
  • What is my passion?

To gain distance and see the bigger picture, a person can dissociate by asking the following questions

  • What is the relationship between me and x?
  • What is this really about?
  • What is the big picture here?
  • How would this appear from an objective point of view?


Andrea is a pessimist. She looks at what can go wrong, associates with negative events, and expects to lose. Her pessimism is a plus if she uses the worry as a catalyst for taking precautions and making wise decisions, but such is not the case. She is stuck in negativity and doubts. She seeks counseling because of constant worrying.

As an NLP practitioner, there are several options to consider when working with this client

Dissociate – have Andrea:

  1. Imagine herself as standing on the other side of the room, observing herself in situations
  2. Watch herself as if she were on a movie screen
    1. refer to herself in the third person while describing an activity she was involved in
    2. listen to her voice as if it were coming from the other side of the room
    3. answer the four questions listed above to gain distance and see the bigger picture

Empowering Anchor – have Andrea:

  1. Choose a resource or feeling she wants to have more available like happiness
  2. Think of a time when she felt the resource and anchor the feeling by connecting it to a specific physical action like rubbing her ear
  3. Focus on her breathing as a way of going to a neutral place
  4. Test the connection by instructing the  client to touch her ear and observe whether or not the desired feeling appears

If the desired feeling does not appear, she can either repeat the process until it does or try a different physical action

Generate a new behavior. Have Andrea:

  1. Identify a stuck state, like the worrying, in which she feels as if she has limited choices – ruminating
  2. Consider the stuck state from a disassociated point of view – as if she were a natural observer watching herself – and identify several behavioral choices that would be more beneficial; like breathing deeply or physically move
  3. Examine what would happen if she incorporated the new behavior in that situation for each alternative – check for negative effects
  4. Associate into one of the new behaviors by “stepping into the image” and performing with it in place

Each of these can be effective interventions. However, you might want to work with Andrea at a deeper level. A place to begin would be to examine her attachments – long held needs to be controlled, deprived, or rejected.

After talking with Andrea and based on her admission that she sets unrealistic goals, expects to be disappointed, and chronically worries; you determine she is attached to deprivation.

In that case, the AHA solution might be appropriate. Andrea would:

  • Identify a situation she worries about
  • Explore her negative thoughts and feelings about the situation
  • Look at the situation as an outside observer
  • List possible responses to the situation
  • Determine which one fits best and act upon it
  • Evaluate the results

Each of these interventions will help Andrea move from pessimism to optimism.

Association/Dissociation is a technique that is covered in our NLP Practitioner Online Training.

AHA solution coverThe A-H-A Solution: A Program to End Self-Sabotage

The A-H-A Solution is a unique personal change program that expands and further defines the A-H-A Process video (if you haven't watched it yet, click here). It works by showing you specifically how negative attachments apply to you. Then, we give you real life examples and tools that guide you through the process of change. With this online program, you’ll have the tools to free yourself from self-sabotage and negative thoughts or feelings. Read more...

About Hope Bundrant

Hope Bundrant is the director and co-founder of the iNLP Center. She has a BFA from the California State University of Fullerton and has completed postgraduate education at Harvard Business School. Hope is happily married to Mike Bundrant and manages their circus of teenage monkeys. If you have questions, please contact her at
Comments ( 2 )
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