“The Core Transformation story:
How the process came to be”

Acknowledgements and History
By Connirae Andreas, developer of Core Transformation

The Beginning:

It was a week-long visit to Milton Erickson in 1979, that is probably responsible for beginning my quest to find the Core Transformation process. During the last year of his life, Dr. Erickson had the policy of only accepting mental health professionals as “visitors.” As we understood it, this was because he wanted to devote his remaining time to helping the next generation of counselors and therapists. One small group would come in for a week at a time, spending each morning in a small circle in Dr. Erickson’s home office, listening to him tell stories about his clients. A therapist friend of mine signed up for a week and invited me to join her small group of friends and colleagues in Phoenix AZ.
When I went, I was dealing with a very difficult personal issue. My friend encouraged me to ask Dr. Erickson for a private session, since he had helped her with a similar issue within the past year. I felt more than a bit intimidated by the “famous Dr. Erickson”, but on the first day we were there, when I said “hello” and introduced myself, I got my courage up and asked him if he would work with me privately. He said “Yes,” smiling and nodding his head, but then turned away without anything further—no explanation about how to set up appointment; no next step. I was confused.
Everyone was getting seated, and Dr. Erickson was definitely “in charge,” so I didn’t ask any questions, but waited for him to let me know when this private session would happen. During the morning group session, at some point Erickson mentioned offhand and with a big smile, that his license had expired, so he could no longer work with anyone privately.
Now I was really confused! Was he really going to work with me, then? Maybe he had meant he would use me as a demonstration person in the small group… This thought gave me a little reassurance, so every time he demonstrated a trance technique with someone, I did my best to be responsive. I noticed that he sometimes demonstrated with the person sitting next to him in the small circle. So the next day I made sure I sat in that place. But he didn’t work with me. The next day, when I sat farther away, he finally did use me as a demonstration person, but nothing much happened. Once more I was disappointed. Each day I would get my hopes up, and each day I was disappointed.
Finally, on the last day, I gave up. I resigned myself to not getting anything for myself personally, so I thought I may as well just learn as much as I could about what he was doing with others during this last session. Instead of trying to trance out, I just stayed alert and watched for the analogue marking, etc., that he was doing with everyone else. Since I knew some of the other people, it made more sense.
About an hour or more into the morning, as I sat there, all of a sudden I became a different person—that’s the only way I know how to describe it. Within a matter of seconds, I suddenly felt like I had never felt before. I still don’t know how to put it into words, but looking back on it I felt a sense of complete wellbeing. Plus I had a kind of wordless inner “knowing” that whatever happened, I would be OK—things would be fine no matter what. I had never felt that way before, in such a complete way. I assumed the man sitting on the other side of the circle in the purple suit had something to do with this, but I sure didn’t have any idea how.
At this moment, Erickson looked straight at me and said in his slow, rhythmic voice, “And your unconscious mind has just made an important decision.” (OK, so that’s pretty clear—he not only had something to do with this, but knew exactly when it took effect.) “…and you don’t know what it is,” he continued. That is exactly what I was thinking. I thought about the major issue in my life that I had been in such turmoil about, and realized I still didn’t have a clue what I would do, or how I would “solve” the situation. But somehow I knew things would be fine. The thought went through my mind, “I’m not sure if I would have anything to work with him about—maybe I don’t need a private session now.”
And that was the moment Erickson said, “And do you still feel a need to work with me privately?”
I said, “No, I don’t think so.” I was still very puzzled. I didn’t know what had happened, and I had no idea what I was going to do about my life situation. Yet I had a knowing that it was handled.
Over the next several weeks, this feeling of wellbeing and clarity stayed with me very strongly. What I needed to do gradually came to me over the next several days, without any conscious thinking or planning. My experience was that it sort of “bubbled up” without my doing anything. I carried out my new plan in a way that felt more congruent than I can remember ever having felt before. Even though it was something difficult, I felt I could act from a place of love and respect, and without an attachment to what would happen as a result.
This experience left me with the clear knowledge that rapid and very deep change was definitely possible, and possible for me. Before this time, I had been doing and teaching NLP. I loved it because of the reliable results it would get with other people, but I was frustrated that it usually didn’t seem to work with me. Other people looked different and said they were getting good changes, but with rare exception, that didn’t seem to happen when I went through the processes.
My experience with Erickson stayed with me as a “puzzle” to be solved. Many times over the following years I pondered the question, “How did he get that dramatic and deep change in me?” The full results I experienced over those first few weeks didn’t completely “stick,” and I wanted a way to get back to the experience of wellbeing I had felt so strongly. Plus, I thought if I could find some all-purpose method for having that kind of experience, many people could benefit.
I don’t think I ever answered my question of What Erickson did with me—the audiotapes of the session were so garbled I couldn’t make them out, and I had no awareness of what might have happened. When I attempted to model my “pre” and “post” experience with submodalities, it didn’t seem to capture the full depth of what had happened. But having that experience made me persistent in seeking a deeper change method than we had to date within NLP.

The Threads from NLP:

The main threads leading to the CT process itself, came from the field of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). One contributing element is the parts model, and the other is the language models: presuppositions and language patterns.

The Parts Model:

I had always been drawn to the “parts” methods; 6-step reframing and the parts/polarities integration. {I believe that credit for developing the 6-step reframing format goes to John Grinder. He says his unconscious mind came up with it once when he was too sick to teach, and he programmed his unconscious mind to teach for him. Virginia Satir deserves the credit for the main idea behind 6-step reframing—of finding positive outcomes—she did this within the family system, and also did “Parts Parties” for identifying and integrating parts within an individual. John and Richard developed their parts model formats by studying her work, and the work of Perls and Erickson. We assume Richard and John also developed the Visual Squash (an explicit method for integrating polarities/parts by using two hands) because it appears in Structure of Magic Vol II (P. 86-88), and was on early audiotapes of their seminars that they gave Steve to use in putting together the book, Frogs into Princes ( pp 129-135) }
For me personally, the parts methods worked better than the anchoring-based methods. Very early on, when I did parts work I intuitively started going to a “higher” level of positive purpose than what I had been taught to do. It just felt like a good idea, and I often did this with clients when I taught the Visual Squash Parts Integration. I remember once when Robert Dilts came to Colorado and did a demonstration of the Visual Squash. (This is the method where you find two opposite parts, place one in each hand, ask each its positive intention, create recognition and appreciation of the other part & its outcomes, and then bring the hands together for integration.) Robert took each part to the level of a positive purpose, and then began to negotiate an integration. It took a long time, because the two polarities had major objections to each other. I don’t remember the content, but it was the kind of thing where one part wants to work harder to “be successful”, while the other part wants to take it easy to “relax and enjoy oneself”. The part that wanted to enjoy life didn’t care about being successful, and didn’t want to be involved with the other part, and vice versa. Robert did a great job of reframing for both sides, so that finally the parts were willing to do the integration. Everyone was extremely impressed with his negotiation skills and the resolution he was able to get in a difficult situation, and learned a lot.
When Steve commented to me about it afterwards, I remember saying, “Yes, it did work well, but you know, I’m almost certain he wouldn’t have had to do any of that negotiating work if he’d just taken both parts one or perhaps two levels higher in getting the meta-outcome. That would have made the objections evaporate without any effort.” I was clear it would have worked that way, because I’d done it myself many times with people. That was when I realized that I was doing and teaching Parts Integration differently than it was being taught in the NLP field in general.
I am saying this in the context of my high regard for Robert Dilts as a person and trainer. He was one of my/our early teachers of NLP—and we were one of his first sponsors. We used to hire him to do trainings in our basement back in the early days of NLP (1978), and I learned a huge amount from him. He so obviously has offered so much to the field (and to me personally) and continues to do so. This is just about the Japanese proverb, “No one of us is as smart as all of us.” We each have something to add.

The Language Pattern Thread:

The other thread that led me to the CT process is the language patterns. I had always enjoyed working with and teaching language patterns, especially what is called “Meta-Model III” and conversational change. (For those not already familiar, Meta-Model III is a training format rather than a change procedure. Very briefly, the “guide” thinks of the first thing he/she wants to say in an interaction. Rather than saying it, you write it down, and then find all the presuppositions in this sentence, along with the direction you think this will shift the client’s experience. As guide, you rewrite your opening sentence, with better presuppositions, etc. Once you’ve honed your opening sentence, you finally say it, and then the “client responds with one sentence. You write this down also, listing all the presuppositions. Slowing things down in this way allows you to be very purposeful in your interaction, and glean a lot from only a few words.)
When you get experienced at this, you go for the “smoke coming out of the ears” response, which tends to happen when the limiting presuppositions dissolve. What I’ve described is the brief version. There are several examples of me doing public demonstrations of this on the Advanced Language Patterns audio CD set that NLP Comprehensive has. The end of that CD set is from one or two conference presentations I made where I asked for volunteers from the audience, and demonstrated “conversational change” with one person after another.
Our understanding is that the Meta-Model III training format came out of Richard Bandler’s work with clients. Again, with this training format, you are not using any particular process, but you are attending to presuppositions in such a way that you (hopefully) find a unique doorway to change for the specific person in front of you.
The other relevant part is that when Steve and I designed our own Advanced Language Patterns training segment, we added several patterns not in the original set of sleight-of-mouth patterns. (The original sleight-of-mouth patterns were from Robert Dilts’ modeling of Richard Bandler’s work.) Most notably, these extra patterns we called “reversing presuppositions” and “reversing cause-effect.” We got these patterns by modeling my demonstrations of conversational change. We noticed in my demonstrations, I often used several patterns that weren’t in the original set of SOM but that were quite powerful. I also did my best to create a “Language Patterns Flowchart” with the goal of making it easier for people to do conversational change. This flowchart maps out in a very general way how one can systematically and conversationally go from an outcome (or problem) through a complete change. (The flowchart is also part of the “Advanced Language Patterns” set available from NLP Compprehensive.) This background work fairly directly fed into what became the Core Transformation Process.

Finding Core Transformation:

The CT process itself came together in complete form in the summer of 1989, when I gave myself the challenge of working with people who had “tried everything” on their biggest issue, and nothing had worked. I set myself the task of going for the outcome in any way, except that I wouldn’t use any method I knew how to do. I wanted to find something that would go deeper and do more than the methods currently in NLP. I wanted to find something that got the level of change that Milton Erickson had gotten with me, and that would last through time. I wanted to find something that felt deeply healing and transformative. It seemed possible, and I think the audacity of my teachers (such as Richard Bandler and John Grinder) in exploring and finding new ways was catching. I sometimes told people (half-joking but also serious) that we would be working with their life’s biggest issue and they could go home when they had what they wanted. They knew it was an exploration.
I sat down with people, listened carefully for presuppositions in every word they spoke, carefully embedded presuppositions in my own language, and tracked nonverbal states. On top of that, I just trusted that somehow, something would come to me/us to do, that would bring about this deep level change. With the first person I worked with in this way, I found myself asking for a deeper level of positive purpose than I’d done before. I just kept going, waaay beyond the level of “positive.” At some point my client was in a state they couldn’t really describe, but it didn’t take any great sensory acuity on my part to notice that they were in an incredibly positive, powerful state. I don’t recall ever seeing someone in such a strongly, deeply positive state before. I didn’t know exactly what it was, but stepping into their shoes, I could feel some of it myself and I recognized its healing power. It came to me immediately to do something that basically combined the “reversing presuppositions/reversing cause-effect” that I’d been using for years, to manifest the healing potential of this state.
That’s what I did, and those two phases are what I called “Eliciting the Outcome Chain” and “Reversing the Outcome Chain,” which are the keys to the Core Transformation process. Several people later, I added Parental Timeline Reimprinting. This happened when I had guided one client through the CT process, and the intensity of her core state seemed a bit weak for me to trust that she would get a complete shift in her life situation. I thought she needed something to deepen and intensify her experience to ensure that it would “hold.”
That’s pretty much the story. I still have the handouts I created from those 1989 client sessions. The steps are all there in the original notes (used in the March 1990 Post-Master Practitioner training in Colorado), along with criteria for the Core State of Being. While I’ve tweaked the wording over time to maximize response with a wide range of people, both the steps and wording are still very close to my original notes.
Looking back on it, I don’t think that CT is what Erickson did with me. That remains a mystery. The man was an incredible genius and I would still love to know how he did it. But my experience with him is part of the unfolding of the method for me—it is what gave me the clarity that deep change was possible.
A Footnote: Leslie Cameron-Bandler’s work: Leslie is a wonderful therapist and teacher, for whom I have the deepest respect. (While Leslie is not working actively now, you can still sample some excellent therapy demonstrations by Leslie on DVD from NLP Comprehensive—Lasting Feelings and Making Futures Real, and of course her book, Solutions remains a classic introduction to the field.)
Leslie Cameron-Bandler was doing work that had some parallels to my work with Core Transformation, and I would like to acknowledge that. She called it “Imperative Self.” I first learned about Leslie’s method from Metha Singleton, in a presentation at an NLP conference, sometime after I had developed the CT work—so as far as I know her work didn’t influence how CT formed. However Steve suggested that I include a section about the similarities and differences here. The main similarity is that Leslie’s Imperative Self has a “chain” of criteria (similar to the CT outcome chain), and goes to an “overarching criteria.” (I think that’s what she called it.) I went ahead with presenting CT work because I thought CT offered a more complete and deep change method in several ways:
1) With Imperative Self (IS), the “overarching criteria” frequently fell short of a Core State, so its transformative potential was more limited. (As I recall, half the examples Metha presented didn’t get to a Core State level.) With CT work the elicitation procedure makes it possible to always go to that level, and we have specific criteria to know when we are there.
2) The CT elicitation procedure is associated–it guides the client to “step in” to each step in the outcome chain, making it easier to actually get to a deep core state, and easier to experience it once elicited. As presented, the IS work was more conceptual, and the client did not end with a felt experience.
3) Once the Core State is discovered, CT provides an immediate way to utilize it to transform the client’s experience. This wasn’t the case with IS work. It was presented as an elicitation procedure, i.e. “Now you know what your overarching criteria is” without a specific change procedure.
4) With IS, one attempted to find an “overarching criteria” for the whole person by asking questions of the person’s conscious mind. With CT, one works with unconscious parts. This respects that there really isn’t ever a single “criteria chain” that works for the whole person. There are usually multiple parts, each with their own unique “criteria chains” as well as unique and different Core States. By working with “parts” or “aspects” of ourself that arise in different life situations, we can use CT as an ongoing pathway to reaching deeper and deeper aspects of wholeness or oneness that is our nature. Each has a slightly different hue or flavor, and like the different facets of a gem, each adds uniquely to the full result of Wholeness.
Want to Learn More about NLP? What it is, who is interested, etc?
click here for “What is NLP” on Real People Press’s website.