This blog tells a patchy and imperfect story of my magical maraudings, for which I apologise. I’m time-poor and it’s simply too much fun, and too enlightening, writing mad emails to magicians on the internet to report back on progress in real-time.
But, for the record, I increasingly find far more meaning and worth in shamanic tomes, in corresponding with hypnotist-hackers, and in stolen essays on magic as art than I do in mainstream teachings on hypnosis and NLP.
I hope that those who stray onto the shores of this blog, having drifted from The Good Ship NLP in particular, will take the plunge into lesser known teachings and territories. Hypnosis, IMHO, is a stagnant pond in dire need of fresh ideas and disruptors.
But, suffice to say, mentalism is a major source of learning and inspiration for me.
I became fascinated with the art and science of muscle-reading. (Here is Uncle Derren doing it if you’re not familiar.)
I’ve been conspiring to learn this in my workplace: I picture the happy, happy day that I inveigle all my colleagues into some glorious feat of mental magic… Alas, after months of stoking the subject of magic and making wild claims as to my magical powers, I can predict with some accuracy how any such conversation will go:
Amy: [BLAH BLAH BLAH MAGIC IS AWESOME!]
Colleague: [BLAH BLAH THERE’S MEDICATION FOR THAT.]
Amy: [BLAH BLAH NO REALLY MAGIC YAY!]
Colleague: [BLAH BLAH DO YOU KNOW HOW A CARD TRICK WORKS?]
Amy: [BLAH BLAH BLAH BORING WAFFLE ABOUT MAGIC BLAH BLAH ALLUDES TO MAGIC PHONE APPS IN AN ALSO BORING WAY BECAUSE I CAN’T DO CARD/ANY MAGIC BLAH BLAH BEFORE LOSING THE WILL…]
Colleague: [BLAH BACK TO WORK BLAH MEETING BLAH BORING WORK BLAH.]
But then I had an epiphany: I’m already a proficient muscle-reader – just in a characteristically topsy-turvy way!
See, the weekend I lost my mind*, I also lost my coat.
One of my main drivers in life is leadership and, specifically, collaborative leadership. And, so, this is one of those moments in which I attuned to the fact that a) some people look to me for leadership and b) such people really shouldn’t because I have no fucking clue where I’m going in life.
And thus I led two female friends, plus a deeply confused Norwegian rugby player, on a merry dance around Bergen, Norway, on an expedition known as: ‘Where Is My Coat?’.
Because I was incapable, at the time, of steering The Good Ship Amy, I observed us, literally, going round in circles. “Why are these people following me?”, I wondered. It took three circuits before one of my female companions wondered the same.
I just wanted someone to take the lead and find my goddamn coat. It became a good lesson for me on the importance of collaborative leadership – we seldom switch up our roles in group dynamics, but we should. And so the seed was sown as to my ability to lead people on merry dances…
Fast forward a year, and I was back in my company’s UK headquarters where I got to work with my much-loved colleague Agent S.
Agent S is also mad and thus helped me invent – what?! – inverted muscle-reading?! We would go on various lunchtime capers to discuss Life, The Universe and Everything. I learnt a lot from Agent S’s life’s philosophy: just turn right and keep going. And so we would venture out for deep and meaningful lunches to figure it all out – based on the simple formula of turning right, stopping for lunch, and then turning back (happily also a right).
BUT. Take Agent S out into the field and all hell broke loose. I’ve had to take charge of navigation as our synchronistic wanderings get us in trouble. Lunches overrun the designated hour. And he almost missed Uncle Derren at a 2015 philosophy conference. Imagine: I may never have stumbled into this world were it not for my ability to fire up Google Maps in challenging mental circumstances!
So, yes. Spending time with Agent S led to the invention of ‘inverted muscle-reading.’ Aka the art and science of going for a walk with someone and causing them to believe you actually know where you’re going.
This is a subtle yet simple trick and a non-contact sport. I truly believe it’s a superb way to learn to read people and practice a whole bunch of stuff.
So. You leave the building with a person with a vague promise of where you shall go (a lunch, dinner or drinking venue). First step, you must be decisive – and for this reason, you MUST turn right and stride out with confidence. This is very important.
Then, if you’re working one-on-one, it’s a matter of reading their signs – spoken, unspoken, conscious and unconscious, in body and mind. It’s about pacing and leading, and getting in and out of sync/rapport, and using conversational hypnosis and psychological markers to lead and distract them, etc. So, there will be parts of the journey when they have a sense that they know where they’re going – ie, a stretch of road they’re familiar with – but then you’ll know that they’re about to consciously wonder, at which point you must switch to leading before they question the supposed route/destination. I’ll often just vaguely point while talking to signal ‘this way’, but so that it’s ambiguous – a question or a statement of fact? This way, when they do discover they’ve been going nowhere I can say, “But I thought you knew where we were going?”.
(I really am an unbearable person, aren’t I?)
The longest I’ve walked with someone before they’ve realised I’m not walking anywhere in particular is, so far, 15-minutes.
To build on this, there is then the possibilities of playing with group dynamics. Here is where you can really have fun! You string this out by moving between different social leaders, so that there is the constant sense that there is a direction, a flow, a destination, but no one person is leading it. Here, I like to mess with half-conversations about getting out Google Maps, so that there’s a sense that someone is surely following the map, but actually no one is. It’s like spinning plates.
In this case, 20 minutes is my max before someone organised steps in.
I hope the myriad followers of this blog benefit from this top tip. Muscle reading is a tricky sport to practice in the traditional sense in real life, but this rather neatly gets around the problem. You’re welcome!
*A story for another day.