Essay

The Automatic Imagination Model, religion, and reality hacking

By Duff McDuffee on June 2nd, 2016 1

In Anthony Jacquin’s Automatic Imagination Model of hypnosis (AIM), hypnotic phenomena are elicited by simply imagining that something is happening, such as getting your hand stuck to a table, and then imagining that it is automatic, in other words that it is real and outside of your control.

A lot of weird beliefs and human problems have a similar structure.

The Creationist doesn’t simply believe that “the Earth is 5000 years old” is a model, they believe this is reality itself. Fossils were put there to test your faith, o ‘ye of little!

Years ago I dated a woman and we went on a hike. She said she could feel the distinct energy of different mountain trails, and that some were more healing than others. I said this was her interpretation and experience (as mine was different), but no, she claimed this was reality itself.

Another time I was talking to a man about his marital problems and I paraphrased some of what he was saying back to him, saying, “So the way you see it, …” but he corrected me: “…not the way I see it, the way it is!”

This is how we hypnotize ourselves: we make something up, then we forget we are making it up (or pretend we are not) and claim that our model is reality itself and thus outside of our control. This is perhaps the most important cognitive bias humans engage in, forgetting our stories are fictions and that we are the author.

Sometimes I call this being “inside” your metaphor. From the outside, it’s one of many possible perspectives. From the inside, it isn’t a metaphor — it’s reality. This is a key reason why Andy Austin’s Metaphors of Movement is so useful for people who are very stuck: you don’t attempt to change the metaphor, only to work within it. (“I really am ‘in a dark place,’ don’t tell me to ‘look on the bright side’!”)

This ability to construct realities and then forget goes both ways. If you want to change how you see and respond to the world, make something up which is more useful, and then imagine it is automatic. Act as if it is reality itself. Forget that you made it up and enjoy your new reality. Of course it’s not usually this straightforward. It’s a paradox, like telling someone to “be spontaneous.”

That said, all successful change work starts with acknowledging, then deconstructing your existing reality. That means acknowledging that it is just a map, not the territory, just a model, not reality itself, and thus there are hidden options you probably have overlooked. Reality is typically not as impoverished as our maps.

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