Tripp’s Principles of Changework

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In preparation for the first session in The Freestyle Mindshifter’s Toolkit, I thought it might be a good idea to create some notes introducing the key principles that will be guiding us in learning this flexible appraoch to changework. In the first live session we will be going deeper into these principles in preparation for session two, where we will begin to unpack the tools themselves.

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The Principles…

People are not their trances

We engage with the world through trances. In any given moment we organise the data we are receiving into through our senses into an experience from which a concomitant physiological/behavioural response emerges. These experience/response sets are what we are calling ‘trances’ here because they tend to self-initiate and self-perpetuate with little conscious input. By the time we have reached adulthood, we have developed a repertoire of trances through which we live our lives. Some are more ‘primal’, some more complex. Some we use often, some only occasionally. Some include more flexibility and/or conscious choice, some less. One of the signatures of trances is the when we drop into once, it’s like everything else about who we are disappears. I call this a ‘narrowing of bandwidth’ (you’ll hear me talk a lot about the breadth of trance or ‘trance bandwidth’ – generative/therapeutic trances are ‘broad bandwidth’ and facilitate access to more of ‘who we are’). In these narrowing moments it can seem like the trance is ‘who we are’ – it is NOT.

Also, in any given moment when interacting with another human being, you are actually interacting with one of their trances, and interacting through one of yours. This is useful to know as a change agent/coach/therapist etc. because the trance your client in is significant (Are they in the problem trance? Are they in an anti-resource trance? Are they in a resourceful trance? A major part of the skill of change work is tracking and moving trances). Trances are a fundamental part of how we work as organisms – we cannot do without them. In the broadest sense, they serve us. The totality of our trances dictates our overall engagement with life, and if you are alive they are at least fulfilling their most fundamental function. Problems come about when ‘we’ (dodging the philosophical rabbit hole here) evaluate a trance to be undermining us in living life as we would wish to. This is when your services as a professional agent of change will be called upon. Your job will be to help them dissolve or resolve or transcend the problem trance and create new and better adapted trances (though this last part is often better taken care of by the ‘generative faculty’).

People possess a powerful ‘generative faculty’ capable of creating new trances/ways of being whenever they are needed

Our entire trance repertoire was created by the organism-in-environment that we are. When we first pop out into the world as newborns out trance repertoire is not very broad – a hunger trance, a discomfort trance, a comfort trance… basic stuff!

But we contain within us an instinct to start making sense of the world through which we begin creating more sophisticated trances through which to interact with it. Through processing sensory data and initial exploratory interactions we start to build understandings (understandings are the underpinnings of trances).

This process continues throughout childhood and into adulthood. By the time we are adults we have built a repertoire of trances that enable us to engage with the world and take care of ourselves (and there are exceptions to this rule) so the need to increase our trance repertoire becomes less pressing. Indeed, once we reach this point we are unlikely to create new trances unless we are pressed to by novel life situations or by proactive choice (like if a person chooses to learn a new skill).

However, just because we stop using our generative faculty so much in everyday life, doesn’t mean we no longer possess it. It is there to serve us when needed and is the primary resource the client brings to change work/therapy/coaching.

As a change agent/coach/therapist you are NEVER going to create any shifts for your clients without the full assistance of their generative faculty. Know it is present, respect it and ensure it is in the game.

Critical Faculty Vs. Creative Faculty

The legendary hypnotherapist Dave Elman coined the term ‘Critical Faculty’ (NOT ‘critical factor’ as so many seem to say – go ahead and check Elman’s book!) to denote the the ‘aspect of mind’ that defends current beliefs/understandings (which are the underpinnings of our trances) from any ideas that may threaten them. Elman’s explanation of hypnosis was dependant upon this idea – he described as working via “bypassing the critical faculty”.

Essentially, the critical faculty breaks ideas down as they come in so that we can continue our ‘trance business as usual’. Sometimes this will go on quietly inside a persons head and some times it will come out as overt arguing, defending and ‘yes, butting’.

The flip side of the critical faculty is what I call the ‘Creative Faculty’ – the ‘aspect of mind’ that creates our experience moment-by-moment. (to contrast this with the Generative Faculty – the Generative Faculty creates the trances through learning, the Creative Faculty makes the experience of either the trance OR more consciously directed imaginings come alive in the moment).

In everyday life, most people constantly utilise their Creative Faculty to create their ongoing experience from their existing operational beliefs/understandings, and use their Critical Faculty to keep those operational beliefs/understandings intact. In learning/changework/coaching we want to flip that round – have the Critical Faculty brought to bear upon existing operational beliefs/understandings and have the Creative Faculty create with new ideas and conceptualisations. People almost NEVER do this at all extensively from ‘low vibration’ states, only ‘high vibration’ states.

Low Vibration Vs. High Vibration

These terms are used here poetically and not scientifically. Low vibration states are states like fear, anger, frustration, despair, disgust, hatred, despondence and the like. High vibration states are states like humour, enthusiasm, curiosity, love, compassion etc. Some people create specific hierarchies of states, but I don’t find that necessary – most people can get this ‘high vibration/low vibration’ hack and can use it.

The rule of thumb here is that, in general, high vibration states open people up to learning, change and transformation whilst low vibration states entrench people and lock them down.

In conducting change work, it is useful to connect people into problem trances, which are likely to be drivers of low vibrational states, but it is essential we don’t leave people there – this is not where the work will be done from.

There are certain high vibrational states that I think are key to change – I sometimes call them ‘transformative energies’ (again, poetically not scientifically).

These are curiosity, compassion, gratitude, love and amusement.

Judgement Vs Transformative Consciousness

In my experience, judgement is ALWAYS a part of problem patterns either directly as part of the problem trance, or indirectly as part of what is holding it in place. The big issue with judgement is that it creates toxic relationships (both internal and external) and struggle where generative relationships and co-creating are called for.

Now, some people try to defend judgement as necessary, because it for a part of how we make decisions about what is what in life – here is where I like to draw the distinction between judgement and evaluation.

To illustrate, if someone has a flat tire and they are trying to fix the problem by kicking it with rage, my evaluation is likely to be that it is not really going to get the problem fixed so good. I don’t think this is being judgmental. If I think they are an idiot for doing this, and I look down on them, that is judgmental.

So evaluation is cool and nuanced, judgement is emotionally charged and black and white (good/bad, right/wrong, acceptable/unacceptable etc.).

Some people also think that judgement is an inherent part of motivation, and without it they would become complacent. I have never seen this turn out to be true.

To engage in transformative work, it is often (but not always in the case of certain simple structure issues) necessary to have the client bring what I call ‘transformative consciousness’ to bear upon the trances (and underpinning understandings) that they wish to change. As has been known to Buddhists for thousands of years, the key aspect of Transformative Consciousness is ‘equanimity’ (mental calmness, composure, and absence of judgement). This is one of the reasons, I believe, that curiosity (Richard Bandler’s favourite attitude) is such a powerful attitude to invoke in a client – because it is mutually exclusive with judgement.

We are community – internal relationships matter

“Groups are grammatical fictions; only individuals exist, and each individual is different.” Robert Anton Wilson

I am a big Robert Anton Wilson fan, and learned a ton from the man, but this quote I have to disagree with to the point of inversion: “Individuals are grammatical fictions; only groups exist.”

Each of us is a collection of collections. A system of systems – both physiologically and psychologically and beyond that, as organisms, we are inherently social.

One of the key elements of the work that I do is around looking at relationships within the client between different aspects of self; particularly at bringing a healing quality to those relationships so that they can be generative and creative rather than combative and destructive.

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense – if you have a bunch of internal relationships that are combative and destructive, what kind of life are you going to be leading? But if your internal relationships are generative and creative, whilst it doesn’t mean that we necessarily get the perfect solution to every situation right there in the moment, it will create the context for the Transformative Consciousness that we have already discussed. This frees us to bring all our resources and Generative Faculty to bear creatively in generating new solutions and new ways of being that support us more fully in how it is we want to live our lives.

It’s useful to be aware of this because it is important that in doing change work we don’t rush to do the bidding of one aspect of self against another without first attending to the quality of the relationship between those two aspects of self. If we do, we are at risk of bolstering a toxic inner relationship, which is the opposite of what needs to occur for generative change to happen.

Get Into Vs. Get Through

This is a profound distinction both in change work and life. The quality of everything in life is dictated by our ability to be present with it. The more present we are with an experience, the more vivid it is. The more deeply we get into an art, the greater our level of mastery grows. The more deeply we get into a subject of study, the deeper our knowledge becomes.

I once coached someone who had decided they needed to learn maths at a high level in order to advance their career. He had a private tutor he was working with a couple of times a week, and being pretty disciplined in carving out study time. The trouble was he was finding the learning frustrating and was getting irritable with his tutor. In coaching, I pointed out that the trouble was that he had no interest in learning maths, just a beliefs that it was something he had to do in order to get something else he wanted. He wanted to have learned maths, rather than be learning it. He was rushing to get through the process rather than slowing down and getting into it.

This is a very common problem with personal change – people just want to be different… NOW! They want to get through the change rather than get into it – deep into each moment, each manoeuvre, each exploration. Mesmerised by the magnificence of each moment.

An additional problem is practitioners being pulled into this frame and pulling out all the stops to get the client through the process to the end result. The strange paradox is the more you slow down, the more the work speeds up, because the more you get into each moment the more you get from each moment.

Work with the whole system

A lot of hypnotists get hung up in the idea that ‘the unconscious mind’ is cool, sexy and powerful whilst the ‘conscious mind’ is really just part of the problem and needs to be got out of the way.

I disagree with this strongly. Indeed, it seems to me that the primary role of consciousness is a learning, growing and changing role (as opposed to a ‘doing’ role).

From an ‘evolutionary biology’ perspective, it doesn’t make sense that we would possess faculties without function, so when I work with a person I am always wanting to work with the whole ’system’ that they are.

Indeed, going beyond this, I want to keep an awareness for how they connect into the broader system of their lives and well as an awareness of my self as part of the system that is at work in the room (I often use the phrase ‘a conversation between two intelligent systems’ in framing the work to clients).

Your beingness counts

Above and beyond what you are doing with the client, how you are being is actually where the real leverage lies. We take unconscious cues from each other all the time – states are contagious to a greater or lesser extent (depending upon variables). If you are anxious, fearful, attached, needy, insecure your client will pick up on that. If you are grounded, compassionate, decisive, free.

One of the areas that a lot of practitioners overlook is their own development. Overlooking this disrupts congruence and undermines your work however good your skills.

To be clear, it doesn’t mean you have to be perfect and at the end of your personal path, but it does mean that it will pay big for you to be walking it.

Learn, grow, explore, connect, transcend – be who you need to be to best guide others in change and transformation.

Surf the Chaos Wave

Your client is no only more complex than you or they think, they are more complex than you or they can think. Same goes for life.

Psycho-social reality is infinitely complex and perpetually unfolding – there is no way you can micro manage it. This is why a change work process in and of itself is likely to be as much use as a five step process for winning a tennis match. What is needed is skill, understanding, options, creativity and a willingness to dance with the moment. Participate creatively in the transformative unfolding. Surf the Chaos Wave.

About The Author

James Tripp

Hypnotist and Transformative Facilitator. Creator of Hypnosis Without Trance.


  • Brian Babiak MD

    June 16, 2016

    I really enjoyed this particular article. Looks like this germination period of yours was quite fruitful!

  • Ivar Vogelezang

    September 13, 2016

    Dear James,I realy liked your article, thanks for that.
    May I ask you a question about how you turn around the vision of Robert Anton Wilson? Yes you say “We are community ….” But shouldn’t we maybe make that:”We Live in community….”?
    Here I will explain my question: I have worked with different people who lived very lonely, in an a-social way….. because they where thought so in previous therapies. They had learned that only their ideas were important and it did not matter what others would think about. I tell them: Of course people have to dare to do their own things, …. We are individuals, but we also live in a group! People are social livings, we have to contact with other persons around us! We are all human beings and we all need contact and warmth from others. Therefor you may have to adapt your behaviour a little to reach that,because otherwise people may go avoiding you. I then learn this persons how they can stay an individual, but also have to adapt a litle to the group, for the social contact…if they want that.
    Yes James what is your point to: “Being an individual WITHIN the group”?

    • James Tripp

      September 15, 2016

      Yes, and…

      My point with we ARE community is that each ‘individual’ person is a community of aspects – physiological systems, neural modules, cells etc. Each cell is a community of molecules. Each molecule a community of atoms. Each atom a community of…

      On top of that, each community at each level in embedded in a broader community. So yes we are individual communities of communities within a community. Where there is interrelation there is community.

      Now, beyond that, depending upon which lens – individual or community – we choose to focus through will determine our engagement with life (and those around us) and the kind of results our engagement generates.

      I think that there tends to be an over-bias towards individualism in our society which could do with a rebalancing towards collectivism. This is a Yang/Yin relationship – individualism/collectivism – so from a ‘trippified’ taoist perspective, we separate in order to integrate.

      All the very best,


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