Threshold techniques

The Compulsion Blowout Technique

A compulsion blowout is a submodality pattern for intense behaviors and responses you feel forced to do. Many compulsions are just trivial and don’t interfere with your life and energy, like having to straighten a crooked picture.

Some things you are compelled to do are just annoying (for you or others), like picking fluff off someone’s clothes, counting the number of times you chew your food, avoiding cracks in the sidewalk. Or, what about having to check the iron is off before leaving the house?

Repetitive behaviors aren’t necessarily bad; in fact, they can be useful habits. Brushing your teeth before you go to bed, or washing the dishes after dinner can make things go smoothly.

It becomes a compulsion when you don’t feel you have a choice to do the behavior. It can feel related to your survival. In the story of Rapunzel, the pregnant mother has to have the radishes in the witch’s garden or she feels she will die. It you feel forced to straighten that picture in the bosses office when she tells you not to, it can create problems.

icecream-sundaeBinge eating or other food compulsion, compulsively picking at something on your body and compulsions to buy things can have major consequences.

You need to use this technique carefully; it doesn’t consider the positive intention of the behavior or response. Other NLP techniques such as Core Transformations or the The Six Step Reframe Technique might be more useful as they work directly with intention and have built in ecology.

Compulsions usually have four aspects:

  1. You represent an object, usually visually, but can also be auditory or kinesthetic. The video example below shows a kinesthetic representation.
  2. There is some kind of distortion in the submodalities. You don’t represent it realistically. For example chocolate that is larger than normal.
  3. There is a feeling of compulsion – of having no choice.
  4. There is compulsive behavior; you have to do something.

Compulsion Blowout Processes

Has there ever been something you really liked, a song you played repeatedly until one day you couldn’t bear it?

We call the technique a “blowout” because that is what we do to the submodalities – we alter them so much that we can no longer represent the object in the same way. You break the connection between how you represent the thing and the kinesthetic response.


  • Finding the driving submodality – what change actually increases the feeling of compulsion? If you make the picture of the chocolate larger, is it more desirable? Does making it closer or more colorful make you want it more?
  • Do it quickly. This process works because there chemical changes in our bodies keep going like a moving car even though you have put on the brakes. It you do it slowly, it can actually increase the compulsion.
  • Do it in one direction only. Go from far to close and then stop for instance. A see saw type motion of far – close – far – close won’t get the response over threshold.
  • You need to do an ecology check before you do the process. What will happen when you no longer have the compulsion? Does it satisfy something else? What behavior can you put in its place? When my sister and her husband gave up smoking, their communication suffered. Having a cigarette together was an important part of their relationship.
  • Make sure you contextualize the response – make it a specific thing. It would not be useful to blow out your compulsion to control for instance, rather that you are compulsed to read every email.

Single Submodality Increase

With this method, we rapidly increase the driver submodality. With distortions like size, brightness or distance this is the best method. When the kinesthetic response of desirability reaches a certain point, it will go over threshold and change.

You can always try this method first – some submodalities have a limit to how much you can increase them.

Repeated Ratchet

With this method, you repeat the first method. Take the driving submodality and increase it rapidly. Then start again with your original representation and repeat.

Video Example with Steve Andreas

In this video, Steve elegantly demonstrates a repeated ratchet compulsion blowout using a kinesthetic submodality driver.

Notice how quickly she repeats the process of increasing desire and also the change in her body language and facial expressions.

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