The Family Dinner Table
An Advanced 30-Step NLP Technique
A Metaphor About Family Obligations Created by the
This is a large but very general and effective way to achive exposure
and reimprinting of limiting childhood
beliefs, as taught by Carl Buchheit and
Michelle Masters of NLP Marin.
Please note that this is as I recall and have evolved this technique,
and may be significantly different than the way Carl and Michelle teach it.
This requires a solid background in professional practice with NLP
and is probably best not attempted by someone who is not
As with many such techniques, getting everything exactly verbatim is
not very important compared to understanding the purpose and spirit of
the steps and doing it in your own way.
1. Ask your subject to imagine an image of the family dinner
table when your subject was 4 or 5 years old. A good approach is to suggest a
replay from a surveillance camera on the wall of the family dining room,
looking down, and giving a somewhat grainy black and white image, moving
2. Ask the subject who's at the table. Generally, this will be
parents and siblings.
3. "What did they call you then?" You'll use this younger
name throughout this procedure whenever you want to insure that the
subject is staying associated into the younger self. For the purpose of
this text, we'll pretend that the subject who normally goes by
"Fred" as adult, says "Freddie."
4. Ask the subject to increase the resolution of the image, add
color, slow the speed to normal. Ask the subject to associate into the
younger version of himself at the table.
5. "What's it like to be this little kid at this table with
these people? What is he experiencing?" Ask yourself, what's the
main emotional state being used to organize his experience?
6. "Who does Freddie key on? Who does Freddie tend to look to,
at the table?" Typically, the subject will mention one parent or
the other. This will be the parent you'll focus on first. For the
purpose of this text, we'll pretend that Fred mentioned his mother.
7. Ask the subject to tell you his [mother's] first name and age at
the time of the dinner table scenario. For the purpose of this text,
we'll say her name is "Alice" and her age is 40.
8. "Step out of that younger version and move around the table
to stand behind your [monther]."
9. "In the way that you know how to do it, step into your
[mother], breathing with her lungs, seeing with her eyes, wearing her
hair, with your fingers in her fingerslots, and your toes in her
10. "What is t like to be this person [Alice], sitting at the
table with these people?" "What is [Alice] experiencing?"
What is it that she's noticing?"
11. "What does [Alice] not allow herself to know?" There
are secret compartments of emotions that people don't allow themselves
to know. Go down into these. "... down and back, down and
back, down and back, into these secret compartments."
12. "What is [Alice] afraid is true about herself?"
13. "Coming out of that secret compartment, what is [Alice]'s
14. Break. (Have the subject step out of his [mother's] reality, and
come back to the here and now.)
15. Now, ask the subject to walk around the table, behind [mom or
dad] next and repeat the questioning process, steps 7-14.
16. "Step back into that younger version of [Freddie], look at
your parents, and morph them younger to a childhood age, keeping their
adult clothes. Look at them ... there are your parents." This can
be very helpful for the subject to understand that his parents were just
ordinary people, and ordinary children before that. When we can honor
our parents, but also realize they were never supposed to have been
super-beings, great shifts can happen in our
beliefs and behaviors.
17. "Make energetic eye contact with [mother]. There's an
energetic link-up. What uploads to [Alice] from the younger version of
18. "How is that received?"
19. "What information is your [mother] sending back, if any?
20. "And, how is that received by [Freddie]?"
22. "Looking at your [mother], what is it that [Freddie] wants
more than anything in the world for [Alice]?"
23. Repeat steps 16 - 22 for the other parent.
24. Have the subject associate back into the younger self, and ask
"What are the 3 Big Rules?" You can explain that the younger
self probably made some rules for surviving in that family, and for the
purpose of this session, it is OK to imagine that there are three such
rules. If the subject has trouble coming up with three such rules, you
can state that it is just fine to make them up. If necessary, offer
assistance in coming up with these rules in the usual NLP ways.
25. Ask the subject to imagine having little [Freddie] tapping on a
glass to get attention, perhaps standing on a chair, and calling a family
meeting to say, "I can't help noticing how much pain each of you
[parents] is in. It's breaking my heart. I have been trying to make it so
that [mother], you can go on doing [whatever disfunctionality mother
seems to want or need] and [father], you can [father's
disfunctionality]. But its not working. So Mom, until further notice, I
will be [doing mother's disfunctionality] so you don't have to, and dad,
I will be [your disfunctionality]. And I'll do this until it gets
better, or for an infinite period of time. At this point, little
[Freddie] sits down.
26. Dissociate. (break).
27. You might discuss this with the subject a bit, using audio
tonality and other anchors to keep the subject back here in the adult
here and now. "Can you feel both the weight of these obligations,
and the hope it offers?" Also, can you notice how much you have had
to deflect & ignore to accomplish this?"
28. Have the subject freeze a picture of the family dinner table.
"Cut out, perfectly, the picture of you and move her over to the
side. Image that Central Casting finds the perfect substitute child
actor to sit in that place. Does anything change for those parents or
that family?" At this point, the subject may have some confusion,
not clearly at first seeing your point that the child's attempt to
fulfill obligations for the parents' disfunctionality has no effect. So,
you can take the time needed to help clarify the metaphor.
29. At some point, you'll see the subject really 'get it.' Set and
hold an anchor on that with a touch of the arm. "Breath that
understanding into the younger version with our apology that it had to
be this way, and with appreciateion for all the work he did. Grow him
up. Notice the content did not change but the meaning has changed."
30. Have the subject make a picture of slightly future self, look back
along the timeline with respect and gratitude, and have the subject say
After a bit of future pacing, this can be the end of the session, or
it can lead to some more specific work, depending on ecology or findings
along the way.