Nested Loops – NLP Metaphors

Nested Loops or embedded metaphors in NLP are when you start telling a story, a metaphor, or an anecdote, get some of the way through it and stop (leaving the audience in suspense) before starting another story.  Then tell only part of a second story before moving on to a third, and so on.

Only close each of the metaphors later by finishing the stories in reverse order, as you do this your learners will pick up the signals in their mind that link what you are saying and the scene you are describing to what you said earlier.  Like the rest of NLP, this is magic – watch it happen as your students absorb the words.

By breaking the stories off the people know that they haven’t got the end of the story, they do not have a sense of completion, or even know the point of the story. They know that there is more to come. This creates states of anticipation, attention, curiosity and wanting to know more at the unconscious level.

You can use them at the beginning and close them at the end of the training or subject to give them a sense of completion. It packages the experience and installs the information.

Make sure that your (and others) use of nested loops is ecological:

  • Pre check content bearing in mind the audience
  • Try them out on someone prior to using them in training, see what results that you get.
  • Try on the hat yourself as you are compiling the metaphor.

Benefits of nested loop metaphors:

Metaphors beautifully created take an audience on a journey in their mind, they describe an event using sensory information in the story. The listener is taken to the scene metaphorically and in their mind they reside their as the story unfolds.

For trainers this provides the opportunity to feed in positive messages around their descriptions to get the audience in the right mood for the training and prepared to learn. By developing loops in the metaphors it also creates as sense of suspense, which is very useful. The suspense is ended when the loops is closed – at the end of the learning.

  • Stories create emotions and these help people learn and remember an experience.
  • You can elicit states sequentially so that you get to the desired end state – referred to as chaining in NLP.
  • They distract the conscious mind and induce trance.  Making it much easier for us to communicate with the unconscious mind and therefore improve learning.
  • Metaphors make it easy to embed commands and make suggestions.

Example NLP Metaphor Loops

Example 1 – opening

Three widows, Jean, Alison, and Elizabeth, met up for their Wednesday evening dance class in the local town hall. It was winter, and dark outside with a crisp white frost on the town hall rooftop. They met 20 minutes before class started as usual so they could catch up on all the latest happenings in town. As they sat down beside the radiator in the waiting area, to warm their cold hands and feet, the lights went out. They were surrounded by darkness apart from the faint red glow of an emergency light. There was a power outage! Elizabeth knew that Jean is frightened of the dark, and so she started to tell a story to distract her. This reminds me of the last big trip that my dear departed husband John made to the Khanka Nature Reserve in Russia. In his spare time, John was an ornithologist and going to the reserve was his trip of a lifetime, as it’s a UNESCO heritage area that is home to150 types of birds. In order to get to Lake Khanka, you have to hike across the Russian steps and then wade through marsh land, while avoiding treacherous swamps. It was winter, and the days were very short. Despite wearing winter survival clothing, John was chilled to the bone, and his fingers and toes were so cold that they were numb, and he couldn’t feel them! On the afternoon before they were due to reach the lake, John’s party was wading waist high through a marsh. Progress was slow, because one member of the party was exhausted. He could be heard puffing and panting, and constantly complaining about how cold and tired he was. John was becoming more and more annoyed, and he suddenly noticed that it was becoming dark and they had lost track of time. The last thing you want to do is be lost in the Khanka marshes at night, and risk walking into a swamp and drowning! John suddenly had a sense of impending doom. He could feel the anxiety building up in the pit of his stomach, and he felt nauseated. Would he every make it back to see Elizabeth. He could imagine sitting beside her in their armchairs, with their toes warming next to a crackling coal fire. How safe that would feel! John and his party decided to stay where they were and huddle together for shared warmth and safety. They sang songs to lift their spirits and make sure that they stayed awake. Elizabeth paused for a second, casting her mind back to John’s vivid description of what happened next.

Example 2 – opening

Alison sensed that Jean was becoming more nervous and pitched in to tell a story about her late husband Graham’s travels. Alison thought to herself that this would be a good time to focus on somewhere much warmer than the Russian Steps! Graham was a keen anthropologist in his spare time. He was particularly fascinated by Australian Aboriginal Cultures. Aboriginal culture had existed in Australia for 50,000 to 60,000 years before Captain Cook’s arrival in 1770. There were multiple tribes, languages, cultures, and rituals. Graham was dying of cancer, and in the last year of his life, the top of Graham’s bucket list was a trip to Australia to experience aboriginal culture first-hand. After a 36 hour flight, we arrived in Perth and met with our tour guide at the airport. Perth is located on the Indian Ocean, and as we stepped out of the airport we were greeted by a wall of warm humid air. I could smell the sweet fragrance tropical pants, and there were palm trees lining the walkway. Most people were wearing shorts, t-shirts, and sandals, and there was a faint smell of sun block in the air. Our tour guide led us to the tour bus that would take us to camp out with an aboriginal tribe in the outback overnight. As we stepped onto, we could immediately feel the relief of the cool air conditioned cabin. Graham and I sat down and almost immediately fell asleep, as we were exhausted from our long trip.

Example 3 – opening

Jean listened politely, and though where on earth is this story going? Now they have fallen asleep. I can’t listen this anymore! Jean piped up, “my husband Tony was a great fan of electronics and electricity. We were on a family trip to Maynooth in County Kildare, Ireland to research our family tree. We decided to visit the local museum. On our way round looking at the exhibits, Tony stopped dead in his tracks with his moth hanging wide open. He was standing in front of none other than the very first induction coil that had been invented by Callan in 1836! 


Example 3 – Closing

Tony explained that an induction coil, is an electrical device for producing a source of high voltage. An induction coil consists of a central cylindrical core of soft iron on which are wound two insulated coils: an inner or primary coil, having relatively few turns of copper wire, and a surrounding secondary coil, having a large number of turns of thinner copper wire. Tony said, “you love dancing don’t you!” I said yes. He then went on to explain that the device may look old and boring, but this is a story of the dance of the electrons! What happens is this, as electricity passes through the primary wire, an electromagnetic field is created. This field causes the electrons to dance in the secondary wire, and electrical current then flows in the secondary wire without the wires ever having to touch. Absolutely magic and fascinating eh! I could see in my mind tiny sparking dots dancing in the red copper wire. The really amazing thing is the electrons and current flow in the secondary wire in the opposite direction to the change in the magnetic field. Jean then said, just imagine if the energy in humans could work on other humans in the same way as an induction device!

Example 2 – Closing

Alison thought, “thank goodness that story wasn’t too long! I guess she managed to make a trip to see an old museum piece in rural Ireland sound interesting. Who would have thought that electrons dance!” Alison said, suddenly, we were woken by the bus coming to a stop. It was dark outside, and the only light that we could see was a campfire. As we stepped out of the bus and looked up, we saw a carpet of twinkling stars on a pitch black sky. We walked over to the campfire to be greeted by the smell of burning wood, the noise of crackling logs, dancing yellow flames and a red glow of the logs. The air was cool, with a lovely warm glow coming from the fire.

The fire was surrounded by a group of aboriginal men. They were naked apart from a loin covering made of leaves and grass. Their skin was dark, and they were painting themselves with red, blue, green and yellow ochre, forming amazing patterns on their bodies. There were three musicians, and they were practicing with the didjeridu, a bull-roarer, and a gum-leaf. The resonance was haunting, deep, and amazing. The noise from the gum-leaf sounded like a bird call. Tears ed up in Grahams eyes, and Alison felt shivers down her spine. The men started to dance, and they performed an intricate dance, while singing to the music. At the end of the dance Graham walked over to the tour guide and asked if the dance had any particular meaning. The tour guide said that tribal folklore is that the dance was learned during the dreamtime. Conditions were harsh is the outback, and the tribe had to travel long distances to hunt for food. The dance had to be learned by all tribal members as it formed a precise map of where all of the water holes were to be found in the desert. Graham said that far from being primitive, the aboriginals have such a rich cultural heritage, and he had no idea that paying such attention the intricacies of body movements could yield so much information and so critical. The dance was a critical part of how the tribe had thrived for 60,000 years in such adverse conditions.

Example 1 – Closing

As the sun came up in the morning they were greeted by a wonderful sight. To their amazement, they were closer to Lake Khanka than they had realized, and they could see the morning sun reflected in the water. The lake was surrounded by a dusting of snow. Their spirits suddenly lifted as they waded to the banks of the lake, set up camp, and lit a fire to warm themselves and dry off. 

As John looked up, suddenly he noticed a pair of birds that was dancing next to the lake. It couldn’t be he thought – a mating pair of red-crowned cranes! Wow, he thought, a rare site indeed! They had a patch of red bare skin on the crown, which is becomes brighter during mating season. They were snow white with black on their wings. The male was characteristically black on his cheeks, throat, and neck, and females was pearly gray in these spots. They had olive green bills and black legs.

John told me that apart from me and our children, there is nothing more beautiful than a pair of red-crowned cranes in love! When they come together, they put on a dance performance more spectacular than anything you’ll see on Broadway! They form lifelong romantic partnerships that begins with a courtship dance. John described how he stood transfixed and speechless as he watched them copy each other’s moves and calls exactly. As they made honking noises and duetted, they bowed, posed, bobbed, pirouetted and leapt excitedly into the air. They became more and more animated, tossing sticks, leaves and grass high into the air and pecking at the debris as it fell to the ground. As their rhythmic movements progressed, they eventually stood close, threw their heads back, and let out a fluting call in unison! Far in the distance the haunting noise of other pairs of cranes could be heard to echo across the lake, as if dancing in unison with the pair that John was watching. This was the most magical experience, to watch these wonderful birds cement such a harmonious and lifelong relationship. 

Just as Elizabeth finished her story, the lights came back on, and the dance instructor walked through the door. “Good evening ladies, are you looking forward to this evenings dance class?”