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How to Deal with an Overanalytical Client

What to do when a client's hyperrationality blocks their therapeutic progress

Analytical thinking is important in some contexts, but always thinking this way risks losing sight of the bigger picture.

A hammer is a wonderful tool. But try using it for needlework and pretty soon its limitations become clear! Detailed, logical analysis is a wonderful tool, too. The modern world would not be possible without it. But sometimes we behave as though logical detailed analysis is the only possible way of interacting with life, when the reality is that tools need to be put down sometimes.

Some people seem to analyze everything, and the trouble with that is that bigger-picture thinking and spontaneous living can fall by the wayside. Simply accessing a seaside scene abstractly is not the same as getting your bathers on and joyously splashing around in the sunshine, sea, and surf.

Analytical thinking has us narrowing our focus onto logistics, procedures, and linear sequences. But do this too much and contextual understanding and flexibility can be martyred to methodical thought. It took a great deal of analytical thinking to develop the atom bomb. But all that analytical power may have been better used elsewhere. The combined abilities to appreciate wider context as well as drill down into detail produce a kind of wisdom I think.

The combined abilities to appreciate wider context as well as drill down into detail produce a kind of wisdom. Click to Tweet

The analytical part of the mind, overbearing as it is, may assume analysis is all there is. And yet it seems we tend to be more fulfilled and more productive when we can engage different parts of ourselves through the ever-alternating ripples of shifting context that make up a life.1

Humour, intuition, flowing with the spontaneous moment, and appreciating larger contexts as well as narrower ones are ways of perceiving that require other parts of the mind. Sometimes it’s these parts of the mind that we need to encourage our clients to use.

Recently, on our monthly live Q&A call for those attending our online courses, we had a great question about how to help a man who seemed crippled by his paralysis through analysis. You can read the transcript of my answer below, or follow the link at the bottom of the page to listen to the recording of my answer.

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Practitioner question

I recently had a client who is an accountant. The person struggled to let go of their analytical, questioning mindset and to simply engage their imagination as part of the induction process. It was kind of like a case of the person asking themselves, “Am I in hypnosis yet?” I tackled this by getting the person to do a progressive muscle relaxation. How would you recommend guiding the more logical, analytical type of person into hypnosis?

Mark’s answer

Hi Anthony. I think when dealing with overanalytical people we need to encourage the analysis to the point that it becomes more burdensome to engage in that than simply go with the flow. I might talk to him like this. I might say:

“Now you have a left-brain, analytical part of your mind which could count and collate every second, notice every pause and word, and assess and even count each of my words… and attempt to ascertain every possible meaning and even the origin of each and every word I use, and also speculate why I may have chosen the words I did in favour of other words I might possibly have used instead.

“You can try to be aware of every breath, and be aware if you can of every physical process in your body, bearing in mind that your five sense receptors take in an estimated 11 million pieces of information a second, whereas you can only consciously process about 40 bits of information a second. You will be able to calculate that this means a large part of our experience is unavoidably unconscious.

“And there have been times when you have forgotten to weigh up everything and focus consciously and analyze, but have just gone with the experience and learned without even knowing you are learning… such times as when you have been dreaming, or caught a ball in the air without having to think about it… and your analytical brain is a wonderful tool, but any tool can be put away sometimes in favour of something else… and you might well find you can learn really fast how to go into a beautiful hypnotic trance…

“But you are welcome to analyze every single tiny part of this experience like the curious boy who dissected a live fly and found he had all the parts of the fly but wondered where the actual live fly had disappeared to…”

Okay, so I’ve done several things there. I have complimented and bigged up the analytical, logical, splicing-reality-into-little-bits part of the brain, which is incredibly useful, but not all there is to the mind’s capacity to apprehend and partake of being alive. I’ve suggested he can try to analyze everything. So I am encouraging the resistance, not fighting it, which is a fundamental principle of working with any resistance.

I have framed going into hypnosis as something people can learn – and such people who are highly, rigidly analytical often pride themselves on their capacity to learn – and I have described the shortfalls of over-dissecting and over monitoring life too minutely by using the metaphor of the boy and the fly.

When we encourage analysis, the person may lose interest in it, as it starts seeming absurd:

“Now you can really try to analyze, even criticize, my words and ideas… on one level, and that’s fine if you still need to do that… but there’s another level to your mind which knows how to produce dreams, and send signals to your immune system, and laugh spontaneously, perhaps, and it’s that part of the mind that I can also talk to right now…”

So we are splitting the person by talking to both parts of them. Before a client closes their eyes, I may even look into a different eye when addressing the conscious analytical part versus the unconscious spontaneous part. I might say:

“Now there is a part of you which is apart from the part partaking in logical analysis, and both parts can listen as you begin to… relax more fully to the way your breath can carry you into deep rest and calm…”

So there we are using hypnotic confusional language to tie up the cumbersome conscious mind while it chews over the confusional language (which can’t be meaningless, by the way). Then you have a chance to appeal to and therefore mobilize the powerful unconscious mind. This is why hypnotherapists use confusional language.

Listen to the audio from this Q&A excerpt here.

Learn to use your language artfully

Hypnosis is the ultimate art of subtle communication and is an invaluable therapeutic tool. Learn more about therapeutic hypnosis here.

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Mark Tyrrell

About Mark Tyrrell

Psychology is my passion. I've been a psychotherapist trainer since 1998, specializing in brief, solution focused approaches. I now teach practitioners all over the world via our online courses.

You can get my book FREE when you subscribe to my therapy techniques newsletter. Click here to subscribe free now.

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  1. See Iain McGilchrists wonderful book: The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World

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