Why you don't want money next year - hypnotherapy in action

This is a test. Suppose I offer you £1,000 which you can have now – or else I will give you £1,001 next year. Which would you take?

Okay, now how about this next one: I’m offering you £1000 now or £1200 next year?

There are no ‘correct’ answers, but almost certainly with the first offer you should have taken the ‘money now’ option. There is little point in waiting a whole year to get a miserable 0.1% return – and anyway, one or both of us might have been run down by a bus by then or I could have changed my mind and be heading for the hills.

However, the second offer of £1200 next year has more appeal. So that might be worth accepting in spite of the risks I’ve talked about.

But even if that second offer of £1200 next year came from your bank (banks are always reliable, aren’t they?) you might not take it.

There could be good reasons for this – you might need money now as you’re starting a business, for example. On the other hand, you might decide to turn down the £1200 for a 'bad' reason, a reason that helps explain why people keep smoking in spite of all the warnings, why people eat themselves to death, and why you don’t have a will (well, most people don’t).

Something we all do

It’s called ‘Delay Discounting’ and a good understanding of it can change your life – and your client’s. Quite simply, it’s that we put less value on the future than we should.

Remarkably, if you get a smoker client to imagine being, say, a non-smoker in a year’s time, they will usually produce a mental image that is less clear than if they imagine what they will do this afternoon. It’s as though those old films had some justification in always portraying the future as though everything took place in a steamy bathroom: even our mental imagery fails to represent the future as clearly as it does the present.

But it’s more than that. We also put less value on what will happen in the future.

Now up to a point this makes sense; for example, the income you will get from a pension should be of less concern to you than your income now. After all, as I mentioned so cheerfully earlier, you could get run over by a bus before that.

What's wrong with discounting the future?

So we need to ‘discount’ the future – i.e. to put less value on it. But the problem is that we do this disproportionately. We undervalue the importance of the future such that we not only fail to write a will, we also fail to act in our best future interests.

So when you treat a smoker you may find that you can talk about cancer, or how he might be after a stroke to little effect. In fact, there is evidence that those who smoke are particularly 'good' at Delay Discounting. Interestingly, once they have quit they do this less strongly, which suggests it’s something they acquire as smokers.

Those with a weight problem probably do just as effectively, but I’ve yet to find research to validate/invalidate this claim.

Make the change

So if we underestimate the value of future gains and the problems of future losses, how can this be changed?

For a long time I’ve encouraged clients in hypnosis to actually improve the clarity of the images they use when representing the future and also to practice this when relaxed at home. After a while these images can be made clearer.

But more important is conditioning their mind so that when they think about smoking/chocolate pudding/whatever they will automatically link this with images related to the future problems that these things might cause them.

Interestingly, there is evidence that Delay Discounting can be also be moderated by improving the short-term memory.

By the way, if you would like to develop your short-term memory then you can do this with a program called 'Dual 'n' Back' which you can get for free by doing a Google search.


Putting it all together


So Delay Discounting is a problem for virtually all of us. We tend not to fully appreciate that while we may be eating chocolate cake now we’ll soon be wearing it; and that if we smoke then one day we may be given some really bad news.

You could just call this discounting process ‘denial’ but it's not really: it's a way ofthinking that operates for most people when they don't have issues like smoking to be in denial about. Further, it seems automatic - research suggests people believe that their 'discounted' ideas: their mind has successfully tricked them into discounting it too heavily.

The good news is that knowing that our clients have such a problem can help us to help them.

Anyway, back to that £1,000 – you couldn’t lend me that much now could you? I’ll give you back £2,000 next year. And I’m not the sort who borrows money from everyone and then jumps on a plane to the South of France never to be heard of again.

Now, where are my passport and sunglasses?


Other pages you might like:


Is hypnosis a state or not?

Don't read this

Developing self-compassion - a way out of low self-esteem

Building a successful practice - and light bulbs

Alan Davidson: hypnoad@yahoo.com

UK:  01202 423111   (Outside UK: 44 1202 423111)