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A Therapy Model Far Ahead Of Its Time: “Imperative Self Analysis (ISA)”

Imperative Self Analysis (ISA) stands as a beacon of innovation in the realm of psychotherapy, challenging the traditional boundaries of therapeutic intervention.

Have you ever noticed that your daily emotional experience is typically confined to a range of 5-7 emotions, unless an unusual event disrupts your routine? This consistency in emotional response is due to the filtering of your experiences through your Imperative Self Map. It’s crucial to remember that a map is merely a symbolic representation of a territory, not the territory itself.

(I wrote this post for a therapist audience)

Envision the  transformation ignited by just one three-hour odyssey into ‘Imperative Self Analysis’. It’s a potent journey of introspection that can radically reshape an individual’s emotional landscape. Emotions are the raw material of our inner lives. They color our experiences, shape our perceptions, and guide our lives.

I usually have my clients fill out an emotional checklist with these instructions:

“Please fill out the attached Emotional Checklist by selecting the 5-7 most common emotions you experienced during the past seven days. Remember to select emotions rather than behaviors. Please email me these 5-7 emotions you selected prior to our session.

Some clients like to print the list and make 6-7 copies. Every night they go over their day. They circle the experienced emotions. At the end of the week it is easier to notice their 5-7 most common emotions.

Thank you.”


Some people change in the preliminary process of Imperative Self analysis just by recognizing the emotions that they habitually experience.

How might you anticipate the behavior of a sixty-two year-old woman that I will name as Bobbie, who commonly experienced these emotions almost everyday as her emotional palette:

  • Anger
  • Overwhelmed
  • Anxious
  • Judgmental
  • Frustrated 

On December 31, 2021 we did a three-hour session. In this session I was able to elict her Imperative Self map (see audio). I also did a few therapeutic interventions. Eight (8) days later, I had Robbie fill out another emotional checklist for the 5-7 most common emotions she experienced during the week:

  • Confident
  • Enthusiastic
  • Motivated
  • Decisive
  • Creative
  • Loving
  • Free

Fast forward to April 2024, or 820 days post-session and her 5-7 emotional landscape has evolved without any further sessions (for a total of 4 hours) to:

  • Gratitude
  • Awe
  • Happiness
  • Delight
  • Curiosity
  • Patience

When she emailed me with the above later emotion list, she wrote, “ I was kind of surprised that they are all so positive and yet it’s so”.

Definition of Personality: “Personality refers to the unique patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that make a person distinct from all others.”

Based on your expertise, do you deem a significant shift in personality feasible after four hours of therapy merely? Should this notion seem implausible to you, then please disregard. However, if you doubt or are curious, continue reading to learn more:

How was I able to do this?

The client wanted to change these emotions that affected her behaviors and her relationships with others and herself.

She agreed to allow the recording of the Imperative Self Analysis (ISA) elicitation and sharing it on LinkedIn.

See and hear how I was able to elicit her Imperative Self map below that created these unwanted emotions below. First I have to explain just what is “Imperative Self Analysis” or (ISA).

I did a 24 day training in Houston, Texas on Leslie Cameron-Bandler’s  “Imperative Self” model in 1989 and training in David Grove’s “Clean Language Therapy” model in 1993. By combining these modalities and a few of my own, these above results have become the normal transformative results for my clients.

More Background:

In 1987, Leslie Cameron-Bandler (now Lebeau), co-author of the influential book “The Emotional Hostage,” sought to understand why people react emotionally in diverse ways to the same situations. She also questioned why therapy was ineffective for certain individuals, regardless of the therapist’s skill. To address these questions, she spearheaded a team in 1988 that developed a novel therapeutic approach known as the “Imperative Self Model,” also referred to as “Imperative Self Analysis” or ISA.

To this day, Imperative Self Analysis remains a unique therapeutic model, illustrating that our emotional makeup is unparalleled, affirming that no two individuals are alike, but according to Google only two individuals are still doing ISA out of the 300 + people trained in this model.

Imperative Self Analysis (ISA) streamlines the therapeutic process, removing the necessity for drawn-out, fragmented sessions that target undesirable emotions. It’s designed to pinpoint the underlying issues swiftly, facilitating profound and positive changes in one’s emotional life within a few sessions.

Leslie and her team observed that individuals typically experience a set of 5-7 emotions daily, barring extraordinary circumstances. Their exploration into the realm of emotions led to the revelation that our personality’s essence is composed of three elements:

1. Primary Obsessions

2. A Filter

3. A Virtual Question or Statement

It’s common for a person to harbor 5 to 10 Primary Obsessions, which are deeply ingrained motivations that propel us through life. These obsessions, such as the quest for acceptance, freedom, power, security, and peace, are universal yet intensely personal. So far, I have not found two clients with the same emotional hierarchical track.

Formed before the age of eight (8) during an emotionally charged moment/s, our Primary Obsessions become the focal point of our lives. They mirror the desires typical of a child aged 5-7 years. They are about doing, being, or getting. By reflecting on the Emotional Menus PDF and the contexts in which these emotions arise, you may begin to recognize your obsessions.

Our Primary Obsessions are the architects of our emotions and, consequently, our actions. Our emotions are the result of either satisfying or failing to satisfy these deep-seated obsessions. Addressing the root of these obsessions—by resolving the memories that forged the Imperative Self Map—can transform persistent negative emotions into relics of the past. This paves the way to redefine your life’s purpose or to simply embrace a state of “peace.”

The “Virtual Question” is a fundamental query that acts as a lens through which all other questions and considerations are filtered. For an in-depth explanation, please refer to the link: your-most-important-question/

The “Filter” is essentially the criteria we use to prioritize fulfilling our most pressing Obsession. This Filter shapes our reactions and significantly influences the experiences we accumulate throughout our lives. Some examples of filters :

  • Things I should do
  • Ways I have to be
  • Things that could go wrong
  • Ways to experience more than I expect
  • All my responsibilities
  • Things I need to do

What is a well formed Imperative Self Map? It must contain the following:

  • Self-concept is positive and secure(evidence initiated and maintained by self);
  • Obsessions are worth fulfilling and feasible to fulfill;
  • Obsessions and Filter provide ongoing opportunities for fulfillment;
  • Flexibility is generated to secure outcomes for fulfilling evidence of obsessions;
  • Well-being is sustained.

This was Bobbie’s Imperative Self on one piece of paper in December 2021:

Imperative Self Analysis (The Map)


Ways I Should Be

Virtual Question/or Statement

What Should I Be Doing?


Be Accepted By Others

in order to:

Accept Myself

in order to:

Be Free

in order to:

Be One With All

12/31/2021 Emotions:

  • Anger
  • Overwhelmed
  • Anxious
  • Judgmental
  • Frustrated 

04/04/2024 Emotions:

  • Gratitude
  • Awe
  • Happiness
  • Delight
  • Curiosity
  • Patience

If you listen to this 21 minute audio below, you will be able to follow me doing the elicitation of her Imperative Self Map above in December 2021. It starts after 15 seconds:

Open the link below to view a 2024, ISA with Rebecca, a 62 year old female:

Rebecca’s Imperative Self Map: January 2024 ISA

January 16, 2024 – Most Common Emotions:

  • Anxious
  • Pressured
  • Worried
  • Resentful
  • Inadequate
  • regreat

April 13, 2024 (88 days later with total of 3 hours of therapy ):

  • Calm
  • Peaceful
  • Acceptance
  • Worthwhile
  • Creative 

What therapeutic interventions do I use to update the client’s IS Map? :

The “Virtual Question” was created during or immediately after a highly charged emotional event . This pivotal emotional event happened during our formative years, between the ages of 3 and 6, that has had a lasting impact on our lives. This event left a deep imprint, shaping our perception of the world, guiding our actions within it, and influencing what we hold dear.

To avoid retraumatizing clients I use the “Back to the Future” intervention. When the intervention is successful, the IS map will collapse and the client will no longer have their obsessions or unwanted emotions.

#“Back to the Future” Part 1 – Healing Anxiety & Panic Attacks

Despite the potential benefits of the Imperative Self model, it has not become the leading psychotherapy approach worldwide. I believe there are five reasons for this:

1. Successful ISA therapy often leads to the resolution of clients’ issues in a few sessions, resulting in a shorter duration of therapy and, consequently, a shorter revenue stream for the therapist.

2. Therapists often have established practices and may be reluctant to step outside their comfort zones to learn new methodologies.

3. Marketing a therapy model that promises significant changes in personality traits within a few sessions is challenging. The prevailing belief is that therapy should be a lengthy process. Leslie’s innovative approach was far ahead of its time.

4. The interventions to change the IS map were inadequate until the mid 1990s and required even more costly trainings.

5. The ISA training was costly and required a significant time commitment, spanning over 24 days across several 6 weekend periods, with additional travel for some participants.

I have had mixed results with clients on antipsychotic or psychotherapeutic medications, such as benzodiazepines, SSRIs, or stimulants like Adderall. Additionally, some individuals may not accurately report their true emotions.

It’s both frustrating, astonishing, and amusing that the Imperative Self model has the potential to transform an individual’s personality by addressing the IS Map and healing their five to seven undesirable emotions. Moreover, clients often remain oblivious to these changes until they are prompted by me to examine their emotional states post-therapy. See link: easy-to-forget-  😀

In addition, for a psychological model like the Imperative Self to gain recognition and become famous, it typically involves a combination of factors such as:

  • Peer Validation: The model needs to be recognized and validated by the psychological community through research studies, publications, and citations.
  • Practical Efficacy: Demonstrating the model’s effectiveness in real-world therapy settings can help establish its credibility.
  • Media Coverage: Popular media outlets discussing the model can increase public awareness and interest.
  • Educational Integration: Being included in psychology curricula and textbooks can solidify its status in the academic community.
  • Influential Endorsements: Support from well-known psychologists or thought leaders can boost its popularity.

It doesn’t matter if I were to have evidence of thousands of clients changing their personalities and being happy with the changes, ultimately, the model’s ability to be understood and validated requires the validators to experience the ISA and their emotional changes.

Next year (2025) I will be 80 years old. For the reasons above this therapy model will most likely not become prominent in mainstream therapy circles; however, if you use the emotional checklist and the information on this posting you may fine a pathway to better understand others and yourself.

Having practiced ISA for over thirty-four years with hundreds of individuals, the intricacy and singularity of each person continues to captivate me.

To conclude, the ISA is the most amazing and powerful psychotherapeutic modality in existence. The contentment we find in life is often a reflection of how well we navigate our emotional landscapes. By understanding and updating our Imperative Self Map, we can ensure that the negative emotions from our emotional palette become mere memories, allowing us to embrace a more fulfilling existence.


More client ISA feedback is available at:



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