What is “Neuro-Linguistic Programming”?
NLP, or Neuro-Linguistic Programming, is the art and science of excellence, derived from studying how top people in different fields obtain their outstanding results. These communication skills can be learned by anyone to improve their effectiveness both personally and professionally. It is directly applicable to a diverse spectrum of fields such as communications, business, sales, education and therapy
The beginnings of Neurolinguistics Programming
NLP began in the early 70’s as a thesis project in Santa Cruz, California. Richard Bandler and his professor, John Grinder, wanted to develop models of human behavior to understand why certain people seemed to be excellent at what they did, while others found the same tasks challenging or nearly impossible to do.
Inspired by pioneers in fields of therapy and personal growth and development, Bandler and Grinder began to develop systematic procedures and theories that formed the basis of NLP. They studied three top therapists: Virginia Satir, the extraordinary family therapist, who consistently was able to resolve difficult family relationships that many other therapists found intractable, the innovative psychotherapist Fritz Perls, who originated the school of therapy known as Gestalt, and Milton Erickson, the world-famous hypnotherapist.
Their goal was to develop models of how it was that these people got the results they did. They sought to identify and model the patterns that produced these results and then to teach these models to others. These three gifted therapists were quite different personalities, yet Grinder and Bandler discovered some underlying patterns that were quite similar. These patterns became the underlying structure of NLP, with names like: meta-model, submodalities, reframing, language patterns, well formedness conditions and eye accessing clues.
The phrase “Neuro-Linguistic Programming” describes the process of how personality creates and expresses itself. Put simply, we are all made up of a neurology that conveys information about our environment to our central nervous systems and brains. Since we are also meaning creating creatures, we translate these perceptions in our brains into meanings, beliefs and expectations. As we continue to grow from a rather “critter brain” baby into a more complex adult human, we tend to filter, distort and magnify the input we get from our environment such that it matches the elaborate program we evolve to explain our life experience.
The infant passes through “magical thinking” and various other stages of development, on its journey into becoming an adult. We may even carry with us the “suffering contracts” we made as children in unworkable attempts to love and heal the family. The study of how we do all this, the kinds of meanings we make from our perceptions and the internal programming and external behaviors we have set up to explain, predict and make sense of it all – this is what the core of NLP is all about.
The concepts of “sub modalities”…
We all have our unique “maps” of reality. We are a complex and unique mix of inborn genetic potential, and the molding effects from the people and experiences of our lives. Science has now proven that emotional and social development is at least equally as important as is the cognitive development of the growing infant and toddler, and for adaptability and success later in life.
We humans store the memory of our life experience as sequences and montages of visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory and gustatory representations. When we load up a particular sequence pattern from our memory banks that matches some previous powerful experience – we get to relive the experience of the event or situation. These Visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc. sensory system are the “modalities” in NLP. Each modality has sub modalities, which define the characteristics and properties of the information coming from each sensory channel. Visual has brightness, color/B&W, motion/still, fuzzy/clear, degree of transparency, to name a few. Auditory can be fast/slow tempo, rhythmic, staccato, loud/soft, tin can/stereophonic, Kinesthetic can have the full range of emotional experience, but also considers texture, rough/smooth, temperature, impact, duration, subtlety, …
By playing with the adjustments or “volume knobs” of these sub modalities, we can dial in different meanings into our brain and neurology that literally change our experience, and sometimes our memories. It is thought that since the human brain/body being is generally aspiring towards higher evolution, that human neurology often reorganizes itself in resonance with a more elegant way of functioning, when the system is offered a new experience that offers a choice in addition to the old, patterned way of doing things. A skilled practitioner of Neurolinguistics Programming can help your system have experience of new choices, from which you can incorporate or discard resources, insight and healing.
Replaying old patterns in new ways and adjusting sub modalities is a classical NLP methodology for assisting clients be free of problematic habits and phobias. Adjusting sub modalities can have the effect of defusing an overwhelming challenge or obstacle. Adjusting sub modalities can also increase the pleasure, comfort and value of
NLP in other Therapies
Today, NLP has grown in a myriad of directions – hypnosis and behavioral personal change work, structures of beliefs, modeling personal success and systems of excellence and expertise, business coaching and sales training, … It has been “popularized” and marketed by controversial people such as Tony Robbins. Aspects of it have informed such therapies as EMDR or rapid eye movement and desensitization. People have taken it in spiritual directions, assisting in alignment of personal behaviors and beliefs with a “higher purpose” and connection to the Divine. Some have developed processes to speed healing in hospital settings and to lessen the need for anesthesia during medical procedures. (Anodyne). You can even find internet sites promoting NLP techniques of influence to pick up women. Public speaking, stage fright, parenting skills, allergies, phobias, trauma, the list of areas where training in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and individual therapeutic work with NLP practitioners is valuable is endless.
When we are experiencing being a particular state, we are also loading up a specific supporting pattern of interconnected neural pathways and circuits that coordinate in specific ways to generate certain specific experiences. The blueprint that guides and coordinates the construction of our experience of life, seems to be clusters of beliefs which are expressed through the sequences and collages of Vs, As, Ks we store in our memory system.
Anchoring is a form of classical conditioning that associates a specific touch on the arm, or paper napkin on the floor, with the experience of a specific state. The precise spot anchored there after serves as a trigger for that state. Very useful when wanting to add resourceful <stuff/extra resources> to a problematic state.
Robert Dilts has written several authoritative volumes on NLP, drawing from studies of historical figures like Einstein and Ghandi. An authoritative list of other modern pioneers is beyond the scope of this introductory article and the author offers his apologies to the many fine names that should rightly be mentioned.
Bert Hellinger’s “family soul” Phenomenology
A powerful offshoot of NLP is its application along with the work of Bert Hellinger, introducing the concept of “family soul” and “family obligations of suffering” to give insights about problematic personal histories and possibilities for healing chronic patterns.
Briefly, Hellinger suggests that one’s family of origin has a sort of genetic/DNA-based “soul” that transcends time and establishes an unusual “balance,” over the generations. He theorizes that death, dislocation, ostrization or other misfortune or disturbance of previous generation family members, can influence, quite unconsciously, the lives and conduct of current and future family members. Healing and balance are restored in the family soul and resolution in the lives of current family members when certain things are said and special changes made in the “family constellation”.
The drama and insights are played out in a group setting, where members of the group are chosen to represent family members, or life issues of the “client.” The client physically moves each representative and places them, as if on a giant chess board, in some position and orientation relative to the others. The dynamic tensions and cool and hot spots that become apparent in the constellation, eerily reflect exactly what is going on in the life of the client. The therapist then makes subtle – or radical changes in the geometry of the constellation of people and amazing things happen for everybody in the room.
NLP in movement and healing arts
Some practitioners of the education, movement and healing arts are combining Neuro-Linguistic Programming techniques and concepts with their own disciplines: improving student’s confidence and rate of learning in Tai Chi movement classes; increasing the effectiveness and staying power of therapeutic massage; teaching effective spelling strategies; Shamanistic studies…
Business Processes and Modeling
Others are using NLP concepts and processes in areas as diverse as developing business plans and getting clarification of client needs – to – modeling successful business leaders to be able to teach their methods to others.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming offers tools to the business world that can increase the effectiveness, health and communication skills of people who need to work together. By getting a “well-formed outcome” statement about the business goals and plans of the organization, effective business strategies can be designed and created or modeled from the people or project solutions that have been successful in the past. Effective communication skills can help managers more clearly interact with upper management and communicate with and inspire that manager’s employees. By upgrading employees’ interpersonal awareness and communication skills, team projects can proceed more elegantly and with less stress. Salary reviews can become deeply meaningful strategy, goals clarification and feedback sessions.
The list of application areas grows with each new NLP graduate.
“Newly-minted NLP practitioners doing therapy”
NLP Trainer and Developer Steve Andreas wrote an article expounding on the difference, in his observations, between newly matriculated NLP Practitioners (having gone through reputable training programs) and. These qualities make their practical tool bags of techniques and interventions just that much richer and more effective. I would be willing to bet serious money that practitioners who have gone through a thorough NLP practitioner training do far more for their clients and for a LOT less time and money, than any similarly unselected group of recent graduates of any 5-8-year professional psychotherapist preparation program. The reason is simple; NLP Practitioners have a far better and more practical “toolbox” of methods for helping people change.”