What is NLP?

by Irene Struif LMHC, BS, Reiki Master, CH, NLP

What would you say if someone told you that a technology existed that made changing behavior a relatively simple and speedy process? Believe it. Not too long ago, a couple of wild and crazy guys got together who thought they should model human excellence and consistently achieve set goals with those models. Guess what? They were successful. Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) is a technology of human behavior that can be used to help people eliminate unwanted behaviors, acquire new skills or make other important changes. NLP is also about learning how to run your brain, rather than letting it randomly run you, to get the results you want for yourself. It works on the premise that your experience has structure and that by altering this structure, you can change your experience. Images, sounds, feelings, beliefs and values are only a few of the many structural elements of human experience that NLP utilizes. NLP practitioners choose from many processes to elicit and adjust the structure of experience.

NLP was conceived at UC Santa Cruz by John Grinder Ph.D., a resident professor of linguistics, and Richard Bandler, a graduate student studying computer sciences. More a discovery than a creation, NLP¹s evolution includes studies of individuals such as Virginia Satir, and Milton H. Erickson, and what made them so successful at facilitating change. NLP processes were developed from the findings of these and other studies and are driven by a set of over twenty presuppositions that expedite our change work. Here are eleven of them:

(1) The map is not the territory, i.e. our sensory data is filtered through our attitudes, moods, perceptions, beliefs, values, etc. What we experience is not what is going on directly in the world.

(2) People work perfectly. Nothing is wrong or broken with any of us. Consider us computers. We run whatever poorly written program we have; however, this programming can be replaced.

(3) People make the best choice available to them. People do the best they can, given the personal resources they have access to within. The goal is to make more resources available.

(4) Choice is better than no choice. Ever feel like you just couldn¹t help it, or you didn¹t know what else to do? NLP opens up options.

(5) Everyone has the personal resources needed to accomplish what they really want. We have an entire lifetime of experiences, and more, from which to draw. They simply need to be appropriately arranged in your software.

(6) There is no failure, only feedback. Use every result as a source of information to adjust your strategy for obtaining your goal.

(7) There is positive intention behind every behavior. Even unwanted habits are spurred by a part of us trying to accomplish something of value to our well-being.

(8) The meaning of your communication is the response you get. The purpose of communication is to have an idea or expression received, and processed by someone else. The response someone gives you can tell you what your words meant to them.

(9) Communication is redundant. No matter what we do or say, we are always communicating something.

(10) There is something called the Law of Requisite Variety that states the element in a system with the most flexibility will be the controlling element. S/he has to be willing to do what it takes to get their desired result.

(11) Anyone can do anything. Remember, everyone already has the personal resources needed to accomplish what they really want, and chances are, that it’s been done before (or something like it) and can be modeled successfully.

Simply adopting these presuppositions as your own beliefs can work wonders in your life, but they really represent only a fraction of the approaches available. For instance, say you have a fear of heights that keeps you from being able to climb ladders. An NLP¹er would be interested in knowing exactly what happens inside you when you begin climbing or think of climbing a ladder. You might respond by saying that you keep seeing yourself stepping onto the third or fourth step and slipping, completely losing your equilibrium, causing you to fall. The NLP¹er at this point nods her head. “No wonder you¹re afraid of heights. I would be too if I saw that movie each time I thought about climbing a ladder!” Then you remember. “Yeah, that happened to me when I was 12 and I haven’t been able to climb one since.” The NLP¹er knows that phobias are a result of very fast and deep learning and that the phobia can be unlearned just as quickly as it was learned.

Don¹t have a phobia? There are countless other applications for such a technology. I believe one of its most important uses would be to restructure our experience of ourselves. In this day and age where so many things appear to be wrong or broken, NLP can breathe a breath of fresh air into experiences of life that have been leaving you angry, hopeless or just plain sad. It takes just as much energy, if not more, to have an unpleasant experience in life as it does to have an enjoyable one. Why not start plugging in components that would bring about the results that you have always wanted, but thought were unattainable or out of reach? The impact of this technology can be very profound, but only you can start the ball rolling, only you.

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Diane L. Ross is a Certified Hypnotist and Master Practioner of NLP. She is not a medical care provider or mental health practitioner and does not provide medical or psychological services or counseling. Users of this site and clients should always refer to a licensed health professional or mental health professional for any issues relating to health and wellbeing.

Results are individual and results do vary and specific outcomes may not occur and are not guaranteed or implied, nor can they be considered typical.

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