Thousands of people, all over the world, get certified in NLP, everyday. Some enterprising ones amongst them, with varied levels of knowledge and understanding of NLP, even go on to become Trainers – and train others. Since very very rarely do trainees put in effort to go back to the origins of NLP and understand the basics, the ‘leaking bucket theory of knowledge transfer’ entails that with each trainee, the knowledge becomes shallower and shallower. And thus, what is taught is a watered down, insipid and subjective understanding of NLP in which the emphasis is on techniques, without even understanding ‘how‘ they work rendering you a puppet with a template for which you keep looking for people to fit that onto.
NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Neuro refers to your neurology; Linguistic refers to language; and programming refers to how that neurology is programmed through language and experience. In other words, NLP is about how we know, about how we learn, how we communicate, and how we change. And how we can influence the process of change in a well-formed, ecological way. It is a method of influencing behaviour through the use of language to enable a person to ‘reengineer‘ the manner in which the brain responds to stimuli and manifests new behaviour.
NLP as a field was created in the early 1970s in California, USA by three men, Richard Bandler, Frank Pucelik and John Grinder. However, the original patterns were largely not created; rather the preponderance of these patterns were uncovered, assimilated, and explicated through the process of NLP modeling. These are patterns which you and I perform unconsciously hundreds of times during a day.
To take examples of these unconsciously performed processes, think about instances during your day when you replay the sound of someone’s voice and immediately recall their image. How frequently do you realize that you have unconsciously noted the posture, gestures, and general physiology of someone you know are able to anticipate what they are about to say and/or do? How often in a business context, or when speaking to a micro managing Manager, do you find yourself asking to see or hear an example of the bigger picture.
NLP is about having outcomes. And if you are authentic, there comes a point when it is so deep in your behaviour that you let it all go and act completely spontaneously. At this moment there is no self reflection, there is only the systemic loop. Like the Aikido metaphor: you are on the mat and you practice and you practice, and when you go to meet an opponent you are not going to stop and talk to yourself. You are not even going to decide beforehand what manoeuvre to use. You really can’t know until you interface with the opponent, because this is a dance with the outside world.
In the last 46 years (1971 to 2017), Neuroscience has completely changed. Now, you don’t need to split open a skull, divest the person of his brain and put in electrodes into the grey matter to see what happens. The functional MRI can scan and report which parts of the brain is functioning even as you are reading this article, if you would permit to have an fMRI machine scan your head while you read.
According the latest developments in Neuroscience and Psychology, it has been learnt that memories are not stored as intact units to be retrieved and displayed. They are stored in distinct physical locations (the primary cortical areas for each of the corresponding input channels) of the Central Nervous System; more specifically in separate representational systems. The connections among them are mediated by synesthesia circuitry. To remember, then, is to reassemble portions of experience stored in separate locations into what appears (in the present) to be a coherent representation of some experience in the past, one that satisfies the present intentions andrequirements of the person doing the remembering. These present intentions and requirements of the person remembering ‘operate as filters on the search mechanisms that reconstruct the memory’. Thus, all such representations are ultimately, and profoundly, works of fiction. However, the fact that they are fiction is NOT a disqualification, simply an epistemological warning about the veracity of what you think you know.
Thus, memories can be expected to vary as a function not only of the state, intentions, and filtering that existed at the time of the actual event but also as a function of state, present intentions, and filtering of the person reconstructing the memory in the present. Distinct portions of the reconstruction being reported will be identified and presented and others will not. As the state, intentions, and requirements of the person remembering shift, so will the representations of what occurred. Some of these differences will depend on the specificity and whether it is confined to a specific logical type of representation – description, interpretation, and evaluation (assuming that the person making the reconstruction, can make the distinction among these varying modes of representation). This is unlikely as the vast majority of people don’t notice or are unable/unwilling to.
Signs and Symbols
Keeping with the famous NLP presupposition that ‘the map is not the territory’, an interesting relationship exists between the reader and the map. Maps can be read and used as literal texts or poetic metaphors. This distinction is reflected in the difference between a ‘sign‘ and a ‘symbol.‘ A sign may be described as something that has a context-invariant meaning; for example, a red light at a traffic stop does (and should) mean the same thing to all drivers. A symbol, however, has multiple, contradictory meanings, many of which are not consciously available. This, of course, is the distinction between the conscious and creative unconscious minds. The conscious mind operates from a fixed referent point, while the peripheral field of the unconscious allows a fluid movement of multiple positions. The funny (or horrifying) point is that the same map can be read either as a sign or a symbol. The ecological and creative prominence of maps as metaphors was shared not only by John Grinder and Richard Bandler, but also by Milton Erickson and Gregory Bateson. Bateson emphasized the idea of double or multiple description as a core requirement for an ecological map, while Erickson would equivalently emphasize that ‘people come into therapy because they are rigid, and your job is to help them get un-rigid!’ In other words, limitations develop when one rigidly adheres to a fixed map, and new possibilities open when multiple maps are developed.
The fundamental belief that NLP Change work is based on is, “There is no such thing as an inner enemy.” There’s no monster within. You’re not broken. You can really let go of old beliefs like this. When people do things that are not good for them—and it doesn’t matter whether it’s biting their fingernails or committing serial murders—they are doing what they are doing because some part of them thinks it’s essential. A part of them believes that it’s necessary for survival, for their well-being. While some behaviors may not be sane, healthy, or anything most people would condone, it’s important to understand that in that individual’s model of the world, in their mind, that behavior is absolutely necessary.
Thus labels like Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, OCD, and all disorders as per the DSM, are just behaviours that individuals adopt because that is the best thing they believe that they should do as per the Model of the World that they create in their heads.
The future of NLP
Unfortunately most people who have just scratched the surface of NLP, think of NLP as technology, as a procedure, or a bunch of techniques. There is no wisdom in a piece of technology. Wisdom has to be in the carrier of that information – the Practitioner. And NLP is much more than just a ‘toolkit’. It is, if used by an authentic Practitioner, a way of excellence in whatever you do. Of awareness and of calmness irrespective of how others behave. NLP is a manner by which you can excel, in anything you want to! And help those who need your help. Whether you are a Psychologist, a Teacher, a Trainer, a Healer, a professional, or just someone who wants to be in control of your life.
A lot of people ask me this question. What can we do with NLP? The answer to that question is simple. There is no limit. The applications are boundless. NLP can be used in multiple ways.
@Barack Obama used NLP language in his first Presidential Election speeches.
@Peter Freeth uses NLP for business excellence, pushing entrepreneurs, salespeople and teams to excel in their craft.
@ Bhavana Nissima uses NLP in her excellent ‘Writing Masterclass’ propelling reluctant writers to break their shackles and write to their hearts content, weaving light into their writings.
@Pallavi Katoch uses NLP in her Senior Management Trainings, addressing core issues and challenging limiting beliefs thereby helping teams bond and raise their game leading to more productivity.
To me, NLP is a philosophical way of living, and it makes sense in my journey to understand and find answers for human behaviour (and in some cases those of animals as well – If you see any episode of @Cesar Milan working with dogs, you will understand what I mean). I read people using NLP, figure out what is working and what is not, and help them in changing that. Whether they are Faculty of Schools and Colleges, College Students, Professionals looking to raise levels of performance, Entrepreneurs waiting to make it big, or people suffering from psychosomatic disorders or mental ill health.
Who should you learn NLP from?
Another question a lot of people ask me on LinkedIn or on Facebook or even in person is, who should we do the course from?
The answer I give is talk to someone who has attended a course from a Trainer and ask that person what they can do. Not what the Trainer can, what the student who has learnt NLP can. Most people see the prowess of the Trainer and run to enrol for the courses. Unfortunately, thats where the learning ends. The Trainer mesmerises the students with his/her skills and the student gets overwhelmed with the process and is scared to even attempt to use them. In short, the ‘would be NLPer‘ enjoys the time spent at a beach resort or fancy hotel, learns nothing, poses for pics smiling with a certificate in the hands and goes back to the same old life that they had come from – without any change.
NLP is simple. And Trainers are paid to make learning easy – not show off and intimidate students.
If you seriously want to learn NLP – and change the way you interact with people and your environment, find a Trainer who transfers skills and pushes you out of your status quo. Not someone who has a fancy name, or someone who claims to install excellence in your head, or someone who shows you a good time during the course. Because when you get back to your life, all you remember is that, having a good time. You will not change even a millimetre – and thats all it takes, to shift your perspective.
Once you learn NLP, everything will become simple.
All you have to do, to be happy is BE AUTHENTIC BE YOU!