Neurolinguistic Programming

Neuro-linguistic programming was developed jointly by Richard Bandler and John Grinder under the tutelage of anthropologist, social scientist, linguist and cyberneticist Gregory Bateson, at the University of California, Santa Cruz, during the 1960s and 1970s.

Originally a study into how excellent psychotherapists were achieving results they did, it rapidly grew into a field and methodology of its own, based around the skill of modeling as used to identify and confirm aspects of others behaviors and ways of thinking that led them to notability in their field. They took a similar approach to change. to them it did not matter if the client had an understanding for the problem, rather they focused on finding people who had successfully overcome, and how they did it.

The initial three individuals Grinder and Bandler modeled were Fritz Perls (Gestalt Therapy), Virginia Satir (Family therapy) and Milton H. Erickson (Ericksonian Hypnosis). These individuals were considered highly competent in their fields, and the consistent patterns and approaches they appeared to be using, became the basis of NLP. Grinder and Bandler analyzed the speaking patterns, voice tones, word selection, gesticulations, postures, and eye movements of these individuals and related this information to the internal thinking process of each participant.

These were the first of what came to be called "modeling" projects. The findings of these projects have been widely used and integrated into many other fields, from health and disability, to law enforcement, to hypnotherapy and coaching.In the 1960s and 1970s, general semantics influenced several schools of thought, leading to a viable human potential industry and associations with emerging New Age thinking. Human potential seminars, such as Esalen in California began to attract people.

Neuro-linguistic programming attracted mostly therapists at first but eventually drew the attention of business people, sales people, artists, and "new-agers" (Hall, 1994). As it expanded, Leslie Cameron-Bandler, Judith DeLozier, Robert Dilts, and David Gordon made further contributions to NLP and the seminars of Bandler and Grinder were transcribed into a book, Frogs into Princes. This became a popular NLP book; demand for seminars increased, which in turn became successful human potential attractions (Dilts, 1991).

Most of the techniques that are commonly grouped together as NLP can be traced back to the early published works of the co-founders and the group of developers that surrounded them in the 1970s. Bandler and Grinder took an immersion approach to learning, and would step into the shoes of successful people can learn how they did what they did. They would imitate these people, without an initial concern for understanding. This concept was carried through into their changework.

Their first published model, the meta model was an approach to change based on responding to the syntactic elements in a client's language which gave them information about the limits to their model of the world. Gregory Bateson, who wrote the forward for the first book on NLP, was impressed with the early work in NLP, and introduced the co-founders to Milton Erickson. Bateson became quite influential in the development of the people behind NLP, and providing many of the intellectual foundations for the field.

The pair became immersed in the world of Milton H. Erickson and were given full access to his work, they developed and published the Milton model based on Erickson's hypnotic language, therapeutic metaphors and other behavioral patterns such pacing and leading in to build rapport. Erickson and the co-founders shared the idea that conscious attention is limited and thus attempted to engage the willing attention of the unconscious mind through use of metaphor and other hypnotic language patterns. Other concepts and ideas surround conscious and unconscious mind were heavily influenced by Erickson.

The early group (Dilts et al. 1980) observed that people tended to give away information about their unconscious processing in the current eye movements patterns, as well as changes in body posture, gestures, fluctuating voice tone, breathing shifts were linked to sensory-based language, "I see that clearly!", "I hear what you are saying" or "let's remain in touch".

This formed the basis of the representational systems model. And in turn allowed them to develop approaches to map the strategies both successful people and clients in a therapeutic contexts. For example, the phobia reduction process involves separating (Visual / kinesthetic dissociation) that is supposed to reduce the negative feelings associated to a traumatic event and submodality change work which involved altering representations of memory, for example, size, brightness, movement of internal images, in order to affect a behavioural change.

By being able to notice non-verbal cues that indicate internal processing as well as the type an sequence of the process, they were able to focus on pattern, rather than personal content of client. Other methods for change included anchoring, the process involving elicitation of resourceful memory, in order to bootstrap those for future contexts.

There are several beliefs and presuppositions that were published by the NLP developers that are still taught in NLP training that were designed to bring together some of the patterns that were shared by the successful therapists and experts in communication. Most of these area organised around Bateson/Korzybski's idea that the map is not the territory, multiple descriptions promotes choice and flexibility, people can organised personal resources (states, outcomes, beliefs) effectively in order to change themselves and achieve outcomes.

Even a seemingly negative behavior or part is considered in NLP to be attempting to fulfill some positive intention (of which they may not be aware of consciously). These presuppositions may not be true, but it is useful to act as if they are in the change contexts.

The last one, for example, assumes that the current behavior exhibited by a person represents the best choice available to them at the time.

All of these methods and techniques (anchoring, representational systems) require superb sensory acuity and calibration skills, considered to be prerequisites to using any of these models. Several of the presuppositions of NLP, related directly to this, for example, from William Ross Ashby, there is no failure, only feedback - statement about the importance of feedback loops to learning, borrowed from information theory and the meaning of the communication is the response it produces.

With the 1980s, Grinder and Bandler fell out, and amidst acrimony and intellectual property lawsuits, NLP started to be developed haphazard by many individuals, some ethically, and some opportunistically, often under multiple confusing brand names.

During the 1990s, tentative attempts were made to put NLP on a more formal and better regulated footing, in countries such as the UK. Around 2001, the law suits finally became settled.

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a set of techniques, axioms and beliefs that adherents use primarily as an approach to personal development. NLP was influenced by the ideas of the New Age era as well as beliefs in human potential.

The initial ideas of NLP were developed around 1973 by Richard Bandler, a student, and John Grinder, a professor of linguistics, in association with the polymath Gregory Bateson. The term "Neuro-linguistic programming" denotes a set of models and principles meant to explore how mind and neurology (neuro), language patterns (linguistic), and the organization of human perception and cognition into systemic patterns (programming) interact to create subjective reality and human behaviors.

Based upon language patterns and body language cues derived from the observation of several world-renowned therapists, NLP focused on areas such as how subjective reality drives beliefs, perceptions and behaviors, and therefore how behavior change, transforming beliefs, and treatment of traumas is often possible through appropriate techniques based upon how known experts worked with this relationship.

The techniques distilled from these observations were metaphorically described by the original developers as "therapeutic magic," with NLP itself described as 'the study of the structure of subjective experience".

They are predicated upon the principle that all behaviors (whether excellent or dysfunctional) are not random, but have a practically determinable structure NLP has been applied to a number of fields such as sales, psychotherapy, communication, education, coaching, sport, business management, interpersonal relationships, as well as less mainstream areas such as seduction and spirituality.

Due in part to its open-ended philosophy, NLP is controversial. It is at times criticized in the scientific community as unproven or pseudoscientific, and amongst those who watch for fraud, for exaggerated claims and unethical approaches by a number of practitioners.

There is also some dispute among its developers and proponents regarding what NLP is and is not. On the other hand, a wide range of credible bodies worldwide have given strongly worded support for its use, if taught by a skilled and competent trainer and used appropriately.

NLP is sometimes described as an empirical epistemology. That is, it is a way of knowing with evidence obtained by experiment and observation rather than results derived from an overall theory. It is eclectic, that is, it draws heavily on results from other fields if felt useful, and acts as a "toolbox" in the sense that it is silent as to any pre-specified purpose or application, leaving that ultimately to the end user(s) to decide. As such, it studies processes (or form), rather than content.

Its approach and philosophy have also been described as closer to a technology than a science, and often identified as similar to engineering, in the sense that its question is "what works" rather than "what is true". Its ultimate end products are, ideally, systematized models and usable approaches, rather than beliefs or facts.

The original developers claimed not to be interested in theory, and NLP teaches a practitioner to focus on "what works". However, this in no way prevents practitioners from creating and promoting their own theories behind NLP, and some have done this, basing theories upon a synthesis of core observable NLP combined with other personal, new age, psychological, and/or neurological concepts. Some trainers teach these theories as part of NLP.

NLP trainings do not teach the scientific method for assessing whether a change process is effective. They teach to observe subtle verbal and non-verbal cues, and it is implicit that there is no certainty in any given method and that flexibility is key. Many practitioners promise NLP will produce results, sometimes extraordinary in nature, without any scientifically proven results.

NLP does not recognize any ultimate mediator in the structure and organization of subjective human thought except the senses, sensory representations, and human neurology and physiology. However it does not place a limit on what may be represented within or by those systems - possibly by synesthesia, the experiencing of one form of sensation within a different sensory system. So NLP considers it a legitimate question to study the subjective experience, and subjective processes, of anything that humans claim to experience. This has led to wide proliferation covering for example:

Goals - A person seeking change is in effect seeking a path through an unfamiliar landscape, to a goal which at present they conceptualize they desire, but in some way lack a means to reach. In this sense, the place of the coach or "other" is to heuristically learn about and guide their exploration in a fruitful manner, by helping them with regard to alternative paths, the desirability of present goals, or their perceptions as to the landscape.

In this analogy, the purpose and function of NLP, then, is a step beyond this: - to provide a general philosophy and approach (together with tools and methodologies) that will assist a competent guide to generatively and more optimally fulfill this role in any completely different personal landscape, that is robust despite the immense variability of people, psychologies and circumstances.

In scientific terms, NLP is a protoscience -- that is, a body of purported knowledge that is still being evaluated by the scientific community. Reports vary from concluding that it has no benefit, to concluding it has very strong benefits. Many reports concluding that it shows evidence of "something", but that further study is required to determine within scientific standards where it stands.

Within science, NLP bears closest relationship to cognitive science. By way of comparison, George Lakoff one of America's most renowned linguists, describes "the major findings of cognitive science" as (1) abstract concepts being largely metaphorical (ie "The map is not the territory") and (2) the mind being inherently embodied (ie "Body and Mind form a systemic whole"). Read more ...