Neuro Linguistic Programming (or NLP) refers to three influential components involved in creating our entire human experience: neurology, language, and programming.
NLP characterises the relationship between the mind (that’s where the ‘neuro’ bit comes in), the language we use (‘linguistic’); and how they impact on our actions and behavioural responses (referred to in NLP as our ‘programming’).
If we sift our way through the mountain of buzzwords and technical jargon so often used in NLP, we’re actually left with an assortment of effective tools and techniques that can produce life-changing results. And fast.
Created and developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in 1970s California, NLP is solution focused and results-led — a stark contrast to traditional psychology and analytical/theoretical type approaches.
SO HOW DOES NLP WORK?
Our default setting is to be okay. We all have an inherent wellbeing, and we are all more than alright in the absence of our negative thoughts and feelings.
So, we must be doing something ‘up in our heads’ to not be. We pull ourselves out of shape by the stories we tell ourselves, the feelings we attach to them, and the sounds/pictures we play in our heads.
You see, there is a structure to our experience of life, of how we make sense of things. Our ‘internal representation’ of the world is formed from data received through our senses. This information can be auditory, visual, kinaesthetic, olfactory, or gustatory.
And we all have patterns to the way we think, feel, and behave. Our thoughts, feelings and actions have therefore produced our lives as we know them today.
So, by changing, or interrupting, these structures and patterns, we can literally change our experience.
NLP Practitioners are really skilled at noticing these patterns.
THE MAP IS NOT THE TERRITORY
A fundamental presupposition of NLP is, ‘The map is not the territory’.
This assumption highlights the difference between belief and reality and shines a light on the fact that each person operates within their own ‘reality’ rather than from a place of objectivity.
As human beings, we can never really know reality, we just live in a thought-based one.
Therefore, it’s safe to say that everyone’s perception of the world is distorted, filtered, and somewhat limited.
Take two people. They can experience the exact same event entirely differently. Why is that?
They have made sense of the same conversation, the same experience, the same situation, the same crisis, completely contrastively. Their ‘internal representations’ are different.
The territory itself was the same, but their maps? Different!
There will always be information missing, even on the most detailed map. And let’s face it, a map is historical. Somewhere we’ve already been, a representation of how it was then. Therefore, it is only relevant at that point in time.
As humans we navigate the same map in ever-changing territory.
With NLP we can help people to access this missing information, uncover the deleted bits. After all, if we want to go somewhere new, we need a new reference point…
WORKING WITH THE ‘STATE’, NEVER THE ‘STORY’
The great news is that all that we need to create change is already within us. It’s all about finding the ‘difference that makes the difference,’ and that’s where NLP comes in.
When applying NLP to effect change, practitioners are always working with the ‘how’. HOW someone constructs their anxiety, for example. (What causes the issue, or why it plays out is less important.)
We cannot change history of course, we aren’t magicians! But we can change our relationship to something that has happened. And we can certainly change how we feel about it going forward.
Let’s take someone with driving anxiety as a result of an accident, for example.
They refuse to drive a car since the accident.
This issue is nothing to do with driving, their ability to drive, or the car itself. It’s the state they get themselves into when they see the trigger (the car).
You see, the only place the event exists once it has happened is in your ability to recreate it. You’re just making it up.
The question is HOW are you recreating and replaying it in your head?
Perhaps through pictures? Sounds? Feelings?
If we get rid of these pictures/sounds/feelings, the fear (as you experience it) will not exist anymore.
So, going back to the person with driving anxiety, we aren’t interested in the ‘story’ surrounding why the accident happened: who was at fault, what speed they were driving, where they were driving to, or what they ate for breakfast that morning. We want to know HOW they are recreating and replaying the memory of the accident in their head. That’s how we will make change.
So, we find out they represent the awful ‘accident’ memory in sounds, in screams, in panicked, scared internal thoughts
What do you think happens when we turn down the volume of that sound and get rid of that nasty noise?
WHERE IS NLP USED?
NLP is used in therapy, sometimes non-exclusively with other therapeutic interventions (such as Hypnotherapy) to achieve fast, permanent change.
It can help with a range of issues including fears and phobias, generalised anxiety disorders, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to name a few.
NLP techniques can also be employed commercially to achieve work-orientated goals such as improved productivity. It’s incredibly popular in the world of business, in fact.
Other fields NLP can be used are:
- sales and marketing
It’s clear NLP has a wide range of uses, especially when combined with a Coaching approach. In the personal development world, Life Coaches regularly employ NLP techniques to address client issues and help them become ‘unstuck’.
It’s a great way of examining unhelpful thought and behavioural patterns in Coaching and giving clients the tools to manage their struggles going forward.
Ali Campbell Coaching.