What is NLP?

NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) is the science and art of reprogramming the nervous system. It is the study of how an individual unconsciously creates the structure of internal representations (mostly internal pictures and soundtracks) that directly produce both wanted and unwanted emotional states and behavior patterns. Along with the understanding of how humans create experience, NLP provides a large and varied toolbox of methods for directly reprogramming the software of the mind. The techniques of NLP are widely used to increase skills in such fields as sales, business strategies, sports, education, and public speaking as well as life and executive coaching.

In the early 1970s the founders of NLP, John Grinder and Richard Bandler, searched for a quicker and more practical way of effecting change than the talk therapy of psychotherapists and psychoanalysts. The prevailing approach that most psychotherapists take to address their patients’ emotional pain and self-defeating behaviors, aside from medication, is some form of talk therapy that is predominantly about life’s content. Skilful talk therapy, along with the emotional connection, support and education it provides, can be tremendously helpful. However, there are limitations to how far such therapy can go. Most therapists mainly depend on what clients recall consciously and are able to disclose about the content of the memories that cause pain. But this usually does not work to either reveal or revise the deeper levels of representations that give rise to the unconscious, automated, negative programming.

Grinder and Bandler wanted to find specific techniques that actually worked to create change in people’s minds and behavior patterns. For example, they wondered why some people were much more successful than others in the same field of endeavor. They studied the patterns of excellence in the world’s most successful people, with the goal of identifying the processes that produce their amazing results. They then sought to reprogram other people’s minds to replicate those successes.

Their first focus was on the structure of the language used by successful people. They studied the language patterns of Fritz Perls (Gestalt Therapist), Virginia Satir (Family Therapist), and Milton Erickson (Hypnotherapist). Then they created tools to reprogram the nervous system through the use of language. They reasoned that the structure as well as the content of people’s speech reflects their thought patterns, so if they could “challenge” what people said and how they said it, this would change their model of reality. Later they added such techniques as reframing, transferring or creating resources, eye accessing, and anchoring.

The name “Neuro-Linguistic Programming” was coined in early 1976, inspired by the older field of neurolinguistics that explores the neurological basis of language. “Neuro” refers to the brain and neural pathways of the human organism through which our experience is received and processed via the five senses (sight, hearing, feeling, smell, and taste). “Linguistic” is about the content of this experience. It includes the processes of both verbal and nonverbal signaling through which our sensory representations are coded and given meaning. This signaling consists of pictures, sounds, feelings, tastes, and smells, as well as the words that represent them. “Programming” is the way the content is organized in our minds to produce our thoughts and behaviors and our model of the world.

NLP is a methodology for helping us to both understand and change the actual structure of the internal events of human experience. Instead of the why asked by most psychotherapists, NLP practitioners are more concerned with how the client creates his or her experience through the structural building blocks of sensory representational systems, i.e., the internal pictures and soundtracks and the feelings they produce. Now we are able to re-potentiate neural pathways so that the way is cleared for new learning; now the needed resources can be transferred or created to allow the experiences and achieve the skills we truly desire.

What is the Difference Between Mainstream NLP and Transformational NLP?

There are some key differences between mainstream NLP and Transformational NLP. As NLP developed in the course of the 1970s, Bandler’s and Grinder’s focus became increasingly centered on stand-alone techniques purported to be rapid cures for nearly every life problem or challenge. NLP gradually became simply an aggregation of techniques rather than a comprehensive system of psychology, focusing on the present and future without consideration of the person’s experience of their personal and family past. This approach is highly effective much of the time. Many students of conventional NLP become adept technicians of change and healing without paying attention to the childhood imprints that formed the basis of present patterns of belief and behavior. However, this process can fall short of providing a stable basis for future growth.

Instead of ignoring the facts and experiences of the past, Transformational NLP reveals and revises the old programming that causes people to experience being controlled or limited by their past experience. Rather than using stand-alone techniques that are out of context of the person’s entire life, Transformational NLP incorporates NLP methodologies into a format that externally somewhat resembles psychotherapy, but is more direct and powerful. The practitioner of Transformational NLP uses various approaches to uncover information about the original decisions and beliefs that have until now operated unconsciously to limit the client’s wellbeing. Then he or she can choose among a range of NLP procedures to implement the process of behavior, belief, and identity revision.

Transformational NLP assists clients and students to have the experience of alignment with everything they want for their future and also everything they have already experienced on their way to getting there. Rather than “overcoming limitations,” which is the main goal of conventional NLP, we use learning from apparent past failures and shortcomings to open a smooth path to future well-being and success. In Transformational NLP we work with where we are, having come from where we’ve been, to change things so that the good results we really want now unfold naturally in the course of our lives. Our main concern is to have “rapport with ourselves, rapport with other selves, and rapport with Life itself.”

Transformational NLP includes all of the groundbreaking brilliance and power of conventional NLP, and goes beyond it to include the wisdom and fulfill the goals of the field of psychology. Transformational NLP additionally incorporates material drawn from, or inspired by, the holographic model of the universe as explained by physicist David Bohm, the basic premises and implications of twentieth and twenty-first century quantum mechanics, Bert Hellinger’s trans-generational, systemic constellation work, and the metaphysics of the perennial philosophy described by Aldous Huxley.