What is Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)?

Introducing NLP and how it can improve your life

Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

What is NLP?

Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a personal development approach that seeks to utilize the language of the mind to yield required results in life. It includes a mixture of techniques and tools from various fields of study. It was created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in 1976.

According to this approach, people experience the world and operate in it through their inner “maps”. Our maps are different from one another, having been created through personal sensory experiences and backgrounds. The same external situation will be viewed differently based on our unique maps.

Therapists that work with Neuro-linguistic programming seek to look inside their patient’s mind(“map”), find the pattern that is producing an undesired response, and then try to change it.

NLP as a psychotherapy focuses more on immediate changes, as appose to other forms of therapy, which may require years of therapy. Many other forms of therapy aspire to thoroughly understand how one came to be at the current point, which isn’t the focus in NLP therapy.

“We are programmed by the people and things that surround us, but what is a device without an instruction manual?”

How can NLP Help you?

Since the 1970's, NLP has been helping thousands of people worldwide take charge of their lives. Many successful people, such as Oprah and motivational guru Tony Robbins, practice NLP techniques.

Reasons to turn to a NLP Course/therapy-

  • Free yourself of beliefs that limit your growth
  • Achieve your goals
  • Eliminate unwanted behaviors, habits or phobias
  • Communicate effectively with your self and others
  • Take charge of your health and finances

NLP Key Concepts

Unconscious mind

The unconscious mind has a significant impact on the results in your life. You can decide consciously about a specific goal you’d like to achieve, but your
unconscious mind may not be on-board with that decision.

For example, you may consciously want to get married and do everything in your power to find a suitable spouse, but something is holding you back. Perhaps your unconscious mind is actually afraid of marriage and settling down? While you consciously know this is the right move for you, your unconscious mind is not really on-board and can actually be subconsciously preventing you from reaching your goals.

The ideal situation is to have your conscious and unconscious minds working together towards the same goal. By getting your unconscious mind to work with you as appose to against you, you can achieve much more in life.

Another thing to know about your unconscious mind it that it can’t process negatives. It interprets everything you think as a positive thought. So if you tell yourself “I don’t want to be poor”, it will focus on the poor. That is why forming your goals in a positive language is very important.

In order to help direct the unconscious mind, you need to open up communication channels between your conscious and your unconscious minds. Meditation is a very useful tool to help us communicate between the two minds.

Power of beliefs

Your beliefs are generalizations you make about the world. These generalizations direct your behavior and your results. Empowering beliefs can lead you to health, happiness and success, while limiting beliefs can lead you to the opposite.

For example, an empowering belief that “I’m a good speller” can help you develop skills with words and reading which give you the courage to eventually become a published author.
On the other hand, if you were mistreated as a kid, you believe “people are not good”. This belief may make you behave aggressively towards people when you first meet them. You aren’t geared to noticing pleasant people. Some people may respond in a similar aggressive way, reinforcing your belief and so on. You need to understand what your limiting beliefs are and turn them into empowering beliefs.

Shift from problem frame to Outcome frame

Think about what exactly it is you want, instead of getting stuck in a negative problem mode of thinking.

Constantly asking ‘why’ is a negative approach and forces you to go even deeper into the problem, and farther away from finding a positive solution.

Instead try thinking about the purpose. Be practical- What can I do? What can help me achieve what I want? Think positive. For example instead of “Why can’t I or won’t I exercise regularly?” rephrase into “What can I do to help me exercise and enjoy it at the same time?

“Keep asking yourself, ‘What’s the lesson that I need to learn so that this problem is no longer an issue?’”

The Presuppositions of Neuro-Linguistic Programming

The founders developed several presuppositions that can be very useful if one believes and acts as if they are true. I will list a few of them.

“The map is not the territory”

Every one of us creates an internal individual map of the external world, shaped by our values, beliefs, traumas, memories, experiences and of course our cultural background.

We respond to the world in accordance with the map of the world we hold in your head. Sometimes, someone else’s map won’t make sense to us. Realizing that every person has his own map can help us be more understanding and tolerant. Respect the map of the world of the other.

“There is no failure, only feedback”

Mistakes and setback are part of a successful life. This presupposition enables us to not get anxious about trying something, or feeling emotional and worthless when we don’t succeed initially. Learn and grow from the feedback and try again.

When you take a wrong turn with Waze he doesn’t get emotional, he simply quickly recalculates and takes a different route.

“Individuals have all the resources they need to achieve their desired outcomes”

Understand that all the resources you need to succeed are within you. Everyone has the potential to grow.

“Modelling successful performance leads to excellence”

The two masterminds behind NLP believed that it was possible to identify the patterns of thoughts and behaviors of successful individuals, and then teach them to others.

According to NLP- if someone succeeded in doing something, it is an indicator that it is possible and if you desire to, you can also.You can find someone who’s good at something you want to be, or who reached an outcome you desire. You can then learn and model how that person did/does that.

Modelling people’s successes is a practical way to turn feelings of envy into a constructive process.

“Everyone does their best with the tools he or she has available at that time”

I love this one. With the wisdom you have today, you would often want to have done something differently in the past.

Everyone is doing the best that they can with the resources they have available. You did the same in your past. You made the best choice you could have at that point in time. That was the best you could do at that time, given your resources (emotionally, mentally, financially) you had back then.

Is NLP scientific? Does it work?

Despite its widespread popularity, it is still uncertain as to whether NLP therapy really works. The studies conducted on this method show mixed results and so NLP has yet to be proven by solid research.

Scientific reviews state that NLP is based on outdated metaphors of how the brain works that are inconsistent with current neurological theory and contain numerous factual errors.The consensus scientific opinion is that NLP is pseudoscience. However, studying how well NLP works is rather difficult, given the range of different methods and techniques.

“NLP appears to be a superficial and gimmicky approach to dealing with mental health problems. Unfortunately, NLP appears to be the first in a long line of mass marketing seminars that purport to virtually cure any mental disorder…it appears that NLP has no empirical or scientific support as to the underlying tenets of its theory or clinical effectiveness. What remains is a mass-marketed serving of psychopablum.” ~Eisner

My Personal Conclusion

I enjoyed my NLP seminar and reading up on this popular method, but I can’t say I became an advocate or a groupie :). I chose to take my favorite ideas I learned from NLP, most of which I presented here.There were some topics I didn't enjoy, such as rapport influencing techniques and some of the neuro-science lingo (that I chose not to cover here).

Although not scientific — “tools are as powerful as a person lets it be and influence them and their behavior”.

“When you truly know what you want and that what you want is worth having, you’ll find all your internal resources aligning” — NLP: The Essential Guide to Neuro-Linguistic Programming

Sources — “Neuro-linguistic- Programming for Dummies” (Romilla Ready, Kate Burton), Wikipedia- Neuro-linguistic Programming. NLP introduction course (Results Academy).

Jewish wife and mother, pursuing a life of happiness and meaning