Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)
The information below sets out my way of describing how I use NLP and what I believe is of interest to you about NLP. Let me begin by stating that there are good and bad NLP practitioners, just as there are good and bad coaches, doctors and plumbers.
NLP is about using speedy techniques to change things in our subconscious. These are things that do not enter our conscious awareness yet their existence interferes with our pleasure or success in one or more aspects of our lives. NLP is not psychoanalysis. Freudian nonsense is not involved. Using NLP does not involve trawling through past experiences or reliving or scrutinising past events. NLP works with the present and quickly makes the changes you want for the present and the future.
The brain is made up of 100 billion neurons and their interconnections number 100 trillion (100,000,000,000,000). Each of our memories, beliefs, recurring behaviours, values and personality traits, (among other things), are encoded in individual circuits of neurons. Some of these circuits are inherited through genetics and some are developed and change throughout our lives. Using NLP, any of these circuits can be ‘rewired’, even genetically inherited circuits, because of a phenomenon called neuroplasticity. NLP makes use of neuroplasticity to make the changes we want in our lives. The vast majority of our brain is taken up with the subconscious mind. Our personality traits and beliefs, among other things are located in our subconscious mind.
Without us knowing, our thoughts, decisions and behaviours are influenced by things like our personality traits and beliefs. Sometimes, for instance, we hold a belief which is false. It may be a belief about one’s self, about other people or about how the world works. Decisions made and behaviours adopted, based on this false belief, which is hidden from conscious awareness, are unlikely to be in one’s best interests. Psychologists call these secretly interfering components, hidden from our perception, scripts, heuristics and schemas. I provide a couple of examples below:
A female client who desperately wanted, but was unable, to form a long term relationship. The result of some gentle but highly focussed NLP work, revealed to us both that she held a rigid belief that all men are cheats. This belief is untrue and while she held it in her subconscious, it was impossible for her to play her part in a satisfying long term relationship. She had not been aware that she held this rigid belief. Before the NLP session, if asked about her opinion of men’s fidelity, she would have half jokingly responded with words to the effect of ‘men are all the same’. (As a result of a previous unhappy experience). It would never have occurred to her to sit down and seriously evaluate her belief regarding men’s fidelity, indeed she would have been unaware she held a belief on the issue at all. As a result of the realisation that she held an invalid belief, that belief became replaced in her subconscious with an accurate belief about men’s fidelity (that some men cheat and others do not), and as a result she enjoyed a new and productive perspective on forming a satisfying long term relationship.
A client whose boss was very unhappy about my client’s low levels of rapport with the firm’s important customers. My client was deeply introverted and I used a two stage approach to helping him. First we established that some of these important customers were extroverts and others introverts. I explained what behaviours are needed to build rapport with an introvert, of which he realised he already had a basic understanding, when I asked him to describe what behaviours in another person cause him to be in rapport with them. Although he possessed this information within him, he had never thought to identify it and use it. I then explained what behaviours are needed to build rapport with an extrovert. Being exposed to the interpersonal world inhabited by extroverts was a revelation to my client, but he could see that he would be able to adopt the necessary behaviours when he needed to. Stage 2 involved uncovering a belief he held in his subconscious which prevented him from devoting adequate effort to the task of building rapport with the firms important customers, using a simple model I have developed called, ‘The Whole Job Model’. He did not realise that he held a belief in his subconscious that it was not part of his job to build rapport with the firm’s important customers. Before the NLP session, if asked about this, he would have replied with words to the effect of ‘I guess it’s quite important, but not a top priority.’ The result of some NLP questioning revealed that he actually considered the task so low in his list of priorities that in reality it would never get any effort expended on it. As a result of the realisation that he held this invalid belief, that belief was replaced in his subconscious with an accurate belief about the priority of effort to be expended and he began a successful program of rapport building, much of which was in lunch times or other breaks and was a minimal burden.
The main NLP technique I use consists of extensive and highly specialised questioning which exposes things like false beliefs. Once you become aware of a false belief you hold, you easily choose to replace it and in so doing, quickly create an alternative, helpful neural circuit; thanks to neuroplasticity. The new circuit is strengthened and secured through further gentle questioning or whatever else may suit the client, including techniques like repeated visualisation or, if desired, hypnotherapy. Below is another example.
A client (Ms X) who suffered terrible and embarrassing bouts of anger while playing tennis. Using the gentle NLP questioning technique, my client discovered she held a number of beliefs about her own expectations of herself while playing tennis, and of spectators, which were completely invalid and unhelpful. One of these beliefs, for example, was that it was totally unacceptable to ever play a poor shot. The untrue beliefs were replaced with more accurate and useful beliefs. Using repeated visualisation of moments in tennis matches which, before the NLP intervention, would have resulted in rage, my client found a feeling of calm which increased her feeling of competitive intensity. Repeated visualisations strengthen the new neural pathways that are created during NLP interventions, (neuroplasticity). Read what (Ms X) had to say about my work with her at the bottom of this page.
There are other NLP techniques I use from time to time, with odd sounding names like Time Line Therapy, the Like To Dislike technique and the Fast Phobia Model. You may have seen practitioners like Paul McKenna occasionally use these in TV programmes because of their amazing speed and effectiveness. They have their place in the NLP tool kit.
More information about NLP can be found in numerous places on the web. It is defined differently by different people because its applications grow by the year. There is no universally agreed definition of NLP. You can also find more on the web about how NLP originally developed in the 1970’s if that interests you.
Testimonial From Client X referred to above
When I approached Steve, I was in a state of total desperation. I am 52 years old and have been playing tennis for most of my life. For as long as I can remember I have been totally unable to deal with loss or failure and made John McEnroe look like a choirboy. I think it is only because I am not generally like that off court and because I belong to such a nice, friendly club that I haven’t been kicked out long ago!
I read about Steve’s work in ACE Tennis magazine in an article in which he helped someone with severe performance nerves. Although I knew a little bit about NLP, I really didn’t think anyone could help me because I had tried so many self-devised strategies to help myself and nothing had worked. This was something I really wanted and knew I had to do, so I thought I should be able to put it right myself. However, after failing to live up to my own expectations time after time, I thought only a personality transplant could change me.
In my first 2-hour appointment with Steve, he said we would basically just be chatting and he would ask me questions about my problem. He also said that at the end I would feel that nothing of any import had taken place and that nothing had happened to change me. This is exactly what took place. It was very pleasant. He has a lovely house in a lovely setting, so I felt very relaxed. He didn’t ask me anything very deep, or about my past or anything like that. Sometimes he would return to a question if I hadn’t given a clear answer. After the session he emailed me some notes that summarized our conversation.
In the immediate aftermath of this session, the most striking thing I noticed, apart from the fact that my behaviour on court was overall about 70% better, was that I didn’t feel I was making any conscious effort to be different. It was as though Steve had re-wired my brain in some way. I still felt exactly like me but was behaving effortlessly better! After a while I found that I was slipping back somewhat so we had another session. In this Steve identified the causes of this “relapse” and we worked together to refine my goals. He also said I might have to work harder to achieve these objectives.
What I now find is that I now approach each tennis-playing situation aware of what factors are likely to have a negative impact on my behaviour and knowing that Steve has provided me with the tools to deal with these different situations. All it takes is working out what the problems are going to be beforehand and reminding myself of how to deal with them when necessary during the match. If I don’t do these things, the beast reappears! But now, thanks to Steve, I have control over it and I have the choice.
I’m not sure if we have achieved a miracle or the impossible, but something very big has happened in a short space of time. I still have a way to go, but I now feel the situation is under my control. Furthermore, if I need help, I know that Steve is there via email or for another conversation.
Onwards and upwards!
Below are some e-mails from X sent after each of her two sessions:
After session 1
This is strange!
Today I had to play my ladies singles semi against my twin sister (the good one). It is a match I have been dreading for literally months, as I knew we would have to play because of the seeding system. She is the opposite to me play-wise, i.e. very steady and safe, never goes for winners, just keeps getting it back. Whereas I like to go for winners. So, all in all, it can be very frustrating playing her and we haven’t played (her choice) since the incident that caused me to contact you in the first place. Anyway, I did beat her. That’s not the point. I decided to play her at her own game (which I thought I never could) and be very conservative and boring and safe. It was by no means easy and I had some desperate moments. What is important is that after it was over, I realized that I hadn’t sworn once. Not even quietly, not to myself, not even in my head. I had about 3 shouty moments and one bit of poor body language. Are you sure you didn’t hypnotize me? Are you sure you aren’t Derren Brown?
The final is tomorrow (things got behind because of the weather). That’s not the point either. Will let you know how it goes obviously. But the point is that I AM BEING NICE(R). And I’m not having to try, not even thinking about it.
This is strange.
Just to let you know that I won the ladies singles final on Saturday, without any swearing entering my head or passing my lips. However I think I probably would benefit from a second session. Could you outline the sort of thing we would be aiming at? I am still finding, however, that people are still seeing me as they expect to and have had no comments on the “new me”, not that it bothers me as I am doing this for myself.
After session 2
………. anyway, I saw my sister yesterday evening and outlined what we had done. She was interested in it, not cynical at all, and I said I would like to have a game today to try things out. The interesting thing was that I didn’t feel nervous or excited about it or even that I had to prove myself in some way. I just knew from last time that we had done something together that would be put into practice without my having to make it happen. In the past I have always approached these situations thinking that this would be the time I would change and be “good” and “nice” and then, having failed at some hurdle along the way, go home feeling full of self-hatred and a failure. Can’t remember if it was Newton or Einstein who said that to keep on repeating the same action and expect a different result is a form of insanity. And that is exactly what I have been doing all these years.
Anyway, I won 6-1, 6-2 and then we played a third set because the others had finished so quickly and I won that 6-1. This never happens! I sometimes get off to a good start in the first set, then start thinking about what I am doing and we have a really close second set and usually don’t have time for a third. After the second set and at the end she said the predictable thing, namely that she played so badly that she didn’t even challenge me in terms of me getting angry and frustrated as I won so easily. But there was more going on than that. It was something to do with my controlled presence. Yes, she did appear to play very poorly but that has never stopped me from making hard work of things in the past! I managed to say good shot twice and, guess what, right at the end she banged a couple of balls about!!! On the behavioural higher ground, moi?!!! What is going on?
The essence of it is that I totally trusted the process and didn’t feel I had to do anything except remember “Focussed, Controlled, Efficient” and to do that breathing exercise. So I also feel that there is loads more I can draw on if the going gets tougher. But basically, it’s only as tough as I make it.