Neuro Linguistic Programming (usually spelt Neuro-Lingusitic Programming or NLP) is a practical philosophy developed out of the curious and penetrative questioning into the human condition. A questioning into what it means to be conscious and into the consequent behaviour that arises when consciousness filters through human form.
It is a philosophy born of the study of our subjective experience of reality; the map is not the territory (Alfred Korzybski). How we accumulate, process and communicate information, within our inner world (the internal representation we use to create our experience of reality) and then transpose that onto our outside world (our projected perception of reality).
What is recognised as Neuro-Linguistic Programming today, has been developed over the past thirty-five years by Richard Bandler, John Grinder, and Frank Pucelik. It has taken influence from the works of Milton Erickson with his development of Hypnotherapy, Virginia Satir’s work into Family Therapy, Fritz Perl’s development of Gestalt Therapy, Alfred Korzybski’s development of general semantics, Paul Watzlawick’s work on communication theory and Ivan Pavlov’s work on classical conditioning, to name just a few.
The philosophy of NLP presupposes that all human experience has a structure to it. We generalize, distort and delete data, forming unique structural strategies as a means of coping with vast amounts of information. We use these unconscious strategies to express our beliefs, values and unconscious memories, and this is what we come to know as our behaviour/ personality.
"Most of us agree, and behavioral scientists confirm, that our behaviors are a direct reflection of our beliefs, perceptions, and values, generated from past experiences."
Williams, Robert. M.A, PSYCH-K®, The Missing Piece/Peace In Your Life.
The beliefs we hold express themselves through our communication, both verbal and non-verbal (body language). By paying attention to how we communicate to our selves (the self-talk we have going on in our heads) and the outside world, our belief patterns and values become detectable. This observation of our communication and the awareness of our underlying strategies, beliefs and values that results is a pivotal door in providing us (the conscious observer) access into our inner workings (into our unconscious domain).
We are responsible for our lives and ourselves, the cause and the effect of our own stories: Even though my environment influences me and I influence my environment, how I choose to respond and react can only be authored by me.
We cannot get outside of ourselves; we cannot ultimately cast blame or look for an external source to our suffering or joy as it all comes back to the single subjective point of reference, I, the Experiencer. Everything is filtered through and structured by our personal experience and perception of reality.
NLP techniques offer us a practical means of accessing that structure, giving us a window into how we have formed our identities and behavioural patterns.
programming or conditioning starts from the moment of conception - our
first contact with the environment - preparing us for the world beyond
"The fetal and infant nervous system has vast sensory and learning capabilities and a kind of memory that neuroscientists call implicit memory."
Bruce H. Lipton, The Biology of Belief, pg.126
Research shows us that after birth we are most programmable up until the age of six or seven. In these formative years our brains operate predominantly in the delta and theta range. These first seven years are when we establish our foundational beliefs about ourselves and the world, how to survive in it and how to respond to it.
"Between birth and two years of age, the human brain predominantly operates at the lowest EEG frequency, 0.5 to 4 cycles per second (Hz), known as delta waves."
Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D., The Biology of Belief, pg.133
"A child begins to spend more time at a higher level of EEG activity characterised as theta (4-8 Hz) between two and six years of age. Hypnotherapists drop their patients' brain activity into delta and theta because these low-frequency brain waves put them into a more suggestible, programmable state."
Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D., The Biology of Belief, pg.133
From the age of seven, we start to operate more within the alpha and beta wavelength. We become more consciously active and discerning, relying on our (now unconscious) behavioural patterns and perceptions about the world to affirm our identities and ensure our survival in it, whilst we go about our business gathering new information, consciously.
"As we get older, we become less susceptible to outside programming with the increasing appearance of higher frequency alpha waves (8-12 Hz)."
"At around twelve years of age, the child's EEG spectrum begins to show sustained periods of an even higher frequency defined as beta waves (12-35 Hz). Beta brain states are characterised as ‘active or focused consciousness’.”
Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D., The Biology of Belief, pg.134
Our first perceptions we create about the world are primarily influenced by our parents, siblings, childhood caretakers and figures of authority. The strategies we establish and beliefs we create about ourselves through these formative years, whether true or false, positive or negative, are all considered truth by our young impressionable minds; establishing the foundation of our blueprint, our unique human identity. This is what is operating behind the scenes all the time. Think of the analogy of the iceberg, with the conscious mind being the exposed tip and the unconscious being that massive mountain of information below the surface. It is with this ‘iceberg' below the surface that NLP works.
"According to cognitive neuroscientists, we are only conscious of 5 percent of our cognitive activity, so most of our decisions, actions, emotions, and behaviour depends on 95 percent of our brain activity that goes beyond our conscious awareness."
PSYCH-K® doc: The International Journal of Management and Business, Vol. 3 Issue 1, August 2012, 65, pp. 53-61
As we grow and become more complex and abstract, our experiences may come into conflict with our identities, or more precisely, we perceive experiences that reflect our limiting strategies and negative beliefs about ourselves back to us. They start to show in our environments and through our behaviour, our unique challenges or trigger points. Every moment we are reflecting off our environment, affirming our existence and receiving feedback about our unconscious blueprint.
The methods and techniques born out of the NLP philosophy are processes designed to access the unconscious mind in the language it understands for the purpose of self-discovery and enhancing well-being. With awareness of our beliefs and the structure of our behaviour gleaned through self-observation and mindfulness, we can utilise the techniques of NLP to:
…with the quantum theory, human intention influences the structure of the physical world."
Pagels, Heinz R.. The Cosmic Code: Quantum Physics as the Language of Nature, p. 95
In speaking about the subjective experience of reality, it brings into question, what is objective reality? Is there or can there be a ground zero for what ‘reality' is?
We could presuppose a belief that Nature is the backbone of reality and being a part of Nature we each contribute towards what reality is, adding our unique interpretation and energy signature to the Grand Objective Reality - the accumulation of all consciousness.
If person A stubs their toe on a rock and person B comes along and stubs their toe on the same rock both people will agree that the rock exists because of their experience of it, a sign that there is a collective reality. Yet the subjective experience of that reality will vary in that, person A sees the rock as burnt orange whilst person B sees it as orange. Person A responds angrily with, "Who put that rock there!" and person B responds with "I guess I should pay attention to where I am going."
So we could conclude there is a Grand Objective Reality to which we are all bound, and yet we can never truly know it. What we can come to know is ourselves, and our relationship to reality. We can develop our awareness, becoming conscious observers of ourselves. NLP can be a practical and useful tool in facilitating this journey of self-discovery for our well-being.