Introducing NLP—The Guide to your own Sensory Experience
(This article was first published in Toastmaster's Magazine as "Anchors Away")
The scent of molasses cookies, white icing on my tongue, a dress silky to the touch, white white hair, and a voice that soothes and feels so good—Grandmother.
Grandmother is gone, but stored in the sensory chambers of my mind are the tiny pieces of her memory that, when put into a collage of sensory experiences, I can still feel all those nice feelings again. This amazing capability of the human mind is the basis of an infant technology that assists people in making powerful and useful changes in their lives.
What is the connection between my grandmother and human experience as a whole? It is NLP or Neuro-Linguistic Programming. NLP is a technology developed from the careful observation of human experience, a study of how we move from resourceful to resource-less in a split second based upon the associations made in the brain.
WHAT IS NLP?
Trying to briefly explain NLP is always a challenge. In the early seventies, two curious scientists, John Grinder and Richard Bandler, began to uncover how people make change or communicate with excellence. They treated the brain as if it were a computer working with bits and bytes of information funneled through one of the five senses.
With this sensory information we represent the world to ourselves by building an internal map in the brain of all our experiences. Within the map are all of our old tapes, belief systems, training, and experiences. This map determines how we act and react in the moment—but the map only represents reality, it is not reality.
NLP presupposes that the mind does not mean to do us harm. Unlike the early Freudians that presupposed that the unconscious is filled with repressed desires and bizarre urges, NLP assumes that behind every behavior pattern there is a good intention. Whether the pattern is depression, alcoholism or overeating, at an unconscious level, the being is attempting to preserve itself. This may seem paradoxical; but by assuming a positive intention, we recognize that the being only lacks more choices on how to preserve itself.
Another exciting discovery in NLP is that we tend to favor one of our sensory systems over the others and that the favored system structures our life. One person may think primarily in pictures, another in words, or another in feelings. The language used and the direction the eyes move indicate which sensory system is operating. Communication gaps between people are the result of trying to communicate from these opposite sensory systems.
A person can learn to "read" other people accurately by observing these language and eye and body cues. She can then alter her own thought process to match another's, establishing a cleaner communication and easy rapport.
With greater and greater depth, Bandler and Grinder studied the nervous system (neuro), our language (linguistics), and how we structure our map of the world (programming). The technology has matured into an effective, systematic, and exciting model for studying human experience.
NLP is not a theory of human behavior, but a model of what occurs naturally in human interaction and thought based on what works and how.
NLP and Personal Change
Fear, procrastination, low self-worth, compulsivity—all of these words represent sequences in the brain that, once uncovered, can be changed. The experienced NLP therapist assists the client in identifying what she wants, and then organizing internal sensory sequences to facilitate that outcome.
For example, if you say that you have a fear of public speaking, an NLP therapist still has no idea what you "have" without knowing the internal structure of your fear. With your help, the therapist realizes that the thought of talking to a group triggers your memory of a fifth grade flute solo. It links to the old feelings of being nervous, breath quivering, a sea of faces and fear riddling your gut as you perform a lousy flute solo. A sensory sequence. As you become that fifth grader, you create your current fear. Remember, these sequences happen quickly, often outside of conscious awareness.
Essentially, the NLP therapist walks with you into the patterns stored in your mind, and assists you in changing the impact a variety of techniques.
NLP IN OTHER PLACES
Although the initial growth of NLP was in therapy, it was not long before businesses and sales groups discovered its value. NLP Training to improve people skills has been implemented in every area of the business world.
Another development is the use of NLP for retraining learning strategies with students of all ages. Poor spelling and math strategies can often be identified and corrected. The ramifications for education are endless.
With so much in the world that is "new, improved, better than ever", it is wise to question new developments that promise change. Trusting your own map of reality is the best bet, and learning more about that map is essential. Test, learn, and discover for the full value of this powerful technology to alter human awareness and experience. NLP is so much more than eye movements or language cues—it is the creation of a new framework to live within, a structure selected by you rather than by society or past parenting.