NLP History in Brief

A Quick Definition of NLP

NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming. NLP is a powerful framework of ideas, strategies, models, methods and principles that can enhance self-development, and help people achieve personal change or transformation.

NLP was founded in the early 1970s by Richard Bandler, a student of psychology, and John Grinder, an Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the University of California. They worked together in a study of three exceptional therapists of the time.

Three Outstanding Therapists studied by the NLP Pioneers:

  • Fritz Perls  (developed Gestalt therapy)
  • Virginia Satir (pioneered Family Therapy)
  • Milton Erickson (conversational hypnotherapist)

Bandler and Grinder wanted to know why these people were so effective. Regarding the 3 outstanding therapists, Grinder and Bandler wanted to determine their strategies, patterns of thinking, and how they did what they did. Most importantly, Bandler and Grinder wanted to know how their processes might be usefully modeled.

Essentially, Bandler and Grinder wanted to know if they would be able to describe what these exceptional people were doing. All this with the ultimate purpose of helping other people be equally effective.

Bandler and Grinder found that although the three outstanding therapists appeared to work in very different ways, their thought patterns and general approach was very similar. Bandler and Grinder were able to incorporate the therapists’ characteristic language and behaviour patterns, along with the values and beliefs that underpin these features, into a replicable model.

Bandler and Grinder elicited a model from the 3 therapists which provided a framework for more accurate communication, improved personal development, and a formula for accelerated learning. This model became the foundation for became Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), or the study of human excellence.

What does NLP mean when you break it down?

NEURO: Each of us has formed a unique mental filtering system for processing the huge amounts of information being absorbed through our senses.

The information we receive on a daily basis through our senses is filtered through our beliefs, values, etc. Then, our perception is transformed into a unique understanding and experience of the world.

LINGUISTIC: We then assign a personal meaning to the information being received from the world around us.

We form our second mental map with self-talk. Self-talk is giving language to the internal images, sounds and feelings, tastes and smells we experience. This forms our awareness.

The information that we receive into our conscious and unconscious mind is revealed by our language. Notice when someone is describing a situation to you; the language they use may be very different to the way you’d describe the same situation.

We delete, distort and exaggerate when we speak – most of the time without realizing it!

We can also say a lot without words. Your mind and your body are connected, and your emotions will always communicate and reveal themselves through your body language. Sometimes, you are not even consciously aware of how you are expressing yourself.

About 90 percent of our communication is picked up and internalized through our body language. You could say something to someone with words, but your body language may be saying something completely different.

Your body language, and language patterns are a window to the unconscious mind. So much of how we communicate happens outside of our awareness, or conscious intention. It is not only what we say, but also how we say it, that communicates.

PROGRAMMING: Behaviours, habits and attitudes form as a result of the influence of the people around you, and the information you take in throughout your life.

Habits are created through repetition. Your brain creates neural pathways when you do something repetitively, even down to the way you say something.

These neural pathways can either be resourceful and supportive (to your advantage), or unresourceful and unsupportive (detrimental and damaging). Needless to say, unsupportive neural pathways and habits have a negative impact on your life.

The great thing about the mind is that everything you learn can be unlearned too! Without wanting to confuse you too much, we’ll leave it there, for now!

9 ways that understanding NLP might be able to help you

NLP can be applied to pretty much anywhere you want to improve how you do something, how you feel, and how you think. Here are a few examples:

  1. You’re a sales person and want to get more sales.
  2. You want to improve mental and physical performance.
  3. You frequently feel depressed, sad, upset and you’re unsure why.
  4. You find yourself stuck in, and consistently thinking about the past.
  5. You’re stuck in a rut, situation or relationship and don’t know how to get out.
  6. You lack self confidence which prevents you from speaking up or taking action.
  7. You panic or procrastinate when you need to complete a project or meet a deadline.
  8. You want your performance to improve at work so you can ask for a bonus or a raise at work.
  9. You want to reveal the barriers that keep you locked in position, restraining you from freedom and independence.

NLP evolved into two main areas

  • A method for discovering the characteristics of excellence in any activity, or “patterns of excellence”
  • A way of modelling the thinking and communication styles of people acknowledged as outstanding in what they do.

Both the areas that NLP delve into are entirely concerned with success and excellence. This might be why some people call NLP the “science of success.”

When studying excellence, it’s important to understand why some people do things badly. Why is there commonly such a huge difference between the results of two people who appear to be equally capable? After all, we all have ‘more or less’ the same capacity to learn and solve problems.

With NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), we can analyze our thought processes, notice the behaviours that follow, and learn how to change (if we want to). Then, in turn, we can changes we want to make.

Since the 1970s when it started, NLP has been taught on a global scale. Today the techniques, ideologies and methodologies are used in many activities that demand continual improvements in performance, such as sport, entrepreneurialism and business.

This article is not a definitive history of NLP.  Much of the above information is based on ‘folk memory’ and rather like NLP itself, is primarily based on subjective experience.

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