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What is NLP?

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What is NLP?

What is NLP?

About Neuro-Linguistic Programming

From a simple point of view, NLP is a series of techniques that allow behaviors and attitudes to be broken down into sub conscious components. The components (a little like ingredients in a recipe) can then be altered, deleted, modified and manipulated into a new recipe that provides a desired result.

For example, if you were to change the recipe of sub conscious systems of a person who is afraid of spiders – to that of someone who is not, the end result is an elimination of a phobia of spiders, because the way in which a spider is now represented to the unconscious mind creates a different reaction. You can try this for yourself here.

What is NLP?

The NLP therapy system has been itself manipulated and changed to fit within the particular therapist style so many times and then taught to others that the amount of definitions for NLP itself are wide and varied. Here is how one of the co-founders (Richard Blander) described it

“NLP is an attitude … characterized by the sense of curiosity and adventure and a desire to learn the skills to be able to find out what kinds of communication influences somebody and the kinds of things worth knowing … to look at life as a rare and unprecedented opportunity to learn.

NLP is a methodology … based on the overall presupposition that all behavior has a structure … and that structure can be modeled, learned, taught, and changed (re-programmed). The way to know what will be useful and effective are the perceptual skills.

NLP has evolved as an innovative technology enabling the practitioner to organize information and perceptions in ways that allow them to achieve results that were once inconceivable”.



The Presuppositions of NLP

Presuppositions are a set of guidelines or rules within which NLP is used. Presuppositions in general are beliefs underlying a system. The presuppositions of NLP are beliefs that guide and have guided the development of NLP. They are not necessarily true, but produce useful results. The Presuppositions of NLP are ….

The meaning of the communication is the response you get.

This is one of the most important presuppositions in NLP. We think that if someone misunderstands us there is something wrong with him or her.

Both verbal and non-verbal behaviors trigger responses in others. The point of communication is to get an outcome. An effective communicator is not someone with good command of language and delivery. She is someone who gets her desired response.

All distinctions human beings are able to make concerning our environment and our behavior can be usefully represented through the visually, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory and gustatory senses.

This means that the way in which each person interacts and processes the reality of ‘their world’ can be expressed through the five senses (although mostly vision, feelings and hearing) at both an internal level and an external one.

If for example you were to think about brushing your teeth this morning and at this time last year, there is a difference in how you represent the two events of the same thing, or else you would not be able to tell them apart.

The resources an individual needs to effect a change are already within them.

Each person has all they need in order to make changes in who they are and how they behave. Because NLP is dealing mostly with sub conscious processes and these can be explored, expressed and changed (via point 2) we already have all we need to create change.

This is mostly expressed in a therapy situation by using the imagination to create and build new recipes of behavior.

The map is not the territory.

The way we represent the world refers to reality, it isn’t reality itself. We don’t respond to reality. We respond to our internalized map of reality. How we represent things are out interpretations. Interpretations may or may not be accurate.

In the same way as a GSP system is not the actual reality of the world we are driving in, the Map provides a useful enough representation to know what we need to do and where we need to go.

The positive worth of the individual is held constant, while the value and appropriateness of internal and/or external behavior is questioned.

The idea that the person is not broken, but the behaviors they are using may not be the best or most empowering ones in the given situation.

A person with a social phobia for example is perfectly able to live in the world and can even communicate perhaps online. However the recipe of behavior. in group situations is not the best one to use, nor a reflection of the value of the individual

There is a positive intention motivating every behavior; and a context in which every behavior has value.

All behavior. is expressed to provide a useful and positive function. Sometimes however the behavior. in a certain situation is not the most productive or empowering.

Anxiety is extremely useful to gauge if a certain choice of actions might lead to death or harm and caution is to be taken (movement in grass might be a snake). But being anxious to the same level about how your butt looks is not useful

Feedback vs. Failure – All results and behaviors are achievements, whether they are desired outcomes for a given task/context or not.

There is no such thing as failure – only a new understanding of how a result will not be achieved.

We learn from each result and insight, sometimes we learn the change produces the result we want, other times we learn how not to do something.


Deeper details about the Concept of the Therapy system NLP

About NLPNeuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) studies the structure of how humans think and experience the world. Obviously, the structure of something so subjective does not lend itself to precise, statistical formulae but instead leads to models of how these things work. From these models, techniques for quickly and effectively changing thoughts, behaviors and beliefs that limit you have been developed.

Many of the models in NLP were created by studying people who did things exquisitely well. Models such as meta-model, metaprogram, sensory acuity, Milton-model, representational systems and submodalities among others, provide a diverse set of tools for creating change in yourself and others.

Someone who wanted to create a model for learning to drive a car really well, might approach an expert in the field something like this – Instead of asking an expert driver, ” How do you drive?” (“Very well, thank you.”), they would be concentrating not on the content of what they did but on the underlying structure such as how they represent driving in their mind, the beliefs and attitudes they had about driving, the strategies they used in making decisions. Let’s use something called submodalities as an example of how a model works.

By understanding how we perceive the world through our five senses, we can then understand how some people can respond very resourcefully in a situation and others do not. Once you learn how those who remain resourceful set up their representations, then it’s a simple matter to teach others to do the same thing. The Example: Imagine seeing an enormous spider dangling directly in front of your face. Now clear your mind. A common way for people to have a phobic reaction to spiders or anything related to them, is to picture a spider completely oversized and far too close in their minds.

Spiders are tiny, well-mannered creatures that are far more frightened of you than you should be of them but try telling that to someone with that particular phobia. So, why don’t these phobic people notice the images they’re creating? The popular belief is that we don’t pay much attention to what’s going on in our unconscious. If you considered the enormous amount of information your brain has to process each day, it’s probably best that we don’t spend much time dwelling on it (otherwise, we would probably sit around babbling and drooling and eventually starve to death).

NLPers ask the question, “If another person can have fun playing with their pet spider, what can we learn about them that we could teach the phobic person so they can play with spiders, too?”. The spider-lover would most likely have an image representing spiders that was proportionally correct and at a reasonable distance and possibly other factors not worth getting into right now. Knowing the difference, the NLPer can use one of many techniques to help the phobic person relearn their reaction to spiders so that it is similar in nature to the spider-lover’s.

NLP is based on many useful presuppositions that support the attitude that change is imminent. One of the most important is, NLP is about what works, not what should work. In other words, if what you’re doing isn’t working, try something else, anything else, regardless of whether what you had been doing should have worked. Flexibility is the key element in a given system, the one who is most likely to do well responds to changing (or unchanging) circumstances. That’s one reason NLP has made so much progress in an area where such is not the norm. Innovators try out things with little regard as to its “truth” or “reality”, NLP is much more interested in results and giving people what they want from life

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Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) Representational Systems & Submodalities

The representational systems in NLP are simply enough the five senses. We represent the world using the visual (images), auditory (sounds), kinesthetic (touch and internal feelings), gustatory (tastes) and olfactory (smells) senses. We picture ourselves lying on a sunny beach, hear the voice of the lifeguard yelling, feel the sensation only sand in your bathing suit can produce, taste the soggy egg salad sandwiches we brought for lunch and smell the aroma of the surf wafting into our nostrils. Our thinking consists of these images, sounds, feelings and usually to a lesser extent, tastes and smells. The entirety of our experiences have been recreated through these senses in our memories and govern our capabilities and beliefs. Curiously enough, our predominant representational system in a given context often shows up in our language, for example:

Responding to the statement: I think the Jensen project is going well.

Visual: Yep, looks good to me.
Auditory: I been hearing good things about it.
Kinesthetic: I feel good about the whole project.
Olfactory: Smells like a winner to me.
Gustatory: I can taste the victory.

It’s no wonder smells and tastes are less commonly used considering how hard they are to work into conversation.

The qualities or attributes of the representations you make using your five senses are submodalities.

For example, make a picture of someone you love in your mind. Now, make the colors more intense and notice how it affects you response to it. Now make it black and white and notice your response. Return it to its original shades and hue and bring the image closer. Now move it farther out. Return the picture to its original state, noticing how each of those experiments affected your response. Submodalities are the fine tuning to your representations and can be used to create powerful changes.

Sensory Acuity

A person’s thought process is very closely tied with their physiology. A dog senses your fear: how did he know if you didn’t tell him. If a friend is depressed, most of us can tell without even talking with them. We pick up clues from their body: slumped shoulders, eyes downcast, head down, lack of animation (and in extreme cases, a loaded pistol held to the head). Sensory acuity takes these observations beyond the more obviously recognizable clues and uses the physical feedback in addition to someone’s words to gain as much from communication as possible.


A set of linguistic patterns derived from Milton Erickson, the father of modern hypnotherapy. These language patterns are used to help guide someone without interfering with how they are experiencing it in their minds. For example, “Think of time you were laughing.” It doesn’t define when or how hard you were laughing so it applies to everyone (I hope). The Milton-model helps with maintaining rapport and is often used in hypnotic or trance state sessions.


Metaprogram’s are filters through which we perceive the world. The old maxim, is the glass half full or half empty (or just fluids challenged) is an example. Another example would be how two different people might approach an argument. A person with what we would call an “away from” strategy would be likely to be finding any way to get away from the conflict. Someone using a “toward” strategy would be more likely to be heading toward a specific goal, perhaps of finding an amicable solution to the conflict. The primary difference between the two being, when you’re moving away from something, you never know what you may back into.



About the Author:

Dr Andrew Dobson is a qualified Psychologist, Hypnotherapist and Life Coach and the owner and creator of Mindfit Hypnosis - providing online hypnotherapy since 2002. For over 13 years, Dr Dobson of Mindfit, has provided Real Therapy based on Science using the Subconscious Modalities of Hypnotherapy and NLP.  Join Mindfit Hypnosis on Facebook and Google+ for updates and special discounts