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NLP is a pragmatic school of thought - an 'epistemology' - that addresses the many levels involved in being human. NLP is a multi-dimensional process that involves the development of behavioral competence and flexibility, but also involves strategic thinking and an understanding of the mental and cognitive processes behind behavior. NLP provides tools and skills for the development of states of individual excellence, but it also establishes a system of empowering beliefs and presuppositions about what human beings are, what communication is and what the process of change is all about. At another level, NLP is about self-discovery, exploring identity and mission. It also provides a framework for understanding and relating to the 'spiritual' part of human experience that reaches beyond us as individuals to our family, community and global systems. NLP is not only about competence and excellence, it is about wisdom and vision.
In essence, all of NLP is founded on two fundamental presuppositions:
- The Map is Not the Territory. As human beings, we can never know reality. We can only know our perceptions of reality. We experience and respond to the world around us primarily through our sensory representational systems. It is our 'neuro-linguistic' maps of reality that determine how we behave and that give those behaviors meaning, not reality itself. It is generally not reality that limits us or empowers us, but rather our map of reality.
- Life and 'Mind' are Systemic Processes. The processes that take place within a human being and between human beings and their environment are systemic. Our bodies, our societies, and our universe form an ecology of complex systems and sub-systems all of which interact with and mutually influence each other. It is not possible to completely isolate any part of the system from the rest of the system. Such systems are based on certain 'self-organizing' principles and naturally seek optimal states of balance or homeostasis.
All of the models and techniques of NLP are based on the combination of these two principles. In the belief system of NLP it is not possible for human beings to know objective reality. Wisdom, ethics and ecology do not derive from having the one 'right' or 'correct' map of the world, because human beings would not be capable of making one. Rather, the goal is to create the richest map possible that respects the systemic nature and ecology of ourselves and the world we live in. The people who are most effective are the ones who have a map of the world that allows them to perceive the greatest number of available choices and perspectives. NLP is a way of enriching the choices that you have and perceive as available in the world around you. Excellence comes from having many choices. Wisdom comes from having multiple perspectives. Essentially, experts are carefully studied and analyzed (or modeled in NLP parlance) as a way to make conscious and unpack the mental strategies they used to get expert results. Once the strategies are decoded, they are the available for others to enhance their own expertise. Milton Erickson, the well known hypnotherapist, and Virginia Satir, one of the world's best known family therapist were among those who were modeled by NLP practitioners.
Interestingly, it appears that people can be modeled even after they have died! A case in point: Robert Dilts (one of the creators of NLP) recently modeled Walt Disney. He studied his writings, observed films of him doing his work and interviewed people that worked with him. From this he extracted the Disney Creativity Model, which will be briefly described below.
The basis strategy for modeling people is to either observe them while performing or to have them mentally go back to a time when they were performing extremely well, and to have them describe (while reliving a particular moment of great human performance) the thought patterns, physiology and context that supported the performance
The modeler might also choose to elicit a strategy that lead to poor performance or a failure to get the same results as a "counter model." This is done to provide a contrast that clearly points out the distinctions between the two states of "success" and "failure". NLP provides a set of linguistic and observational tools that ensure useful descriptions and models.
Dilts concluded that Walt Disney moved through three distinct states when he produce his work. Dilt's called them Dreamer, Realist and Critic. Each of these three stages have a distinct physiology and thought patterns and can be consciously employed by individuals who want to improve their creative performance.
NLP techniques are also useful to help you remember, at an instant, what psychological state you must be in to be creative. NLP practitioners can "anchor" a particular state in which you are most creative. In fact, you anchor these state yourself. Many people have to be in a certain room, or standing or walking, or in some particular context in order to be creative. The context is the anchor that reminds you mind/body to be creative.
- Bandler & Grinder "Frogs Into Princes" 1979
- Dilts, Grinder, Bandler, DeLozier "Neuro-Linguistic Programming" Vol. I 1980
- Bandler & Grinder "Reframing" 1982
- Bandler "Using Your Brain" 1985