What is NLP?
NLP is a revolutionary field of study which explains how our minds work and how we can change or improve patterns of behaviour, thoughts and beliefs that hold us back from living happy successful lives. NLP means:
|Neuro||How we think and how the mind interacts with the body|
|Linguistics||How we use language consciously and unconsciously to create our reality and communicate|
|Programming||How we create habits and patterns of behaviour with our thoughts and can therefore change them|
NLP allows us to find the answers to many burning questions, such as:
- I know I can be successful, so what's holding me back?
- Why do I feel so much emotion when I don't really want to be feeling it at this moment?
- How can I change this habit when I've had it for so long?
- How can I feel more in control of my time and my energy?
- How can I feel relaxed more often?
- Is it really possible to feel different?
NLP allows us to solve these dilemmas and choose how we think, feel or act. Find out how it can do this in your life.
Sometimes when we want to make changes, such as lowering stress, letting go of grief, or stopping smoking, it feels difficult or like hard work. Our emotions and behaviours are created unconsciously. While we can make a conscious choice to change them, the actual change only happens at an unconscious level. This is where all change and learning takes place. This is where NLP comes in. It is extraordinary coaching!
Imagine you didn't have an instruction manual for your mobile phone and you were using it only to make and receive calls and save numbers - enough to get you by but only the basics. Then, one day you found the instruction booklet, and suddenly you could re-set it and programme it to operate, sound and respond the way you really wanted it to.
We each have resources inside ourselves we're not utilising right now, and NLP is the instruction manual for discovering these resources and using them to their potential.
Because all change and learning happens unconsciously, when someone wants to stop doing something they've done for a long time, such as over-eat or bite their nails, they often don't know why they do it. Therefore, they don't know where to start or even what to change. This is often because what is driving them to do it is an unconscious intention. NLP helps to identify those unconscious patterns, so that they can be changed to suit what the individual wants in his or her life.
This all might sound a little complicated. I mean, how do you know what's conscious or unconscious for goodness sake?! The beauty of NLP is that the techniques used are extraordinarily simple, and the potential for our minds to make positive change for us is boundless.
The key is to know what you really want and that you really want to change. The rest is relatively straightforward! NLP techniques are powerful, specific and usually create immediate changes. The changes are created within you, by you, simply facilitated by the practitioner. This also means that it isn't 'done to you'. You are always in charge of the changes you are making.
One of the central principles of NLP is that we each have a map, which is our 'version' of life. It's not an accurate representation of our experiences; it's our own description or picture of reality. We develop this map throughout our lives through our experiences, unconsciously taking notice of what we think is important, and editing out what isn't. We make generalisations about things, and unknowingly distort them sometimes to make sense of them. In this way we concoct a version of life that is solely our own.
In NLP it is often described as our 'model of the world'. It's how we see the world, and it guides us through life. Your map is not the same as your neighbour's, your friend's, or anyone else's on the planet.
Can you think back to a time when you had a conversation with somebody about one thing and eventually realised they thought you were talking about something else entirely? We get our wires crossed when we assume our map (and way of thinking) is the same as everyone else's!
When we are communicating with others, problem solving or making decisions, we do the best we can with the map we have. Sometimes we don't choose the best behaviour because our map is inadequate. NLP allows us to open up our map (our model of the world) and see what else is there, what we can add to it, how it can be improved.
NLP is often described as the study of excellence. When someone does something well they have a 'strategy' for doing it; a sequence of behaviour and thought patterns that gets a result. NLP allows us to find out a particular strategy and learn it or teach it to others. NLP change processes were designed through the study of excellence in the field of therapy and personal change, enabling us to reproduce the same results for ourselves that highly experienced practitioners spent years perfecting.
Many areas of traditional psychology and counselling are based on the study of people suffering from mental and emotional ill-health. NLP models were developed by studying healthy successful people. Like other areas of coaching or therapy, NLP helps the client change and improve their life. Moreover, NLP techniques are simple and relatively fast, making the experience of clearing unhelpful negative emotions or healing phobias or trauma, gentle for the client. The emphasis is always on positive outcomes and the techniques focus on creating wholeness and emotional well-being.
NLP is also often described as the activity of modelling strategies. For example, one of the key strategies within NLP is building rapport with another person. Anyone can be taught rapport skills such as matching body language or tone of voice that help to make the other person feel comfortable, foster trust and ultimately build relationships.
The skills taught will be based on what people do, who are very successful in this area; how they act, what they think about, how they feel, and so on. Charismatic people like Bill Clinton and the late Princess Diana are shining examples of people using fine rapport skills that others can learn.
Other examples of creating new strategies might be as simple as someone wanting to feel more confident when they speak in front of an audience (pretty common isn't it?!) or perhaps a person wanting to feel happier in themselves after years of feeling sad, guilty or depressed. Using the concept of modelling, an NLP practitioner is able to discover the client's map and the 'blips' in their strategy causing problems for them. This way, those parts of their map can be improved, opening up new possibilities for choosing how we think, feel and behave.
You can also try something yourself - a simple technique that will give you an idea of how you can change these responses. Can you recall a time when you were feeling nervous? Once you have a time in mind, read through these instructions in full, then take yourself through them from start to finish all in one go. You may even like to ask a friend to talk you through it for ease - preferably someone who will be curious and kind about it, and non-judgemental. It's a slightly absurd technique, but I guarantee it works. Your friend will probably want a turn too!
- Think about that time you were nervous. Can you get the feeling back and remember what it was like? What is the feeling like in your stomach, the rest of your body?
- Now stand up. Lift your arms above your head, and shake your hands as if they are rattles, shaking vigorously.
- Then look up to the ceiling and turn up the corners of your mouth. As you look straight up, notice it's not easy to have a serious thought when you do this - it is in fact difficult to have a serious thought as you look up! And when you turn up the corners of your mouth, did you know that serotonin is automatically released in the brain? It is a biological response, so you can keep enjoying turning up the corners of your mouth!
- Now, as you bring your hands down and relax your body, is that old nervousness there, or has it gone now? I expect it is gone.
And you can do this whenever you want to be able to change your state. Try it when you need a burst of motivation, confidence or energy, or when you're feeling frustrated about something, and see what happens!
Although at times there can be a fine line between coaching and therapy, the role of therapeutic techniques and methodologies in resolving emotional trauma, grief and phobia is invaluable. A number of modalities are used in this area including brief solution-focused therapy, NLP and the Satir Model.
Brief solution-focused therapy
As simple as it sounds, this approach can be brief because it is future-focused and because it works with the strengths of the client, making the best use of their resources. It can bring about lasting change precisely because it explores solutions rather than solve problems. There are now over 32 published research studies in solution focused brief therapy, which show successful outcomes in 65-83% of cases.
Neuro Linguistic Programming
It's easy to feel as if we have no option but to feel emotions, because we sometimes experience them so suddenly and seemingly out of our control. When a 'trigger' such as a particular sound or event sets off an emotion such as grief, it's a bit like going down a neural super highway at great speed. It happens before we can even think about it.
These automatic responses can be reset so that we do have a choice about whether to feel an emotion or not. The super highway gets 'dismantled' so we can choose which path to go down. So, while in one moment someone may feel grief, in another moment they may feel nostalgic, and in another, a little sad.
When healing emotions, although they change, nothing is ever taken away. NLP processes always work towards creating wholeness. A traumatic memory won't be 'deleted', only the way the person thinks and feels about it will be changed.
Phobias and trauma are able to be healed easily and effortlessly with NLP. The success of NLP techniques in this area has been proven around the world. Examples include British police officers involved in the Lockerbie plane bombing overcoming Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and psychiatrists in Bosnia and Kosovo treating survivors of the Bosnian war with immediate results.
It is possible to identify and change the strategies of anxiety and depression and heal the part of a person that feels that way. When anxiety or depression is experienced, the patterns are already running automatically at an unconscious level. So, in gentle ways, the 'instructions' in the mind can be changed to carry out different strategies and behaviours to create new ways of feeling.
Virginia Satir developed this model of therapy during her 35 year career. A noted American author and psychotherapist, she was known especially for her approach to family therapy. Her legacy is a holistic model for human transformation that is instinctive, practical and very accessible.
Working with her model means we focus on helping the client connect with themselves and become choice makers. We look at the way they cope (Virginia said that someone's problem is not the problem, it's coping that's the problem). Focusing on healing the past, the client then feels a new sense of possibility in the future, and learns that they can live differently now even if they can't change the past.
Significant emphasis is placed on nurturing self esteem because Virginia found that this was vital for enabling people to have healthy happy relationships. Some of the models and tools are used during sessions and some are also taught to the client for their own self-support.
- Change is always possible; even if external change is limited, internal change is possible.
- We cannot change past events, but we can change the impact they have on us.
- Hope is a significant component or ingredient for change.
- Appreciating and accepting the past increases our ability to manage our future.
- Feelings belong to us; we all have them and can learn to be in charge of them.
- Most people do the best they can at any given time.
- We all have the internal resources we need in order to cope successfully and to grow.
- People's coping is often their way of surviving a painful experience and should be acknowledged as such.
- Coping is the manifestation of the level of self-worth. The higher one's self-worth, the more wholesome the coping.
- Most people choose familiarity over the discomfort of change, especially during times of stress.