NLP is a revolutionary study of the PROCESS of human thought. In other words, it’s the study of what’s actually going on when we think. I don’t mean the physical or electrochemical reactions, but what we would notice if we looked at the step-by-step activity of thinking. The interesting thing about the mind is that if you take a brain and cut it open, you can’t find the mind. You can’t find a poem or the taste of chocolate or the feeling of a first kiss or the music from the prom dance. All you find is a bunch of nerve tissue. The nerve tissue in your brain acts as a substrate. It’s almost like your computer. It acts like your hard drive or your motherboard, and basically it’s designed to store various bits of data and to assemble, reassemble, and rearrange them and call them up whenever you want. NLP is an understanding—not of the brain—but of how the mind, using the brain, expresses itself in your life and creates what you call your experience. Right now, for instance, you’re reading these words. But these words by themselves are not your experience. Your experience is these words blended with what else you’re seeing around you at the moment, where you’re sitting, and how your body is feeling. Part of your experience right now is composed of the things you’re saying to yourself, like, “Geez, I wish he’d say more about that point,” or “That’s interesting,” or “I don’t know if that’s true or not,” or “Am I really going to get my money’s worth out of all this time I’m spending?” The comments you make as you go on, coupled with your visual and your physical sensations as you read, blended with my words—all of that combined becomes your experience. Now, how does your brain do all that? Before I answer that, let me give you a little background information about NLP. NLP started at the University of California, Santa Cruz in the early 1970s and has grown rapidly since then. NLP differs from psychology because its philosophy and techniques are derived from a specialized form of studying people called “Modeling.” NLP researchers interviewed and observed people doing many activities—and then shared the huge body of knowledge they accumulated about how people think when they’re falling in love, grieving a personal loss, shooting a gun, flying a plane, learning a language, or falling asleep. Thousands of people have been studied over the years, and much has been learned about how we think, and how we can adjust our own internal thought processes. NLP popularized the “Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic” learning styles in addition to many new technologies utilized in education, psychotherapy, and communication.
Two Important NLP Principles of Human Nature NLP researchers originally studied therapists who were famous for getting almost miraculous results with their clients. One of the psychotherapists initially studied was Fritz Perls, who developed “be-here-now” Gestalt therapy. He was a genius at reading body language and at getting immediate changes. His unique approach was the direct opposite of psychoanalysis, which requires years of therapy and self-study to develop an understanding of how one came to be who they are.
The second therapist was Virginia Satir, the brilliant developer of family therapy. Instead of working with just the one person in the family who was disruptive or troubled, she dealt with the entire family. She felt that each person and their behavior were part of the family dynamic. She found that if she addressed only the one person, they’d go back to the family structure and get a little crazy again, so she worked with the entire family. The third person they studied was Milton Erickson, a medical doctor who was the primary developer of clinical hypnotherapy. A genius, with a completely different approach to therapy from Perls and Satir, Erickson also produced results that appeared to be magic. The fourth subject of initial study was a man named Moshe Feldenkrais, a body worker who did brilliant healing work with his hands. NLP’s underlying operating principles, called “Presuppositions,” reflect the underlying unifying beliefs of these key individuals who were studied to discover what was most effective—and these became the operating principles of NLP. The interesting thing about these distinctively different leaders was that their deep beliefs about human nature were pretty much the same. Two of the beliefs I want to emphasize for you are important because they flow through everything we do—and they contradict a lot of what most of us have been taught.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN INNER ENEMY. One belief is “There is no such thing as an inner enemy.” There’s no monster within. You’re not broken. You can really let go of old beliefs like this. When people do things that are not good for them—and it doesn’t matter whether it’s biting their fingernails or committing serial murders—they are doing what they are doing because some part of them thinks it’s essential. A part of them believes that it’s necessary for survival, for their well-being. While some behaviors may not be sane, healthy, or anything most people would condone, it’s important to understand that in that individual’s worldview, in their mind, that behavior is absolutely necessary. BEHIND EVERY BEHAVIOR IS A POSITIVE INTENTION. So suppose you have an issue—let’s say there’s a certain person you just can’t confront. Every time you see them, your knees turn to jelly and you start stuttering. Maybe it’s an attractive coworker, somebody’s boss, your mother-in-law, your spouse, or maybe it’s one of your children. The thing is, you’re not broken, and there’s nothing wrong. The reason you have such a reaction is that part of your mind thinks that not confronting them is what’s essential for you to do to survive. Maybe the behavior is intended to keep you safe. Maybe it’s to preserve your self-respect, or self-love. Maybe it’s to get “justice.” No matter how weird or inappropriate it may seem, for that person there is an inner logic that makes perfect sense. It sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it? Why would this “logic” be true? Well, in the example above, if we did a little looking, we might find that your mind reached that conclusion when you were three or four years old. Long ago, you might have had a difficult experience with someone who reminds you (in some way) of the person in your present life. It doesn’t have to be obvious—it could be how they look, their tone of voice, their role in your life, or just the way your unconscious sees them in relationship to you. When we use NLP, we look inside the mind, to find out exactly what pattern is operating to produce that response, and then we can alter it. The two things I’d like you to hold in mind are that there is no such thing as an inner enemy and that behind every behavior is a positive intention. Your mind—as well as everybody else’s mind—is operating the best way it currently knows how. It may be wrong and it may need an adjustment, simply because most brains decide how to operate when people are four or five years old.