| Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Sounds like a pretty high-tech procedure to work with computers, words and nerves, doesnt it? And that hits the nail on the head!
As alternative therapies go, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, or NLP as it is more often called, is one of those rare exceptions invented only recently. Most alternative therapies have been around for thousands of years. Acupuncture, qi gong, hypnosis, herbs, aromatherapy, massage and most the rest of on the list have roots going back millennia. But NLP is the brainchild of two products of the 1960s, Richard Bandler and John Grinder. With a handful of contributors, these two fashioned and shaped a method of therapy that is at once very technical and also somewhat intuitive. Though others were involved in birthing the techniques, Grinder and Bandler are acknowledged as having played the pivotal roles in making it a viable and credible form of therapy.
Although NLP was very definitely coined in the 20th century, it owes its roots to the healing power of hypnosis and the reality that the mind is the most powerful tool humans have for healing. NLP is based on the fact that the subconscious is the engine that powers our lives. So in that way, it still has a grounding in tradition.
Nerves, Words and Computers.
John Grinder was a college professor of linguistics when Richard Bandler first picked up a book about the Gestalt therapy of Fritz Perls. Bandler read with interest and identified that there were linguistic patterns that Perls intuitively used in his interactive therapy. Bandlers background was in computers and psychology. Grinders was in words and semantics. Together they reasoned that if they could categorize the linguistic patterns used by effective therapists to evoke therapeutic change in their patients, then they could develop a system they could teach that would allow anyone to duplicate the success of the masters. By imitating the linguistic pattern of these successful therapists they could accomplish the same results. They called that "modeling."
The central belief of NLP involves modeling. In it, desired behaviors can be "installed" in a person much the way software programs can be installed in a computer.
Grinder and Bandler studied Virginia Satir, Perls and most of all, Erickson and analyzed what they did to achieve their success.
Grinder and Bandler realized that one gateway to the mind was the senses and that humans process information both in and out, based on images related to the senses. Visual, kinesthetic and auditory cues are notable. Words are an essential way of communicating as are body movements. How we state and say things has direct impact on how we feel and how we affect others. Patterns are established in the brain and in the mind by the thoughts we have about things and we can renew those patterns or change them by using words and images.
After studying Erickson and the others, Grinder and Bandler began teaching what they had learned. Therapists and students began attending their workshops and taking home simple steps that were having amazing results. Compatriots and associates, including Judith DeLozier and Omahan Bill OHanlon, worked with the two in developing the core ideas of an as-yet-unnamed form of therapy. Their teachings had become a program of techniques that almost anyone could use when thoroughly trained in them and achieve results. In 1975, they published The Structure of Magic: A Book About Language and Therapy, Volume I. In that book, they outlined the theory and practice of using words and syntactic communication to reprogram the subconscious mind and effect therapeutic change. The name of Neuro-Linguistic Programming was coined, NLP.
Since NLP is a gridwork of techniques to make communication more effective, it works both ways. A student of NLP can communicate to the recipient with more effectiveness but can also read incoming information effectively. Understanding the patterns of communication can allow you to understand what a person is really saying, in the words they are choosing, how they are delivering them and what their body is saying also.
A classic example of reading someone with NLP is to mind where they look with their eyes when they appear to be imagining something. Grinder and Bandler demonstrated that upward eye movements are not directly related to deception. They suggest that when this happens the person is usually thinking in pictures or images. However, if a person's eyes go up and to the right (in a right handed person), it usually indicates that they are mentally constructing an image that they have never actually seen. If the person then says that this image represents something they have actually seen, it would suggest an attempt to deceive. This comes from the study of patterns they have analyzed.
One of the most famous students of NLP is the best-selling author and late night infomercial king, Tony Robbins. The toothsome motivational guru took NLP to his own mega-empire and is an example of modeling taken to the extreme.
NLP has become far more than words, patterns and techniques. It is a flexible modality for change that therapists can mold and shape to accommodate their strengths and talents or incorporate complementary techniques. With a high-tech penchant for analytical patterning, it also combines the intuitive tradition of hypnosis, owing most of its innate theory to Milton Erickson, whom many consider the master.
Heartland Healing examines various alternative forms of healing. It is provided as a source of information, not as medical advice. It is not an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or The Reader. Access past columns at www.HeartlandHealing.com
Imitation, the Highest Form of Flattery
The 1960s gave rise to the "Self-Awareness Movement." Consciousness was changing and our use of consciousness to make that change set up a condition where people were able to explore the ability to change their lives by changing their minds. No longer was the idea of "therapy" limited to the image of sitting in a room listening to some university trained headshrinker tell you about you. No longer was psychotherapy confined to the notion that everyone fit in a cubbyhole based on a Freudian theory. The adage "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar" became realized as innovative workshops, interactive therapies and a growing awareness of Eastern philosophy and culture changed forever the way we went about healing.
One of the leaders in the innovative therapies was a co-founder of the famous Esalen Institute at Big Sur, halfway along the coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Dr. Frederick "Fritz" Perls was a German national and a Freudian psychotherapist when Hitler took over the Fatherland. Perls escaped with his wife to South Africa and from there to the United States. He found his way to California, changed his nationality and the way he did therapy. Perls became known as the father of Gestalt Therapy. Though he technically was not the first to use it, he was one of its strongest and most accomplished practitioners. Gestalt was an experiential therapy often enabling access to subconscious emotions by encouraging role-playing and interactive dialog. Perls also was expert at intuitively reading the responses of his patients. This allowed him to evoke effective response by questions or prompts.
During the same period, psychiatrist Milton Erickson, M.D. had abandoned traditional psychotherapy to practice hypnosis, which he considered a far more effective form of healing. Erickson became world famous as a therapist and people flocked to his Arizona home to study his methods. He was an open and cordial man and welcomed interested parties in their desire to learn more about therapy.
Virginia Satir was also one of the pre-eminent therapists of the 1960s, developing a form of family therapy that was emulated far and wide.
It was by imitating these three brilliant therapists that Bandler and Grinder hoped to apply their therapeutic effects.