Neuro linguistic programming (“nlp”) is an approach to explaining human experience. It studies the way we humans map and perceive the world through our senses, as well as the way we filter our outside world for adaptation to our individual interpretations.
Nlp also represents an avenue to mind evolution through the investigation, identification and modification of patterns that structure our subjective or inner experience; i.e., repetitive models that shape our beliefs, skills and behaviors. Nlp investigates the difference that makes a difference.
Rather than a collection of techniques, nlp helps foster an attitude for learning how to learn. It is also a way of thinking and a way to perceive the world through a curious, exploratory and amusing mind.
Nlp relies on a model and a set of elements that support the identification of the best forms of human operation and performance in day to day life. Accordingly, it constitutes a “rich” and “different” method of reflection about ideas and persons.
The purpose of nlp is to model human excellence; in other words, replicate the best models, attain self-knowledge and the best version of one self, and gain self-awareness of how and for what we function the way we do. Modeling is more than copying. It means to acquire the same beliefs, way of thinking and motivation of a person who has been modeled. Generally, we model certain, but not all, the aspects of a person.
Nlp emerged in the seventies as the fruit from two young curious minds. Richard bandler, an it engineer, and john grinder, a linguist, conducted steady observations and investigations about the methods applied by highly effective therapists, including, without limitation, fritz perls, father of the gestalt therapy, virginia satir, a family therapist, and milton erickson, a hypnotist-therapist. Through their observations, bandler and grinder identified common patterns of verbal and non-verbal communication, as applied by the aforementioned excellent professionals to treat their patients. Based on these investigations, bandler and grinder developed and structured a number of models for change, on the understanding that these models could be learned by other persons in the future.
The training on nlp includes a small theoretical component, but most of the learning process is based on personal experience. The trainee experiences what it is like to talk in a certain fashion, what it is like to create his desired living conditions for the future, what it is like to communicate with his peers in a manner that differs from his past ways, and what it is like to adopt forms of behavior, other than those shown up to now. All in all, the training is about expanding a person’s abilities and causing his beliefs about the world and his own self to relax.
Interestingly, a broad range of possibilities and abilities become available to the trainee’s mind. As a result, the trainee is able to modify his beliefs dramatically. Those beliefs are memory traces and perfectly structured programs that operate automatically and beyond our conscious mind’s control. The belief change is approached from five distinct forms of intervention, as discussed below. “p” refers to the process of organizing the components of a system in order to meet specific goals; this case alludes to our internal programs: “how do i structure myself?” “n” refers to the way our body reflects all these programs. Neuro, from the greek term “neuron,” meaning “nerve,” underpins the basic doctrine that every behavior is the result of nerve processes: “how do i function?” and “l” refers to the way we communicate and express ourselves linguistically. Stemming from the latin term “lingua,” meaning “language”, “l” indicates that each nerve process is represented, arranged and sequenced in language-and-communication system models and strategies: “how do i express myself?” After completion of this training, the person “stops being” the same as before.
Nlp emphasizes the observation of the phenomenological communication: images, sounds, feelings and experience-based evidence, over the interpretation of such a communication.
Nlp relies on a number of facilitating ideas and thoughts, as well as basic ecological claims and assumptions on the road to evolution. These concepts have been modeled from the experiences of successful individuals, and excellent researchers and communicators from various disciplines and sciences, as discussed below. Nlp has created its own structure by modeling the most useful features of these disciplines and sciences. Its most common assumption is, “the map is not the territory;” in other words, the way you approach the world is not the same as other persons. These ideas help us think more flexibly and make us open to consider and respect other ways of thinking.
General semantics – Alfred Korzybski
Alfred korzybski, a polish-born and nationalized american linguist, developed the concept of general semantics between 1920 and 1933. Korzybski’s work culminated in the founding of a discipline that he called general semantics (“gs”). As korzybski explicitly said, gs should not be confused with semantics, a different subject. The basic principles of general semantics, which include time-binding, are outlined in science and sanity, published in 1933. In 1938 korzybski founded the institute of general semantics and directed it until his death.
Korzybski’s work held a view that human beings are limited in what they know by (1) the structure of their nervous systems, and (2) the structure of their languages. Human beings cannot experience the world directly, but only through their “abstractions” (nonverbal impressions or “gleanings” derived from the nervous system, and verbal indicators expressed and derived from language). Sometimes our perceptions and our languages actually mislead us as to the “facts” with which we must deal. Our understanding of what is going on sometimes lacks similarity of structure with what is actually going on. He stressed training in awareness of abstracting, using techniques that he had derived from his study of mathematics and science. He called this awareness, this goal of his system, “consciousness of abstracting”. His system included modifying the way we approach the world.
Korzybski’s work influenced gestalt therapy, rational emotive behavior therapy (“rebt”), and neuro-linguistic programming. As reported in the third edition of science and sanity, the u.s. army in world war ii used his system to treat battle fatigue in europe under the supervision of dr. Douglas m. Kelley, who also became the psychiatrist in charge of the nazi prisoners at nuremberg.
Generative or transformational grammar – Noam Chomsky
“the seed of generative grammar was first planted in 1957, when noam chomsky published his work “syntactic structures.” In his book, chomsky claims that a grammar of immediate components is not fully valid to explain the mechanism through which the natives of a language can produce and understand their sentences. The concept of grammar can be defined as a set of grammatical sentences. Chomsky argues the existence of an infinite number of sentences in each language; therefore, it must be assumed that humans are equipped with finite knowledge mechanism that helps them build and interpret an infinite number of sentences. This finite system of principles is known as the “internal grammar of language.” Chomsky claims that a large portion of the internal grammar is innate; accordingly, humans have a genetic mechanism that allows them to learn languages.
One may agree or disagree with chomsky’s theories; nevertheless, his postulates are not disregarded by any scholar.
Source: miguel ángel aguilar alconchel – digital journal “investigación y educación”. Issn 1696-7208 – ed 7, vol. 3, march 2004
Systems theory – Gregory Bateson
“for bateson, every communication is determined by its context. In other words, every communication requires a context. In the absence of a context, there can be no meaning or a differential value that generates information (and information is the difference that makes a difference…). Bateson recreated a systemic and interdisciplinary vision of communicational processes. The meta-communication or the meta-message is the knowledge envelope that contextualizes, classifies and adds meaning to the communication or message. In fact, the meta-communication can establish links or structures of dialogue with other contexts. Bateson views the communicational processes as circular and evolutionary, where feedback plays a critical role.
In 1956, bateson became a founding member of the palo alto group, california, where important research projects are conducted on the systems theory, as applied to family studies.
He was also a pioneer in the research on the etiology of schizophrenia, from the perspective of the conscious and unconscious patterns of communication between a schizophrenic patient and his family. In conjunction with other researchers, he postulated the double bind theory.
His richest legacy lies in the way he posed his questions by freely associating and disassociating ideas. The bateson’s doctrine covers anthropology, cybernetics, communications, etiology and ecology.
In his own definition, bateson is interested in the natural history of ideas, or as he later put it, the ecology of the mind.
Gregory bateson sought to lay down the foundations for the complex construction of a reflective approach that may account for the complexities involved in the thinking, reflecting and devising processes. He sought to explain the configuration of these allegedly “superior” mental processes that are only available to humans: our superior consciousness, self-awareness, auto-biographic mind. At the same time, bateson tried to show that the (meta self) reflection that leads us to think about our minds (superior conscience), in spite of the apparent aesthetics and simplicity of both the meta self-reflective action and the “object” observed through this action, is not a simple matter. For bateson, the meta self-reflection on our reflective approaches has important implications for the way “we feel (in) the world.”
What is an idea? How can ideas be (formed) shaped from our ideas? What connects us to them?
By relying on his concept of meta self-reflection, bateson tried to add complexity to a matter that is actually quite complex. His entire work, and in fact, his core theme and “obsession,” was to add complexity to complexity.
For bateson, our (accepted) notion of “reality” is not as simple as to claim that “reality” is “depicted” or “represented” in our minds. The notion of “ideas,” understood as internal reflections of a “reality,” understood as a world external to us, is unacceptable for bateson.
In his view, “reality” is a highly complex web of relations and processes, as well as a strange and paradoxical interconnection of different layers, levels and components, among which we are also included. Definitely, our “mind” is not a “mirror” that can reflect an outside world that exists separately from us. For bateson, “reality” is denser than just an “extended object” out there beyond us. And the understanding of this notion deeply and on the basis of experience has radical implications for the “way we feel (in) the world.”
His entire work is characterized by trans-disciplinary observations and approaches. Hence, it is difficult to assign him to any specific discipline.
Exercising absolute liberty and fully aware of his subversive onslaught, bateson challenged the basic assumptions and methods of different scientific disciplines. He tried to build a descriptive platform that may help explain and show the cognitive principles that underpin the different forms of thinking. In sum, he tried to expose and shake the foundations (cognitive paradigms) that have historically shaped the western scientific knowledge.
Bateson sought to position himself as an open, broad, holistic, macro, meta and encompassing thinker in respect of both the “object” of a reflection and the link between that object and the totality. In bateson’s work, text and context merge to confusion. In bateson’s “mind,” just like in the uroborus, the snake swallows its own tail, and he is trying to trigger similar processes.
Bateson does not observe isolated “objects.” His eyes are cast in their interrelations, and from there, he establishes new connections among his observations. It is always about building new bridges. These newly established relations are his “connecting patterns.” His particular approach departs from the usual standards in order to pose a radical challenge to the western logic under which we have grown used to inductive and/or deductive methods, and in the process, he is creating bonds or relations. It is about building (other) “formal analogies” among the phenomena he is observing. His reflective “abduction” method consolidates the necessary creativity that characterizes every reflective process with the necessary analytical precision of “academic” reflection. What’s more, bateson tried to merge intellectual precision with creativity and games.”
Source: alicia engler and jacqueline altamirano – fundación evolución sistémica – buenos aires – argentina – november 2008
Cybernetics – William Ross Ashby
“william ross ashby (london, 1903-1972) was an english neurologist who contributed decisively to the enhancement of modern cybernetics. He also invented the homeostat (1951), a feedback-regulated electronic device.
By relying on his knowledge of neurology and psychiatry, ashby described the reproductive structure and operating mechanisms of the human brain in his books “design for a brain” (1952) and “an introduction to cybernetics” (1956).
In his book “an introduction to cybernetics,” ashby carries out a thorough mathematical-logical analysis, supported by many solved exercises, of basic control and feedback structures. For this purpose, he developed such concepts as state representation matrices, feedback and state transitions,
Ashby’s law of requisite variety: only variety can destroy variety.
This rule means that a complex system must contain a certain level of internal variety (here is another form to describe complexity) to be able to function within and adapt to its environment.
In other words, any simplification of the information received by a system from its environment must be subject to care. Failure to exercise care will dangerously reduce the system’s capacity to react to external disturbances.
Pragmatism – William James
William james was an american philosopher who had a long and proud career at harvard university, where he taught psychology. He was the founder of functional psychology and played an influential role in the dissemination of the philosophy of pragmatism.
An enthusiastic researcher of subliminal processes of the mind and paranormal phenomena, james shocked the scientific community of his time when he defended the mind-healers’ free practice and the mind-cure therapies.
In his 1904 work, “does the consciousness exist?,” james tried to show that the traditional subject-object dualism represented a barrier to a solid epistemological conception and argued in favor of disregarding self-awareness as an entity opposed to the material world.
In 1907, james launched the philosophy of pragmatism; i.e., a new name for old ways of thinking. He noted that pragmatism is a method for appeasing otherwise endless metaphysical disputes. Is the world one or multiple? Is it free or determined? Is it material or spiritual? In these cases, his pragmatic method tries to interpret each notion by outlining its respective practical consequences. What would be the practical difference for anyone if one notion, rather than its opposing notion, was true? If no practical difference can be outlined, then the two choices mean the same thing in practice; hence, any dispute is futile. James was careful enough to define pragmatism as a method. Therefore, his book leads to no specific result; rather, it represents a way to approach the world.
For james, the truth is not a property inherent and immutable to the idea; instead, the truth is an event within the idea, subject to its verifiability.
In his view, verifiability is a pleasant feeling of harmony and progress in a succession of ideas and events; in other words, by having such ideas, they follow one another and adapt to every event in the reality being experienced.
These true ideas play a critical role: they are useful tools for the individual, as they guide him in his choices to approach reality in a satisfactory and non-detrimental fashion. Its possession is a practical good. Far from being an end, it is a means for the satisfaction of other vital needs.
“edmund husserl is the founder of transcendental phenomenology; i.e., a project designed to upgrade philosophy into a strict science and a collective endeavor. As a form of understanding philosophy, phenomenology sets out to describe the meaning of the world to us before we engage in philosophy. In order to meet this goal, phenomenology relies on a method and a research program. Its method applies transcendental and eidetic reduction, as well as intentional analysis, to explain the meaning of the world, inasmuch the world (or the being inasmuch as being), and the things in it, and to propose basic laws that are inherent to our awareness of the world. In most of his works, husserl consistently describes his program, including his ultimate justification for empirical sciences (or factual sciences, such as biology) and eidetic sciences (or essential sciences, such as geometry), as well as clarifications of his concepts.
Many concepts and theories of transcendental phenomenology can only be understood after completing a transcendental reduction and striving to comprehend their meaning in the context of personal experience. This is one of the meanings of going about the objects, rather than restricting to mere word constructions and castles in the air. One of the core concepts of transcendental phenomenology is “intentionality,” a term borrowed from the scholastic tradition, and ultimately, the aristotelian concept of “logos.” Another basic concept developed by husserl is evidence or intuition; i.e., an expanded concept of perception that refers to a truth more original than the propositional truth; in other words, the truth stems from what appears.
In transcendental phenomenology, the contradiction between empirism and rationalism disappears. To the extent that transcendental phenomenology calls for the clarification of all the questions pertaining to the ultimate truth of the things in our evident experiences, it can be regarded as a radical form of empirism. However, to the extent that transcendental phenomenology assumes that the world’s rational order is derived from intentional experience, it can also be regarded as form of rationalism.
Logical positivism – Bertrand Russell
“logical positivism is a method, and not a result. A philosopher can be labeled as logical positivist if he holds the view that no specific way to gain knowledge is attributable to philosophy; instead, matters of fact can only be determined by science empirical methods, while the matters that can be determined without resorting to experience fall in the realms of mathematics and linguistics. More than one member of this school of thought briefly described their position as a resolve to reject “metaphysics,” but this term is so vague that such a description lacks accurate meaning. I prefer to claim that the matters of fact cannot be determined without resorting to observation. For instance, the 17th century mainland philosophers held the view that the soul had to immortal, because the soul is substance, and substances are indestructible. A logical positivist would reject this claim, but he would not necessarily hold that the soul is mortal, since one may be led to think that mental investigation supplies empirical evidence of survivability.
These positions, however, do not tell the logical positivists from the old empirists. The former are characterized by their emphasis on mathematics and logics and their stress on the linguistic aspects of the traditional philosophical problems. The british empirists, from locke to john stuart mill, were not so much influenced by mathematics; however, they did show certain hostility toward the prospects generated by mathematics. By contrast, the mainland philosophers, such as kant, regarded mathematics as a model example to be emulated by other forms of knowledge. They even thought that pure mathematics or a similar form of reasoning, could offer knowledge of the real world.
Minutes of the 1st national congress on philosophy (mendoza 1949); national university of cuyo, buenos aires, 1950, volume ii, pp 1205-1232.
(sessions: iv. Logics and gnoseology
“the neurosciences constitute a set of scientific disciplines concerned with the structure, operation, bio-chemical composition, pharmacological development and pathology of the nerve system, as well as the interaction among its components, which represent the biological foundations of behavior.
The biological study of the brain is a multidisciplinary field that covers many areas of research: from the purely molecular to the specifically behavioral and cognitive, including the cellular level (individual neurons), the small grids of neurons (such as the cortical columns) and the large grids (such as those of the visual perception), including systems, such as the brain cortex; and of course, the highest level of the nerve system.
At their highest level, the neurosciences have joined psychology to give rise to cognitive neuroscience, a discipline that was originally dominated by cognitive psychologists. At present, the cognitive neuroscience represents a new tool to understand the brain and mind. It is based on a scientific study that combines such disciplines as neurobiology, psycho-biology and cognitive psychology. These developments will certainly change the current notions about the mental processes involved in behavior and their scientific foundations.
Nlp is a constantly evolving discipline. We know that, as persons, it is not our experiences that affect us, but our specific interpretations of our experiences. We also know that we create our own emotional moods.
Nlp has been applied to a diversity of areas, including, without limitation, education, businesses, healthcare and organizational development.
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