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What is NLP?

An overview of Neuro Linguistic Programming


Neuro linguistic programming is, in short, the process of understanding how a person makes sense of the world around them and in turn, how they behave.


Neuro - refers to how we sense, register and filter all that we experience.


Linguistic - refers to how we use language to communicate within that experience (including how we communicate with ourselves i.e. our self-talk)

Programming - refers to how this experience and language builds behaviour


In essence the concept of NLP is that your experience of your life is entirely subjective. It is impossible for anyone to experience an objective reality. Even objective information / stimuli has to be processed through our internal filters, values, beliefs and labelling systems before it can be registered by our conscious mind. Those filters, values, beliefs are the result of our personal experiences and so are subjective. So no matter what that objective stimuli is, by the time it gets to our conscious mind, it has become a subjective interpretation.


Now, that’s just being human, right? And I’m not sure about you, but I end up in a black hole of a head mess if I try and wrap my head around how that could ever not be the case.


And, for the most part, that's fine. The issue arises when the process of filtering and interpreting is resulting in behaviour we do not want.


NLP provides tools and techniques that help us recognise when this is the case. They allow us to identify what element of our internal representation system is getting involved and resulting in this undesired behaviour. And crucially, these technique empower use to change that process.


History of NLP


Developed in the 1970s at the University of California, Santa Cruz by John Grinder, a linguist, and Richard Bandler, an information scientist and mathematician.


Their first book on the subject, Structure of Magic: A Book about Language of Therapy, features works by Virginia Satir, Fritz Perls, and Milton Erickson and highlights particular patterns of communication which were believed to reap more effective outcomes than others. This work was those foundation of the NLP meta model, a technique they believed could identify language patterns that reflected basic cognitive processes.


Interest in NLP grew in the late 1970s, after Bandler and Grinder began marketing the approach as a tool for people to learn how others achieve success. Today, NLP is used in a wide variety of fields, including counseling, medicine, law, business, the performing arts, sports, the military, and education.

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