Monday, March 03, 2008

What is this NLP stuff?

I just realized that my blog is about "...bicycling, Low Carb living and Neuro-Linguistic Programming" but I haven't been posting any Neuro-Linguistic Programming articles. I've posted lots of stuff about nutrition and bicycling - the physical side of health - but nothing about the mental.

I guess the most natural question is, What is NLP?

The Wikipedia article states:

Neuro-linguistic programming (usually shortened to NLP) is an interpersonal communication model and an alternative approach to psychotherapy based on the subjective study of language, communication and personal change.

The definition I like most is that NLP is "The study of the structure of subjective human experience." At this point you would be right to ask, "What the hell does that mean?"

Let's take this a piece at a time:

Subjective: From the person's point of view. We study what is personal an relevant to the individual.

Experience: What is happening with, to, because of or inside a person.

Structure: Ah, here is the slippery one. NLP's assertion is that each person's mental representation of experience has a logical organizational system, that this system can be determined, and that it has relevance.

At this point the most logical question would be, "So what?"

Allow me to let you in on a little secret: All that stuff in your head is not real. Not a bit of it. Not your mother telling you you'll never amount to anything. Not the memory of your fourth grade teacher. Not the aroma of fresh baked bread. None of it. This is the reason why eyewitness testimony in court is the weakest form of evidence. This is also how it is possible to take two eyewitness accounts and tell if they are lying - if the stories are too similar, we know it is made up.

So that leads to the idea that if all of that stuff isn't real, can we manipulate it? Yes! What good does that do, you ask? Let me illustrate.

Part 1

Find a slightly "bad" memory. Something that just bothers you a bit. Notice these details:
  • Do you see through your own eyes or are you looking at yourself?
  • Is the memory moving or still?
  • Color or black and white?
Now, if you were seeing through your own eyes, take a step back and out of yourself so you see yourself in the scene. If it was color, make it B&W. Now, make the light dimmer and push the memory away from you so it gets smaller and darker.

How do you feel about that memory now? If you are like most people, you should feel rather indifferent to it now. Imagine what it would be like to take all of the "negative" memories you have and do that exercise. How much freedom from the past would you have?

Part 2

Now take a pleasant memory and notice the same things.
  • Do you see through your own eyes or are you looking at yourself?
  • Is the memory moving or still?
  • Color or black and white?
This time we want to do the opposite changes. If you were an observer, step into yourself. If it was B&W, change it to color and make the colors and lighting brighter and more vivid. Add motion if there wasn't any. Bring it closer and make it bigger.

Now how do you feel about that memory? Imagine what it would be like if every fun and positive memory felt like that? How much of a resource will your past become when all the positive is accentuated and the negative is de-emphasized?

Your homework for the next week is during a quiet time of your day, pick 5 unpleasant memories and de-emphasize them, then pick 5 pleasant memories and intensify them.

Report back or ask questions in the comments.

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