NLP change processes; What you need to know

NLP change processes; technique or pattern?

Many practitioners focus on the acquisition and use of NLP techniques as examples of NLP change processes without an understanding and appreciation of the difference between a technique and a pattern. First we need to define NLP.

Bandler & Grinder’s Definition of NLP

Richard Bandler once defined NLP as “…an attitude of insatiable curiosity about human beings with a methodology that leaves behind it a trail of techniques…” Bandler, R., DeLozier, J., & Cameron-Bandler, L. (1981). Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Info-Medix.

Bandler, himself, does not use unchanging techniques when working with different people. He asks questions, observes non-verbal responses, listens to verbal and non-verbal responses and uses his body to communicate. He changes what he is doing to fit the other person’s ongoing shifts in behaviour as they unfold in front of him and he uses his own behaviour to facilitate the change. 

One of John Grinder’s definitions reads: “NLP is a meta-discipline which focuses on the discovery and coding of patterns which distinguish the most capable of the practitioners of some particular discipline (managerial practice, medical practice, sport, therapy…) from the average practitioner. These distinguishing patterns are the substance of NLP.” – John Grinder (The NLP Field Guide, Collingwood & Collingwood).

Grinder’s definitions of NLP suggest that applying NLP in daily life is attending to the patterns of organisation that produce excellence when expressed in the world. Bandler is attending to something similar.

“Applying NLP is attending to the patterns of organisation that produce excellence when expressed in the world.”

NLP Change Processes; The Difference Between Patterns & Techniques

When NLP change processes are performed by someone with refined pattern detection and utilisation skills, the consultant works in relationship and response to the responses of the client. Well trained and experienced consultants are not limited to using NLP formats in full, as they appreciate the patterns that frame different parts of a process. Each question or instruction is offered with intent to assist the client to think differently and more productively. Then the client can access, arrange and learn information about their matter, with a view to obtaining systemically satisfactory resolution.

An able NLP consultant’s skills include but are not limited to their sensory acuity, capacity to detect and recognise patterns in themselves and others and their ability to articulate questions, suggestions and requests in terms the other person’s conscious and unconscious minds can appreciate, follow and use. This presupposes that each change work conversation will be unique as the consultant and client communicate with each other and each of their responses is predicated on the previous delivery of the other person.

This approach is quite different from someone repeating a list of questions and instructions they have been told will shift a specific problem. However, Bandler’s choice of the word techniques had an unfortunate effect on the field of NLP training and on the large number of trainers who became comfortable with teaching techniques.

Most people who learn NLP do not have the opportunity to study with Bandler, Grinder, or the small handful of others who teach the patterns of excellence that frame an NLP syllabus.

Therefore the majority of students of NLP learn formatted procedures (techniques). The nature of techniques is such that a technician has learned to perform a particular technique when a specific criterion for using it is apparent. They do it the same way every time, regardless of differences in context, available materials or differing patterns of organisation of the person in front of them.

An NLP technique is a written version of a change process used in the NLP community, which probably came from patterns of excellence modelled or demonstrated by Bandler and or Grinder initially. A change process is an example of one or more patterns in action. The point about patterns is that if you can detect patterns unfolding in front of you, for example in a client’s comments and behaviour, you can respond with functional examples of patterns of excellence that mesh with what you are observing and lead the client’s own process towards a useful conclusion for them. This is personalised change work as opposed to formulaic work.

In its first iteration and certainly before becoming a technique, any change process would have been demonstrated by a practiced NLP trainer or consultant. It would have been that trainer’s expression of a combination of patterns of excellence used on a specific occasion with a particular individual. The change process would have been crafted from patterns of excellence held in the trainer’s neurology, either as a result of extended modelling of someone like Grinder or Bandler, or deriving from in depth training and practice in pattern detection and implementation.

The exact patterns used on any occasion would have been selected unconsciously from first principles. The selection would have been made in light of information gathered from the demonstration subject and the language and behaviour patterns of that specific person in that specific context. There would have been framing and metaphor preceding the change process, to set the scene and engage the subject’s unconscious mind.

Any observers or students would have been expected to model the trainer’s entire presentation, including non-verbal patterns and observations without taking notes, so they would acquire the underpinning unconscious skills and knowledge to work with NLP patterns from first principles.

To have made the shift from modelling and learning first principles into written formats and conventional learning, someone present at such a training program missed the point. They would have ignored the framing that proposed modelling the demonstrator and attended to the exact words only. They would have written the questions and instructions in the change process verbatim and later disseminated that writing as a literal format or technique. Then they passed that version on to others and the others applied it as written. 

A Recommended Way of Learning: Use Your Unconscious Mind

In the education system, people learn by attending consciously to the content of a lecture and taking copious notes. They read relevant material before and after a topic is presented and use conscious attention to engage with the material. If anyone suggested they silence their internal dialogue, open their peripheral vision and soak up the experience directly to the unconscious mind, they would be horrified. They would imagine that leaving a lecture with no notes and little conscious awareness of the material would place them at a severe disadvantage.

Unconscious uptake can feel as if one is not learning in the early stages. Yet the material is available for application, even though someone learning this way may not be able to find and access it consciously until some time has elapsed. When learning NLP this way, the evidence that learning is happening is in the practical exercises and future experiences when the student hears themselves say something that expresses a pattern learned in class.

“Unconscious uptake can feel as if one is not learning in the early stages.”

A student described the experience of using unconscious uptake in NLP training very clearly. She said she appreciated the framing and metaphors that carried the patterns without trying to understand them consciously. Then she modelled the demonstration, again without trying to record or understand consciously. When the exercise was given, she had no idea what to do, so she sat with her partner and allowed her unconscious mind to run the exercise. She found that she had all the right questions in a functional order to accommodate her partner’s responses and fulfil the intention for the exercise.

We teach a postgraduate program in NLP accredited within the Australian Qualifications Framework. Find out more about the 10970NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

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How the NLP Swish Pattern began

The NLP Swish Pattern

The NLP Swish pattern uses an individual’s own submodality changes at high speed to shift that person’s attention from the content they have to see, hear or feel each time they initiate an habitual act. The sensory representation of the memory of performing the start of their chosen behaviour shifts instantly into a highly attractive and dissociated representation of the person as they would like to be at some time after they have changed. This creates a shunt that diverts the person from the act they wanted to change before they do it.

  • Submodalities are the components of each representational system.
  • Representational systems are the systems of sight, hearing, feeling, taste and smell that we use to remember and imagine, creating trains of thought and emotions.
  • The senses are sight, hearing, feeling, taste and smell used in real time as we access external events.
  • Visual submodalities include size, brightness, location, distance, depth of field, focus, hue, rate of motion (think photoshop editing).
  • Auditory submodalities include location, volume, pitch, timbre, bandwidth, distortion, rate of motion (think sound mixing desk).
  • Kinaesthetic submodalities include temperature, pressure, location, rhythm, amplitude, moisture, volume, area, motion.

Submodalities provide and create the meaning we make of the content of our representations, (images, sounds and sensations) and the meaning of a representation changes when we alter the submodalities with which it is represented. A NLP Swish changes both the meaning and the content of representations attached to the act we want to change. For the purposes of using a Swish to break an habitual act, we use two analogue submodalities in representational systems of the person’s choice. These should be driver submodalities that change the intensity of the experience simultaneously with their direct action on the initial representation.

“Submodalities provide and create the meaning we make of the content of our representations”

  • Analogue submodalities alter in a continuous flow, increasing or decreasing in smooth increments, like the dimmer on a light switch or the volume control on a sound system.
  • Digital submodalities alter in discrete steps or have an on-off switch.
  • Driver submodalities alter the meaning or quality of the content of a representation while simultaneously altering additional qualities of the experience by changing at least one submodality in a different representational system. This change is linked to the change in the driver submodality.

The principle of the NLP Swish Pattern is to create an automated shift of the person’s attention to their highly motivating and self chosen representation of themselves in the future after the change.

The story of the Swish

Christina Hall is one of the founding owners of the Society of NLP and has been an NLP trainer since the early 1980s. She was working with Richard Bandler, the co-originator of NLP, as a blend of executive assistant and associate trainer. She also had a life partner called Peter, who played a central role in the development of the Swish.

“Christina Hall is one of the founding owners of the Society of NLP”

One evening, Christina was driving home from an NLP training seminar. Peter was with her in the car and they were discussing Bandler’s demonstrations. During the conversation, Peter experienced a sudden shift in his internal images and changed state. The new state was markedly resourceful and Christina’s attention was alerted. She asked Peter what he did and he described his experience as follows:

He had been thinking about something in life size, moving, associated images close in front of him. Suddenly the image shifted from its life size movie configuration and dropped down to his left side while it shrunk to a black dot at the bottom left of his field of vision. Simultaneously a (different) black dot rose up from the same place at the bottom left and enlarged and placed itself across Peter’s field of vision, where the previous image had been. This was a dissociated lifelike image of who he would be or how he would appear ideally, after making a change to the content he was first thinking about.

Christina took this information to Bandler and they experimented with it. In due course it became what is known as the Standard NLP Swish Pattern. It worked well for some people, notably those who include size, location and brightness in their analogue driver submodalities.

The swish created a shunt from the present state image with its unique components of the unwanted behaviour, directly to an idealised dissociated image of the person after the change is established. This produced a state that was sufficiently resourceful and different from the state associated with the habitual behaviour to break any link with the unwanted behaviour. As a shunt, any residual link would be broken each time the person was exposed to the initial stimulus.

Some people found it difficult to shrink an image and move it sideways while darkening it and others found it did nothing for them. These people use different driver submodalities. Bandler discovered that a large number of them work well using size and distance. For them, the initial associated image pulls away as if on a bungy cord, while shrinking down to become a dot in the far distance. Simultaneously, the desired state image starts from being a dot in the far distance and rushes forward, enlarging to occupy the position formerly held by the first image. This is known as the Distance NLP Swish Pattern.

Finally, for those who do not include any of these options in their own driver submodalities, or who prefer to work in the auditory or kinaesthetic representational systems, Bandler chunked up from the two formats above to describe the patterns that guide them. In the Designer NLP Swish Pattern, the individual subject’s use of submodalities is elicited and a swish is created for that person, using two of their own analogue driver submodalities. This is the most accurate description of the NLP Swish Pattern.

The Standard, Distance and Designer NLP Swish patterns are taught as part of the syllabus on our postgraduate qualification in NLP, the 10970NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

By Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer

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The origins of NLP

The origins of NLP

The originators of NLP are Dr John Grinder, Richard Bandler and Frank Pucelik. NLP began with the modelling of a genius: Fritz Perls, the father of Gestalt therapy. When they began the project that led to the birth of NLP, Grinder was an assistant professor of linguistics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Bandler was an undergraduate psychology student. In the beginning, Bandler approached Grinder with a request to assist him in building an explicit model of the intuitive skills he had in doing Gestalt therapy. Bandler’s ability with Gestalt therapy was unconscious. He could get results with Gestalt but did not have an explicit model of how he did it. Therefore he could not pass on the skills of using Gestalt to others, with any guarantee of the quality of the skill transfer. Bandler had modelled Perls implicitly; that is, he acquired the ability to do Gestalt through an unconscious uptake of Perls’ patterns. Bandler had acquired his considerable skills in doing Gestalt while working for a publishing company. He reviewed hours of audio recordings of Fritz Perls working his psychotherapy magic with clients, to select appropriate material for transcribing for the last of Perls’ books.

The originators of NLP are Dr John Grinder, Richard Bandler and Frank Pucelik.”

Grinder’s background made him ideal for the task of modelling Bandler. Once he was unconsciously competent in Gestalt, he was able to achieve a similar result for clients with the same types of presenting problems in the same time frame as Bandler. He could then build an explicit model. As well as being fluent in a number of languages, Grinder’s academic specialty was an aspect of linguistics developed by Noam Chomsky called Transformational Grammar.

Grinder was successful. He was able get similar results to Bandler, and then he made explicit a number of language patterns of particular responses to particular forms in the speech of clients. These patterns were being used systematically and unconsciously by Bandler. Grinder, having modelled them, recognised these patterns as belonging to a particular class of language patterns in linguistics, and was able to extend the collection of patterns to include others from the same class. Bandler and Grinder then tested the patterns and formulated what became the first model of NLP: the Meta Model of Language.

“Bandler and Grinder then tested the patterns and formulated what became the first model of NLP: the Meta Model.”

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

The Meta Model, Representational Systems and the Milton Model

The Meta Model provides a method for obtaining high quality information from clients through responding to the form of the client’s language. The Meta Model has proven invaluable in other contexts too. These include such areas as business consulting, management and any other context where obtaining high quality information in human communication is critical. Bandler and Grinder then conducted other modelling projects and produced new models, including the representational system model, the eye accessing cue model, and the Milton model.

Briefly, the representational system model, another model of human communication, states that, as human beings, we represent our experience in the world with visual images, auditory representations and sensations (or kinaesthetic representations). In other words, we think in images, sounds and sensations, and these representations are often expressed in the choice of adjectives and verbs that we use. A person might say, ‘… my future looks unclear to me.’ This statement presupposes that the person has a visual representation of their future that lacks clarity. One way to work with this person would be to evoke resources in the visual system that may lead to clarity, e.g. ‘What resources would you need to develop possible futures clearly?’ A comment may have a predominance of auditory predicates: ‘I have a matter that I need to talk about.’ One possible response may be, ‘Tell me what you want to say.’ A person may use kinaesthetic predicates in a sentence: ‘I feel a need to shape the situation in a better way.’ A possible response could be, ‘Can you get in touch with what it would be like if you had the situation feeling just right?’

It is our representations of the world that provide our ‘maps’ for how we live our lives. With a working knowledge of representational systems and the processes of how people use their representations, we can assist others (and ourselves) in creating change. The specific sequences of representations or thought processes can be the difference between success and failure in some particular context of endeavour. It is useful to engage the unconscious mind in changing a pattern of thinking, or finding and developing a state of resourcefulness with useful patterns of representations.

“It is our representations of the world that provide our ‘maps’ for how we live our lives.”

The Milton model is a linguistic model of the language patterns used by the legendary psychiatrist, Milton H. Erickson MD, to do therapeutic hypnosis. Even though the Milton model comes from, and has application to, the world of therapy, many of the linguistic patterns of this model can be found in everyday communication. The advantage of the Milton model of NLP is that it provides a method for communicating with the unconscious mind.

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

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Experimental Methodology in NLP Research


Einspruch & Forman (1985) criticised 29 research studies on the basis of 6 methodological errors, concluding that a large amount of psychological research into NLP concepts was invalid because of errors and oversights in experimental design which compromised its scientific credibility. Sharpley (1987) rightly questioned the validity of some of these methodological objection on the grounds that they unnecessarily discounted a large number of potentially valuable results. He maintained that even when factoring in methodological errors, significant results had been attained by the research.

However, an analysis of the literature reviews and the studies to which they refer does reveal some consistent oversights of certain distinctions that are vital for scientific enquiry into NLP to succeed. While these distinctions are already available to well trained NLP graduates (given that they are core patterns presupposed in many applications of NLP), they will be explained in detail here because of their frequent occurrence in experimental research into NLP. The importance of integrating this knowledge into future design methodologies in NLP research cannot be overemphasised.

The most important methodological issues raised by Einspruch & Forman can be grouped into three patterns, all based on the associative nature of the human nervous system. This basic pattern of human functioning provides important insights into the significance of context in experimental studies and in theoretical considerations.

Pattern #1: Humans Are Influenced by Associations

Psychological Underpinnings

The basic psychological understanding of association was famously illustrated by Pavlov (1927) in his classic experiments with ringing bells and salivating dogs, where he trained the dogs by consistently preceded their feeding time with auditory stimuli such as bells and tuning forks. After a training period he then reproduced the stimuli in the absence of the food and found that in itself, the auditory stimuli was enough to make the dogs salivate by virtue of the learned association. Associative learning has been explored in detail by thousands of psychological researchers, but the lessons learned from our in-depth explorations have occasionally been overlooked.

NLP Research

Einspruch & Forman draw attention to one example in particular. Dorn (1983) attempted to determine participants’ PRS by using three different methods of assessment. One method involved participants selecting their preferred predicate from each of 18 sets of three words; one visual, one auditory, one kinaesthetic; assuming that selecting one out of three words would be done on the basis of a preferred representational system, as opposed to having its own specific associations which influence choice of one word over others in the triad.

Pattern #2: Humans Function Within, and Are Influenced by, Context

Psychological Underpinnings

This pattern corresponds to basic experimental design considerations. It has been a long-understood concept that similarity between the test context and acquisition context is an important factor in memory experiments. It is also well known that “elements of the training context (i.e., background cues) may act as conditioned stimuli during a test trial” (Miller & Schachtman, 1985). These observations draw on associative processes such as classical conditioning (e.g. Rescorla & Wagner, 1972). Even at the time of Pavlov and his contemporaries, it was widely recognised and understood that, “despite the experimenter’s best efforts to make the subject attend exclusively to the nominal controlling stimuli, the test context [influences] behaviour through direct associations between it and any reinforcers that [have] previously been presented” (Miller & Schachtman, 1985).

What is clear in the psychological literature is that the confounding and influential effects of context significantly affect processing across the spectrum of human cognition; over such wide ranging topics as learning, memory and recall, language interpretation, problem solving and perception (see Balsam & Tomie, 1985, for detailed reviews of the impact of context in these areas of cognition).

The impact of context is illustrated by a classic example of context-dependent memory; that the processing of memories is heavily influenced by the context within which learning and recall take place. Baddeley and Godden (1975) tested the memory of participants in two different environments: underwater and on land. When words were recalled on land, participants recalled correctly 37% of words learned on land, compared with 23% learned underwater. When words were recalled underwater. participants recalled 24% of words learned on land compared with 32% learned underwater. Endel Tulving (considered by many to be the father of learning and memory experimentation in psychology), in 1983, formalised this very idea with his well-known theory of encoding specificity in learning and recall.

NLP Research

With regard to the research into NLP, Einspruch & Forman (1985) noted correctly that “the representational system in which information will be stored or from which it will be retrieved is highly contextualized (i.e., varies with the situation), and this context will directly influence the system used.” These researchers were particularly perceptive in noting that “context plays an important role in determining the meaning as well as the structure of any communication.” This is well-known in linguistics and psycholinguistics (e.g. the involvement of context in the resolution of syntactic sentence ambiguity, Mitchell, 1994).

Einspruch & Forman criticised the experimental results of Gumm, Walker, & Day (1982) for neglecting to control for context. After interviewing experimental participants to determine their PRS, they were moved to a room surrounded by curtains, where their heads were placed in a restraining device so that eye-movements could be filmed. This severe contextual alteration would certainly be sufficient to abolish any effects of from dominant representational system usage.

“The processing of memories is heavily influenced by the context within which learning and recall take place.”

Gumm et. al. attempted to determine the PRS using 3 different techniques: predicate tracking, eye movement monitoring and self-report. Their finding that “each assessment method was shown to be biased toward revealing a particular representational modality,” and that such a bias “may be the result of the counsellor’s primary employment of a particular method of assessing the client’s PRS,” illustrates a recognition for the influence of context and their lack of control for it in their experiment. People inevitably adjust processing strategies according to both explicit and implicit demands of a presenting task, and such experiments only serve to illustrate this point further.

Pattern #3: Language Creates a Context Within Which People Respond

Current Understanding

The current representational system model proposes that the system a person accesses is heavily influenced by:

  • the current context and the type of question asked (which together create task demands);
  • the way a person represents the particular context which is being asked about.

NLP Research

Gumm et. al. measured PRS by “recording the position of the initial eye movement following the end of each question.” An understanding of eye-accessing strategies precludes this method of accessing some type of a stable representational system.

Bandler & Grinder (1979), when discussing eye-accessing cues, draw attention to the possibility that when you ask someone what their mother looks like, they may first access the auditory system (there are many reasons this may happen – a person may talk to their mother more often than they see her, etc.), subsequently check their feelings (that may give them a response which indicates that they are indeed listening to their mother), then access an image of her from memory. Thus there may be, on occasion, a sequence of accessing cues (called a strategy) which take place, which will be different depending upon task demands, type of language used to elicit the strategy and habitual responses, among others.

Gumm et. al. also used a self-report measure, asking participants what they thought their primary representational system was. The results of such investigations are likely to depend in large part on the verbal frame presented by the experimenter. For example, Elich, Thompson, & Miller (1985) told subjects that “personality characteristics would be assessed through the use of imagery.” Subsequently, “subjects were asked to describe the image or sequence of images evoked by the question,” and “subjects were asked to imagine and describe their favourite experience in order to assess spoken predicates.”

The unsurprising results of this study were that:

  • “Imaging did not occur exclusively in the single modalities suggested by Bandler and Grinder but involved the multi-modal experience of a visual image followed by the image intended by the question.”
  • “With the auditory and kinaesthetic questions, the most common occurrence was a visual image followed by either the auditory or kinesthetic image.”
  • “The images evoked by the control questions were visual.”
  • “Most subjects regarded themselves as visualizers.”
  • “Most predicates were visual.”

Elich et. al. recognised that “the term imagery may have set an expectation to have visual images and use visual predicates. If so, PRS is heavily influenced by situational variables like language.”

Falzett (1981) had participants read and generate an internal response to 6 questions in order to determine the person’s PRS. Unfortunately the content of these questions are leading enough in terms of sensory predicates to be good candidates for eye-accessing cue elicitation questions.

Two questions were kinaesthetically biased:

  • I’d like you to think about the last time you were really comfortable.
  • What was the last thing you touched that you really enjoyed?

One question was auditorily biased:

  • What was the last song you heard before coming here?

And only three of the six were adequately general to examine strategic preferences without leading in any way:

  • I’d like you to think of a time when you had accomplished an important goal.
  • What is the last thing you remember before you came in here?
  • I’d like you to now think of a pleasant childhood experience.

The following elicitation requests were designed to elicit verbal responses about which confederates could feed back predicates to gain rapport. However, they are structured in such a way that makes them likely to elicit belief strategies (to find out how a person knows something to be true) and hence create task demands which differ from those desired in the experiment (i.e. eliciting PRS predicates):

  • When you knew someone understood you
  • When someone loved or cared about you
  • When you knew someone trusted you

Out of 24 participants, Falzett found “only 3 who were not predominantly kinaesthetic” in their responses to these questions. This may simply indicate that most people in the study had a tendency to use a kinaesthetic component as a significant part of their belief strategies.

Examples of more general experiences which would control for context and potential mental strategies would be:

  • A boring experience in the same context
  • A common experience in the same context

These would be less likely to have leading or biasing factors which confound results.

Additionally, Falzett’s finding that matching predicates increased trustworthiness may simply be an artefact of confederate’s usage of predominantly kinaesthetic predicates, which may have imparted the confederate with an air of genuine self-expression and thus, trustworthiness. Without control sets, however, such a hypothesis is impossible to verify.

The observation by Falzett that eye-accessing cues yielded the best results for determining PRS was dangerously generalised by Dorn (1983) to mean that eye-accessing cues are “most conducive to research on NLP and should be employed over the predicate usage method.” This consideration was likely made because of the inconsistencies of research findings surrounding the PRS. However, methodological errors like those above creates a sense of chasing one’s own tail in terms of attempting to make conclusions about experimental findings in NLP research.


While Sharpley (1987) criticised Einspruch & Forman (1985) for dismissing numerous NLP research papers on the basis of their unfamiliarity with and lack of training in NLP, it is important to recognise that good quality training can avoid certain methodological pitfalls which would have been apparent to those who had undergone adequate training.

However, the ability to understand the issues uncovered above is by no means confined to NLP practitioners, given that they are all well known psychological effects and widely accepted in the psychological research community as being important considerations to take into account during the methodological design phase.

Thus, while psychologists and cognitive scientists undergoing research into NLP concepts do not necessarily have to have undergone NLP training, the additional filters and perspectives of comprehensive NLP training can allow a more coherent explanation of experimental results in terms of the patterns of behaviours occurring within experimental contexts

Given that even the research which had found effects supporting NLP concepts suffered from various methodological confounds, it is not easy to make any generalisations about the validity or use of past research into NLP. What is clear, is the importance of careful, well planned research into NLP in the future, to assist the development of the field of NLP as a whole.

“Careful, well planned research into NLP in the future is important to assist the development of the field.”


Balsam, P.D. & Tomie, A. (1985) Context and Learning. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Bandler, R., & Grinder, J. (1979). Frogs into princes : neuro linguistic programming. Moab, Utah: Real People Press.

Dorn, F. (1983). Assessing primary representational system (PRS) preference for Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) using three methods. Counselor Education and Supervision Vol 23(2) Dec 1983, 149-156, 23, 149-156.

Einspruch, E. L., & Forman, B. D. (1985). Observations Concerning Research Literature on Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 32(4), 589-596.

Elich, M., Thompson, R. W., & Miller, L. (1985). Mental imagery as revealed by eye movements and spoken predicates: A test of neurolinguistic programming. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 32(4), 622-625.

Falzett, W. (1981). Matched versus unmatched primary representational systems and their relationship to perceived trustworthiness in a counseling analog. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 28, 305-308.

Godden, D. R., & Baddeley, A. D. (1975). Context-dependent memory in two natural environments: On land and under water. British Journal of Psychology, 66, 325 – 331.

Gumm, W., Walker, M., & Day, H. (1982). Neurolinguistic programming: Method or myth? Journal of Counseling Psychology, 29, 327-330.

Miller, R.R. & Schachtman, T.R. (1985): The Several Roles of Context at the Time of Retrieval. In P.D. Balsam & A. Tomie (Eds.), Context and Learning. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Pavlov, I. P. (1927). Conditioned reflexes. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Mitchell, D.C. (1994): Sentence parsing, in Morton Ann Gernsbacher (ed.), Handbook of psycholinguistics, Academic Press

About the Author

Richard Thompson, BSc. (Cognitive Science), is a Graduate of Exeter University, and is a freelance writer and web consultant. He holds the Graduate Certificate in NLP, from INSPIRITIVE, and enjoys receiving responses to his work.

Article content copyright 2006. Richard Thompson. All rights reserved.

All other material copyright 2006. INSPIRITIVE Pty Ltd. All rights reserved

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A Brief History of NLP Timelines

NLP Timelines has become an integral model within NLP. In this article Steve Andreas describes how he and his partner Connirae Andreas developed a NLP Timeline model based on their exploration of the application of Submodalities. – Chris Collingwood.

The Evolution of a Pattern

Seminar participants often ask how a particular NLP pattern evolves. Indeed, if we can track how new patterns evolve, we can help point the way to further useful discoveries and developments.

Every pattern has many antecedents, and most patterns continue to be developed and refined after the first successes.

Philosophers have thought about time for millennia, even before Heraclitus said, “You can’t step in the same river twice”, some two thousand years ago. More recently, Peter McKeller’s book ‘Imagination and Thinking’ (1957) included detailed illustrations of some of the different ways that people represent the flow of time as various kinds of lines or paths in space.

People have recognized for centuries that different people tend to be more oriented toward past, present, or future. Edward T. Hall’s book, ‘The Silent Language’ (1959) includes abundant examples – both individual and cultural – but without a hint of why these differences exist.

In the early 1980’s NLP training included the categories of “in time” and ‘through time” as aspects of a person’s relatively fixed “meta-programming” – again with no explanations of the underlying experiential structure.

The Power of Sub-modalities

The concept of submodalities had been part of NLP since the late 1970’s, but they were presented primarily as a way of enhancing experiences. Although association / dissociation was the key element in many of the more effective standard NLP patterns that had been taught for years, it was not clearly described as a submodality shift. It was only in 1983 that Richard Bandler explicitly began to reveal the structure of submodalities in general. He taught how submodality shifts could be used to change habits (swish pattern), change beliefs, and create motivation or understanding, and how submodality thresholds could be used to break locked-in patterns like compulsions, or to lock in new changes. In short, he outlined how submodalities comprise one way of understanding the underlying structure of all experience.

We were so impressed with the power and generativity of this approach that we immediately began to ask ourselves, “What else is there that we don’t yet know about”? We were convinced that submodalities had more potential than previously recognized in the field. We asked ourselves, “What would happen if we investigated the submodality structure of Meta-Program sorts? What about finding the underlying structure of time, and of being past, present, or future oriented.

Innovative Thinking

One way innovations occur is by taking two or more separate paradigms, putting them together, and finding out what emerges. That’s what we did with meta-programs and submodalities. This thinking led to the Criteria Shift pattern, and changing internal and external reference, as well as timeline work.

Putting “time orientation” with submodalities had far more potential than we guessed in advance. We discovered that different people had widely differing timelines, and that the shape of the timeline in space not only determined whether a person was ‘in time’ or ‘through time’, past, present, or future oriented, but determined many other aspects of personality as well.

We found that by changing this spatial representation of events in time, we could make profound and very pervasive and generative changes in personality and orientation – without changing the individual events located on the timeline. We combined the patterns we had learned from Richard with these additional ones we’d discovered to form the first Advanced Submodalities Training in March, 1984.

In many NLP patterns, we had noticed that location is a very powerful “driving” submodality; it is significant in timeline work, criteria change work, and belief change work, and in aligning perceptual positions. It was Robert Dilts who recently offered us an interesting way to understand this. He pointed out that all three major representational systems overlap; in location. Colour, for example, is only in the visual system, pitch is only in the auditory system, and temperature is only in the kinaesthetic. However, all sights, sounds, and feelings have some location in space. Changing the location of a representation is often more powerful because it changes all systems simultaneously. This is the basis for the powerful impact of changing the location of one’s perspective in association / dissociation, and its detailed refinement in physically aligning the three perceptual positions; Self, Observer, and Other.

At the June 1985 NANLP conference in Denver, Colorado, Steve made a three-hour presentation on timelines, entitled “Just in Time”. Among the participants were Wyatt Woodsmall, and Leslie Cameron-Bandler, who commented at the time on the usefulness of this new approach.

In his VAK interview (Fall 1991) Tad James comments, “I learned about time line from Wyatt (Woodsmall)”. When Steve first met Tad in October 1986, we had been teaching about timelines in public seminars for 2 1/2 years. At that time, Tad described to Steve his work with selecting individual traumatic experiences on the timeline, and reorienting the person on their existing timeline in regard to those experiences in order to change the person’s response to them.

NLP Timelines in a Nutshell

Often people speak of NLP timeline work as if it is one thing. However there are two very major types of timeline work, both very useful. One set of methods has to do primarily with utilizing the existing timeline. The method described above is one example. You can change a traumatic memory on the timeline by reorienting in time, or by adding in resources, etc. The “decision destroyer”, developed a few years later by Richard Bandler is another very impactful approach. These methods have in common that you don’t need to know very much about the person’s existing timeline to use them with full effectiveness.

An entirely different category of timeline work has to do with changing the structure of the Timeline itself. In doing this kind of work, you find out in detail how a client’s timeline is now structured, what he wants to have different in his life, and then reorient the timeline so as to support the kind of person he wants to be. When the structure of the timeline itself is changed, the person literally lives in a new relationship to all his experiences in time – not just the traumatic ones, or the resourceful ones, but all of them.

For instance, most people have their timeline arranged so that the future is somewhere in the same quadrant as visual construct. This allows us to creatively construct alternative futures that are rich with possibility. However, some people see their future in the visual remembered quadrant. One typical result of this is that their future representations are relatively specific and fixed, because they have to use remembered imagery to represent the future. This can result in much disappointment, since future reality seldom conforms to the inflexible and constrained expectations of visual memory.

If the past accumulation of disappointment is resolved, the person will feel better in the present, but will continue to experience that the future is rigidly fixed, because they are still seeing it in their visual memory quadrant. One man who had this kind of arrangement commented, “This makes perfect sense: “change history” was always really easy for me, but it never made my future different because that was still fixed”.

Resolving past problems is no guarantee that they won’t recur in the future. However, if the future timeline is changed to the visual construct quadrant, the person will begin to make future images that are more creative and variable, and more responsive to changes in the world around them, resulting in far more generative possibilities and far less disappointment.

Although it is quite easy to change a person’s timeline, it takes some experience to know what kinds of changes might be most worthwhile to try out, and any changes need to be tried out very tentatively, with full attention to ecology. Changing a timeline is literally reorganizing all a person’s life experiences, so it must be done with extreme care and sensitivity to be sure the resulting changes will be generative. For some examples of how to elicit an change Timelines, see our books, ‘Heart of the Mind’, ‘Change Your Mind and Keep the Change’, and Connirae’s new videotape ‘Changing Timelines’ (1992).

First Published in the VAK International NLP Newsletter Vol 10, No 1. Winter 1991-1992

© 2000 Steve and Connirae Andreas

Elicitation and multiple application of Timelines is included in the syllabus of our postgraduate qualification in NLP – 10970NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

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The Who’s who of NLP

John Grinder

Dr. John Grinder is the co-creator of Neuro-linguistic Programming. He was an assistant professor of linguistics at the University of California, Santa Cruz when Bandler first approached him for assistance in modelling the skills of Fritz Perls. Since co-creating the original models of NLP (the Meta model, representational systems, eye accessing cues and the Milton model) John has continued to model new patterns. First he co-created the NLP new code with Judith DeLozier. Then, more recently he has created NLP models and applications for cultural and organisational change in corporations with his partner Carmen Bostic St Clair. John and Carmen’s latest book ‘Whispering in the Wind‘ is a seminal work. It defines the scope of the field of NLP and specifies the necessary and sufficient conditions for effective NLP modelling. At the same time it identifies the intellectual antecedents of NLP and places the field in its historical context.

Richard Bandler

Richard Bandler is the other co-creator of NLP. Having co-created the original models of NLP with Grinder, Bandler produced a series of applications of NLP based on an elaboration of the sub modalities model. In recent years Richard has developed his new NLP model, Design Human Engineering.

Frank Pucelik

Frank Pucelik was the third person involved in the beginning of NLP. He worked with Richard Bandler in the first attempt to model the patterns used by Fritz Perls to achieve reliable success with Gestalt therapy. He remained in the original research group as a participating member when Bandler and Grinder teamed up. Frank is best known for co-writing ‘Magic Demystified’ with Byron Lewis. “Magic” remains an excellent introduction to NLP.

Contributing Developers to NLP

Leslie Cameron-Bandler

Leslie Cameron-Bandler was in the original Bandler and Grinder research group in Santa Cruz. Leslie is best known as the developer of Meta Programs, a content model in NLP. According to Leslie Cameron-Bandler,

“….for ten years I’d been looking for what’s the patterns that tell me about the person and for a long time I thought it was Meta Programmes and then it turned out not to be cause[sic.] they change by context too, so always I’d been looking for what’s the essence, what’s the core, because that’s what I want to be able to touch…”
From tape 6 side A of ‘Empowerment: The power that produces success’.

She also developed an NLP model for exploring patterns of organisation of emotions (with Michael Lebeau) and a system for modelling personality called the Imperative Self. Her model of the structure of emotions is published in the book ‘The Emotional Hostage’. She co-developed a description of modelling called ‘The Emprint Method’ with Michael LeBeau and David Gordon which is published in a book of the same name. Leslie’s model of the structure of emotions is an excellent application of NLP for creating emotional choice.

Judith DeLozier

Judith DeLozier was also in the original NLP research group. She co-developed the new code of NLP with John Grinder and together they wrote ‘Turtles All the Way Down; Prerequisites to personal genius’. Currently she works with Robert Dilts at Dynamic Learning Center in Santa Cruz, California. DeLozier and Grinder’s new code of NLP is one of the most significant contributions to establishing the field of NLP.

Stephen Gilligan

Dr. Stephen Gilligan was a member of the original research group with Dr. John Grinder and Richard Bandler when they were developing NLP at U.C.S.C. Santa Cruz. He was introduced to Dr. Milton H. Erickson at that time and has the distinction of being the only person to be invited to train with Erickson while still an undergraduate.

Over the next five years he spent a substantial amount of time with Erickson and has become a world leader in Erickson’s therapeutic methods. Today, Gilligan has a Ph.D. in psychology and is an influential member of the Erickson Foundation, an organisation of health professionals dedicated to the furtherance of Erickson’s work.

He also teaches Ericksonian hypnosis around the world, sponsored by members of the Ericksonian Foundation and some NLP training institutes. Gilligan is the author of ‘Therapeutic Trances; the Co-operation Principle in Ericksonian Psychotherapy’, ‘Therapeutic Conversations’, ‘The Courage to Love; Principles and Practices of Self-Relations Psychotherapy’. He edited ‘Brief Therapy; Myths, Methods and Metaphors’ with Dr. Jeffrey K. Zeig and co-presented two volumes of ‘The Syntax of Behavior’ tape series with Dr. John Grinder.

David Gordon

David Gordon was another member of the original NLP research group. His most notable area of contribution to NLP is the use of metaphors to effect change. He wrote ‘Therapeutic Metaphors’, co-wrote ‘Phoenix’ with Meribeth Meyers-Anderson and later co-wrote ‘Know How‘ and ‘The Emprint Method’ with Leslie Cameron-Bandler and Michael LeBeau. In recent years he has developed a model for modelling called the Experiential Array.

Robert Dilts

Robert has been involved with NLP since meeting John Grinder while a student at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He co-authored ‘Neuro-Linguistic Programming Volume 1’ along with John Grinder, Richard Bandler, Judith DeLozier and Leslie Cameron-Bandler in 1981. Since then he has written numerous books on NLP and its applications to health, creativity, education, leadership, business and NLP modelling. He is well known in the NLP community for his Re-Imprinting technique as well as other NLP formats and models. Over the last 20 years Robert has evolved a description of NLP which he calls Systemic NLP. Currently he works with Judith DeLozier and Teresa Epstein at NLP University in Santa Cruz.

Steve and Connirae Andreas

With over 20 years of experience in the discipline of NLP, Steve and his wife Connirae founded NLP Comprehensive, one of the first major NLP training institutes in the USA.

Steve Andreas was previously known as John O. Stevens when he was a significant figure in the Gestalt therapy and personal development movement. His publishing company, Real People Press published ‘Gestalt Therapy Verbatim’ by the creator of Gestalt Therapy, Fritz Perls and Perls’ autobiography, ‘In and Out the Garbage Pail’. Steve himself wrote ‘Awareness: Exploring, Experiencing and Experimenting’, a book of group exercise based on Gestalt Therapy.

Steve and Connirae edited and published many classic NLP books written by the originators, Richard Bandler and John Grinder. These include: ‘Frogs into Princes’, ‘Trance-formations’, ‘Reframing’ and ‘Using your Brain for a Change‘. Later they wrote many other books on NLP including ‘Virginia Satir, The patterns of her Magic’, ‘Core Transformation’, ‘Heart of the Mind’ and ‘Change your Mind and keep the Change’.

Steve and Connirae have developed a number of NLP processes based on their extensive work with sub modalities. These include the grief and forgiveness patterns and the original modelling and development of mental timelines in NLP.

Christina Hall

Chris is a well-known and respected international trainer and major contributor to the development of NLP. She began her NLP training with the Co-developers close to 25 years ago during the pioneering days (1977), and became a Certified NLP Trainer in 1980. Having spent five years (1981-1986) in apprenticeship training with NLP co-creator Richard Bandler. She has incorporated into her teachings and applications a unique and singular insider’s perspective.

Chris collaborated in producing some of the most outstanding developments of that time, including sub-modalities, the swish pattern, the compulsion blowout, temporal language patterns and verbal swishes, and many of the Sleight of Mouth Patterns. Focusing on a systems and holistic orientation, she has become best known for her work with the structure of time and her mastery and innovations in the area of language patterning an approach which she refers to as Neuro-Systemic linguistics’.

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An interview with John Grinder 1996

By Chris and Jules Collingwood

This interview with John Grinder co-creator of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) was at the end of part one of a two-part seminar on Pattern Detection conducted in July 1996 in Boulder, Colorado with NLP Comprehensive. Part two was held in September 1996.

1. As one of the few individuals who has developed a whole new field of endeavour, do you have any thoughts regarding the circumstances that make it possible to be in that position?

There is a metaphor which is extremely common in western European traditions in which an investigator establishes his or her contribution while simultaneously paying tribute to the work which forms the foundation which makes possible their specific contribution.

This is typically expressed by noting that the new contributor can see farther than the original giants who established the foundation for their new work by standing on their shoulders. But for me, personally, this is quite misleading and not at all congruent with my experience.

Rather than a physical metaphor – that is, the additional height achieved by standing on the shoulders of the giants who preceded me, it seems to me that what Bandler and I did in our original work – the classic code of NLP – was much more accurately captured by the idea of seeing in a totally different way rather than seeing farther.

So while one of the circumstances which made it possible for us to create NLP certainly was the previous work, especially by Russell, Turing, Godel, Chomsky, and Bateson as well as the specific models of Perls, Satir and Erickson, the actual value added by our activity was an audacious style of provoking the world by refusing the common sensical wisdom, most assuredly by rejecting the presuppositions of the vast majority of researchers active in the field, by seeking to extend the patterning to its limits and by creating the process tools (at a higher logical level than the content of the investigations) to enable others to follow the paths of discovery which lie all around us. As Stephen Jay Gould said beautifully (The Panda’s Thumb, p243):

“The best thinkers have the imagination to create organizing visions, and they are sufficiently adventurous (or egotistical) to float them in a complex world that can never say ‘yes’ in all detail”.

Thus, I believe, anyone seeking to create such a paradigm shift would be wise to develop a healthy respect for the research which has preceded while cultivating an equally healthy disrespect for the presuppositions for precisely the same body of research. As George Bernard Shaw once said (corrected for sexist language):

“Reasonable people try to adapt themselves to the world
Unreasonable people try to adapt the world to themselves
That’s why all progress depends on unreasonable people.”

So be it!

2. When you and Richard Bandler were first developing NLP did you have any ideas or expectations about what would happen to it over time?

My memories about what we thought at the time of discovery (with respect to the classic code we developed – that is, the years 1973 through 1978) are that we were quite explicit that we were out to overthrow a paradigm and that, for example, I, for one, found it very useful to plan this campaign using in part as a guide the excellent work of Thomas Kuhn (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) in which he detailed some of the conditions which historically have obtained in the midst of paradigm shifts. For example, I believe it was very useful that neither one of us were qualified in the field we first went after – psychology and in particular, its therapeutic application; this being one of the conditions which Kuhn identified in his historical study of paradigm shifts. Who knows what Bandler was thinking?

3. If so, in what ways has it conformed and deviated from your expectations?

One of the expectations which I personally carried at the time of discovery and development of NLP was that people interested in our work would cleanly make the distinction between NLP and applications of NLP. My hope at the time was that given this distinction, there would arise a group of committed men and women who would recognize the meta levels tools which we had either discovered (the Milton Model…..), or created (the verbal patterns of the Meta Model or Precision Model, Representational Systems….), and go out and identify and create new models of excellence to offer the world. This has not happened and is very disappointing to me. NLP is popularly represented and commonly practiced at least one logical level below what it was clearly understood to be at the time by Bandler and me.

This inability to distinguish either behaviorally or cognitively the consequences and applications of NLP from core NLP itself (modelling of excellence) is extremely commonplace.

4. How would you like NLP to progress from here on?

As I indicated in my response to question 3, I would like to see NLP cleanly distinguished from its spin-offs – its applications – and a dedicated group of modellers go after new models of excellence. This would constitute for me a validation that the message I set out to deliver to the world has been received.

“I would like to see NLP cleanly distinguished from its applications”
– John Grinder

5. What prompted you and Judith DeLozier to develop the New Code?

The context which stimulated the development of the New Code by DeLozier and myself in the mid-80’s contained two characteristics which I wished at the time to correct:

There were a large number of people who had trapped themselves in a ritualistic practice in a mechanical way of the patterns which we had created. The New Code carries with it an elegant simplification of the classic code as well as certain presuppositional traps which serve as a gate against ritualistic behaviour. This was one of the objectives of the development of the New Code. In effect, the New Code was the creation of a second description which I hoped would shake people out of their ritualistic behaviour. Alas, the net contribution was to create a set of new exercises and patterns which were incorporated into the rituals of the trapped practitioners of NLP.

“The New Code carries with it an elegant simplification of the classic code”
– John Grinder

The second objective I had in the development of the New Code was to provide a context at a logical level much higher than had been previously attempted. This involves the setting of ethical, cultural and intellectual frames which indicate in what way specifically, NLP is a step or stage in a larger historical process – that is, where it fits into the western cultural and intellectual development.

6. How would you describe the difference between the Classic Code and the New Code NLP?

The New Code differs in two important ways from the Classic Code:

One, as mentioned above is the placement of the higher level frames to indicate the positioning of NLP with respect to larger issues.

Two, the New Code contains a series of gates which presuppose a certain and to my way of thinking appropriate relationship between the conscious and unconscious parts of a person purporting to train or represent in some manner NLP. This goes a long way toward insisting on the presence of personal congruity in such a person. In other words, a person who fails to carry personal congruity will in general find themselves unable to use and/or teach the New Code patterns with any sort of consistent success.

This is a design I like very much – it has the characteristic of a self correcting system. On the other hand, as we say, these built in gates have had the result that few people who were originally trained in the classic code of NLP are able to adapt themselves to the New Code.

7. There is a common misconception both within and outside the NLP community to the effect that some people are labelling themselves or others as if “a visual”, “an auditory” or “a kinaesthetic” were terms of identity. Could you describe the function of representation systems and their place in NLP?

Yes, easily! The entire problem would be resolved if anyone using the representational system material (e.g. eye movement patterns, unconscious selection of predicates….), would recognize and act congruently with the following proposition:

The temporal value of a representational system diagnosis is 30 seconds.

This would ensure behaviour congruent with the original intent I carried at the time we discovered the patterning – namely, its use as a precise way of knowing what the unconscious preferences and strategies (and failures) of the person in front of me has from moment to moment – that is, a very precise form of feedback in which the practitioner samples every 30 seconds to verify the continuing preference or strategy (or failure to access and employ one of these great resources).

8. If you could change three things between the origins of NLP and the present time, with hindsight, what would they be, and what would you imagine the effects to have been?

Sorry, I’ll pass on this one. It is a question about what would have happened had I done something which I did not do. Since I am never going to do this, I have no interest in exploring it. The principle is clear for me – I will not attend to issues which I will not act on. For me, this is a waste of time, and it may be a guiding principle for someone interested in actually accomplishing something in the world.

“I will not attend to issues which I will not act on. For me, this is a waste of time”
– John Grinder

9. If someone seeking their first NLP training were to ask you to advise them on choosing their training providers, and how to get the most out of their training, what criteria would you suggest they use, and how would you suggest they approach their training?

Yes, to me this is an important question. First, I would say to such a person that they select by the congruency of the trainer. More specifically, I would recommend that they deliberately provoke the potential trainer and appreciate the way in which the potential trainer handles their state and the response they make – more importantly at the relationship level than at the content level.

Secondly, I would ask the person entering a training to be an active skeptic – more specifically, that they question everything, demanding first hand evidence (that is, personal experience) for each and every claim issued by the trainer(s). In addition, it is my ethic that a trainer has a responsibility for ensuring that each pattern presented includes three elements (the sequence of presentation by the trainer may vary as a function of their style):

The definition of the pattern, including its decomposition into its elements and their sequencing
the consequences that a congruent person employing the pattern may anticipate when the pattern is used
The condition which must be present in the context to indicate that this particular pattern (as opposed to some other pattern) is the appropriate one to use in this particular context. Further that a person entering an NLP training make two personal arrangements with themselves:

That they successfully resist the tendency to translate what is being presented into mental maps that they already carry (e.g. oh! Anchoring is just like Pavlovian conditioning). The patterns which are at the heart of NLP are not like any previous X, Y and Z, and the person who translates into X, Y and Z robs him or herself of the experience of learning something new. That they test each pattern offered through personal experience for which they arrange to enter a state of congruity for the test period. To test a pattern incongruently is to waste your time.

“To test a pattern incongruently is to waste your time”
– John Grinder

10. What background skills and knowledge would you like to expect working NLP trainers to possess?

Personal congruity, sparkling intelligence, a deep, bottomless curiosity, a driving desire to discover new patterning, a phobic class response to repeating themselves, a continuous scanning for evidence that they are mistaken in every aspect of their personal and professional beliefs, solid personal ethics, physical fitness, actual real world experience in any field in which they intend to present NLP and an excellent sense of humour.

11. In recent years you have been doing very little in the way of formal NLP training. What have you and your partner Carmen Bostic St. Clair been doing instead? Where are you attending to the world and what for?

Within the corporation QUANTUM LEAP, partner, Carmen Bostic St. Clair and I have focused ourselves on co-developing at the group level (companies, work teams, governments, institutions, sporting teams,…) a new set of tools and models roughly equivalent in precision and power to what Bandler and I originally developed at the personal level. Our work thus typically takes the form of a consultancy, often initially labeled Re-Engineering or Re-Design of Critical Business Processes, into which we always accomplish the following:

  • the client organization is more productive
  • the client organization is more profitable
  • the members of the organization (typically through the mechanism of work teams which ultimately involve all members of the company) achieve local control over the work processes in which they are involved (they become owners of those processes) as intelligent and participating members of the company, recognizing and valued by the co-workers, and demanding, recognizing and valuing the quality of the contribution from other members of the organization.

In part this activity is a concrete expression of a commitment to make the world we live in a better place and the recognition that if we are to realize this grand goal, one of the leverage points we can use to succeed is the work context. Since everyone participates in some way or another in the work context, to create a new standard (or paradigm) in this field would have the greatest influence.

12. Your company is called Quantum Leap Inc. What prompted you and Carmen to name your company Quantum Leap?

QUANTUM LEAP was originally created by Carmen Bostic in 1987. While engaged in a business consultancy contract for her working in some of the companies which she as the CEO ran, I recognized in Carmen Bostic a genius in the fields of negotiation, relationships, and business. I joined her corporation in 1988.

The word QUANTUM (contrary to popular use) refers to the smallest unit of energy (or light) while the word LEAP suggests a discontinuity. Thus the phrase QUANTUM LEAP contains a tension approaching paradox. The idea is quite simple: in total opposition to Michael Hammer who insists that Business Process Re-Engineering begins with a wiping clean of the organizational structure in order to design from nothing the new company, we take pride in being able to identify the what and the where to put that what to initiate the change required for a corporation to succeed in achieving its potential, according to the three criteria listed above. The alert reader will recognize that we are referring to the necessity of systems thinking and actions congruent with it in succeeding in changing organizations – something often spoken of and rarely achieved.

More specifically, the phrase/name QUANTUM LEAP refers to our ability to make the smallest difference consistent with achieving the greatest change for all classes of our clients. This correctly implies that one of the features of our consultancy is rapid and ecological change.

13. Pattern detection is obviously a topic that is important to you. Would you like to comment on its place in NLP?

Pattern Detection is indeed one of the first steps in the modeling process, and clearly, without it, it is not possible to create a model. Or more generally, without the ability to recognize (some people would argue that the more appropriate verb would be a blend of create and recognize) patterns, learning itself of any type is impossible – I agree. Thus what could be more fundamental than the ability to detect pattern.

“Pattern Detection is indeed one of the first steps in the modeling process”
– John Grinder

14. Carmen Bostic St. Clair and you will be making a rare Australian appearance in May 2007 to present a seminar on advanced use of metaphor. What is its significance in terms of individuals’ approaches to the world?

All which is not concrete is metaphoric – clearly, this involves the vast majority of our everyday experiences. The structure of the unconscious – easily the factor most influential in our success in life – or more correctly said, the relationship which we have with our unconscious is easily the factor most important in our success in life – is that of metaphor.

The unconscious contains no nouns, only verbs – the part of language which carries the representation of the relationships and processes which determine the quality of our lives. This in part accounts for the fact that the typical production of the unconscious is metaphoric – dreams, poems, dances, songs and stories. In this presentation by Carmen Bostic and myself, we will address ourselves with the participation of the members of the seminar to two primary issues:

  • the discovery, examination and replacement or refinement of the deep metaphors only dimly glimpsed which govern our lives.
  • the specific strategies available which we can use to identify or create newly the metaphors we need for specific purposes – such as influencing our bosses, spouses and children (assuming they are different) at the unconscious level – an extremely satisfying way of influencing important people in your life.

15. What is the significance of metaphor with reference to the success of organizations?

The influence of metaphor with respect to organizations takes two obvious forms:

  • the mental maps often called the vision, the mission, the ethics or value statement which guide the behaviors of the members of an organization can be made explicit or conscious only to a limited degree. Much of the success of the coordinated efforts of well-intentioned people who form the core of an organization depends on unconscious (or partly unconscious) maps which form a larger and encompassing image of the direction, mission, values,… of the organization. In the case that these unconscious maps are coordinated, the organization will succeed. To the degree that they are not, there will be grave difficulties in organization and much friction and uncoordinated movement, with the team members pulling in different directions.
  • the corporate mythology is the official mechanism by which the organization builds its own inspiring (or not) image to which the members of the organization subscribe (or not) at the unconscious level – this is strongly connected with the values of the organization, especially with respect to its customer base. Thus, the organizational mythology typically contains founder stories, unexpected and against all odds successes emphasizing certain specific qualities of the people of the organization involved. Once recognized by the leadership of an organization this becomes a powerful tool to influence the behavior and values of the company members.

16. What are the benefits an individual would be likely to derive through attending the Advanced use of Metaphor seminar in Australia?

The benefits I would insist on walking away from the Advanced use of Metaphor seminar presented by Carmen Bostic and John Grinder in Australia in May 2007 would be:

  • the ability to recognize deep metaphors in my own life, in the lives of close friends and in organizations such as the company in which I work
  • the ability to design new metaphors, including deep metaphors which carry the values and associations at the unconscious level which I want to enhance in myself, the people close to me and the organization in which I operate as a productive member of society,
  • the ability to implement new metaphors, including deep metaphors which carry the values and associations at the unconscious level which I want to enhance in myself, the people close to me and the orgnization in which I operate as a productive member of society,
  • the ability to influence others at the unconscious level through metaphor
  • the feeling of having had a hell of a good time learning all of the above.

© 1996 Chris and Jules Collingwood

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