What is NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming)?

NLP explores the relationship between how we think (neuro), how we communicate both verbally and non-verbally (linguistic) and our patterns of behaviour and emotion (programmes) (Collingwood & Collingwood; 2001).

It is both an epistemology, in that it studies how we know what we know and a methodology for creating practical descriptions of how we function as human beings. The purpose of NLP is to study, describe and transfer models of human excellence. (Modelling).

There are a number of other descriptions of what is NLP. The founders of NLP Dr. John Grinder and Richard Bandler defined NLP as “the study of the structure of subjective experience” (Dilts et al; 1980). Judith DeLozier and John Grinder (1987) define NLP as “an accelerated learning strategy for the detection and utilisation of patterns in the world“. We think of NLP as a field that explores “the patterns of organisation of effective human intuition” (Collingwood & Collingwood; 2001). Through modelling an expert’s intuitive application of their skill, we can as Neuro-Linguistic Programmers, have those patterns of organisation for ourselves and / or make them available to others. Modelling is the core function of NLP, learning to model (self and others) the core activity of well designed NLP practitioner and NLP master practitioner certification trainings. It is certainly at the core of our postgraduate qualification in NLP – 10970NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

The most precise definition is made by John Grinder and is found on the back cover page of our book The NLP Field Guide part 1 (2001). Grinder states “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, sports, therapy…) from the average practitioner. These distinguishing patterns are the substance of NLP”.

For practical purposes, learning NLP thoroughly will give you an edge when it comes to self management, creative and abstract thinking, communicating with other people in multiple contexts and increasing your skill levels at work and in private life. Specifically, you will sharpen your observation and listening ability and identify patterns in people’s behaviour and language so you can respond to the subtext of their communication. You will learn to communicate more effectively, create descriptions others can understand quickly and ask apposite and penetrating questions that lead their thinking in useful directions. Cut through distractions or make conversation that is well received. Your own thinking will benefit from these skills as you learn to identify the direction you want to take in action and interaction. These benefits only happen to their full extent with live training and class room practice of the full syllabus. If you settle for a short “practitioner” course, the chances are you will be given a sheaf of scripts which limit your ability to use the material creatively and naturally in real life.

Collingwood, Jules., Collingwood, Chris. (2001) The NLP Field Guide; Part 1. A reference manual of Practitioner level patterns. Sydney, Australia: Emergent Publications.

Collingwood, Jules. (2016) Aegis; Patterns for extending your reach in life, work and leisure. Sydney, Australia: Emergent Publications.

DeLozier, Judith., Grinder, John. (1987) Turtles all the Way Down; Prerequisites to Personal Genius. Bonny Doon CA: Grinder, DeLozier and Associates.

Dilts, Robert., Grinder, John., Bandler, Richard., Cameron-Bandler, Leslie., DeLozier, Judith. (1980) Neuro-Linguistic Programming Volume 1; The study of the structure of subjective experience. Cupertino, CA: Meta Publications

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By Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer at INSPIRITIVE

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Swish stories and formats

Running the Swish Successfully and Otherwise

Many people in the NLP community are willing to use the Swish as a stand alone process. They claim success using the Standard or Distance Swish by itself with a variety of habitual acts. Given the importance of protecting subjects’ higher level intentions and ecology, I wonder about the time frame in which some of these results hold up.

Here is an example of typical consequences of a stand alone Swish. During a short conversation with someone at their workplace, they mentioned that they bit their nails and had done since childhood. Was there a quick fix that would take less than 10 minutes? They were made aware of the lack of ecology but wanted to try it out. One Swish later, they stopped biting their nails. Three weeks later, the same person observed that since stopping biting their nails, they were aware of an uncomfortable state. The state went away if they brought their nails to their mouth. There was time to explore the state and do a full piece of work, so the person kept their nails and sorted out the underlying state.

Some years ago a student wanted to experiment using the Swish to find out if it was sufficient for him to stop smoking with no other intervention. This was an interesting idea. Usually, smoking is associated with lots of intentions for doing it, for stopping it and for participating in social and business milieux in which it does and does not take place. This is one topic where it is extremely useful to gather high quality information and make a systemic approach to change. The Swish can be an excellent end piece after everything else has been addressed.

The student who wanted to experiment chose the visual system for both representations. He chose separate images for a cigarette in the left hand, in the right hand, lit and unlit, in each case with the hand approaching his face. Then he ran the Swish separately for each image. He reported a few days later that for the first day he had been unable to extract a cigarette from a packet, but he still felt a strong desire to smoke. This is not surprising. When the student explored the rest of his own system and made changes with reference to smoking, he was able to give it up comfortably and congruently. He lost the physiological and state based desire, when the intentions for their presence were addressed. This complemented the initial Swish and he remains a willing and easy non-smoker.

Provided the Swish is used ecologically as part of a suite of interventions, it can be applied usefully to any unwanted recurring behaviour or state. It is best known for breaking unwanted habitual behaviour, but unwanted states can be construed as behaviour and will respond to a Swish. A Swish is a form of shunt, where one state is shunted directly to another, using representations with specific submodalities shifted at high speed. , 

“Provided the Swish is used ecologically it can be applied usefully to any unwanted recurring behaviour or state”

Some say the Swish supersedes the N-Step Reframe – Not So.

The N-Step Reframe used to be called 6 Step Reframing, but Grinder changed its name. This is Bostic and Grinder’s N-Step instructions from p. 155 of “Whispering in the Wind”.

Identify the behaviour(s) to be changed

  1. Establish a reliable involuntary signal system with the unconscious
  2. Confirm that there is a positive intention(s) behind the behaviour(s) to be changed
  3. Generate a set of alternatives as good or better than the original behaviour(s) in satisfying the positive intention(s)
  4. Get the unconscious to accept responsibility for implementation
  5. Ecological check

“The N-Step Reframe used to be called 6 Step Reframing, but Grinder changed its name”

There is a belief in the NLP community that anything the N-Step Reframe can address, the Swish can change more quickly and with less effort. They claim that the Swish supersedes the N-Step Reframe and is therefore the process of choice for that class of problems. To address these opinions:

  • The N-Step Reframe contains ecology, consultation with the unconscious mind, access to and use of intentions. It requires a large enough frame to address any systemic elements that impact the proposed change. All the essential elements for a high quality, lasting change are inside the process. Of course it takes longer than a stand alone Swish. This is the difference between a complete intervention and one piece of an intervention.
  • If the comparison is restricted to personal change, and the N-Step Reframe is compared with a Swish performed inside an ecological framework as above, you are comparing apples with apples. Then the choice can be, what best fits this client, now?
  • Within the personal change context, the N-Step Reframe can accommodate a greater range of topics for change than a stand alone Swish. So can a Swish inside an ecological framework.
  • The N-Step Reframe was developed by John Grinder, directly from his unconscious mind and first published in “Frogs into Princes”. The story of the N-Step Reframe is told in full in Bostic and Grinder, “Whispering in the Wind”. The Swish came later, but to supersede the N-Step Reframe it would have to fulfil all the same functions. The N-Step Reframe has many more applications than the Swish. It lends itself to the creative process, facilitating ideas and designs, to business and commerce, managing people and projects. The principles can be applied to organising thought, teaching and learning and to anything where it is useful to work at the level of intentions, which includes most of life.

“The N-Step Reframe contains ecology, consultation with the unconscious mind, access to and use of intentions”

Now that the framing for the Swish is in place, examples are given and common views are discussed, it is time to describe the Swish itself. This the model:

Instructions for using the Swish Pattern from First Principles (also known as the Designer Swish):

  1. Identify the behaviour to be changed
  2. Create an associated representation at the point of no return for commencing the behaviour
  3. Create a dissociated representation of the subject in their desired state
  4. Identify two analogue driver submodalities to intensify each representation
  5. Associate into the first representation
  6. Apply driver submodalities to reduce intensity of first representation to zero and…
  7. Simultaneously, apply driver submodalities to increase intensity of desired state representation to optimal intensity
  8. Return attention to the outside
  9. Repeat steps five to seven inclusive AT SPEED, two to five times, with a break between each cycle.
  10. Test and future pace.

Formats go into more detail and constrain the average user to following specific instructions, which may or may not suit the subject in front of them. The advanced user will be aware of the frames and extrapolate to the description above. They will routinely gather information and vary the details of the process to suit their subject.

Format for the Standard Swish:

  1. Identify the behaviour to be changed
  2. Create a large associated image at the point of no return for commencing the behaviour
  3. Create a large, close, dissociated image of the subject in their desired state
  4. Apply submodalities of size and brightness to intensify each image
  5. Associate into the first image
  6. Shrink, darken and move the first image down to one side until it is a black dot and…
  7. Simultaneously, from a black dot to the side, enlarge, brighten and move the desired state image to the centre of the visual field so it occupies the whole visual field while remaining dissociated
  8. Return attention to the outside
  9. Repeat steps five to seven inclusive AT SPEED, two to five times, with a break between each cycle.
  10. Test and future pace.

Format for the Distance Swish:

  1. Identify the behaviour to be changed
  2. Create a large associated image at the point of no return for commencing the behaviour
  3. Create a large, close, dissociated image of the subject in their desired state
  4. Apply submodalities of distance and brightness to intensify each image
  5. Associate into the first image
  6. Darken and move the first image far away until it is a black dot in the distance and…
  7. Simultaneously, from a black dot in the distance, enlarge, brighten and move the desired state image to the centre of the visual field so it occupies the whole visual field while remaining dissociated
  8. Return attention to the outside
  9. Repeat steps five to seven inclusive AT SPEED, two to five times, with a break between each cycle.
  10. Test and future pace.

A cautionary tale

Two of our graduates who attended our Trainers’ Training and became skilled trainers, decided to experience a different description of NLP. They each attended a second Trainers’ Training program with different organisations. Each of them, separately, reported the following event.

They were assessed on their training skills by Master Practitioners who were not trainers themselves. In each case, the Master Practitioner assessing ordered them to demonstrate a Standard Swish. Each candidate tried to find a demonstration subject for whom a Standard Swish would sit well. There were none in the available group. Each candidate framed his intention and found a subject who could work with a Swish in the visual system using other analogue driver submodalities. Each candidate presented his intention for using a Designer Swish in the visual system and explained, as if training a group, the ecology of his decision.

Each candidate was failed for not doing a Standard Swish. The Master Practitioners in question demonstrated a lack of awareness of the frames and context of the Swish, disregard for an ecological approach to demonstration subjects and an adherence to the content of procedures over utilisation of models that is deeply disappointing. Several years on, the two trainers remain confident in their own knowledge and do excellent work, one in NLP training and the other in arts and academic applications.

“The function of learning NLP is to apply flexible models in varied contexts”

The function of learning NLP is not to collect a sheaf of paper with single application formats on it. It is to learn to apply flexible models in varied contexts, while working from first principles. If you re-read the N-Step Reframe and the Swish Model descriptions, it will all make sense in light of the framing and recommendations for the rest of an intervention earlier in this e-book. That is the class of information that students need in order to learn to work from first principles. It takes longer than collecting formats, but is infinitely more lasting and rewarding for the future. Formats are like recipes. You can make one dish from each. First principles can be applied together or piecemeal in conversation, at work, in the bank or on a boat. First principles are learned through a combination of framing and exploring multiple patterns through their models. The hands on experience of using them is like having a new format for every subject. You choose.

By Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer

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The beginner’s guide to working with the unconscious mind

Definition of the unconscious mind

In NLP we define the unconscious mind as representing those physiological and cognitive processes that occur outside of conscious awareness. Physiological processes include respiration, hormonal response, etc. Some examples of unconscious cognitive processes include dreaming, ideomotor responses, and learned unconscious competences such as letter recognition, word recognition and grammar processing involved in the skill of reading. Much of our perceptual processing is unconscious; there is an incredible amount of sensory processing that precedes conscious awareness.

“Unconscious mind: those physiological and cognitive processes that occur outside of conscious awareness.”

Creating change through NLP

Arrangements can be made with the unconscious mind to create changes in behaviour and states (including our emotions). These include such things as reviewing and sorting of patterns of experience that can be used to reduce pain, integrate new skills and develop new understandings; a few examples from a very rich set of possibilities. The processes developed in NLP for making these arrangements are, in my view, some of the most liberating applications yet developed.

Personal change takes place in a particular context. Context is when, where, with whom, and the overall conditions within which you have a problem or an outcome. It’s the context within which behaviour occurs that gives the behaviour meaning.

Using our conscious attention to define the context and the parameters in which we are considering having a change is a process called ‘framing’. This is a necessary prerequisite to involving the unconscious mind in accessing or developing resources for change.

John Grinder, in Whispering in the Wind, states that ‘… the unconscious is capable of enormously complex and creative acts when the proper framing and context have been established and the lead is released to the unconscious …This statement also applies to the contexts of personal change and performance, which can be construed as complex and creative acts.

Working with the unconscious – preparing the ground

There are additional patterns identified through NLP that can assist in negotiating between conscious and unconscious minds. One such pattern is arranging a formal involuntary signal system with the unconscious.

Our unconscious communicates, that is, gives us signals, in a variety of different ways. For many people these naturally occurring signals are framed as intuition, a loose term from our perspective. Sometimes the unconscious will communicate a pattern or learning for our conscious minds to attend to through a dream. A signal from the unconscious may be in the form of an image, a sound, a sensation or even a smell or a taste.

“A signal from the unconscious may be in the form of an image, a sound, a sensation or even a smell or a taste.”

The most reliable signals from our unconscious are involuntary responses. A thought may just pop into awareness out of the blue. A person may have an involuntary movement or other sensory response. Having a response that you can’t replicate consciously, supports an integrity in the system of conscious/unconscious communication. If your conscious attention knows when you get a signal from the unconscious, then by implication, it can attend to the communication.

“The most reliable signals from our unconscious are involuntary responses.”

It is useful to have an involuntary response for yes, an involuntary response for no and, for the more advanced student or client, an involuntary response for I don’t have enough information yet.

Having a formal signal system with the unconscious mind is just one example of a signal system. We have multiple signal systems with the unconscious mind already. An example is a class of experience that we have all had: knowing that something was ‘right’ for us, or conversely we just knew that something was definitely ‘not right’ for us. This type of signal, often felt somewhere in the mid-line of the body, is called a congruency signal in NLP. In a context with a proposed outcome you are either congruent or not, about the outcome. If a proposal seems and sounds fine on a conscious level, yet you are incongruent about it, I suggest that your unconscious mind is giving you a signal for you to attend to.

Our emotions are forms of communication from the unconscious mind. Exploring and working with the unconscious intent for a particular emotional response can lead to the development of new responses for that context.

“Our emotions are forms of communication from the unconscious mind.”

For some people, simply learning to use their conscious attention to be sensitive and responsive to the communication of their unconscious mind can make a world of difference. It is the first step to being able to engage the unconscious in promoting high performance, developing greater emotional choice, enhancing learning and other projects that you may create.

The roles of the conscious and unconscious minds

The unconscious mind has access to representations of experience that are often outside conscious awareness, yet the unconscious is relatively unorganised. The conscious mind is superb at organising informationthough poor, in comparison with the unconscious, in finding and accessing resources. When working with the unconscious mind to create change and the development of improved performance, or to propose projects in other contexts such as business, learning or family, we perform different tasks with the conscious and unconscious minds. The role of considering context, possible outcomes and framing is assigned to the conscious mind while the role of identifying resources to support the outcome is assigned to the unconscious mind.

Preparing the conscious mind for working with the unconscious

Before working with the unconscious mind, we begin by considering both the context within which we want a change , and the outcome and intentions we have for creating change. What is the intended result that we want to propose to the unconscious mind?

For the context under consideration, what do I want? How would I know if I had that result? What would I see, hear and feel as evidence of a desired change? What do I want that change for? What is my intention for having this change? If I had this change, what would be the flow-on consequences in my life?

Next, it is useful to have arranged some form of signal system with the unconscious mind, some involuntary response for yes and another involuntary response for no.

Now we are ready to make a proposal to the unconscious. In a comfortable relaxed state, having reviewed the prepared outcome and the context within which that outcome is desired, simply ask your unconscious mind: ‘Is this proposed outcome acceptable to you, my unconscious?’ If you get a yes response, simply invite your unconscious to begin the process of searching and sorting for ‘… all suitable resources to be applied in support of the outcome in that context’. If you get a no response, thank your unconscious and request that your unconscious please communicate the nature of the objection to that outcome, and/or propose back to conscious attention an alternative outcome for that context.

This is the beginning of a dialogue between conscious and unconscious minds in which a suitable outcome is selected, resources are arranged and a negotiation made.

That is the general framework for working in partnership with the unconscious mind to create change and healing. Within this specific application of NLP there are many strategies and refinements that can be used to facilitate communication and the development of an excellent relationship between conscious and unconscious minds.

(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).

By Chris Collingwood, NLP Trainer at INSPIRITIVE

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The most important development in the history of NLP

Some early developments in NLP

In the early 1980s the co-creator of NLP, Richard Bandler, and NLP developers Connirae and Steve Andreas, did significant work on developing the submodality model of NLP. Submodalities are the sensory elements that make up our representations.A visual image will have components such as shape, size, spatial location, colour and brightness. An auditory representation has component elements such spatial location, volume, tempo, rhythm and tone. A kinaesthetic representation includes such elements as location, area, intensity, temperature, rhythm and pressure. Our representations of our experiences have particular patterns of organisation in how they are coded. Changing the submodality coding changes our experience. For example, a belief can be recoded as a doubt (e.g. how we know that we do not know which way a coin will fall). The submodality model can be used to produce profound change, if used by a skilled exponent of NLP in conjunction with other NLP models.

(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).

Recent developments: the recoding of NLP – the new code

The most significant development in NLP in recent years has been the recoding of NLP. The reorganisation and articulation of the underlying principles of the field was undertaken by the co-creator of NLP, John Grinder, and partners Judith DeLozier in the 1980s and Carmen Bostic St Clair in the 1990s to the present time. This reorganisation is called the new code of NLP and is best represented in Bostic St Clair and Grinder’s book Whispering in the Wind. The new code has as its basis an explicit epistemology, the separation of NLP modelling from NLP applications, and recommendations for research methodology. There are a number of shifts in emphasis with the new code.

“The most significant development in NLP in recent years has been the recoding of NLP. “

The shift in emphasis with the new code

Grinder’s reorganisation of NLP into the new code represents a shift from an over-emphasis on conscious attention to a balanced relationship between the conscious and unconscious minds. Different roles are recognised and assigned to the conscious and the unconscious. The role of conscious attention is to gather and arrange information about situations for potential change. The role of the unconscious is to provide the resources for implementing change. Often, the unconscious defines what the change will be. Researchers are now discovering the benefits of harnessing the capabilities of the unconscious. In a recent study published in Science journal, cognitive psychologists found that major decisions are best made by the unconscious mind.

There is also a shift of focus from working with a behaviour to working with an influencer of behaviour: a person’s state of mind. When a person is assisted to achieve a state of high performance or resourcefulness, their unconscious mind is more able and more likely to develop a greater range and flexibility in their behaviour, especially for the context under consideration. The situation where they want change or healing to occur becomes part of the process.

“In the New Code NLP there is a shift of focus from working with behaviour to working with state.”

Many new code NLP processes for assisting the unconscious to create change involve guiding the individual in accessing highly resourceful states. This is one of the key patterns that occurs when hypnosis or other change modalities are used successfully by a clinician.

(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).

By Chris Collingwood, NLP Trainer

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Introduction to NLP

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is an exciting new field of endeavour whose focus is studying and building models of human excellence. To begin with I will define NLP, give a brief history, summarise the key models that form the basis of the discipline and some of its applications. Then I shall describe how it can be usefully applied to working with the unconscious mind to produce change.

I will use a number of metaphors and analogies. Metaphor is one way to communicate with the unconscious mind. Note the internal responses that you have to stories, art and music. You may have had the experience of hearing stories that resonated and yet not understood their relevance consciously.

Anthropologists have a form of research called ‘participant observation’. When they enter into a culture, they experience that culture through full participation. They also step back and observe the patterns of behaviour of members of the culture, as well as their own patterns.

Anthropologists have long recognised that, in studying culture, and by default, patterns of human behaviour, behaviour must be studied in relationship to the framework within which it occurs (that is, context). Context and the framing of context are significant applications of NLP.

Before involving the unconscious mind in producing change, we, as agents of change (or participants in self-change) need to prepare the conditions for change to occur. One of our tasks is sorting and framing the context within which a problem is occurring, or some outcome is desired. Only then can we benefit fully, by engaging in the process of mining the rich resources available through the unconscious mind.

Thought Experiment: Pause for a moment and reflect on how you live your life. Note the environments that you inhabit and the circumstances of your life. And as you reflect on your experience, you might consider your dreams for the future. In terms of how you live your life and create your future, your behaviour is likely to be the most significant factor in your success. If you had some effective ways to change or enhance your behaviour, that would probably be useful for you.)

One major application of NLP provides a series of methods for changing behaviour, naturally and simply. Rather than attempting to change specific behaviours directly, NLP works best through involving our unconscious minds to create change. Among the NLP community, the unconscious is also known as ‘second attention’.2 Further into this chapter I will define the term ‘unconscious mind’ as used by Neuro- Linguistic Programmers, but first I want to define Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

What is Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)?

Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a relatively new field concerned with the patterns that guide how we live our lives, and our patterns of behaviour. Patterns include not only our observable actions in the world, but also our thinking processes and the organisation of our states of mind. This includes our emotions and how we use our attention with our senses. The focus of NLP as a discipline is finding and creating patterns to create and teach models of exceptional effectiveness. Neuro-Linguistic Programmers are interested in how highly skilled people do what they do. Notice the attention on how rather than why. We are interested in practical processes rather than historical justifications.

“NLP is a field concerned with our patterns of behaviour.”

NLP is classified as a behavioural sciencethough, it must be noted, it is distinct from other behavioural sciences, including psychology. The function of NLP is to build models of the behaviour of exceptional individuals or communities. In contrast, psychology studies behaviour in isolation; divorced from the context where it would occur. Witness for example, the research of ‘rat runners’ in the heyday of behavioural psychology, where experiments with rats were conducted in the artificially constructed context of the maze.

Historically, psychology has focused on a quantitative approach to research. It emphasised reductionism and statistical analysis, with the resulting linear descriptions of behaviour devoid of context. Often, results are described using the norm and deviation from the norm with descriptive statistics. Psychology, when applied subsequently as psychotherapy, with the intended outcome of personal change, often takes an analytical approach. This produces conscious understanding without necessarily effecting change for the client.

In contrast, in NLP the emphasis is on modelling the small percentage of high performers in a given population, with the most appropriate research methods being those used in another field that studies the human behaviour of language: linguistics.

(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 intellectual foundations of NLP

Through the influence of John Grinder (one of the originators), NLP finds its intellectual foundations in the following: Noam Chomsky’s Transformational Grammar from linguistics; Alan Turing and automata theory; the anthropologist Gregory Bateson’s work, especially with epistemology; and Russell and Whitehead’s work in logic. Interestingly, NLP shares much of its intellectual foundations with the field of cognitive science.

This emphasis on building models of the patterns of behaviour of high-performing individuals is the hallmark of NLP that primarily distinguishes it from other behavioural sciences.

NLP modelling is the process of representing the patterns of organisation of the specific skills and results of excellence of an exemplar. The evidence is that similar results occur within the same context and time frame as that demonstrated by the exemplar. It requires a tacit modelling phase of unconsciously taking up the skill, followed by a phase of building an explicit description.

NLP modelling is the core activity of NLP and is the basis for applications of NLP that exist currently. The ability to work well with one’s unconscious is necessary for NLP modelling.

Thought Experiment: Consider for a moment some of the people you have met who are absolutely exquisite at what they do. Select one of those people and run a short movie of that person doing what they do so well. Make the images large enough to see in detail what the expert is doing. Would you like to have a way to perform with a similar level of excellence to that of the expert?

There have been some superb models developed in NLP which apply specifically to assisting people in personal change related to life skills, business, sport, presentation and learning. These patterns and models involve the unconscious in producing change in behaviour and experience in the consciously defined context where change is desired.

A very important distinction

Another important distinction in understanding the field of NLP is the following set of categorisations:NLP modelling and NLP application, within which there is a further distinction for NLP training. NLP modelling is the heart of NLP from which new patterns are discovered and new models are created. NLP modelling is the core activity of the field. NLP applications are the products of the NLP modelling process and of design based on the creative combination of modelled patterns. NLP packages of patterns and models have been applied to psychotherapy, coaching, management, organisational development, presenting, sports performance, derivative trading and education, to name a few. The output of the NLP modelling process can be applied to any area of human endeavour. One major area of NLP application is personal change.

(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).

NLP is also an epistemology

Epistemology, a branch of philosophy, is the study of human knowledge: how we know what we know. The anthropologist, Gregory Bateson, makes a distinction between Epistemology with a capital E, the study of human knowing, and epistemology with a lower case e for individual and cultural epistemologies. Bateson goes further, with his view that Epistemology is rooted in the biological and is a branch of natural history, thus, “… the science that studies the process of human knowing”.As people, we cannot avoid having an epistemology. We all have some framework, generally unconscious, for organising how we know the world. An interesting question is, ‘How do you know what you know?’ As NLP is a field that has a methodology for building maps or models of human behaviour, it is an Epistemology.

“Epistemology, a branch of philosophy, is the study of human knowledge: how we know what we know.”

What is the relevance of this to people, especially those who want to create change? NLP provides a practical methodology for people to examine their own epistemology. Many of the problems that people experience have their roots in the individual’s process of knowing what they know. NLP provides patterns of organisation that can then be applied to create lasting change in what is often perceived to be an intractable problem. There are patterns of organisation that many of my clients and I have found ideal for facilitating work with the unconscious mind.

Orientation to patterning and modelling

Patterns are the stuff our lives are made of. There are patterns of culture, patterns in organisations, in families and of course individual patterns of behaviour. So, what is a pattern? A pattern is any repeating sequence of behaviour so that, when the first part of the sequence is observed, the second part of the sequence can be predicted. Before a cat pounces, it crouches down, the ears flatten and the tail waves. Then it pounces. Because we can predict that the cat is about to pounce by observing the particular movements of the crouch, we can say that we have detected a pattern.

“Patterns are the stuff our lives are made of.”

There are cues available in people’s non-verbal behaviour that are parts of sequences of behaviour. Learning to track these patterns of personal organisation is invaluable when assisting others in creating change. That is, we assist others in changing their patterns.

Thought Experiment: Pause again and reflect on whether you could review an interaction you had with someone, as if you were an outside observer, watching and listening to your behaviour as you related to the other person and they to you. You might begin to notice patterns of responses in both your own and the other’s non-verbal behaviour. Notice sequences of response that repeat over the course of the interaction: patterns. And with an awareness of patterns, there may be some that you would like to change. You might even find yourself imagining some alternative ways of responding.

In NLP, we attend to tracking and changing patterns rather than to the content of a person’s experience. If we track the pattern of how people do what they do, then we can assist them to change the behaviour. If the pattern is useful, we could emulate the pattern. Doing this is part of the process of modelling. In creating change at the unconscious level, a skilled consultant identifies particular patterns that make up a problem state, and they may identify useful patterns that would support the desired state. Then they intervene in some way to assist the client to change the patterns.

(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).

By Chris Collingwood, NLP Trainer at INSPIRITIVE

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An introductory guide to the New Code of NLP

NLP an Overview

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is an exciting new field of endeavour in the Behavioural Sciences. It focuses on detecting critical patterns of human behaviour including our observable actions in the world, our thinking processes and the organisation of our states of mind.

Patterns are what our lives are made of and consist of any repeating sequence of behaviour that, when the first part of the sequence is observed, the second part of the sequence can be predicted. For instance before a cat pounces it crouches down the ears flatten and the tail waves. Then it pounces. Because we can predict that the cat is about to pounce by observing the cat crouching we can say that we have detected a pattern.

“NLP focuses on detecting critical patterns of human behaviour.”

Patterns are everywhere. There are patterns in culture, patterns in organisations, patterns in families and of course individual patterns of behaviour.

By observing these patterns NLP consultants can then build models of expertise around them to capture and achieve excellence. The concept of a model is the core element or activity of NLP and the ability to work well with one’s unconscious is a mandatory prerequisite for NLP modelling.

To do this NLP consultants focus on how highly skilled exceptional people do what they do. Notice the attention is on how rather than why. The interest is purely in practical processes rather than historical justifications. Being able to detect how people do what they do creates possibilities and powerful leverage for achieving and excelling in personal and professional objectives through modelling.

An NLP model is a representation of an expert’s skill not a replication or duplication. There are always differences between an expert’s own skill and the resulting model. Just as the map is not the same as the territory it represents, a model of expertise is not the model’s approach to a skill; it is the skill itself [1].

Interestingly and a compelling endorsement of the power of modelling, a model that is fully integrated (embodied) by the end user often produces superior results to those produced by the original expert (who was modelled).

Given this it goes without saying that NLP’s methodology has been so successful and practical that many of its models have been incorporated into management training, coaching, psychotherapy, education, sports performance and personal development. Indeed if you have attended a recent management seminar or done some form of personal development it is highly likely that you have been exposed to a range of NLP techniques.

In summary NLP is an extremely powerful field of endeavour and can be applied to achieve excellence in both personal and professional life.

Classic Code NLP

Classic Code NLP (as it is now referred to) began in the mid 1970’s when Dr John Grinder and Richard Bandler began modelling Fritz Perls, the father of Gestalt therapy. When they began the project that led to the birth of Classic Code NLP, Grinder was an assistant professor of linguistics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Bandler was an under- graduate 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 applying 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 achieved them. Grinder modelled Bandler tacitly while Bandler applied Gestalt therapy.

Tacit modelling involves mimicking the behaviour of a model while in a ‘know nothing’ state until you can reproduce the skill and get the same result as the model in a similar context within a similar timeframe [2].

Grinder used the patterns he had modelled later making them explicit from his own experience. After this Grinder and Bandler modelled other patterns from exemplars of human excellence in psychotherapy and published these. They became the first models of NLP [3].

An explicit model comprises the minimum number of patterns necessary and sufficient to reproduce similar outcomes in the same class of context as the exemplar who was modelled [4].

When Grinder and Bandler first joined forces, Bandler had modelled Fritz Perls’ language patterns inadvertently, while editing tape transcripts for a book. Bandler found he could get similarly effective results with change clients to those of Perls himself, in contrast to Perls’ alleged observation that his own students’ results fell short. Grinder modelled Bandler implicitly until he could replicate Bandler’s results. When Grinder was able to match Bandler’s performance to the same level and in the same time frame he moved to the explicit stage of modelling.

To make a model explicit the modeller has to identify all the patterns of thinking, observation and execution (behaviour) that contribute to the performance and exclude all the idiosyncratic elements (those elements that while present do not contribute to the performance).

Bandler and Grinder then began teaching NLP to the public with the assistance of their early students and NLP in the classic form has been taught for about 30 years. We now refer to this as Classic Code NLP. As with any field of endeavour the quality amongst trainers differs markedly depending on who trained them and over time a number of flaws have developed in the classic version of NLPs application and teaching.

Indeed for some NLP trainers the practice of training involves taking a recipe book approach where specific examples of previously modelled patterns are taught explicitly. The deployment of any particular pattern is made consciously with the usual constraints of conscious attention [5].

Concerned about feedback he was receiving regarding how NLP was being coded, practiced and taught within the NLP community Grinder responded by working with Judith DeLozier [6] in the first instance and later with Carmen Bostic St. Clair [7] to re-examine and update the Classic Code NLP. He and his partners developed a solution to the most significant problems in Classic Code NLP resulting in what we now call New Code NLP.

New Code NLP

New Code NLP is a reorganisation and recoding of the fundamentals of NLP and the main difference comes down to emphasis pure and simple.

Historically the application of Classic Code NLP was oriented towards the conscious manipulation of internal representations (visual images, sounds, and sensations). There was no formal engagement of the unconscious mind. An outcome was chosen in isolation and a process implemented to shift from the present state to the desired state.

If the outcome had unfortunate consequences to the person’s lifestyle, family or social system it became clearly apparent but only after the event.

“New Code NLP is a reorganisation and recoding of the fundamentals of NLP.”

Engaging the Unconscious has Benefits

It is useful to engage the unconscious mind when choosing outcomes and resources. The unconscious has access to a greater range of possibilities than the conscious mind. According to the cognitive scientist and linguist George Lakoff, 95% of our thought occurs outside conscious awareness [8]. The unconscious mind works with patterns, in metaphor and can consider multiple time frames, logical levels and perceptual positions. The unconscious mind has the capacity to imagine future scenarios and include likely consequences. It can deliver intents, solutions and many other resources to consciousness and carries information from all our experience.

When we engage the unconscious mind in forming outcomes and choosing resources the ensuing change respects the person’s ecology [9].

“According to linguist George Lakoff 95% of our thought occurs outside conscious awareness.”

In this context ecology considers the broader scope of possible consequences (benefits and costs) of any action including change. When we include consequences we can test resources before the change and ensure the entire well-being of the person and the systems in which they operate. Unfortunate consequences are identified early on before any action is taken so that the process can be altered to fit the needs of the person.

In the early days when Classic Code NLP was developed there was explicit reference to the unconscious mind but no formal means of engaging with it. This has been rectified in New Code NLP. Indeed it is an essential element of New Code NLP [10].

Emphasising State Rather Than Behaviour in NLP

New Code NLP attends to a person’s changing state instead of replacing one behaviour directly with a single, different behaviour. A change in state leads to a range of different naturally occurring behaviour. Instead of replacing one behaviour with another in a context, an appropriately framed context can be used to elicit a suitable state, which enables a range of possible appropriate behaviour to manifest. When the state is associated with the context the client can alter their behaviour spontaneously in response to the conditions they find there.

“New Code NLP attends to a person’s changing state instead of replacing one behaviour directly.”

Change processes with New Code NLP often use content-free high performance states. These can be associated with one or more contexts in cases where a client wants more choice or a specific outcome.

If I wanted to improve my performance when negotiating one way would be to review a specific example and mentally rehearse an alternative way of behaving. Alternatively I could use a new code process to develop a ‘content free’ high performance state which is then associated (linked) to the context for the negotiation. Having done this the next time I was in that context I would discover new behaviour that supported the process of negotiation. Through the high performance state I automatically generate the necessary behavioural resources to improve my performance in each future negotiation situation. Using appropriate states is a creative and generative approach to making productive and effective change

(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).

By Chris Collingwood, NLP Trainer at INSPIRITIVE.

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[1] By discounting idiosyncratic elements in a model’s expertise, NLP models often produce even higher grades of performance.

[2] A ‘know nothing’ state is also known as a modelling state. It is a state in which analytical skills are put aside temporally so that the modeller can use their senses to attend to and take up the target skill without imposing prior knowledge or internal dialogue. This approach to modelling is similar to the way we all learned naturally as young children.

[3] See Bandler and Grinder’s The Structure of Magic Volumes 1 & 2, Patterns of the Hypnotic Technique of Milton H. Erickson MD. Volumes 1 & 2 (with DeLozier), Frogs into Princes, Trance-formations and Reframing.

[4] See Whispering in the Wind 2002 by Bostic St Clair and John Grinder. See the chapter explicating the criteria for modelling.

[5] Conscious attention at any one moment in time is limited to between 5 and 9 ‘chunks’ of information. See G.A.Miller’s paper “The Magical Number Seven Plus or Minus Two; Some limits on our capacity for processing information”.

[6] One of the first new code of NLP seminars was DeLozier and Grinder’s Prerequisites to Personal Genius, taught in San Francisco in 1986. The seminar was transcribed and edited into their book Turtles all the Way Down; Prerequisites to personal genius.

[7] See their book Whispering in the Wind (2002), which contains a major section on the New Code. The book examines NLP epistemology in depth and distinguishes between NLP modelling, NLP application and NLP training. This is a seminal book in the field and one of the most important NLP books written in recent years.

[8] See Philosophy in the Flesh; the Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. Quoting Lakoff and Johnson “The cognitive unconscious is vast and intricately structured. It includes not only our automatic cognitive operations, but also all our implicit knowledge. All of our knowledge and beliefs are framed in terms of a conceptual system that resides mostly in the cognitive unconscious p.13″. Recent work in embodied cognition fits nicely with models in already developed in NLP and especially in New Code NLP.

[9] The study of the relationships and interactions between living organisms and their natural or developed environment.

[10] In most classic code training reference is made to the unconscious mind via the related field of Ericksonian Hypnosis. When this is the case methods for engaging the unconscious mind typically involve hypnosis. While the psychiatrist Milton H. Erickson’s work provided many essential patterns to NLP, his particular application has created an erroneous perception that NLP is a therapeutic modality. Thus most classic trained NLP practitioners can only work with a person’s unconscious mind using hypnotic methods. In the new code there are formal patterns for engaging unconscious processing without resorting to hypnotic trance. This enables people trained in the new code to apply the benefits of NLP to themselves, naturally and independently and to use it in contexts where a hypnotic style would not fit. One of the features of the new code is that it supports self-application of NLP patterning.

A New Code approach to teaching NLP

Features of a New Code Approach to Teaching NLP

Teaching New Code NLP requires deep unconscious familiarity with the patterns to be offered, combined with fluency in chunking, perceptual position shifting and the language of process instructions. A trainer needs to be able to offer experiential discovery exercises in which the intended pattern is presupposed, having demonstrated the pattern at intervals, covertly, throughout the training. This approach precludes conscious interference, spurious meaning or comparison with prior knowledge.

Comprehensive New Code NLP training produces graduates who think in NLP patterns, ask penetrating questions and communicate naturally and elegantly in their own style. This approach to training is minimalist, code congruent and process and discovery oriented. Minimalism strips away non-essential material (content), ritual and artificial aids from the training context.

“Comprehensive New Code NLP training produces graduates who think in NLP patterns, ask penetrating questions and communicate naturally.”

Code congruence in training requires maximum similarity between training and assessment with reference to context, process, resources and material, in the interest of facilitating learning and performance [1]. Code congruence in disseminating learning to life requires the training to blend with life as much as possible and to maintain that connection through each exercise.

New Code NLP training uses experiential discovery exercises. The training room has freedom of entry and exit, natural light and direct links to the outside. The New Code approach requires students to converse in their own words in as natural an environment as possible, using process instructions as their frame for each exercise.

Framing for Conscious Attention and Metaphor for Unconscious Attention

As discussed earlier, framing is essential to New Code NLP training and is all about context. Everything we do, all of our behaviour occurs and applies in a particular context or set of contexts. We may not be conscious of most of the contexts in which we are functioning, however, the context where we are at any moment sets the scene for the way we behave there. In the world, a context is the situation, time and place that informs what we do. Our internal states too, are part of our context and also inform our actions in the world. A context is the set of constraints and supports that cue our states and behaviour while inside it.

Framing is the art of setting the boundaries for a communication or interaction. Framing defines the context [2]. Framing can also apply to the way we organise ourselves to do something. The frame we place on a context defines how we do what we do and how we live our lives. The framing model is one of the most important and influential models of NLP.

“The framing model is one of the most important and influential models of NLP.”

The intent of framing is to facilitate students to discover patterns of excellence for themselves through exposure to training exercises, experiences and games. Also for students to experience an unconscious uptake of generative patterns of excellence. This is evidenced by the questions they ask, the behaviour they offer and the links they make. The intent for unconscious uptake is to prevent students from making conscious links between what they think they are learning and what they know already that they think relates to it. Ideally, students learn unconsciously, then allow the patterns to generalise and be expressed unconsciously until sometime later the student starts to gain conscious awareness.

“The intent of framing is to facilitate students to discover patterns of excellence for themselves through exposure to training exercises.”

In contrast, conventional learning expects the conscious mind to learn before a skill or topic becomes available unconsciously. This is hard work and allows conscious ideas and opinions to filter new information before it is experienced. This is limiting. Learners want to be able to respond with NLP patterns, not talk about them. Therefore, participants are asked to complete discovery exercises without knowing what their purpose is in advance. They are given clear process instructions with no reasoning.

New Code NLP trainers, practitioners and , consultants use framing extensively before beginning to teach a pattern or intervene with a client. It can be presupposed that the unconscious has access to all our resources; and there are times when we run out of ideas. At those times the unconscious mind needs a frame of reference on which to base the search for resources that fit the particular situation. For the conscious mind the discovery method favoured in New Code NLP does not provide meaning in advance and conscious minds like meaning.

Framing provides enough meaning, albeit different from the covert intent of the exercise to enable participants’ conscious minds to participate in a useful manner. That is to perform the overt task of the exercise.

Content-free High Performance States

Another aspect of the New Code approach to training and coaching is in the use of activities and games to develop content-free high performance states in participants. Once elicited, these states can be applied to any context where someone wants to enhance their performance. These high performance states are referred to as ‘content-free‘ as they arise as a by-product of the game or activity. They manifest in the present, thereby avoiding the use of sense memory as a source of resources for high performance. In effect they are uncontaminated by specific memory content.

The use of content-free high performance states leads to more robust changes and better generalisations of those changes into people’s lives. It is also congruent with the idea that ethical application of NLP be content-free. It avoids any risk of imposing consultants’ values on their clients, which is a serious drawback of content oriented models for example conventional psychotherapy, counselling or management consulting.

(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).

By Chris Collingwood, NLP Trainer at INSPIRITIVE.

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[1] If teaching or learning is experiential, then the testing should be experiential also. If students are given reading then a written test is appropriate. We test people in the same form or code in which they have leant. This is referred to as code congruence.

[2] In recent years the art of framing has entered into the political arena due to the influential book by George Lakoff, Moral Politics. We now hear politicians in Australia, especially the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, talking about frames and framing. The politician or party who has the best frames and skills for framing the agenda has a clear advantage.

How to differentiate between the New Code and Classic Code of NLP even if you are new to it

Getting NLP Back on Track; Reorienting to Patterning and Modelling

With the exponential growth of people teaching the developed models and applications of NLP to business, coaching, therapy, education, personal development etc., there has been very little attention accorded by NLP trainers to modelling, in general, and the development of new models, in particular.

Much of what is promoted as new models is simply a crafty repackaging of existing NLP models into applications of NLP. In fact most of the NLP books published in recent years are simply variations on standard NLP themes. As Grinder said in an 1996 interview:

” 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.”[1]

New Code NLP corrects this consequence with an explicit reorientation back to the core skills of NLP Modelling.

“Most of the NLP books published in recent years are simply variations on standard NLP themes.”

A consequence of Classic Code NLP teaching and learning is that the material becomes formulaic through packaging as techniques in either recipe or scripted form. This results in practitioners who are really merely NLP technicians, nothing more. They can only express NLP through the formatted techniques that they have been given, without an appreciation of the underlying NLP patterns. , Unless they can gain the patterns experientially, they will remain technicians and be limited to the ritualised techniques they were taught in their NLP training.

Unfortunately, even ritualised NLP makes a discernible difference to the quality of people’s lives, so continues to attract many students who are then led to believe they have learned the genuine article. This leads to another consequence; the development of perceptual filters[2] that preclude the likelihood of discovering the patterns of NLP. If you know it all already (and your trainer has anchored credibility), why would you “repeat” what you have finished learning?

The New Code NLP approach to teaching and learning involves creating a context or series of contexts within which the target patterns are demonstrated, with multiple descriptions[3].

(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 New Code NLP approach involves creating a context within which patterns are demonstrated.”

Students who learn to attend to the detection and utilization of patterns in self and others develop artistry in their use of NLP. They have behavioural flexibility and can respond creatively in any context, applying existing patterns in multiple ways while also developing new material.

Summary of Differences Between Classic Code NLP and New Code NLP

A useful way of thinking about the difference between New Code NLP and Classic Code NLP is in terms of emphasis.

Classic Code NLP emphasizes technique, mechanistic metaphors and the production of NLP technicians. It uses conscious explicit models that are often divorced from their original context. “Where do I use this technique” and “How do I know which technique to use” are common questions from Classic Code NLP students and practitioners. There is a tendency for classic code practitioners to try to fit clients to procedures, instead of creating interventions with each client.

“There is a tendency for classic code practitioners to try to fit clients to procedures.”

In stark contrast, New Code NLP emphasizes the relationship between the conscious and unconscious minds of the individual, their relationships with others and their relationship with the world. It works towards the personal evolution of the participant.

New Code NLP promotes unconscious competence, which will be demonstrated and followed by conscious appreciation. Training drills are used in service to pattern incorporation and the development of unconscious competence.

The balance between the conscious and unconscious minds is paramount and this is known as the conscious / unconscious interface. New Code NLP is directed towards the detection and utilisation of patterns in the world, with an emphasis on patterns.

“New Code NLP is directed towards the detection and utilisation of patterns in the world.”

A New Code NLP practitioner often creates a process spontaneously in response to a particular context. In this evolved code, participants explore psychological states and learn to recognise, inventory and change states. This work connects with the development and incorporation by each participant of a modelling state. A modelling state is a state of mind for modelling excellence. Another aspect of New Code NLP is attention training (essential for modelling). That is learning where and how you place your attention, how that relates to state, perceptual position and context.

Grinder and DeLozier and later Grinder and Bostic St Clair developed New Code NLP as a second, greatly evolved description of Neuro-Linguistic Programming to create a system for learning NLP that fosters the development of systemic wisdom in the participant[4].

The new NLP qualification, the 10250NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, is taught based entirely on the New Code NLP.

By Chris Collingwood, NLP Trainer at INSPIRITIVE.

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[1] This excerpt is from an interview conducted by Jules and Chris Collingwood in 1996 published in full here.

[2] Perceptual filters are those ideas or beliefs an individual carries, based on past learning and experience, that organise, and in some cases distort, what is perceived in a given context. Our perceptual filters are an imposition that we project onto the world. For example if you believe that politicians are inherently dishonest, then this would bias your perception of politicians and the meaning you would attribute to their presentations. A liberal and a conservative voter in the US will perceive and filter a speech by the President of the United States in different ways from each other, based on their political leanings.

[3] Read DeLozier and Grinder’s Turtles all the Way Down; Prerequisites to Personal Genius and Bateson’s Mind and Nature; a Necessary Unity, for rich explanations of the concept of multiple descriptions, referred to as ‘Double description’ by Bateson.

[4] Read more about New Code NLP by referring to Turtles All the Way Down; Prerequisites to Personal Genius by Judith Delozier and John Grinder and Whispering in the Wind by Carmen Bostic St Clair and John Grinder.

Create a close and productive relationship with your unconscious mind

The Function of the Unconscious Mind

The function of the conscious mind is to deal with daily life and provide framing and direction to facilitate the unconscious mind’s search and processing functions. It might choose an outcome or frame a desire to fulfil and propose the outcome to the unconscious mind for support, ideas and options to get there. Developing a relationship with the unconscious mind will support a mutually beneficial collaboration between conscious and unconscious functions for the person.

If your starting point is reservation about the existence of your unconscious mind, consider the involuntary responses that keep us alive. When we eat, our food is digested without our conscious input. Our hearts beat and our blood flows round the body. If we had to walk consciously, it would be a slow and rather ineffective task. If our hair stopped growing a bad haircut would be more than a temporary disaster. If someone asks a question we can answer immediately, the answer is there, regardless of what we were thinking about a moment earlier. When asked a less obvious question we may have to search for the answer before it presents itself, but the search is not conscious.

Given the invisibility of mind conscious or otherwise as opposed to the brain, it is entirely possible that the unconscious mind is a metaphor for some other form of automation. However treating it as an able and well-intentioned part of us allows fruitful communication between conscious and unconscious to take place. The unconscious has more than one function. As well as running things it acts as a library for all the experiences we have had including the ones we do not remember consciously.

“It is entirely possible that the unconscious mind is a metaphor for some other form of automation.”

It has a search function and like a search engine the quality of the results it produces are directly proportional to the quality of the search criteria it is given. For example you can offer your unconscious a clearly visible movie of yourself achieving an outcome and ask if the unconscious will support you in having that outcome. If the movie is sufficiently detailed your unconscious has enough information to search your library for relevant data. It can determine quickly if it is ecological and useful for you to have that particular outcome. If you need help creating a prospective outcome the exercise Outcome, Intention and Consequences is designed to help you develop clear representations of your outcomes as well as ensuring they are well formed. Your unconscious can use the products of Outcome, Intention and Consequences as search criteria.

(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 unconscious has a form of wisdom, in that it is not limited to seven plus or minus two chunks of information and it works in relata and systems. However it can respond somewhat literally with language use. It can miss nuances and respond literally to questions and requests. In most cases it deletes negatives. If I say; ‘Don’t drop that cup’ your unconscious mind will represent that cup then represent you dropping the cup in order to make sense of my statement. Don’t think of blue is a common example. You have to think of blue in order to know what not to think of. Then you can delete blue.

Yet at the same time, the unconscious mind has fun with the spoken word and appreciates the hidden patterns in metaphor. It can make multiple meanings of words with the same sound and phrases with more than one meaning. In writing sale and sail look different but when we hear them the context tells us which one it is. “The sun shines out of my ask anybody if I’m a good Premier” is attributed to Joh Bjelke Pietersen, the late fearless leader of Queensland, Australia. This is an example of language use designed to engage the unconscious. What is not said is picked up when the presuppositions surrounding the statement give it direction. Presuppositions frame what is stated and the definition of a Presupposition is What has to be true for a sentence, paragraph, comment or text to make sense.

The unconscious mind not only stores representations of experiences, or schemata, it groups them, relates them to other experiences, develops elaborated sets and makes meaning of them. It will prompt us to go searching in the world for more information on matters of interest to us, provided it is not offered definitive closure on a topic. For example most people who learn NLP do so from choice because it is a fascinating area of study and has so many practical benefits. Thorough immersive training in the patterns and principles of NLP offers the opportunity to continue to learn and develop generatively, long after the event. Students find they are using NLP to explore itself and other patterns of excellence in the world. Unconscious minds enjoy playing with life enhancing patterns and there is endless opportunity to do that with no closure on pattern detection and utilisation in the world.

Contrast that experience with being handed a book of scripted formats that map onto specific problems. In that world life and change is presented as problematic with a linear one tool to fix one problem mindset. There is low grade closure at every turn. The conscious mind crunches the numbers avidly and the unconscious mind’s desire to explore is constrained. Worse still at the end of a short period of training using the book those students return to the world clutching their book of recipes with a sense of having done NLP and ruled it off. That is sad.

Establishing Communication Between Your Conscious and Unconscious Mind

Communication between conscious and unconscious is natural and continuous. The unconscious gives signals which we may or may not notice consciously. Often we become habituated to our own signals and ignore them. While this is very common in extreme examples this does not promote good relations between conscious and unconscious. For some people, when they get back in touch with the unconscious initially, the relationship has to be re-established.

First, we can learn to detect our unconscious signals by attending to our senses and exploring small shifts in light, sound and sensation. To facilitate this process there are at least three excellent practices for communicating with the unconscious mind. Here we shall explore one of them in detail.

Using natural signals to communicate with the Unconscious Mind

The simplest way to detect and apply unconscious signals, which we all possess, is to remember a time when we had an instant and engaging certainty that something was right for us. Did someone make you an offer you could not refuse? Did you have an opportunity to do something very appealing? When you find an example that gave you a very clear signal of Yes, I want that, re-live it and re-experience that clear signal. Note every sensation and any internal images or sounds. That is your natural signal which the unconscious uses to indicate Yes, I want or support that. It is usually a clearly detectable, felt sensation centred about the vertical midline of the body, in the chest or abdominal region. There may be an involuntary move or lean forward, towards what you want.

You also have a signal that fires when something is utterly unacceptable and you would move heaven and earth to prevent it. Can you find an example of that? Has someone suggested you do something distasteful, unacceptably dangerous or even abhorrent to you? This is the signal that lets you know that. It is you natural signal for No. This is also usually centred around the vertical midline of the body, but feels radically different from the Yes signal. It may include an involuntary move backwards, away from the unpleasant idea.

When you have identified the Yes and the No signals by finding examples where each fired naturally, you are ready to engage the unconscious and start to communicate with it. At this stage, you are restricted to asking questions which can be answered with Yes or No, known as Closed questions. Framing for your questions is essential to facilitate the unconscious mind’s search function.

First, you need to establish communication, so relive or replay your Yes signal and simultaneously ask your unconscious mind (by asking inwardly or out loud) ‘Unconscious, if you are willing to communicate with me, please repeat this signal’. Then you wait for the signal to repeat. When you get the signal, thank your unconscious mind. Then ask,  If you are willing to use that signal (replay the Yes signal) to answer Yes to my questions, please do it again. When you get a Yes response, thank your unconscious.

To set up your No signal, relive or replay your No signal and simultaneously ask your unconscious; ‘Unconscious, if you are willing to use this (No signal) signal to answer, No to my questions, please repeat the signal I am demonstrating now. When you get the signal, thank your unconscious mind. Then confirm the No signal by asking: Unconscious, if that is the signal to answer No to my questions, please repeat it now. When the signal fires again, thank your unconscious. You are now ready to start some meaningful communication.

You may be wondering about the frequent thanks I am recommending to offer the unconscious mind. Having worked with many unconscious minds and discussed this subject with John Grinder, we have observed that unconscious minds appreciate and respond well to a high level of courtesy. This seems to be true, even with consciously discourteous clients and students. It is highly amusing to watch a churlish conscious mind’s unconscious begin to communicate and insist on clear framing, polite requests and thanks articulated after every answer.

If you would like your unconscious mind to support you in achieving and having something you want, create your outcome in as much detail as you can muster. Make a clearly visible internal movie, with a sound track and sensations of being there. Play it for your unconscious mind and ask the question: Unconscious, will you support me in having this? If you get a Yes, you are in business. Say ‘Thank you’. If you get a No still say Thank you. Now you need to ask more questions or provide more information.

How do you know what to ask next? What would you want to know before you could offer informed comment to someone requesting your input on their plan or situation? This is the kind of information your unconscious may need.

You could ask if you have provided enough information.

  • Was your movie sufficiently detailed to enable a thorough search?
  • Are there consequences attached to the outcome that you had not considered consciously?

You could pursue your intention for having the outcome. The intention is what you want to experience through having your outcome fulfilled. It is the answer to the question; What do you want that for? Or, What will having that do for you?Notice the direction is quite different from the answer you would give to; Why do you want that? In this context, reasons and excuses are not helpful.

The intention for having your outcome might be more acceptable to your unconscious mind if the outcome itself is not. If you are unsure of your intention, ask if your unconscious will share it with you. If it agrees, the idea will spring to mind in the familiar manner of your regular ideas, connections and realisations.

Regular communication with the unconscious mind, using Yes and No signals, facilitates the relationship between conscious and unconscious. As the connection develops, the conscious mind becomes able to see, hear and feel information offered by the unconscious in the form of ideas and representations or thoughts. When we ask for the support of the unconscious in achieving our outcomes, the unconscious may want us to do something specific consciously. For example, someone wanted to remain alert and fully functioning until a particular task was completed. This required working for a 17 hour period that stretched far into the night. The unconscious agreed, subject to the person promising to sleep late and take the following day off, with an early night at the end of it.

If the unconscious stipulates a condition for facilitating an outcome and you agree to that condition, you are advised to keep the agreement. Unconscious minds can lose trust in their person quite easily if agreements are not kept and they develop trust by collecting evidence of trustworthy conduct. Through no fault of our own, there is a long history of people ignoring unconscious signals they have received without recognising them as such. Eventually the unconscious has stopped trying to get their attention. In extreme cases, sincere apologies are called for.

A student once described losing an excellent relationship with her unconscious mind. When she was an undergraduate, she and her friends thought one of their lecturers was very attractive, from a respectful distance. At that time, her unconscious mind was working with her conscious mind in a co-operative and effective arrangement. One evening, she went to the relevant department to hand in an essay. The building was almost empty and the attractive lecturer invited her up to his office. Her unconscious mind said No, very clearly and directly. She ignored the signal and the lecturer tried to rape her. She managed to get away from him, but her unconscious mind stopped working with her. She came to the Grad Cert NLP 10 years later and told the story, saying her unconscious mind had not communicated with her at all since then. Arrangements were made, using signals for Yes and No, combined with profuse apologies and a promise to honour all signals, advice and arrangements. Her unconscious agreed to reestablish communication provided the student kept her agreements and the relationship started to improve.

“Communication with the unconscious is an integral part of the New Code of NLP.”

Sensitivity to our own unconscious signals is not a normal part of our upbringing and education, at least in the west. Therefore we may need to spend time learning to detect quite subtle signals from our unconscious minds so we can create or enhance the relationship. Later on, when the relationship is well established, we can move on from formal communication to faster and more comprehensive interaction, using internal images, sounds and sensation as we do with more conscious thoughts.

Communication with the unconscious is an integral part of the New Code of NLP. It is possible to engage the unconscious to participate in NLP work with less explanation than is given here, but for the reader, depth of framing makes an appreciable difference to the quality of your experience, especially if you want to do this by yourself.

(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).

Article By Jules, Collingwood, NLP Trainer at INSPIRITIVE.

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What everybody should know about NLP anchoring

What is an Anchor?

Anchors can be created and fired deliberately and they occur naturally. Either way, the conditions for setting an anchor are:

  • The subject experiences a state that is sufficiently intense to be discernible to them.
  • A unique stimulus occurs or is applied physically, visually and/or audibly while the state is intensifying.
  • The unique stimulus stops before the intensity of the state peaks. (To create a blend of resource states, additional states can be anchored with the same stimulus).
  • When the stimulus is re-applied at a later time, the anchored state returns.

Anchors are broken using the same conditions.

  • The subject experiences a usefully resourceful state that is different from the unwanted anchored state. Additional resources can be anchored if necessary to enhance the resource state at this stage.
  • The anchor for the unwanted state is fired while the resourceful state is increasing in intensity.
  • The two states (resource state+unwanted anchored state) merge and become a new state which is different and resourceful.
  • The process can be repeated from the beginning to this stage if necessary to enhance the quality of resources.
  • When the stimulus is re-applied, the new state returns.

“Anchors can be created and fired deliberately and they occur naturally”

We can learn to set anchors with ourselves and others using any of the senses to create the stimulus. We can also invoke internal images, sounds or sensations (representations) to create our own anchors and elicit others’ representations and anchor those. Creating and breaking anchors is a valuable skill when coaching. Many of the difficulties people experience in their lives come from their responses to unconsciously generated internal signals in their internal representations. These signals are anchored responses, often to something which is no longer relevant to the person’s life. When the signals are experienced consciously, the anchors can be traced and broken, thereby freeing the person to respond freshly in the present.

A teacher experienced a real life example of breaking an anchor. She had a very large, strong 12 year old boy in her class. He used to stand too close to her and loom over her and she felt threatened by him. A friend asked her to imagine the boy as something ridiculous, and her unconscious mind presented the image of a giant Donald Duck, complete with voice. The next time the boy approached her, the image of Donald Duck flashed on her internal screen and she almost laughed out loud. The boy unconsciously detected the change in her demeanour and subsequently became her greatest fan and supporter.

Anchors are used in public life to influence individuals and groups to further the outcomes of business, political and other organisations. In TV advertising, jingles, ambience, colour schemes, branding and the style of voice over are all designed to create a mental link with the product and its apparent benefits. Sales people have been eliciting buying states and using anchors for years to exert influence with prospective purchasers and marketers routinely use visual and auditory anchors to elicit approving and acquisitive states in prospective buyers. There is plentiful evidence in the world that an effective marketing machine can produce copious quantities of revenue even when the product is derisory.

Given the amount of public exposure to influence through anchoring, as well as the benefits of using it in change work, learning to detect anchors, set anchors and break them is a valuable skill to have. Kinaesthetic (touch) anchoring is usually learned first, for practical reasons. It is easier to keep track of students’ accuracy, timing and refinement when you can see their actions and their partners’ responses. They can feel their actions and see their partners’ responses. After they have become proficient with kinaesthetic anchors, it is a simple matter to move to setting auditory and visual anchors and to recognise when anchors are being used.

(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).

Imagine a child on her way to her first term at boarding school. She is scared, unhappy and definitely wants to be somewhere else. When the bus stops at the school, she can see a riot of wallflowers in bright sunlight outside the school buildings. The doors open and a rush of warm, fresh air, richly scented with wallflowers enters the bus. The child takes a deep breath and feels a moment of joy as she smells the flowers. Then she takes a mental step back and observes herself in the context of starting boarding school. She catches the wallflower moment and places it safely outside the context to keep it special (and not anchored to school). With a little alertness we can redirect anchors while they are forming, provided we catch them in the moment of creation.

Setting an Anchor – The Process

Outside formal training, auditory and visual anchors are more practical to use. For a start, cultural norms have changed and touching others has become a high risk activity. You would also have to be within arms length and could only anchor one person at a time. If you are making a speech and you want to whip up a crowd to vote for your candidate, you can elicit and anchor states of enthusiasm and excitement with your gestures and voice tones while you use artfully vague language patterns. The chances are you will engage enough of your audience for the rest to be swept up in the influence of the crowd.

The conventional NLP classroom method of teaching anchoring is to start people setting and firing kinaesthetic (touch) anchors in pairs. One student anchors their partner and then they swap roles. The instructions are:

  1. Sit or stand where you can be comfortable and have a hand on an acceptable yet unusual part of your partner (in the classic code they use knees, forearms, shoulders).
  2. Place your hand lightly on the chosen site and leave it there.
  3. Elicit a state with your partner that they find pleasing and resourceful.
  4. When you see the state begin to intensify (change your partner’s physiology, skin tone and/or breathing), add pressure with your hand (for subtlety, increase your pressure at the rate of increase of the state).
  5. Keep up the pressure as the state intensifies.
  6. Release the pressure, but not your hand before the state peaks in intensity.
  7. Keep your hand lightly in the same place on your partner and shift their attention with a question or distraction.
  8. When your partner is distracted, test the anchor by applying the same quality of pressure with your hand as you did creating the anchor.
  9. If your partner enters the resource state with the same physiology as before, you have created an anchor.

If nothing happens, start again from the beginning.

  • Maybe you need to elicit a more distinctive state.
  • Did you keep your hand in exactly the same position all the way through? If not, attend to that. Accurate placement is easiest to manage by leaving your hand on your partner all through the exercise.
  • Did you increase pressure before the state started? This time, increase the pressure as you watch the state manifest.
  • Did you leave the pressure on for too long? If so, you anchored a declining state. Take the pressure off before the state peaks in intensity.
  • Did you choose a part of your partner’s body that they or others touch frequently? If so, there will be too much noise in the system to respond well to your anchor. Uniqueness of stimulus is important.

If you want to bring the anchor within your partner’s aegis so they can fire it themselves in future:

  • Ask your partner to choose a unique gesture or touch for themselves, for example an ear or the back of the other hand.
  • Ask your partner to apply pressure or squeeze the chosen area at the same time and rate as you apply pressure with your hand to fire the anchor.
  • Break state and distract.
  • You and your partner fire the anchor again, simultaneously.
  • Break state and distract.
  • Your partner fires the anchor by themselves to test it.

These exercises use kinaesthetic (touch) anchoring, but the principles apply across the senses. Most naturally occurring anchors happen when we see or hear a stimulus in daily life. The song of the Cuckoo is a cultural anchor for the promise of spring in England. The chimes of an ice cream van in the street brought children running to buy treats. Drivers stop at red traffic lights without thinking about it. What does the scent of roses or grass clippings mean to you?

Breaking an Anchor

A business client came for coaching. Her job was negotiating high value business deals and she had a reputation for creating reliably advantageous results for her employer. One day, she was introduced to a man with whom she felt intimidated. This was unusual for her and she found herself unable to negotiate effectively, so she sought coaching before any damage was done. In the session, she discovered that unconsciously the man’s presentation reminded her of her father’s behaviour, voice tones and facial expressions. She was still carrying an old anchor to those expressions which triggered an age regressed, disempowered state. Unsurprisingly, this state made successful negotiating unlikely. After an intervention in which the client’s ample adult resources were deposited back into her childhood, the anchor was gone and the woman’s normal capacity was back in play. She was free of the sense of intimidation she had experienced previously and was able to conduct the negotiation with her usual flair.

“Creating and breaking anchors is a valuable skill when coaching.”

To break an anchor:

  1. Prepare a resourceful state you would prefer to have in the context where the unwanted anchor fires.
  2. Anchor the resource state yourself, using a gesture, a sound or a reliable internal or external image.
  3. Test your resource anchor.
  4. Imagine entering the context or wait until you enter the real context.
  5. Fire and hold your resource anchor as you detect the first hint of the old anchor.
  6. Keep the resource anchor running until you feel settled with it (20 sec to 2 min).


  1. When you feel the first hint of an anchored or habitual unresourceful state, step out of your self into a clean, curious observer position outside yourself where you can feel comfortably disengaged from the action.
  2. Watch yourself and the other people in your context. This is often sufficient to break an anchor.
  3. When you step back into your self, your state will be different.

The essential elements for creating, changing and breaking an anchor are:

  • Uniqueness of stimulus.
  • Timing: the anchor is placed, held and released within the period of increasing intensity of the state.
  • Quality of response: the state to be anchored is distinctive and detectable by the subject.

Formal anchoring as a skill in NLP was developed by John Grinder and Richard Bandler in 1970s.

(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).

By Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer at INSPIRITIVE Pty Ltd.

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