Learning: unconscious uptake or conscious effort

Unconscious uptake and hypnotic trances

Learning by modelling or unconscious uptake as described is different from a hypnotic trance. Whereas most trances take a person’s attention inwards, modelling specifically requires the modeller’s attention to be external, so they can see, hear and feel everything unfolding in front of them and take it in directly. While not a hypnotic trance, this state is sometimes called an uptime trance, denoting full sensory attention to the outside world. External attention only uses sensory input through eyes, ears and body. Ideally there is no internal dialogue; minimally, internal dialogue is reduced to the best of your ability. There is no use of internal imagery or sound either. One of the most effective ways to reduce learning is to make internal images, sounds and dialogue during a presentation or lecture. Internal representations use up the input channels at the very time they need to be clear for input and the quality of learning is enhanced if they are kept to a minimum during the class. Understanding can be sought later, in private, over suitable course materials. , 

“Learning by modelling or unconscious uptake as described is different from a hypnotic trance”

Unconscious uptake is the kind of learning we advocate for becoming expert in the use and application of NLP. It facilitates natural acquisition of the patterns with the ability to use them to respond to others with appropriate questions and instructions. There is no requirement outside the classroom to adhere to a complete process if other patterns fit the conversation and context more closely. In the classroom, learning complete change processes has several functions. A complete process can be used like training wheels on a bicycle. It provides a framework to carry a subset of NLP patterns to which students need to be exposed. It provides an opportunity to work with others with sufficient constraints to allow students to practice the new piece with previously learned patterns, such as rapport, sensory acuity and calibration.

  • Rapport is the willing engagement of the other’s unconscious attention.
  • Sensory acuity is observation and listening for language patterns and non-verbal responses without attributing meaning.
  • Calibration is observation of patterns previously seen and heard in that individual and known to be associated with particular states and response potential for that person.

Unconscious uptake enables students to engage with patterns in different combinations as the course progresses, so they build up schemata or representations of increasing complexity as the course progresses. This creates a collection of known patterns which can be mixed and matched by the unconscious to suit different conversations and contexts and becomes more accessible with practice. In due course, the student acquires conscious understanding, often some time later.

“Unconscious uptake is the kind of learning we advocate for becoming expert in the use and application of NLP”

It takes trust in the trainers and the training organisation for students to be willing to engage in unconscious uptake. It often feels unfamiliar and does not provide immediate conscious feedback that one has acquired knowledge. To reduce the level of discomfort commonly associated with uncertainty before students discover that unconscious uptake is extremely effective, we provide them with the opportunity to discover that it works with minimal risk.

We advise prospective students to research carefully before enrolling, to assure themselves that we know what we are doing. In line with government policy, if they are not finding class useful, we allow anyone who wants to withdraw to do so before the second day of their next unit. We also provide students with reading material to which they can refer after learning a particular piece. Students who have completed a unit of study satisfactorily are invited to repeat that unit for a nominal fee at any time during the next two years if they want to review it. These measures are all designed to give students the assurance that they can take the time they need to familiarise themselves with unconscious input so they can give their full attention to learning. Then they can develop trust within themselves to learn that way. We also offer them reliable material to help facilitate conscious understanding after their experience, should they so wish.

Yet in this world full of diversity, (which makes it interesting) many people have been taught that conscious, deliberate learning and wanting immediate understanding is the right way to learn. The most extreme examples insist on taking notes, talking to themselves and visualising during presentations. They may ask very precise, literal questions that take their attention away from the patterns unfolding in front of them. By their very activity, they make a great effort, engage their conscious resources and miss the frames and patterns that make a new process memorable, effortlessly functional and ecological to use.

Ecology is preserving the client or subject’s long term wellbeing with reference to the contexts of their lives, relationships and circumstances which could be impacted by their outcomes with an exercise or change process.

People who espouse conscious mind learning, especially if they get results from it, say they are not learning if they are not taking notes and if they cannot have exercise instructions to read. They become agitated and naturally subject themselves to loud internal dialogue and intrusive internal images as they imagine wasting their opportunity and not learning. This response is precisely what stops them learning. If they can stay the course and attend externally, eventually they, too, discover that unconscious uptake works well in the context of NLP. It just takes a little longer at the beginning. Otherwise, these are people who leave training with a collection of notes and recipes and a limited capacity to work with NLP in their lives.

Conscious mind learning is used by the majority of people who have experienced formal education and it is the culturally accepted norm. Therefore it is not surprising that much of the material modelled by Bandler and Grinder has been written up in the form of techniques and scripts. When students attend exclusively and consciously to verbal instructions and specific comments and questions, the demonstrated piece is taken down verbatim and used in the exercise with the exact words in the same order as they were offered in the demonstration. When the words survive and the non-verbal elements in the communication are missed, a format is created. The format becomes the standard for general use. No one remembers it expressed patterns for a specific interaction and is not a complete model ready for generalisation.

“When the words survive and the non-verbal elements in the communication are missed, a format is created”

A prime example of an over specified NLP process for creating change is the Swish. It is variously described as a method or a technique and is normally presented as a recipe to be memorised or as a script to be read.

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Attention and Performance: How you attend to the world can transform your performance in it

Attention, State and Performance

In article 4 in the Attention series Jules the relationship between how we use our attention, our state and performance.


The set of specific values in a person’s physiology, neurology and biochemistry that gives rise to their behavioural expression and their subjective experience of themselves and the world in any given moment. Some states recur in each culture with sufficient frequency to have acquired labels in the appropriate language. Examples include joy, depression, happiness, angst, and joie de vivre. Naming states implies a commonality of experience, which is not necessarily the case. Naming states does not describe the differences in individual subjective experience which actually exist within any particular named state: I.e. one person’s generation and experience of elation, misery or anxiety will be different from someone else’s and two people deliberately generating the same conditions within their bodies may call the resulting state by different names.

Our states influence the quality and direction of our attention and our attention influences our states. States act as frames for how we use our attention, what we attend to and what we delete from our attention. States influence the perceptual filters we apply and simultaneously our more pervasive perceptual filters influence our access to different states.

“Our states influence the quality and direction of our attention and our attention influences our states.”

States give rise to mood frames such as happy, sad, optimistic and pessimistic. They also influence the likelihood or absence of choice and opinion based responses such as willingness, co-operation, participation and trust.

States are not fixed. They shift continually, sometimes imperceptibly in small increments, yet they can also shift radically. This may be in response to receiving new information or to a sudden recognition of a change of meaning of existing information, though it can also occur when an activity starts or ends. Receiving important exam results, making a large purchase and even having a meal often precipitates a change of state.

Some people experience states which are notably different from most of their other states. Certain frames and information which are normally accessible to them are not found while in these radically different states. If these states also require special circumstances to enter and leave, they are known as Dissociated States. Dissociated states often carry framing and meaning that is only accessible to a person when they are in that state. Examples include the sudden state changes associated with experiencing road accidents and chemically induced altered states such as exposure to mind altering drugs or alcohol. The alcoholic Black out is a case in point, where a person cannot remember what happened at a party until they are that drunk again, when it all comes back to them.

“There is anecdotal evidence that it is very hard to maintain a depressed state while doing a headstand.”

Chronically depressed states often have characteristics of dissociated states. When someone is experiencing depression, they are likely to express a belief that it is pervasive and continuous. In depression, they may not have access to the moments in their day when their attention has elicited a different state. They have difficulty imagining life being more rewarding, and often they cannot access their memories of pre-depression life or the moments, hours and days where their attention is on something other than being depressed.

Where You Place Your Attention Can Affect Your State

What we attend to and how we attend to it can elicit changes in our state. We can learn to enter and leave any state by shifting our attention. If the process we use to shift our attention is sufficiently compelling, even the most subjectively difficult states will shift for long enough to provide a reference experience, unless they are chemically induced. Yet most of us have heard anecdotes relating to people in chemical hazes who seem to snap out of it for a brief period to present a straight or sober countenance to the world.

There is anecdotal evidence that it is very hard to maintain a depressed state while doing a headstand. Certainly this is not a long term option, but giving someone live evidence of a state change, even for a minute or two, can shift a belief that feeling depressed is all-pervasive. If someone can change that belief enough to consider other options, they may be open to learning more user friendly attention shifting skills. Then they can discover, through live experience, that changing state by choice is a skill which they can learn.

John Grinder’s ‘Chain of Excellence’

For our purposes, learning to change state is predicated on a person’s natural and habitual states, more than those involving artificial aids. John Grinder, the co-originator of NLP, proposes a ‘Chain of Excellence’ leading to enhanced performance in any context:





The Chain of Excellence has three points of leverage to shift attention and create a better quality of action in the world. They are:

  1. Change your breathing pattern and your physiology (posture, movement, carriage) will change.
  2. Change your physiology and your state will change.
  3. Change your state and your performance will change. (Performance includes natural interactions, reading, sleeping and eating as well prepared activities and working).

If you act on any one of the three, the categories below will shift in response. To test this, consider an issue in your life and note your state. Then go for a ten minute brisk walk with an even, balanced posture and your head up comfortably. You will find your breathing will deepen, your physiology will be nicely shaken up and your thinking will become clearer.

You can attend to any matter on your agenda as you walk, or you can think about it before you walk, then shift your attention to enjoy the walk and return to the matter afterwards. Your take on it will be different. This is an example of a model known as ‘Personal Editing’, created by Judith DeLozier and is the simplest and most natural way to do it. You can see it unfolding in daily life if you attend gym, exercise or dance classes. The class members come in after work in a work state. They attend to class, move, exercise and perform routines. Then they leave in a different state.

When you engage the Chain of Excellence, your attention goes to the element you want to shift. When you follow through, your body function supports resourceful states that promote high quality attention. Personal editing can provide you with a generic resource state which you can take anywhere. Then, when you enter a specific context, the state will enable you to access appropriate resources for performing well in that context.

A ‘Four Step Change Process’

In the New Code of NLP, John Grinder has developed a ‘Four Step Change Process’. It applies leverage through the Chain of Excellence to create generic, content-free (go anywhere) resource states. Step 3 requires an activity that applies the leverage of the Chain of Excellence. In this case I recommend the Personal Editing brisk walk as you can do this by yourself and I have described it already.

  1. Identify a context where you want to perform with excellence and currently do not.
  2. Step briefly into the context and experience it.
  3. Step out of the context and start a Personal Editing brisk walk immediately, attending only to the sensory experience of walking and seeing and hearing your environment in real time.
  4. At the end of 10-15 minutes brisk walking, step into the context you chose in the state you are in now. Let the state blend into the context and enjoy the result. Now you experience the difference.

By Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer at INSPIRITIVE Pty Ltd.

Attention Training Articles

  1. Apply leverage to your attention for productivity by choice
    by Jules Collingwood
  2. 5 elements to enhance the quality of your attention and further your outcomes
    by Jules Collingwood
  3. Creating meaningful change and altering the way you represent the world
    by Jules Collingwood
  4. How you attend to the world can transform your performance in it
    by Jules Collingwood
  5. How using your attention can change the quality of your states (and vice versa)
    by Jules Collingwood

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

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NLP Methodology for Creating Models

NLP Methodology and Modelling, Psychology and Cognitive Science

NLP is a field of endeavour whose primary purpose is to create models of human excellence. It is, at its core, an epistemology and a methodology for creating models of how we know what we know, and how those who excel are able to perform with excellence in attaining clear and measurable outcomes. NLP is made up of a number of different models, which are results of a process known as NLP modelling.

Psychology and Cognitive Science are long-established epistemological endeavours, whose aims are to build models of human psychological functioning and attempt to prove or disprove their validity and usefulness as metaphors through empirical analyses and to determine when such models break down and how far they can be used as interpretive guides to how the human system really works. Being aware that it is the methodologies of those fields as opposed to the efficacy of any one of their component models or disciplines which defines them and forms a framework for all their undertakings.

The process of creating models and maps of the world explicitly engage the presupposition that the map is not the territory; our models of the world are not the world itself, but to the extent that they are useful in achieving outcomes, they are helpful and worthwhile, as is any endeavour which endeavours to create such maps. Science as a whole is one such field.

Models and Maps of the World

All models have theoretical presuppositions, consequences and predict specific outcomes, which can be tested for validity through experimentation. Cognitive Science uses computational models to create working formats of models, which force explicit descriptions of the contexts, processes, structures and variables for which the model is appropriate. NLP uses formats and outcomes, and to the extent to which the presuppositions inherent in any given model are kept intact, and applied with methodological credibility, the models are amenable to experimentation. To assist in scientific investigation, models must be clearly specified and their presuppositions must be identified so that they may be explored experimentally.

Thus, NLP should be tested using the same scientific rigor as any other discipline which involves the creation and exploration of models, and for this to take place it is important, as noted by Einspruch & Forman (1985), that “researchers should be adequately trained in NLP so that the procedures and interventions generated can be used within the presuppositions contained in the model.” Scientific investigation has and will continue to assist in creating a clearer specification of the models of NLP through the analytic process.

As Sharpley (1987) has observed, “failure to produce data that support a particular theory from controlled studies does relegate that theory to questionable status in terms of professional accountability.” Once this occurs, a model must be refined or corrected, new models proposed, hypotheses and predictions made and experiments performed which allow the development of new models.

This is, in essence, the process of science, and any field of endeavour which attempts to create useful maps of the world.

It is very important for the NLP community as a whole that people become aware of the principles it shares with fields of research such as Cognitive Science and Psychology. However, this has not always been recognised in the experimental literature; various researchers (for example, Sharpley, 1987) have mistaken some of the models within NLP for the discipline of NLP as a whole, assuming innacurately that the entire credibility of NLP as a whole lies on the shoulders of one of its models (e.g. the representational systems model) Just as the credibility of psychology does not rest on the efficacy of any one model (e.g. Baddeley & Hitch’s, 1974, model of working memory), so it is with NLP.

Future Directions

Unfortunately, until now, there has not been a single standard methodology within the field of NLP. Thus there have been no controls on the method for introducing new models, nor has there been an agreement on precise specifications of the models of NLP. With the Graduate Certificate in NLP and Grinder and Bostic-St. Clair’s book Whispering in the Wind, Inspiritive is assisting in creating a centralised community of NLP practitioners, trainers and developers who can collaborate in the study of and development of models of excellence.

In addition, there have not been clear guidelines for experimental methodology, or clear specifications of the formats and processes of NLP. On this website, we provide such methodological guidelines, and The NLP Field Guide is the most comprehensive listing of NLP patterns and processes currently available to the NLP community.


Baddeley, A.D., Hitch, G.J. (1974). Working Memory, In G.A. Bower (Ed.), Recent advances in learning and motivation (Vol. 8, pp. 47-90), New York: Academic Press.

Bostic St. Clair, C., & Grinder, J. (2001). Whispering In The Wind. Scotts Valley, California 950666: J & C Enterprises.

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About the Author

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

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

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

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What is NLP Modelling?

What is NLP Modelling?

NLP modelling is a five stage process as described by John Grinder and Carmen Bostic St Clair in their book, “Whispering in the Wind”. This is distinct from analytical modelling, also known as cognitive modelling, in which the expert subject will be asked questions about their process.

“NLP Modelling is distinct form Analytical Modelling”

The disadvantage with analytical modelling is that conscious preconceptions of the questioner influence what is asked and conscious preconceptions of the expert influence the answers given. While experts do their best to teach, many of their books and lectures show evidence that they may not be the best people to describe their own expertise accurately.

Fritz Perls and Virginia Satir, the early models for NLP pattern development, held classes in their own therapies and both failed to teach the sensory acuity and language patterns they used so effectively to elicit change with their clients. It took NLP modelling, using unconscious uptake with no preconceptions to isolate the essential patterns that made the difference.

The five stages of NLP modelling require the following:

1. Select a Suitable Model

First a suitable model is selected. If it is worth modelling someone, they should be a model of excellence at their skill or in their field. Some people ask, “How do you identify excellence”? This is a subjective matter, but we can look for elegance, minimal effort and congruence in the model when they are performing in their context. We can compare the results they achieve with those of other exemplars, including the merely competent.

A suitable model is also someone with whom we can spend time while they work. NLP modelling does not function with written work or sound recordings. Video recording is a very poor second to live modelling and should only be considered as a last resort. For training modelling projects, it is more useful to model someone who does something with excellence than to model someone unavailable in person.

“NLP modelling does not function with written work”

2. Spend Time Around the Model

Having identified one or more excellent models in a skill, the act of modelling requires us to spend time in the presence of the model while they work or perform their expert function. Our state includes open peripheral vision, internal silence and minimal tension required to assume a similar posture to the model. In this state, we observe, listen, match and use micro-muscle movement to mimic the model’s micro behaviour over time, while we remain comfortable with not knowing. It is essential to keep everything we take in at this stage, unconscious, so no speculation and no searching for meaning.

3. Reaching Criteria

The third stage of modelling is reaching criteria. This will only happen cleanly if we are rigorous in our unconscious uptake. We continue modelling with unconscious uptake until we can achieve the same class of results as the model and in the same time frame. When we can do this, we continue to practice our skill unconsciously. Just because we reach criteria does not mean the skill is reliably available immediately and would remain intact under conscious scrutiny. We need a period of unconsciously led skill practice before conscious awareness starts to happen spontaneously. If we are modelling for our own use, the project ends at this point and we do not search for more conscious awareness. We use our skill in real time with unconscious, automated flow.

4. Transferring a Skill

The fourth stage is only necessary when modelling is intended for skill transfer to others. The skill can become conscious after a period of unconscious practice and will begin to do so spontaneously. The choice in coding the model for transfer depends on the area of expertise and the manner in which it functions. Often, there is choice in how to represent something depending on the desired outcome and the capacity of the learners.
Finally, the model is coded, arranged into stages for transfer and others learn the skills. The evidence for successful coding and transfer is in the performance of the learners.

NLP Modelling: Describing and transferring Exceptional Effectiveness

Inspiritive offers a unique service, the modelling and transfer of excellence. As a result of our modelling projects, we have developed descriptions for:

  • Successfully building one’s desired future
  • Futures and commodities trading (a monograph is also available)
  • A model for trading the stock market
  • Cross Cultural negotiation and a model for effective organisational leadership for an Australian multinational, plus a suite of new NLP processes.

Working for Australian management consultancy Onirik, Chris has been involved with, projects for creating models for high performance excavator operation at a coal mine, exceptional performance at a call centre for a major charity as well as a number of other projects.

We are always on the lookout for talented individuals with whom we can work together for our NLP modelling projects. One of the benefits for the individual is a greater understanding of their competency and often an improvement of their skill. If you have a talent that you would like modelled, call us for a coffee and an informal discussion.

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