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.

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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Contrary to popular belief, no-one else can “make” you feel bad – If you know how to do this:

Most people have specific contexts where they would like access to particular attributes, qualities and ways of using their attention. If they are dependent on chance or outside circumstances to provide the state they are in, it may not be the most useful for that context. Common situations where resource states are useful include;

  • Learning
  • Presenting
  • Playing golf
  • Driving
  • Prosecuting or defending court cases
  • Making speeches
  • Selling
  • Performing on stage
  • Taking exams
  • Competitive sports
  • Martial Arts
  • Giving concerts
  • Consulting medical practitioners
  • Difficult social engagements
  • Interviews

Before considering how to choose and change our states, we need to offer a frame in which these skills can operate. The prevailing frame proposes that our states alter spontaneously in response to outside stimuli and bodily comfort or discomfort. Hence the notion that others’ conduct can make us feel a certain way.

You Can Have Choice Over What You Feel

First I would like to distinguish between the world of Newtonian physics and the world of ideas. In Newtonian physics, mechanical laws function, and energy is the capacity to do work. One of its features is that when you hit somebody and give them a bloody nose, energy is transferred from your moving fist to their stationary nose. You hit the other person and make their nose break. You can make someone else move by pushing them physically. If you drive your car into another vehicle, you can damage both vehicles and possibly injure the other driver. If you caused the crash, you are responsible for the damage.

In the world of ideas, you can say something to another person or move in their visual field. If the other person makes meaning of what you say or do, they will respond. Before the other person responds, they will create their internal experience using images, sounds and sensations from their own repertoire. Then they will present observable behaviour and make comments. All their processing is so fast that even the person doing it is usually unconscious of what happens between your act and their response. Yet their response is 100% theirs, not yours. This is what makes it possible for a person to learn to manage their own state, if they are willing. It is also a liberating concept. As you do not “make” another person enter a different state, you need not feel responsible for their state. Equally, you can free yourself from holding anyone else responsible for your states.

“Learning to manage your own state, if you are willing, is also a liberating concept.”

I am sure you can find apparent counter examples to my proposal. There are experiences in life that on the surface, do feel like being forced into a different state. If you think about startle responses, something sudden and unexpected enters your awareness and you jump or drop something. Your sensory acuity for what was unfolding in your environment did not include that possibility. Your internal processing stopped abruptly when your attention shifted suddenly to engage the new stimulus. You may have experienced a kinaesthetic jolt. This is still your response, created by you, in response to something unexpected in the world. If it was an explosion or an earthquake, you might have been subject to the laws of physics at the same time. If a child jumped out of a cupboard shouting ‘Boo’, there is no cause-effect. The child appears and you jump.

Likewise, a telephone call from someone who gives you life-changing news, desirable or otherwise, does not cause your response. You make meaning of the message and you respond, viscerally, unconsciously and then consciously.

The Process of Elicitation

Other people can influence a person’s state and the decisions they make with their behaviour and choice of words. This is a contributing factor that led people to think they could “make” others feel a certain way. Elicitation is the process of guiding someone’s attention in a particular direction to assist them to discover or remember certain information and then behave in a particular manner. It is usually done with words but can use demonstration and gesture. People say and do things to elicit a smile from a child or invite a pet to come to them.

Effective teachers elicit thinking processes and information from their students by asking specific questions and drawing diagrams. You can elicit a handshake from someone by holding out your hand in the handshake gesture. Mimes elicit recognition for the task they are imitating by the accuracy of their movements. As children, when we were accused of ‘making’ someone feel a certain way, we may have been eliciting responses from them, albeit unwittingly.

Elicitation can be deliberate or unconscious. Teachers use it knowingly and with intent to elicit learning. Elicitation is not guaranteed to work. It uses ideas, not physics to promote its outcome. As a form of influence, we can ask, show, demonstrate, guide, provoke, tease, use logic, tell metaphor, instruct, bribe, threaten and even give orders, but compliance remains within the aegis of the other person. We do not know how they will respond until they do.

Conditioning, Linking and Anchoring

We all have states linked to certain sights, sounds, touches, tastes and scents. Some are pleasing and others are not. In behavioural psychology linking a response to a stimulus is called Conditioning. In parallel distributed processing, it is called Linking and in NLP it is called Anchoring. You may have a favourite piece of music which elicits a particular state for you when you hear it. You might feel special when your pet looks at you a certain way. If you feel a lead balloon in your stomach every time you enter your workplace, you might want a new job or perhaps just to break the anchor.

Teasing uses elicitation and anchors to ‘press someone’s buttons’. The victim is often told that if they stopped responding that way, the teasing would stop because it would not work any more. But no-one has taught them how to break anchors so they go on wearing it. This is how bullying starts. While there is now a huge cultural groundswell to try to stop bullies, it is almost impossible to force change on someone who does not want it. The most effective solution is for the victim to learn to change their own state so they are no longer susceptible. Of course, where there is a form of recourse, this may be appropriate as well, but it is no substitute for internal equanimity. Later in this text we shall learn how to choose and adopt resource states and to break unwanted anchors.

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the Emotional Intelligence and 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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Experimental Methodology in NLP Research


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

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

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

Pattern #1: Humans Are Influenced by Associations

Psychological Underpinnings

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

NLP Research

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

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

Psychological Underpinnings

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

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

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

NLP Research

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

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

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

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

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

Current Understanding

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

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

NLP Research

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

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

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

The unsurprising results of this study were that:

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

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

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

Two questions were kinaesthetically biased:

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

One question was auditorily biased:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

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

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

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An Interview With Jarett Lefers, An NLP Entrepreneur

In many respects Melbourne-based business entrepreneur Jarett Lefers first became interested in NLP at a very young age.

During his school years he was deeply passionate about sport and music and sought to emulate his favourite sportsmen and pianists by watching hours of video footage of them in action, observing their every move, mannerism and inflection. He’d then apply what he had observed to his own his sporting and musical endeavours and the results were phenomenal!

It was in his university days that he first came across the term ‘NLP’ in a book penned by a leading NLP trainer and recognising the parallels with his earlier passion for ‘behaviour modelling’ he went in search of training programmes that would equip him with NLP’s tools and techniques. He has never looked back.

Fast forward some years and these days Jarett owns successful gymnasium businesses in Melbourne and he also owns and manages his own business Clue X which runs business coaching and training programmes to help individuals and teams achieve excellence.

“I put my business success down to my appreciation, understanding and application of NLP, says Jarett. NLP is the science of how the brain codes learning and experience and that coding affects all communication and behavior such as how you learn and how you experience the world around you. It is a key to reaching goals and achieving excellence. It is an accelerated learning strategy for detecting and utilizing patterns in the world and turning them into ‘models’ that can be replicated by others for success”.

Without a doubt the ramifications of applying NLP have enabled Jarett to make powerful shifts in his personal and business worlds.

He particularly appreciates the focus NLP places on the study of human excellence, on focusing on how we know what we know and how we do what we do. By observing how individuals and organisations achieve outstanding results we can then teach these patterns to others so that they can generate the same class of results.

As Jarett sees it NLP enables you to leave behind your adult-learnt preconceptions and judgements and instead to revert back to a child’s world where being open, curious and full of wonder becomes second nature again. He believes this ‘childlike state’ enables you to be open to and aware of all types of patterns of attitude and behaviour and to easily recognise the models that emerge. From here you are able to teach these models to others so they can replicate them for success.

“As you develop your practice you become far more intuitive at picking up on patterns and models. NLP helps fine-tune your cognitive awareness and your perceptual intelligence to the point that as you become skilled applying the techniques you develop your own models of excellence and patterns of genius that you can apply to your own businesses”.

When it comes to the various training organisations about, both here and overseas Jarett strongly believes that it is important to train with recognized trainers who have a reputation for their skill and understanding in the field.

“I started training in NLP in my early twenties and know for a fact there are some rogues out there who train people using a very limited, prescriptive approach. It’s a cookie cutter approach that doesn’t begin to open up your world to what NLP can do and what it can offer you”.

Jarett particularly endorses Inspiritive as leading trainers as he feels the founders Chris and Jules are highly rigorous and passionate about NLP and its applications.

Jarett is a great example of the type of student Inspiritive produces having graduated from its 10970NAT Graduate Certificate in NLP in 2006. Without a doubt he has gone on to achieve considerable success in the business world using NLP as a basis for building his businesses.


*Jarett, has completed the Graduate Certificate NLP at Inspiritive. To learn more about this qualification and how you too can obtain it click on the Learn More button below.

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An Interview With Peter Knight, NLP Golf Coaching Expert

Peter Knight is a Master Professional with the PGA of Australia as well as the National Coach for Australia and Chinese Taipei. He also coaches all levels from beginner to professional at the Yarra Bend Golf Course in Melbourne.

Instrumental to his phenomenal coaching success is his understanding and use of NLP in all of his coaching work.

“I have always been interested in the importance of developing razor sharp, positive mental and emotional agility when it comes to fine-tuning your sporting prowess to achieve a competitive edge”, explains Peter.

From the skills and knowledge he has attained Peter has used NLP to help many of his athletes compete to the best of their abilities, improving their scores and rankings in impressively short amounts of time.

“The value NLP has to offer in the sporting setting is incredible and has helped my athletes achieve phenomenal results. One extremely talented golfer I was coaching firmly believed that her golf ability was limited.,  Through conversation and using classic NLP techniques I showed how she was living according to her ‘truth’ but that her ‘truth’ was incorrect.  I used an anchoring technique with her and she had a brilliant finish to the tournament that very day.  Subsequently, she has used that same anchoring technique to enhance her performance both on and off the golf course with exceptional results”,explains Peter.

“As another example, in a phone conversation I had recently with a professional golfer who is living and competing in the US, I used a variation of the Circle of Excellence exercise which enabled him to achieve two top 10 finishes in his following two tournaments and these have been the best two performances he’s had for the year. NLP makes a real difference to my athletes, it’s incredibly powerful and adaptable to all manner of settings”.

Peter refers to his particular approach and methodology as ‘coaching by stealth’ as he tracks language and behaviours in the coaching setting. Most of the work he does focuses on conversational techniques that are incorporated into standard golf coaching contexts.

Peter’s use and appreciation of NLP’s tools and techniques is not limited to the golf world. He strongly believes they have immense relevance in all walks of life and have helped him improve his communication and relationships with peers, friends and family, making him a far more aware athlete, coach, friend and father.

Like many top performing practitioners Peter has studied with a range of providers including John Grinder, Carmen Bostic, Steve Andreas and Inspiritive’s Chris and Jules Collingwood. He has graduated from Inspiritive’s 10970NAT Graduate Certificate programme the only postgraduate NLP programme offered in Australia and rates that course highly.

“Inspiritive training is experiential in nature, there is nothing prescriptive about it which makes it appealing as we are all so different, explains Peter. There are multiple exercises which are done each day to practice and reinforce your skills. As the training is largely content-free it means that as a student you learn to apply the skills however you wish while not being forced to follow a predictive series of steps. It ensures your application is organic and able to be adaptive to any number of settings, scenarios or situations. Chris and Jules encourage follow-up contact to ensure their graduates gain a complete understanding of what they are learning and experiencing when working with NLP. Their courses are comprehensive and extremely knowledgeable, meaning their graduates are of the highest quality with immense ability and emotional intelligence”.

Due to the organic nature of NLP and its scope there is no end point to the training graduates can undertake in this field and Peter agrees wholeheartedly, saying he’ll continue to practice, self-review and train in this fascinating field as there is always something new to learn or to experiment with to achieve greater results.

Without a doubt NLP has much to offer all aspects of life from personal all the way through to professional application.

*Peter Knight, has completed the Graduate Certificate NLP at Inspiritive. To learn more about this qualification and how you too can obtain it click on the Learn More button below.

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An Interview With Penny Bannister, NLP And Management

Penny Bannister is the Principal/Owner of Self Determine, a business transformation consultancy that has expertise in delivering large-scale strategic programs that include and require cultural and organisational shifts to deliver sustainable long-term outcomes. Self Determine works with corporate clients across a number of sectors including Financial Services, Information Technology and Public Sector

While Penny utilises a range of different tools and techniques, depending on the situation at hand she sees NLP as being a rock solid foundation approach that underpins the work Self Determine does on a daily basis, helping clients to transform their businesses, systems and cultures.

“I see NLP as one of the core, extremely powerful tools I use in any business transformation process as it enables my colleagues and I to truly understand patterns of behaviour, thinking and communicating, at all levels, organisation wide, within teams and with individuals”.

“By observing patterns we can identify the various shifts that need to occur for an organisation to embrace change. It is possible to identify the priority functions, projects and teams to work with to move quickly towards desired outcomes and goals”.

Penny says a key differentiator of this technique over others is that it enables people to identify ways to achieve shifts in their attitudes and behaviour without needing to go down a traditional therapy path, delving into the past to try and understand why they may have acted or thought in a particular manner.

“NLP focuses you on the here and now in the present, not on what may have occurred in the past. Sometimes it isn’t particularly helpful to keep returning to past actions and events, it’s better to focus on the present situation and address what could be changed to achieve desired future outcomes and goals”.

As Penny explains NLP encourages organisations and the people in them to be far more mindful about their thoughts and actions and to be more aware of how these thoughts and actions affect their day-to-day life, both personally and professionally. Being more mindful and present enables people to conduct their daily rituals with a far more heightened awareness, which ultimately delivers a change in culture at the organisational level.

“You become far more cognisant of yourself and of others. You see things in a much clearer light and you feel things you wouldn’t normally feel as you are far more perceptive and aware”.

Penny is particularly impressed with the versatility of NLP as a business change tool. Self Determine works with a wide range of clients in the public and private sector and most of the assignments it manages are complex transformation initiatives. In Penny’s view NLP is entirely adaptable and applicable to all sorts of scenarios, settings and environments.

“NLP is extremely practical and accessible on so many levels. Once you learn its tools and techniques you can use them in a myriad of environments and settings. It, doesn’t need to be complicated or overly academic. Its brilliance is in its practicality and in the results it can render”.

Penny completed the 10970NAT Graduate Certificate in NLP with Inspiritive, as they are the only organisation in Australia that offers a comprehensive, practical and rigorous program in learning NLP’s New Code tools and techniques. Penny believes Inspiritive’s Directors Chris and Jules Collingwood are impressive trainers who are endorsed by John Grinder, one of the co-founders of NLP. Chris has also worked with Penny on some of the experiential workshops she has managed as part of her wider transformation programs.

When it comes down to it Penny believes NLP is a business necessity for companies embarking on business transformation initiatives, a tool that will help ensure the outcomes of these initiatives are sustainable and measurable.

*Penny, has completed the Graduate Certificate NLP at Inspiritive. To learn more about this qualification and how you too can obtain it click on the Learn More button below.

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An Interview with Geoff Wade, NLP In Business

Geoff Wade, CEO of Onirik wholeheartedly believes that NLP has transformed the way he approaches life. Indeed he claims that his exploration of NLP has taken him on a personal revolution where he has transformed his attitude to life. He feels far more aware of and connected to his own self and others with whom he interacts on a personal and professional level.

Currently Geoff heads up Onirik; a highly successful change management consultancy that works with companies and their employees to improve their margins.

Using NLP modelling as a core business competency Onirik’s change consultants replicate the capabilities (states of mind, communications and behaviour / process patterns) of top performers in their clients’ companies and transfer these capabilities to others who need them in order to achieve similar performance. This makes a marked difference to clients’ results.

Time and again Onirik has helped clients achieve outstanding results, results such as 280% improvement in sales in one company, 117% in another, 415% in another; exponential improvements as a staff of people replicate the capabilities of top performers.

Geoff firmly believes the use NLP as a core change management competency is key to Onirik’s success in the market.

Like Geoff all of his senior change consultants have graduated from Inspiritive; Australia’s leading NLP training provider and like Geoff most of his consultants are graduates of Inspiritive’s 10250NAT Graduate Certificate programme the only post graduate NLP programme offered in Australia.

“Their integrity and teaching of how to model and see patterns in people’s communication, states of mind and behaviours is far superior, rigorous and comprehensive than any other provider I have trained with. Their graduates are competent in seeing and understanding people’s patterns and in their ability to model and replicate to achieve success. That is also why my senior consultants are all Inspiritive graduates – it ensures I have quality, skilled NLP specialists working with me”.

And Geoff knows all about quality and integrity when it comes to NLP. Over the years he has trained with a range of providers as he has developed and evolved his own practice and he feels that Inspiritive stands apart from all others.

Indeed he rates the company so highly that he has brought the Collingwood’s on board with him to consultant on numerous client projects when he has needed specific expertise that they offer.

Does he feel his training and learning is complete? An emphatic no is the answer.

From Geoff’s experiences and learning thus far he believes there is always more to develop and evolve when it comes to NLP. Over the years he has worked at continually fine-tuning his own practice and intends to continue to do so as he learns from his day to day modeling as well as by observing how his team members identify patterns and create models.

When asked to summarise what NLP has to offer users Geoff offers the following personal experiences and insights;

  • It has helped him improve his relationships and communication on all levels, both personally and professionally.
  • It has helped him cultivate razor-sharp thinking and learning, he feels far more connected and aware on conscious and unconscious levels.
  • It has improved his critical, creative and lateral thinking and has enabled him to take his problem solving to a whole new level.
  • He has more choice and options available on a daily basis, personally and professionally as he communicates in a far more emotionally intelligent, connected, aware manner.
  • He has developed a real ability to identify and learn from all sorts of patterns presented through relationships and communication with others in daily life allowing him to identify, learn and duplicate models.
  • His thinking strategies and cognitive understanding have evolved to ensure accelerated learning in his chosen field.

As Geoff puts it, NLP has the ability to revolutionise your life, as has been his experience. He looks forward to how that transformation continues to evolve.

*Geoff, has completed the Graduate Certificate NLP at Inspiritive. To learn more about this qualification and how you too can obtain it click on the Learn More button below.

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A Brief History of NLP Timelines

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

The Evolution of a Pattern

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

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

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

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

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

The Power of Sub-modalities

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

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

Innovative Thinking

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

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

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

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

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

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

NLP Timelines in a Nutshell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2000 Steve and Connirae Andreas

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

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