Your guide to neurolinguistic programming
Also known as NLP, neurolinguistic programming is an approach that tries to tie together ideas about human development, psychotherapy and communications systems to explain human behaviour. At its simplest, NLP describes language acquisition and usage as a neurological process. As this has a physiological and psychological effect on the brain so that humans behaviours can be ascribed to their use of language. At its heart is the idea that neurolinguistic programming means behaviours are learned – or modelled, according to the theory's proponents. Another key factor is to do with the way a subjective conscious experience is reinforced in our heads. In other words, as well as gaining experience from our senses, we also 'rehearse' the experience of phenomena in our minds which can often come in the form of thinking in a language system. This, according to NLP, means we programme our behaviour with language without ever really realising it.
How does neurolinguistic programming work?
There are many ways of interpreting neurolinguistic programming. However, a good way to think of it is like hypnosis. During an NLP treatment, for example, a therapist may encourage the person they are working with to relax or even get into a trance-like state after having first established a rapport with them. The layers of beliefs and perceptions that may have been reinforced in the brain by patterns of behaviour over years and years can then be assessed to effect positive changes. Key to NLP's popularity is that no specific events or personal history need to be gone into – unlike psychotherapy – which means privacy between the therapist and the patient can be maintained.
What is the history of neurolinguistic programming?
Richard Bandler, a self-help author, and John Grinder, a linguist, were responsible for coming up with the theory of neurolinguistic programming in the 1970s. Based in California, the pair claim to have built on the theories of noted thinkers, especially Noam Chomsky's hypothesis of transformational grammar, an idea that relies on a theory of natural language – something that is key to NLP. Various workshops and books were produced by the pair including many that were aimed at general readers rather than academics as their earliest publications had been.
What are some of the applications of neurolinguistic programming?
Despite some criticisms of neurolinguistic programming being nothing more than an untested pseudoscience, it has been widely used in several fields. For example, some practitioners have attempted to use it as an alternative therapy for conditions such as HIV/AIDS and Parkinson's disease. Some practitioners have also used it in the psychotherapeutic professions. More widely, NLP has gained ground in teaching, coaching, management training and negotiation techniques.
Is neurolinguistic programming like a religion?
Some people – mostly, although not exclusively, critics of NLP - have referred to it as a quasi-religion. This is principally to do with the way neurolinguistic programming gained the support of much of the New Age community in California in the 1970s. Some equate the sorts of human transformations that it can bring with similar experiences which might come following spiritual enlightenment.