NLP is an acronym for Neuro Linguistic Programming. NLP is a science, but it also a philosophy, an art and an attitude. It is a science in that it draws on many different disciplines including:
- Behavioural psychology
NLP can be and is used in business contexts as well as more personal settings.
NLP is a philosophy – and in my view, a very positive and empowering philosophy. The focus on the positive aspects of human experience sets it apart from many other disciplines: it holds forth “presuppositions” that, if adopted, can change your view of yourself, the world, other people and events in positive and empowering way.
It is also regarded as an art: the more artful you become at applying the tools and techniques in your own life, the more adept you become at generating ever more powerful results for yourself.
In terms of attitude, NLP allows you to develop an empowered and positive attitude. You cannot apply the tools and still maintain a negative or self-limiting attitude – the two are simply polar opposites. By adopting this approach to life, developing a more empowering outlook and learning to use the tools and to apply it consistently, you can take your experience of happiness and success to a level that you have not previously experienced.
This is not to say that you won't encounter difficulties or problems that need solving or issues you need to deal with. What it means is that you will be better equipped to do so.
It also does not mean that you will always be able to control everything - but that you can better recognize when it is appropriate to do so and when you should let things be.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming - what it means
The meaning of the words neuro, linguistic and programming, in simple terms:
- Neuro means using your mind or thought processes
- Linguistic refers to communicating verbally and non-verbally with yourself and others
- Programming refers to how your brain executes repetitive habits or patterns, affecting how you think, feel and react.
In reality, the human mind looks for ways to automate thought and behavior, to free up mental energy for other uses. We can thus compare the brain to a computer – it automates so that it does not have to think so much!
This contributes to efficacy but could also be to your detriment, especially if those programs are linked to defensive patterns, such as fear, guilt, insecurity, rejection, and so on.
For example, consider a fight or flight response. Should you be vacationing in the Kruger National Park and during an excursion in your vehicle, an elephant charges, within a split second you perceive the danger, think about it, and communicate either by screaming out loud or taking immediate action to get out of its path. You are running a program that allows you to react almost instantaneously, rather than having to think about your next action, which could mean the difference between survival and death.
Although this is an overly simplified example it should give you a good idea of the definition of NLP in practical terms. The above pattern is beneficial in that it ensures your survival. But what if you react in a similar manner when you see a mouse? Then people will say you have a phobia or an anxiety disorder.
NLP's Positive Outlook
In fact, since NLP provides a more positive view than the traditional approach to classifying behavioral and psychological issues, I would rather say: you are displaying a recurring pattern or program, which probably developed instantly during an event where you perceived a harmless rodent to be a life threatening animal.
And to take this further, since you learned this behavior instantly, creating a limiting program or pattern, you can also unlearn it instantly.
If we are to take this another step further and consider everyday events, you may also have patterns that are triggered by other objects, people, events, situations, sounds, sights, smells, tastes, specific words, even textures. Actually, literally anything you perceive can serve as a trigger to set a program in motion.
Perception and Performance
One of the complaints that I often hear from clients is exactly this: Why can I perform at my peak one day but the next day I become hopeless, helpless or totally unfocused? Frequently the source of the problem is not your skill, your talents or your ability, but rather how you perceive your world and the effect that has on your mental or emotional state (given that you had a decent night's sleep and that all the other variables for both days are equal!).
Furthermore, in a world that rewards objectivity, rationality, scientific facts and outstanding performance it can be quite threatening to admit that you have emotions, beliefs and uncertainties that affect your behavior, objectivity, levelheadedness or performance!
While we teach children to identify external signals to ensure that they can maintain physical safety, we are less adept at teaching them to identify the internal signals triggered by a variety of stimuli that can keep them from functioning optimally. No wonder they do not learn how to deal with them.
If you have never learned to identify and deal with your personal signals appropriately, it places you at a disadvantage in any type of situation where performance is critical, whether work, home or other settings are coming into play.
Fear as Appropriate or "Inappropriate" Emotion
There is a time for everything; even emotions such as fear, anxiety and anger. You would know that these emotions are not reserved for those times though, such as when you face a burglar, are involved in a near accident or experience a violation of your person, either mentally or physically. Limiting emotions can make themselves known at times when external threats are real as well as at times when these emotions would be regarded as irrational and rather self-limiting, as we saw in the example with the mouse.
If you are unable to identify the origin of your own emotions and rather try to deny it or suppress the feeling, you are adding unnecessary stress to your life. These types of stresses can have a debilitating effect on all levels of your being – physically, emotionally, behaviorally or mentally.
In the real world, there are also those times when you do not have the luxury of engaging in contemplation to try and work out what caused the emotional response, but rather need to be able to deal with it instantaneously without creating negative consequences. In this situation you need the tools to help you to achieve positive results, as you face uncomfortable feelings.
Having access to the tools provided by NLP, you can change the way you think, feel and act. Empowering beliefs can fundamentally change the way you look at yourself and others. Living according to such a set of beliefs cannot but change the way you think about your world. By changing your thoughts, you will generate different feelings, less limiting, and again in turn, your behavior will be positively influenced.