History of NLP

NLP stands for Neuro Linguistic Programming.

“Neuro” relates to the nervous system, which is the mind and through which are in experience is processed by way of the 5 senses, which are visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, olfactory and gustatory.

“Linguistic” relates the language and other non-verbal communication systems trough which our neural network representations are coded and ordered and given meaning. This includes pictures, sounds and feelings, taste and smells and the words we use which are the self talk.

“Programming” relates to the ability to discover and utilize the programs that we run inside ourselves. The things we do inside or heads and also those others do, so that we can achieve our own specific and desired outcome.

In other words NLP is how you use the language of the mind to consistently achieve our specific and desired outcomes. NLP is really the study excellence. How do we discover excellence wherever it is and then utilize that in such a way that we can create change in ourselves and others.

History of NLP

The history of NLP comes from many sources.

In 1933 Alfred Korzybski wrote a book called “Science and Sanity” and in it, Korzybski said that “almost all psychological problems were the result of inability of a person to traverse logical levels.”
He said that sometime in the future there would be a wholly processed description of a human being that would actually describe the human being. That of course is NLP.

Gregory Bateson and Jay Haley had a great debate about ecology. Ecology is a very important factor to consider whenever we are doing change work. Fritz Perls was into Gestalt Therapy and was probably the person that was the inspiration, along with Bateson, for kicking off the science that became NLP.

Around 1975 Richard Bandler was a student at Santa Cruz University. He was into computers and Gestalt Therapy. He happened to be editing a book about Fritz Perls. Richard decided that he could actually do Gestalt Therapy and he was actually very good at it. John Grinder was a Linguistics Professor and was the co-founder of NLP.

As Richard began to move forward and use the things he had learned, he realized that he had a specific gift of modelling. Being able to actually take what worked that someone was doing and use it and create something out of it. This is where the notion of NLP, being an attitude and a methodology comes from. It comes from that idea of actually being able to look and see what is excellent behavior? How is that excellent behavior produced? Then how to take that behavior and how do I try that on myself? How to be able to use it for myself so that I can then create that good behavior myself. So NLP begins as an attitude and the methodology that leaves behind a trail of techniques.

These 3 people had the biggest influence on NLP

Three major people that were modelled were Milton Erickson, Virginia Satir and Fritz Perls. These people were actually modelled by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the early days of NLP in terms of how to create magical change in people. What is it that makes a difference and how can you make a change, by simply using words? That’s a lot of what NLP is about.

Milton Erickson was, until his death in 1980, “The World’s Foremost Hypnotherapist.” In 1954 the American Medical Association tried to disbar Erickson and take away his medical license, because he was practicing hypnosis. By 1957 he had convinced the American Medical Association that hypnosis was legitimate and by 1958 they came out with the statement that hypnosis was a legitimate form of treatment when conscientiously applied by a practitioner who had been appropriately trained in hypnosis. Erickson actually worked and practiced hypnosis regularly from 1920 until 1980 seeing a number of clients per day.

When Richard and John spent time with Erickson, they discovered that Erickson was producing miraculous change in his clients by being artfully vague. The opposite they had found to what Virginia Satir was doing.

Virginia was the “Grand Dame of Family Therapy” and was very well-known. She was like a great magician. People would come to her and she would just sort of magically straighten things out for them. She would just have a chat with them and people would walk away with their problems resolved, feeling much better.

John and Richard actually spent some time studying Virginia Satir. Virginia had already written several books when Bandler and Grinder wrote a book with Virginia Satir called “Changing with Families”. Most of what we know as the Meta-Model was already being done by Virginia Satir as one of our techniques in family therapy. Virginia used to get more specific. E.g. If somebody came to her and said “he hurt me” she would ask, “how specifically?” Getting more specific seemed to help the problem disappear. So Richard and John decided that the way to cause change with people was to become more specific and out of Virginia Satir’s work they created the “Meta-Model”. Which means a model of grammar and relates to the entire linguistic model of grammar.

After they had finished modelling Virginia and Erickson they created two models out of their work. They found that Virginia got results being very specific and created the Meta Model. Milton Erickson got results through being artfully vague and they created the Milton Model. Utilizing hypnotic language patterns.

Some books on NLP.

Richard and John wrote a number of books, but NLP was not really well known until they began to include the work of Ivan Pavlov. Noticing the process of anchoring or conditioned response.

The notion of anchoring in NLP is where we capture a stimulus and apply an anchor at the same time as the person is in a modified state. This is actually directly from Pavlov’s work in Behavioral Psychology.

Bandler and Grinder also wrote the book “Frogs Into Princess” which was published in 1979. It talks about changing personal history and is also the first time that eye patterns were published. Eye patterns were also published in a book written by Cybervision in 1979. So there were actually 2 books on eye patterns published in the same year.

The next book was about “Strategies” and the name of the book was “NLP Volume I.” Robert Dilts was one of the authors. It’s actually Bandler-Grinder-Dilts-DeLozier and Leslie Cameron-Bandler who wrote the book called “NLP Volume I.” We look at strategies all the time when working with our clients in NLP. How and in what sequence does a person do what they do? When needed, we help the client to change a specific strategy that is not working for them. An example of this might be somebody who goes into a shop and just buys whatever and then later regrets the purchase. By changing the strategy they run, they may now have certain criteria before they purchase that may need to be fulfilled. As such they don’t make all the unnecessary purchases.

Then the book “Reframing” came out and that comes mostly from Milton Erickson’s work. This was published around 1982. A very good book to read if you are practicing NLP or hypnosis.

So the history of NLP actually includes quite a respectable body of knowledge. It has a background in a number of intellectual disciplines. NLP according to our model here seems to have drawn on general semantics, on linguistics, on hypnosis and on Gestalt therapy. It takes into account ecology, family therapy and metaphors. It really is a study of how do you produce results?

There is a lot more about NLP and I invite you to attend one of our NLP Practitioner courses or life coach training and learn more about this fascinating field.