This is the third installment in a series about the presuppositions of NLP. And it seems like the right place to
comment on the purpose and use of all of this. While many observers think of NLP as a collection of techniques and clever language patterns, it is the presuppositions that are its heart and soul, and all the rest of it are expressions and expansions of their application. The growing number of developments and processes related to NLP are the byproducts of adherence to these presuppositions. The way to begin practicing NLP is to practice the presuppositions … hold them as a mindset when you interact with others ... and then see what happens.
So far in this series, we’ve explored the notion that the map is not the territory and that experience has structure.
This understanding that the world we experience is one of our own creation is a particular important understanding in the field of change and personal evolution. But I like to think of evolution as being a process that we can engage in consciously, deliberately. So there are a couple NLP presuppositions that I want to address … and the first one is OUTRAGEOUS:
ANYONE CAN DO ANYTHING
When I first heard this one, I was sure it had to be wrong. My head was full of counter-examples. I couldn’t leap tall buildings in a single bound, for instance. Or run a mile in two minutes. Or even make sense out of this presupposition. But I was missing the point. NLP’s presuppositions are a place to start thinking. Not a place to stop. Beginnings, not conclusions. They are useful frames to hold when working with clients or when you want
to make a change for yourself. And this one holds out hope and opens up possibility. Can you imagine consulting with a practitioner or mental coach about your goal to expand your business into a new territory or to have a better relationship with your mother in law? What if your practitioner/coach just looked at you matter-of-fact and said, “You can’t.”?
So the point here is that we want to allow the possibility of success from the very beginning. The request a client comes into session with, may not be well thought through yet … it may still require some development or refinement or a plan. And of course some things ARE impossible. If you want to jump off the top of the Empire State Building and fly over to the Statue of Liberty by two o’clock this afternoon … and you haven’t scheduled any flying lessons yet – Of COURSE it’s impossible!
But that’s not what NLP is about. In the earlier parts of this series, you’ve seen that we all have our unique ways
of experiencing, understanding and operating in the world. That we make it up in our own way. And because experience has structure, that means there is an “inner game” to what we do. NLP is a “how to” technology.
It’s about modeling how people do things. Ranging from how someone plays a great game of golf to how one survives a devastating loss. What’s the “inner game” of having an anxiety attack, or a phobia? And what’s the inner game of overcoming them? There’s no limit to what you can model. In fact, all of the “techniques” of NLP
are the result of modeling the natural internal processes of people. In this sense, they are not inventions of NLP, they are neurolinguistic descriptions of the ways people do things.
So what this third presupposition REALLY means, is:
“If someone can do something, it can be modeled and made available to others.”
Yes, of course there may be limits in certain contexts due to differences in height, or physical strength, or gender (though less than you might think). Yet attending to the inner game, it’s easy to realize that a great public
speaker is doing something very different on the inside than the guy who’s quaking with fear and stuttering and blushing and criticizing himself when he tries to talk in a public setting. Or imagine the difference between the internal experience of a confident and skillful tennis player in an intense match and a complete rookie in the same
Now there are million “how to” books placed on the market every year … and they offer valuable information and insight. Yet some great performers, no matter what the field, don’t have a conscious awareness of their internal process or the means to describe it in a way that allows for its replication by others.
NLP modeling identifies and sorts out specific sensory based and linguistic components and provides the much needed language of description. As we’ve discussed earlier (and will continue later), the “structure” of experience consists of sequences of internal and external images, sounds and feelings, under the influence of beliefs and values and a variety of other filters and meta-programs …. And all of that leads to the end result of confidence, or panic, or virtuosity or whatever. These sequences, also known as strategies in NLP, are programs that can be adopted for use when they are helpful, or modified when they are problematic.
So while we say that ANYone can do ANYthing, we really are affirming the powerful use of modeling to be and do whatever you want, and yet when we look around at our clients, associates, loved ones, you’ve got to wonder why so many people are so unhappy and doing so many seemingly screwed up things. And in fact, the presuppositions of NLP dig us in a little deeper with this next one which says:
PEOPLE WORK PERFECTLY – No One is Wrong or Broken
How could that be? Some people that I know seem to be perfectly wrong! Of course this fourth presupposition is a huge generalization, and a very useful one in the field of human change. The model of suggests that it’s the programming that causes the trouble, not the computer. It’s the inner processes that we’ve been describing earlier … the “inner game” that’s the trouble … not the person.
People are being who they have learned to be and behaving and responding as they have learned to behave and respond. The good news is that this proves that they can learn, and incorporate that learning. That’s the nature of programming. Presupposing that the neurology involved is intact and we use the understandings and methodologies of NLP to redesign those inner processes and produce better results. We can create new strategies and rewrite the code.
But then, the idea that we’ve been challenged as the result of some buggy programming … raises an important question. When or where or how did we pick up the “bugs”? Watch for the next installment and we’ll go a little further as we continue our NLP odyssey.