Charles Faulkner - Innovator
"Grinder and Bandler were applied phenomenologists in possession of
a formal calculus of experience"
"The total array of Meta-Program distinctions represents human potentialities
to be fulfilled, not boxes to be restricted to"
Sian Pope has interviewed Charles Faulkner. This article is the result
of her extensive conversation with one of the most innovative NLP Trainers.
Sian is a personal development coach using NLP, business processes and a
spiritual approach. She can be contacted on 0127 585 6537.
Charles Faulkner has been around in the field of NLP for many years.
He began this journey working in a crisis center. Dissatisfied with just
talking to people in crisis, he and the team he belonged to educated themselves
about psychology and psychotherapy, and then devised an intake questionnaire
based on their findings. Some of the questions they came up with paralleled
those Bandler and Grinder had discovered, including the outcome frame.
This previous work provided a sufficient understanding for him to immediately
appreciate the value of The Structure of Magic part I when he found it.
He was excited by the recognition that "if you could get to the root of
the crucial relationship between language and beliefs, then you could change
everything." One day in a second hand bookstore he came upon a copy of Frogs
into Princes, whereupon he sat down and read a third of it straight away,
enthusing " That's it. They've got it!" He got involved in NLP six months
In the early days of NLP
"I'm different for having been involved in those early crazy creative days
of NLP", says Charles. "There was a powerful sense of intellectual excitement
when someone would teach a new model.' Sub-modalities, Belief change, Sleight-of-mouth
and the Imperative Self were developed during the time he was in training.
He believes that this sense of excitement has been lost in an effort to
simplify NLP and make it more main stream, a disservice to the original
intention of the founders.
He greatly respects Grinder and Bandler for their work. He describes them
as being at least 10 years ahead of their time, "able to throw off the psychological
blinkers of their time". "They were applied phenomenologists in possession
of a formal calculus of experience."
NLP the way to discovering the key of human understanding
Charles is an innovator, and brings his own sense of wonder to his work.
He is passionately interested in NLP as a form of enquiry rather than application
of techniques, outcomes, state or sensory cues. " NLP gives us the possibility
to discover the key, the rosetta stone of human understanding." he says.
His background in the philosophy of science led him to try to fit together
all the tools and techniques into an integrated whole. "Taking this point
of view, each 'set' of NLP techniques participates in a model of experience
that is a complete and coherent world with distinctions, elements, relations,
operators and rules. Each model describes the same territory as the other
models of experience, and is as distinct from them as a weather map is from
a street map. Different maps will be more useful or less useful in different
contexts. Each map permits a more complete view of certain objects and relationships."
"In contrast, when one views NLP as tools or techniques, using them might
be confusing. There's no complete perspective." This led Charles to propose
that NLP patterns are maps rather than tools, and to developing his own
approach - Perceptual Cybernetics T -which could be described as mapping
the processes of mapping. This, complemented by Charles' life long interest
in metaphor and story, led to modelling the elemental structures and processes
of each of the models NLP draws upon. Out of this process, the fundamental
importance of Meta-Programs became clear. Each of the NLP change processes
could be described either in terms of shifts in the predominance of certain
Meta-Program distinctions, or by the redrawing of the boundaries for them.
"For example, eliciting a well-formed outcome is turning a client's attention
to the future and making it a 'domain of action'. In this sense, and I believe
it is a real sense, formulating a well-formed outcome is a change process.
Another example is the Fast Phobia/Trauma (relief) process, which shifts
an individuals sense of time from 'In' to 'Through', and perceptual position
from 'Self' to 'Observer'.", says Charles.
Meta-Programs are ways of responding, ways of using our sensory systems,
and for better or for worse they become habitual. "They are all constantly
present, some more in the foreground and some more in the background of
our experience." Charles says. "In my thinking, someone came to have the
Meta-Program leanings they do based on a number of emotionally significant
experiences. For example, people gave them pleasure and mathematics did
not. Over time they accustom themselves to turn towards people and away
from mathematics without reflection or re-testing these (experiential) assumptions."
"Experience shifts. It is all provisional. We fix it and then continue
to relate to it as if it is fixed, but it isn't. We fix moments by describing
them, translating them into language. We may then regard those as 'aspects
of self'. A 'science' grows up to help us discriminate in even more detail
about these 'types'."
But Charles insists that we cannot type cast people on the basis of processing
preferences. "We can all change at any time. To notice what someone's current
Meta-program leanings are seems to me akin to finding out their favourite
flavour is chocolate instead of strawberry, and even more likely, that they
don't even know that strawberry exists, or that these flavours can be combined
Charles Faulkner's approach
This experiential provisionalism is part of the hallmark of Charles' approach.
He feels it has been replaced in NLP thought, brochure and literature with
"scientific research" and the certainty that this is supposed to imply.
He classifies Meta-Programs as perceptual beliefs, and as such they are
open to change. "The assumption and therefore expectation that Meta-Programs
do not and will not change is very much in danger of becoming a self-fulfilling
prophecy. I have been blessed in my life to know people who shifted some
of their Meta-Programs with context. This awakened me to the possibility
that all human beings could do this. That the total array of Meta-Program
distinctions represents human potentialities to be fulfilled, not boxes
to be restricted to."
We need to deeply consider questions of ecology around changing Meta-Programs.
Charles says "Not ecology in the sense of 'do all parts approve?', but rather
of 'Fittedness'". Biological systems, which human consciousness either is
or emerges from, depending on your perspective, are evolutionary in nature
and therefore are (as Gregory Bateson noted) based on the principle of constraints,
not the principle of cause and effect. Fittedness, as in survival of the
fittest, refers to a fit within the currently existing external (environment)
and internal (organism) constraints."
It is the structure of this existing system and its constraints that Charles
expertly models when he works with an individual or a group. He's interested
in "how their natural human tendency to innovate can be thwarted by their
overall process returning again and again to the same (strange) attractor."
Charles regards Meta-Programs as active attractors for classes of experience,
rather than as passive windows through which we perceive the world. These
attractors can come to be sticking points. His interventions lead to freeing
up these "sticking points" so that the person's system can self-organise
in patterns that are more elegant and ecological for them. He uses specific
questions aimed at redirecting attention, drawing on Meta-Programs, metaphors
and syntactic structures.
Change with caution
He counsels an approach of practical caution regarding such change. "Because
Meta-Programs are at the basis of how we make distinctions in the world,
radically changing such a pattern without ecological considerations could
easily create more difficulties than it would resolve. An inexperienced
NLP practitioner is advised to first learn more about the systemic nature
of experience. For example, if someone has had a lifelong phobia of heights,
the sudden and complete elimination of this would seem a great gift. Now,
consider that this person has no reference experiences for dealing with
being on high and/or unstable objects: ladders, cliff edges, balconies,
tables etc. No beliefs have been created over time and experience about
acceptable risk and reasonable behaviour. This person's fearlessness is
not based on mastery of the situation, but naivity. A radical Meta-Program
distinction shift could magnify this even further. The person needs more
choices as a path to increasing change."
Go in search of pleasure
Charles students can expect to enjoy themselves. "I often instruct my students
to go in 'search of pleasure'. The idea behind this is that by the time
I see them, most people have settled into a complacent knowledge about what
they like and what they don't like, what moves them and what won't. This
involves a great deal of deletion and generalisation. Suggesting a re-awakening
of the senses and their orientations invites them to re-evaluate and shift
certain Meta-Program leanings."
"It's worth remembering that human beings live most of their lives in symbolic
worlds ("success", "failure", "attraction", "energy" etc) and so it is here
that most of perceptions and evaluations will be made. In those rarer moments
of physical experience, we all move 'Toward', 'Away from' and the rest to
stimuli as simple as a shiny chocolate cake or popcorn kernels stuck between
our teeth. So, the way to reawaken those natural, if underdeveloped, distinctions
is to go in search of experiences that will provide the necessary references
that my later be translated into nominalisations and other reified symbolic
For the future - The structure of the self
It is to phenomenology that Charles returns us. Although he has done his
share of modelling high performers, for example with rapid language learning
and financial decision making, he is now more interested in the structure
of social problems. To these, there is no one answer, no one socially acceptable
high performance outrageous success formula. His work is focussed on the
'structure of the self'. And in that line of enquiry he is in good company,
with work currently by Steve Andreas on Self Concept, and by Leslie Cameron-Bandler
on Self Concept over a decade ago "My current modelling project concerns
the structure and processes that make up one's 'self'. Most importantly
to me at this point, this model accounts for the wide spread appearance
of depression, drug abuse, violence, obsession with success, celebrity worship
and mass entertainment as attempted solutions to the problematic structure
of one's self. I shall be presenting this at the ANLP conference in July
Charles Faulkner will be presenting his workshop "Advanced
Meta-Programmes" for PPD 28 - 31July 2000.