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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 later.

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 deliciously."

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 experiences."

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 2000."

Further Information

Charles Faulkner will be presenting his workshop "Advanced Meta-Programmes" for PPD 28 - 31July 2000.