NLP on the threshold
"My concern is that the well will dry up... unless some group accepts
the challenge of continuing to model and present new patterns" John
"NLP offers an alternative learning paradigm to challenge the unbalanced
nature of our epoch - the age of the accountant not the poet, the politician
not the singer" John Grinder.
Sian Pope has interviewed John Grinder. This article is the result of
her extensive conversation with the co-creator of NLP. Sian is a personal
development coach using NLP, business processes and a spiritual approach.
She can be contacted on 0127 585 6537.
Has NLP lost its roots?
John Grinder and Carmen Bostic return to London in July with their seminar
"Tapestry". They are calling again for a return to the basic foundations
upon which NLP was developed - Modelling. Modelling was the heart of NLP.
But is it still? John Grinder believes NLP is currently more about marketing.
He is concerned that the well of inspiration which is NLP is in serious
danger of drying up. "The vast majority of the classic pattern originally
coded by Bandler and myself have already been incorporated into, for example,
state of the art management training work as an application". He fully respects
people who translate the patterns of excellence codified out of context
X into context Y. However, his challenge to us is that "NLP has no future
unless a group of men and women emerges who are dedicated to the modelling
and transfer of new patterns." "Carmen Bostic and I will continue to identify
and code patterns of excellence in larger systems - corporations, institutes,
governments." "Where," asks John, "are the people who will refresh the wellspring
'Content' is in danger of replacing 'Form'
One of the tributaries, which is in danger of becoming the main stream,
is that 'content' is replacing 'form', and that this key principle of modelling
is becoming lost. John and Richard were both Mavericks, unorthodox thinkers.
They were the originators whose job it was to be different. Their fundamental
question - "What are the differences that make the difference?" - was revolutionary.
They chose at that time to use psycho-therapeutic change as the context
for their work, investigating the genius of Fritz Perls, Virginia Satir
and Milton Erickson. They wanted to not only discover patterns but also
make them teachable to others. Virginia Satir herself was amazed by receiving
a description of how she worked. "What Richard Bandler and John Grinder
have done is to watch the process of change over a time and distil from
it the patterns of the how process." (Introduction to The Structure of Magic
I). These patterns are the content.
NLP is not sub-modalities or eye movements or linguistic patterns, or fast
phobia cures. Those are results in the field of enquiry. They are a function
of the questions that are asked, coded into usable patterns. The originators
contributed not only patterns, but also "and of far more importance, the
method of modelling and coding with precision the set of differences which
distinguish between a genius and an average performer in any field." "An
aspect which," John says, "has unfortunately received little attention."
"I know of very little modelling of quality (or even of non-quality) occurring
at present'" says John, "There has been a reduction in the non-linear qualities
of NLP in favour of a rational, logical, step-by-step feeding of the conscious
mind. " The most important distinction between NLP and other models is the
distinction between form and content." Clearly NLP patterns in an applied
version have successfully infiltrated enormous areas of human activity -
business, management, therapy, education, sports - and this is to be applauded.
Yet, unless some group accepts the challenge of continuing to model and
present new patterns, NLP will be a simple historical footnote by the middle
of the 21st century and the origins of the applied patterns found in many
disciplines will be unknown."
We need to be less sophisticated
When Grinder and Bandler created NLP through modelling high performers
in the field of psychotherapy, the motivation was exploration of human change,
using questions such as 'how does he (or she) do that so well? What is the
specific difference which makes for excellence? Can we teach someone else
to become excellent in that way? " Modelling is a sophisticated version
of what we did well as children." says John. "We need to become less clever,
less sophisticated, less conscious, and more like the fool, more present
in our everyday experience, letting go of the rules and participating in
our own enquiry."
The Tonal dominates the Nagual
In shamanistic language: in NLP the Tonal has came to dominate the Nagual!
Once before John tried to redress the balance with New Code NLP. He offers
one example: "In all the classic formats of NLP (with the exception of reframing),
the conscious mind of the client is assigned the responsibility of selecting
either the desired state, the new behaviour to be substituted for the behaviour
to be changed, or the specific resource which will make the difference.
This is patently absurd. The assignment of such responsibility to precisely
the part of the client least competent to make such a selection is a monumental
error. Such responsibilities are best accepted and implemented by the unconscious
mind. This significant reassignment is achieved in New Code NLP ." (see
"Turtles all the way down")
Shamanistic metaphors about Sorcery, Magic and Incantations abound in the
early books (Frogs into Princes, The Structure of Magic I & II), but John
wants us to go further than just using the metaphors - he wants us to become
warriors. If we take up the challenge to live on the edge of curiosity,"
to commit to the coding of new patterns in a vocabulary which makes it eminently
learnable," and hold a value of renewal as a constant principle, we can
keep alive a fresh living spirit as the wellspring of NLP. Then it will
Advice from John
- Cultivate greeting with glee what others refer to as disappointment
or surprise or unanticipated responses from the world
- Sensitize yourself to the body responses which indicate that what is
occurring is different from what you unconsciously and possibly consciously
- Move cleanly and quietly into the presence of the unknown, alert and
- Enter states of disciplined not-knowing
- Interrupt your own patterns
- Develop friends who are as different from you and one another as possible
We need to become true learners. John's definition of a learner is someone
who "utterly lacks self importance, subordinates ends to means, plays the
fool and enjoys it (whether or not he notices), and is phobic about routines."
"At the same time this describes my fourteen month old grandson perfectly"
Balance conscious and unconscious functioning
We need to balance our conscious and unconscious minds. "An imbalance here
condemns the person to an inability to make emotional and spontaneous responses
(both prerequisites to artistry) or directionless (although adventurous)
wandering without much coherence at the end of the day." he cautions.
Seek to prove yourself wrong
"There is a certain epistemologically disciplined attitude that many of
the geniuses I have modeled have, which is nearly non-existent in the general
population - to seek to prove our own putative patterns wrong, rather than
to seek confirmation of what we believe." He gives us an example. "Suppose
that I have, through a series of experiences, come to believe that people
with green hair are untrustworthy, now how shall I proceed? My answer is,
I would assume (that is, set up a filter) the opposite and attempt to prove
it - that is, to find a counterexample, a green haired person who is trustworthy."
What gets in our way
We get in the way of our own learning "when we are too substantial, constantly
adjusting our behaviour to the requirements of others, when we sacrifice
today for the future, accept co-dependant relationships, have an intense
need for self-revelation, are committed to logical conscious processes,
seek attain and sustain comfort , bend to the twin tyrants of foveal vision
and internal dialogue and live predominantly anywhere but in the present"
In their workshop "Tapestry" John and Carmen invite us to tease out the
threads which form the tapestry of our personal and professional lives,
to understand them better, and to weave them more consciously into creative
and effective patterns. 'Patterns are formed out of seemingly insignificant
threads - those recurring elements of our lives we often overlook or become
obscured through habit."
An experienced master can tell us what he has found. But he can help us
more by helping us to find out ourselves. John Grinder is not easy to understand
or pin down. He is elusive, a wizard. The challenge laid down at the beginning
of The Structure of Magic I "is the reader astute enough to reconstruct
the context or shall he simply enjoy the exchange and arrive at a useful
unconscious understanding of a more personal nature?" remains. He and Carmen
are interested in creating the context for us to make the leap to another
level of consciousness. They will lead us to our edges until we reach some
new level of understanding, beyond that of our conscious comprehension.
Prepare to be fascinated, provoked, challenged, - literally beyond beliefs.
Then we have a chance to take a Quantum Leap. We will be required to bring
our own Artistry into being.
What of NLP's future?
Like a great river arising from a tiny mountain spring, we have seen NLP
evolve, branching out in several directions as the originators 'seeded'
those who have followed, and as a body of experience has begun to build.
What of the future, as we stand on the threshold of a new century? Will
NLP grow and consolidate itself as 'first among equals', maturing with the
insights of its practitioners or will it become a footnote in the history
of the 20th century? It is a future that we need to actively create, and
the well-spring needs to be re-sourced. "NLP offers an alternative learning
paradigm to challenge the unbalanced nature of our epoch, the age of the
accountant not the poet, the politician not the singer." says John. "The
question is whether others will join us in this pursuit of excellence and
its modelling? "
The Structure of Magic Parts I & II - Bandler & Grinder
Frogs into Princes - Bandler & Grinder
Turtles all the way down - Grinder & DeLozier
John and Carmen's seminar "Tapestry:Weaving Your Life" took place
on 7-9 July 2000 in London.