Neuro Linguistic Programming: Revolution Or Bunk?

Is it possible to reprogram the brain? Can reprogramming the brain change our behavior? Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a combination of Linguistics, Semantics, Hypnosis, Behavioral and Cognitive Psychology. It’s about how we interpret the world we experience via the input through our senses: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, tactile, olfactory and gustatory. It’s about how we represent the world to ourselves and to others.

The events in our life have continually accumulated and have been stored in our subconscious mind. Our subconscious mind, in turn categorizes, generalizes, interprets and filters the inputs related to the events. This process creates what is often referred to in NLP as “our map” of the world. Furthermore it is thought that the different events and experiences create “states” in our physiology that are stored by our physiology and which in turn give rise to our behavior or reaction in given situations.

It has been demonstrated how the way we interpret the world is shown through movement of the eyes. Individuals vary in the way they experience events. Some experience them kinesthetically, i.e. feelings, others visually, some verbally (auditory), or any combination thereof. For example, we may ask a person “how was the party last night?” If the eyes turn to the right and downwards, it is likely that person is searching within for a memory of how she felt at that party. A person who is more auditory may turn her eyes left, an indication she is recalling conversations or music. A more visual person’s eyes may turn upwards and to the right, indicating she might be recalling what people were wearing, or the decorations etc.

The responses those individuals will give to the question “how was the party last night?” could go something like this: “Oh! I felt really great, I had an awesome time”. The auditory person may say: “The music was loud but I could still hear what Bill said about Nancy”. The visual person: “The place was done out with silver balloons and blue ribbons, it created a really pleasant atmosphere.”

So can our interpretation or “map” of the world be altered or “tweaked” to suit our purposes, change our perspective, or change our behavior? I say a definite yes! With the reservation that any alteration or tweaking needs to be done by an experienced and ethical practitioner with the full consent of the subject; otherwise the results could be detrimental.

Due in part to its open-ended philosophy, NLP is controversial. It is at times criticized in the scientific community as unproven or pseudo-scientific. Amongst those who watch for fraud, it is criticized for exaggerated claims and unethical approaches by a number of practitioners. There is also some dispute among its developers and proponents regarding what NLP is and is not.


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