The Map is not the Territory


Many people come to NLP for freedom from limitations. NLP provides a way out of old habits, fears, limiting beliefs, and gives a structure for new and empowering ways of being in the world. One of the benefits of NLP is more choice: in how you respond, the way you communicate, and how you feel. When you have more options, you can make better decisions. If you have not been living the life that you want, or getting the success that you want,  NLP offers you a path to new and satisfying alternatives.

 So how does it work?

 "NLP is how we use our brain"

NLP describes, in very precise terms, the images, sounds, and feelings  that make up our inner and outer world. How do we know what we know? How do we do what we do? For example, how do you know that a pleasant memory is pleasant? How do you know when to feel scared or happy at certain  times? How do you like or dislike something? How do you learn a subject easily, or not? Sometimes people describe NLP as "software for our brains"

 NLP is about how we "code" our experiences. When we understand the specific ways that our brains make distinctions, then it is easier to make changes, to learn, and to communicate effectively.

 "NLP is about communication"

One of the principles of NLP is that we are always communicating, and  most of our communication is other than words. The question becomes: " What are we communicating?" Is what we intend to convey the same as what the listener understands? If not, how do we recognise the cues and adjust? NLP de-mystifies the communication loops at home and work and gives us practical skills for becoming highly effective communicators.

 "NLP is about how language affects us"

Language affects how we think and respond. The very process of  converting experience into language requires that we condense, distort,  and summarise how we perceive the world. NLP also provides questions and patterns to make communication more as we intend. NLP teaches us to understand how language affects us through implicit and embedded assumptions.

 "NLP is not only about communication and language but most importantly it’s about modelling excellence"

 NLP processes are a result of discovering how experts or excellent  leaders do what they do so well and teaching those skills to others. Modelling skills are at the heart of NLP. Learning the specific  components of how others do something well will provide you with new options.

 "NLP is the study of internal experience"

NLP is a tool to understand how an individual makes sense of the world, and  studies individuals' experiences: how they perceive the world around them and how their brain makes specific distinctions for them. It does NOT assume that we all do this the same way. In NLP we know that each person has a unique style of learning, perceiving and responding to the world. NLP is inherently respectful of differences.

 How will learning NLP Benefit Me?

NLP is invaluable in arts and entertainment, consulting, therapy, management, health professions, sports, parenting, creative pursuits, education, training and development, sales, negotiation, writing -anywhere communicating and excelling are important!

Artists, writers, and performers find NLP training enormously beneficial because NLP offers unique and valuable insight into what inhibits and what enhances the creative spirit and ability. Applications of NLP strategies provide powerful ways to free and stimulate your creativity, enhance communication and rapport–building skills, to set compelling outcomes you want – and achieve them. Specific skills for dealing with people who perceive the world differently than we do will help improve relations with co-performers, directors, and audiences, in fact everyone with whom you come into contact.

The personal change work processes in NLP are unique in their scope and power, which is why it has become acknowledged to be “the difference that makes the difference”.

 The Beginnings of NLP

NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) began in the early 1970's when John Grinder, a linguistics professor at the University of California, and Richard Bandler, a student of psychology and mathematics, asked themselves the simple yet fascinating question:

"What is it that makes the difference between somebody who is merely competent and someone who excels at the same skill?"

This question and the answers they found have evolved into a vast body of NLP knowledge that is renowned for its effectiveness in achieving results.

The first people modelled were therapists: Virginia Satir, Milton Erickson, and Fritz Perls. Bandler and Grinder specifically modelled their language, physiology, and mental processes, then identified patterns (rather than theories) which could be precisely defined and explicitly taught. In the years since, many valuable contributions have been added to the field.

The World of NLP

Today there are training centres around the world teaching NLP skills. The comprehensive set of skills is taught by New Oceans and The Rainbow Journey as NLP Training, and is offered as 4-day Diploma and 18 or more full days of Practitioner training. Early in the program participants learn the important skills of:

  • clarifying goals and objective

  • establishing rapport

  • developing states of excellence

  • changing self-defeating patterns of behaviour

  • checking to ensure any desired changes are appropriate for all parts of life

  • clear and effective use of language

  • self-rapport and optimum creative performance

Some larger training centres including New Oceans offer an advanced training and certification called "Master Practitioner," as well as specialised classes, such as NLP leadership skills, negotiating and conflict resolution skills, NLP presentation skills, and NLP personal growth processes.

The world of NLP is international in scope, especially in the fields of creativity, therapy, education, and  business and health. Several journals chronicle new discoveries in NLP. There are hundreds of books with an NLP focus and many new books are published each year.

In addition, there are therapists, counsellors and consultants around the world trained in NLP and offering private sessions for personal change.

NLP Principles

The principles, often referred to as presuppositions, which form the foundation of NLP have been modelled from key people who consistently produced superb results, as well as from systems theory and natural laws. As well as a set of powerful skills, NLP is a philosophy and an attitude that is useful when your goal is excellence in whatever you do.

 A few of the principles are listed below:

 1. We are always communicating.

Words are only a small part of our total communication. Facial expressions gestures, posture, and voice quality are key components of non-verbal communication. Even when we remain silent, we are communicating. An effective communicator pays attention

 2. The meaning of your communication is the response you get.

While your intention may be clear to you, it is the other person's interpretation and response that reflects your effectiveness. NLP teaches you the skills and flexibility to ensure that the message you send equals the message they receive.

 3. There is no failure, only feedback.

What seemed like failure is usually success that just stopped too soon. With this understanding, we can stop blaming ourselves and others, find solutions, and improve the quality of what we do.

4. If what you are doing is not working, do something else.

If you always do what you've always done, you will always get what  you've always got.

5. Choice is better than no choice.

The system or person with the most choices or flexibility has the best chance of success, survival, and/or influence.

6. Anything can be accomplished if the task is broken down into small enough steps or chunks.

Though a major project can seem overwhelming at first, defining and sequencing the steps can make it more easily achievable.

7. Behind every behaviour is a positive intention.

By understanding that people have some positive intention for themselves in what they say and do, it's easier to stop getting angry and stuck, start to move forward, and enjoy more flexibility and grace.

An NLP Sampler

1. An example of how language affects us:

First a little bit of the "linguistic" part of NLP. "Do NOT think of a blue striped elephant."

What did you do in your brain? Most people think of a blue striped elephant, then try (in vain!) to think of something else. In order to make sense of the words, our brains have to recall an experience of the very thing that is being asked NOT to do. This simple understanding has many implications.

Telling someone "DON'T worry" can start them worrying! Instead, let them know what to do, such as: "Enjoy your afternoon!"

2. Changing feelings and behaviour by changing how you think:

In order to gain the most benefit form this exercise, take a couple of minutes to fully participate in this small example of how the structure of your thoughts influences your emotions and behaviours.

First, think of a specific pleasant experience you've had. Focus on the part of the experience that was really pleasant for you. It might be something simple that you do regularly, or it might be a special time or event.

Some people will have a clear image of the experience and some people will have a sense of the experience. Either way is fine. Just enjoy it now.

Next, notice what happens if you bring the experience closer to you. Now make it a bit bigger. Now make the colours even brighter. How do those changes affect your feelings about that memory?

Now, move the images far away. Make the image dim and grey and small. How does that affect the feelings associated with the experience?

In closing, now put the brightness, distance, and colour back the way you like it so that you leave that memory as pleasant as you'd like.

People report that their feelings change when they change the colour, brightness, distance, and size of the images. You can neutralise unpleasant memories just that easily. Most people do not know that they can immediately affect their feelings and behaviour just by adjusting the components of how they think.

And once you have NLP working for you, not only will your life improve, it will also recolour your creativity.

Some Useful Books


FROGS INTO PRINCES - Richard Bandler & John Grinder

HEART OF THE MIND - Connirae & Steve Andreas

INTRODUCING NLP - Joseph O'Connor & John Seymour


NLP & RELATIONSHIPS - Robin Prior & Joseph O'Connor


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