There are as many interpretations of what NLP is, as
there are people who practice it.
In this article I attempt not so much to explain my ideas about what it is.
But to open a window on how it works. NLP is in it’s own right a body of
knowledge, practices and techniques, used to discover how we as people.
Interact with both ourselves, other people and the world around us.
One of the fundamental facts about human beings is we are all different.
This may seem to be a very generalized statement. However it is true, let
Technically we are all the same, we come equipped with the same basic
physical layout. The same mental capabilities, yet we all look different, we all
sound different and we all experience our world in very individual ways.
Now obviously the way we look and sound is down to the genes
we inherit from our parents. How we interpret the world though is very much
down to how we process our experiences of that world.
This is also the point at which our belief systems are formulated. As part of the
basic package we are equipped to experience our world through our senses.
These are those of Sight, Sound, Touch, Taste and Smell.
So how do we process experience, and by this I mean anything we experience
during daily life. Be it interacting with people, doing physical tasks,
eating food, sleeping. Etc.
It works something like this, experience is encoded into a series of sensual sequences
which are passed through a series of filters. Then stored in the sub conscious mind.
So what is a sensual sequence, good question.
We experience events through the way we see them, hear them, how they felt.
How they taste or smell. Those events are then encoded into our subconscious mind
according to how we relate to that experience.
As an example, a sunrise could be a very visual event for some and may produce a
visual representation when recalled to mind. For others it might be the experience of
being outside and feeling the changes wrought as the sun rises bringing warmth and
light. For others the moment may be recalled through hearing the sound of the early
morning birdsong heralding the coming of the new day.
Others may see it as time for breakfast. Etc.
For many the same scenario can bring forth a combination of all these things.
Try this as an exercise.
Imagine being outside in the early morning, watching the sun come over the horizon,
experience the sense of wonder this can bring, the sense of excitement. Feeling the
changes in the ambient temperature as it rises, Feeling the gentle breeze or maybe
the stronger wind. Hearing the sounds of the early morning. Seeing the light as it
changes in quality and contrast. Take in this moment and enjoy it.
What we have just done is create an experience, based either on an actual reality,
or a perceived idea of what the experience might feel like.
This is how we encode our experience of life. We attach a sensory meaning to
that experience which is stored in the subconscious mind.
Filters and short term memory
Ok great so far, but what is a filter and how does it work. Everyday, our world provides
us with so much sensual imagery, that we would become overwhelmed by it all and
more or less stop functioning as rational human beings. So as part of the package
we are equipped with something called the brain.
Now this is basically the controlling mechanism which overseas everything we do.
It is an incredible device which we take very much for granted.
The brain actually works on two levels, the Conscious and the Subconscious.
The Conscious mind is better known as the logical mind. It deals with satisfying
our basic needs and providing an immediate response mechanism to deal with the
daily requirements of life. Be they physical or mental. The subconscious mind is the
control mechanism. It looks after all functions of the body. It is also the storage location
for everything we experience as we pass through life.
The Conscious or logical mind is programmed to provide us with immediate reactions
and delivers it’s solutions to us based on data specific parameters.
This simply means it responds directly to situations as they occur.
We make decisions based on what is happening around us at any given moment
in time. The advantage of this is obvious. We react quicker without having to give a
situation too much thought. Very useful in more prehistoric times when threatened
with danger or needing to find shelter and food. Also very useful in modern times.
There is one slight dis-advantage, accessing data for quick decisions means that having
too much data can slow the delivery down considerably, or even overwhelm it completely.
So our logical mind processes data through the senses, but filters out most of what it
It essentially deletes or removes what it interprets as being unnecessary to the
decision making process. What this basically means is it can only process a limited
amount of data at any one moment.
As an example, try this as an exercise. Take a moment to reflect on a journey you have
recently made, be it a walk, a drive or as the passenger in a vehicle of some sort.
Try and recall everything about it at the conscious level. Chances are you’ll recall
starting and arriving, but not so much detail of the journey itself.
Unless something specific or unusual caused you to make more associations during
the course of the journey.
This is an example of the filtering that takes place in the logical or conscious mind.
It is generally referred to as short term memory.
Subconscious or Long term memory and belief
The subconscious mind is the recipient of all the unfiltered experience amassed as we
pass through life. It is said, that if something has happened no matter how trivial,
it will be stored somewhere in the subconscious part of the mind.
The subconscious part of our being is where we everything about us is organized, stored
and categorized. To be basic, it’s our own virtual filing system.
The subconscious mind is always working and it’s main focus is to keep us safe and
to bring us all the things we want in life.
Now it gets that direction from how we communicate with it through our logical mind.
Basically, when we make a request for something, the subconscious mind looks
for ways this can be delivered. The amazing fact is, we will receive it.
Whatever the it actually is.
Many people have said to me, “ yeah that’s ok,
but I’ve asked for something but never got it”.
Very true, but what you receive depends on how the subconscious mind is instructed.
It always delivers an answer. These answers are often ambiguous. But more frequently,
they are ignored. Most of our time is spent inhabiting the world of our logical mind,
where the noises of everyday life drown out or submerge the messages given
by the subconscious mind.
It will therefore give us what we want, based on the information it receives from us.
The presupposition, we always get what we ask for is based on this fact alone.
How NLP works.
Now we have looked at the way we interpret experience, how we
encode and store it and the methods we use to do this.
The question is how does NLP work.
NLP techniques are designed to look at the deep memory levels. What we look to
achieve when making change is to understand the process by which the experience
occurred and to understand the filters used to represent that experience as it was
constructed and stored into deep memory.
In this way the experience can be recreated in the mind, and the separate component
parts which make up the experience can be analysed to assess it.
Ok! what does that mean.
Lets take an example. We’ll assume that an experience that was once useful has now
become more of an encumbrance in later life. Yet it still holds an influence over us
which is stopping us from moving forward.
Most NLP techniques use a similar framework which follows this basic pattern.
We investigate the experience, find out what it does, how it is encoded by the mind and
what purpose it serves to us. Once this is known, we can begin to change the
representation. In so doing the power it has can be muted or the experience
So as example, we have a belief we cannot do something.
That belief is based on an experience we have of not being able to do
(the something). As an NLP practitioner we would begin by asking questions about
that belief. The idea is to dig down to understand the underlying reasons for why
this belief is in place and to isolate the component parts of the experience.
Once we have gathered all that information we can
begin to look at each aspect of the experience and make changes
to the way the experience is encoded.
Once this is done, the interpretation of the experience in our minds is changed.
Therefore the way we feel about it, and the beliefs
associated with it no longer have the relevance or power it once
held over us. Thus creating an alternative and more empowering representation of
the experience in our subconscious mind.
That is the way we use NLP in both professional and personal stances to make
change that helps us to move through life with a more positive outlook.
In the next article I will give a practical example
of how the process works.
Thanks for the visit and hope you enjoyed this article
For those who wish to find out more about NLP
The following resource page offers a series of very practical options
to discover more click the link below
The following book is based on my own personal experience of NLP
and how I used it to change my life and direction in ways
never before imagined.
NLP Kickstart Change
For parts two and three of this article.
NLP Making Changes
NLP Desire Manifestation