What Is NLP?

Published: 19th March 2012
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The way we use language changes the way we think. The way we think shapes the way we behave. If you can change the thinking, you can change the behaviour. And you can change the thinking by changing the language. This is just one of the principles behind NLP as it is used by a hypnotherapist in a clinical setting.

Neurolinguistic programming is sometimes known by the abbreviation NLP. It was developed during the 1970s by a pair of researchers during the days that linguistics was beginning to find its feet as a science. Linguistics is the science of language - it explores the inbuilt mental processes behind all languages and how humans use them. NLP came out of this, as it didn't take long for researchers to discover that the language you use and the words you use to think in shape the way you see your world and ultimately shape your behaviour.

Here's a quick test to demonstrate this principle. How many basic colours can you name, using the basic colour names that you'd use when you're teaching a child? If you're a native English speaker, you probably can list eleven: black, white, grey, brown, pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. However, someone who speaks Spanish or Russian would list twelve, as in these languages, "dark blue" and "light blue" are separate colours and have totally different words. If you spoke Greek, you'd probably consider brown to be a sort of red. And if you spoke Welsh as your native language (OK, to be fair, most speakers of Welsh also speak English these days!) you would perceive green, grey and blue as different shades of the same colour. The basic colour terms in our mother tongue affects the way that we classify and see the world around us. That's just one little example.

Linguists also have noticed how groups of people who consider a certain thing to be important will have a huge range of ways of categorising that thing. The classic example that's often quoted is how the Inuit (Eskimo) people have at least a dozen words for snow - they see different types of snow (so do you, if you're a skier) and have names for the different types they see. Everyone else just sees snow. The Quechua (Inca) people have many words for mountains - they see them differently to how English speakers do. Arabic has many words for camels, depending on the age and gender of the animal, similar to how English has many words for horses, also depending on the age and gender.

These are just small ways that you can see the principle of language shaping the way you see the world. And this is one of the goals of hypnosis and hypnotherapy: to change the way you think and see the world so you can change your behaviour. NLP, however, goes beyond just the vocabulary and goes right into the grammar of the way you think - the structure of the mental language you use. Right from its earliest days, NLP was used in conjunction with hypnosis.

One of the key ways that NLP is used during a hypnotherapy session is to help clarify thinking. The therapist listens to what the client says after establishing a rapport. The therapist picks up on little giveaways - both verbal and visual - that expose unclear thinking, presuppositions, deeply hidden beliefs and the like. The next task of the hypnotherapist is to expose, challenge and change these beliefs. After that, comes the stage of correcting these patterns of thinking, which will ultimately change behaviour.

A classic example of a sentence that has a hidden presupposition in it is "Have you stopped shouting at your dog yet?" This sentence carries the hidden assumption that (a) you have a dog, (b) you shout at it and (c) you intend to stop shouting at the dog at some stage. Because these statements are so loaded, they are forbidden in law courts. Think about it for a moment: if you answer that question with "yes", you have admitted that you once shouted at your dog. If you answer no, you are admitting to still shouting at the dog. But what if the question had been "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?"

Another common statement that has some hidden beliefs is "I must get fitter (or thinner or...)". Must? Why "must"? Fitter? Fitter than what or who?

At this stage, you might ask the question whether you could go through this process of analysing thoughts and challenging suppositions alone without the help of a hypnotherapist. The answer to this is yes, sort of. It can be done but it takes a bit of learning. It's often hard to clarify your thoughts without speaking out loud to another person. Journalling can help here, but not everyone is able to "think aloud" on paper or on the keyboard and then analyse what they have written to spot all the grammatical giveaways. However, you can't see your own non-verbal clues, which is one thing that a therapist using NLP will look for. For another thing, during a hypnotic trance, the mind is very open to outside influences that can then settle very deeply into the psyche - some would even argue that it is your spirit itself that is open to outside influences. This makes the reshaping of the thoughts during hypnosis a very deep, intimate thing.

A hypnotherapist will also use various verbal techniques that are also part of NLP that will work subconsciously on you to change your thinking subtly and ultimately change your behaviour. These techniques can include metaphors or parables, homophones (words that sound alike) and imbedded commands to embed the desired outcomes in your brain. Even subliminal words and phrases can affect the ways our brains process things, which is something else that linguists have explored as a way of discovering how the mind and language work (they call these subliminal techniques "priming"). This is something, obviously, that requires considerable training on the part of the hypnotherapist so he or she can use the right technique for the right situation.


Positive Tranceformations has more information about hypnosis and hypnotherapy  (Click now to get SEO for real readers, not robots, using Semantic Writing by Rick Rakauskas).

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