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Tuesday night I was out with a friend who asked me about Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).
“You know,” he said, “CSI spent a whole season trashing NLP. What is it, just a lot of positive thinking?”
Sigh. So many people misunderstand and misrepresent what is actually a really fabulous tool for helping you achieve your goals. NLP played such a significant role in my own recovery that afterward I went and got trained in it myself so that I could help others overcome symptoms of posttraumatic stress. It’s a wonderful, gentle, safe and phenomenal tool to complement any recovery strategy.
Since there’s a lot of confusion about NLP, I’ve asked Andreas Kulberg, a good friend and fellow practitioner (he’s actually so certified he can teach NLP!) to explain what it is, what it does, and how it helps optimize your brain.
In simple language would you explain what NLP is?
NLP is about finding out how people who are successful structure their thinking and then using that information to create tools and techniques that can be used by just about anyone.
What makes NLP such an effective tool for achieving change?
It is based on what works, not theories about why things are messed up.
How can NLP help someone relieve stress?
Every thought and feeling is something we create, something we do. Most of the time we simply have no idea how we do it, and therefore we think that it either “just came over me” or that has a life of its own outside our control. When we realize we actually can take control over our thoughts and feelings we can become curious about how we do it. Awareness is the first step.
Then we can use different techniques to interrupt or stop the current process of creating the feeling and instead create a more productive process. It’s a bit difficult to explain and a lot easier to do, once you know how.
It’s also something that is a constant learning process. There’s no way I can claim that “I’m in total control of my thoughts and feelings!” That’s absurd. I do, however, have soooooo much more control over them now than before I learned this.
When it comes to trauma, can NLP help someone let go of the past? If so, how?
OH YES! There are several ways of doing that and I usually use a mixture of different techniques and processes.
One technique that can be easily used to ease up the trauma is dissociation. Some people have to wait ten to twenty years or travel around the world four times to “distance themselves” from an experience. What we do is to do it in an instant.
Imagine something you have experienced.
Do you experience the event as if you are there, seeing it with your own eyes, hearing it as if you were there again?
Or do you see yourself in the picture, as if you were seeing yourself an a movie screen or in a way experiencing the event from an audience perspective?
If you find yourself experiencing the memory as if you are there, seeing it with your own eyes, I suggest imagining yourself on a big football stadium. You are way up in the bleechers. Nosebleed seats. On the field you watch the same event take place. See what you do and see what other people are doing, if there are other people involved.
What you have done now, if you actually did the exercise, is distance yourself from the experience. This is what the brain does when it finally gets fed up with the associated (“own eyes – experience”) memory. You just didn’t know how to do it, so therefore it may have taken ten to twenty years and/or travelling four times around the world.
An easy exercise to start with could be to just sit where you are right now and see what you see, hear what you hear and feel what you feel. The light, colors, sounds, what you say to yourself, your bum on the chair etc.
Now pretend you are a fly on the wall next to you on one side. Pretend you are experiencing the room from there. See yourself from the side, hear what you would here from the side of the room.
Now fly to the front of the room and do the same thing.
And then to the back of the room.
And to the ceiling directly above you.
Now go back into your body and again experience the room from inside yourself again. Notice the difference.
This technique is a good way to start. It is rarely the complete solution, but it makes the whole process of healing easier.
Can NLP can help let go? Well, one of the students in my NLP Practitioner training this last October went out after half the training (4 days) and practiced on anyone he could find.
Among those he worked with was a 22-year old woman who had been raped 6 years earlier. She had been in therapy the whole time and whenever a male got upset or angry when she was around, she would start crying uncontrollably. He saw her for less than an hour and after that she had no problem standing up for herself. The crying was gone and she felt ok.
He also helped a high school student who was terrified of speaking in front of a group to do a presentation before about 100 other students.
Now, he is really determined, and still in no way unique.
A major complaint about PTSD treatments is that they can make someone feel worse. Generally speaking, how likely is NLP to make someone feel worse after a session?
If a client feels worse after a session with me I have failed miserably! I claim that is the case for any treatment. If you are involved with someone who makes you feel worse after a session, there’s one word that comes to mind:
If you get involved with a hack, then there’s always a risk of feeling worse, no matter what system they use, be it CBT, psychotherapy, hypnosis or whatever.
If you work with someone skilled you will feel better and see results and evidence that you are getting better, end of story.
This is also why I practice the principle of “If you don’t get the results you want you get your money back!” I work with a fixed price whether it takes five minutes or fifty weeks.
With this I also want to mention that there are no absolute guarantees. I have actually failed twice. Once with a smoker who had smoked for 50 years and we only had two hours and the other time it was a cocain and hasch addict, whom I only met for an hour and a half. Both felt better but weren’t able to quit and they didn’t want to follow up.
Both of these were “gifts”. The smoker got the treatment as a present from his daughter and the drug addict from his boss. I’ve learned not to accept “presents”. When people want to change, and actually take the action of making an appointment, that’s when change occurs. It’s ok to be skeptical as long as you want the change.
Many people feel that they have been in therapy for years or feel they have “tried everything”. Is it ok to be skeptical?
Definitely. There are so many different therapies that just doesn’t seem to work much. There are also a lot of therapists who don’t seem to believe that change is really possible for everyone.
Most people I work with have “tried everything” and I’m their “last hope”. It’s natural to be skeptical in a place like that. All I ask is that they truly want to change for the better.
On a final note: Drs. Ron & Edie Perry combine working with the body and NLP in a way that does wonders! They are also the most amazing people. If you have just about any kind of physical problem they can help.
Andreas Kullberg is a Society of NLP Trainer with thousands of coaching sessions. He has helped olympic athletes and world champions, CEOs and heads of companies and organizations, addictions and phobias, anxiety and depressed and stressed people. You name it… He has had his own radio show called “Life tips”, he writes a parental coaching column in the national “The Family Magazine”. He has been trained by the best in the world, including Richard Bandler and Tony Robbins. Among his own trainings and seminars are NLP trainings, “Mental Training for Teachers and Leaders” and “The World’s Greatest Parent”.
The opinions in this post are solely those of the author. To contribute to ‘Professional Perspective’ contact Michele.
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