Thursday, 4 March 2010
08:10:57 AM (GMT)
Dr. Marion H. Love, who holds a Ph.D. in Theatre Arts from The Ohio State
University, has had additional training in linguistics, dramatic literature, and the
role of the creative arts in adult learning from Duke University (USA) and the
University of Cambridge (United Kingdom). She is director of more than sixty
theatrical productions and is co-author of the EFL textbook America the Beautiful,
published in Moscow by Kitaigorodskaya Press in 1998.
Editor's Note: Neuro-Linguistic Programming or "NLP" seems to be a general approach
to life, including the study and acquisition of language. During the past ten years,
the wide-ranging philosophy has been quite influential in English as a second
language as taught in England and in Europe in general. Yet NLP remains relatively
unknown in the United States. It is to help bridge the Trans-Atlantic gap that this
Journal presents the following article. Although some of the emphases in NLP do have
implications for the imagination and vice- versa, we do not wish to either endorse or
disagree with the contents. We will point out, however, that there seems little or no
direct relationship between "Neuro-Linguistic" as referred to in NLP and
"neurolinguistics" as it is studied in departments of linguistics and/or psychology
in the USA.
"NLP is an attitude ...[of]...insatiable curiosity about human beings with a
methodology that leaves behind it a trail of techniques."
(Bandler and Grinder, l979)
The presuppositions of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) are not a philosophy
or a credo or a set of rules and regulations. Rather, they are assumptions upon which
individuals base future actions and plan for meaningful learning experiences. For
example, a teacher who instructs students to exchange homework with each other is
presupposing that everyone has done the work. An NLP presupposition is an assumption
about human behavior, experience, communication or potential that influences
behavior. For many people, presuppositions are firmly held beliefs that engage the
emotions as well as affect behavior. Thus, teachers-like students-usually have
strongly held presuppositions about the roles of the teacher and student, the nature
of learning and what constitutes progress in the classroom. NLP research and practice
over the last twenty-five years confirms that achieving excellence is helped when we
act as if we believe the presuppositions which the method promotes (Revell, NLP
Some NLP Presuppositions
1. The map is not the territory. [Our senses filter everything we experience.]
2. What you believe either is true or becomes true.[Perceptions are individual
and influence behavior.]
3. The mind and the body affect each other.[Thought, emotions and behavior are
4. Knowing what you want helps you to get it.[Identify your goals and break them
down into manageable tasks.]
5. The meaning of your communication is the response you get.[Communication is
not your intention; it is an experiential process.]
6. There is no failure, only feedback.[Stop blaming yourself if something isn't
working. Try something else!]
7. Communication is verbal and non-verbal.[You are always sending and receiving
8. Modeling excellent behavior leads to excellence. [Find the model and follow
9. There is a positive intention behind every behavior.[People respond in the
only way they know how at the time.]
In applying NLP presuppositions to the classroom, teachers first must look to
their own perceptual models regarding the nature of learning and student performance.
Central issues involve identifying individual behavioral and communicative patterns
which contribute to learning or which may be impacting learners negatively. Assisting
a student to make positive changes for learning as well as living, requires teachers
to recognize personal strengths and weaknesses and to challenge limitations as they
program themselves as models of excellence for the students. Teachers who can foster
a classroom laboratory environment where NLP presuppositions are actively practiced
enable students to develop creative self confidence as they approach learning tasks
and life tasks. A student matures wisely and can become a life-long learner who
begins to understand that "anything can be learned if it is chunked properly." A
student relates more effectively with teachers and peers when recognizing that
"communication is an on-going verbal and nonverbal process." A student develops
leadership ability and self-esteem when solving problems with "many- rather than a
few -choices." A student appreciates diversity when recognizing that "the map is not
the territory." Percepetual models imposed by a culture, or a society, or one
individual are challenged by teachers who can model these NLP presuppositions in the
classroom behavior while teaching students to consciously use them.
Identifying Trouble Spots in the Classroom
While business professionals and therapists have been working with NLP since
the l980's, educators in the US have been slow to embrace the attitude, as Bandler
calls it, for the classroom. Perhaps one reason is that many NLP techniques overlap
with more familiar ones such as accelerated and affective learning strategies. It is
possible that teachers, unfamiliar with what makes NLP a unique method, mistakenly
assume that they already know all they need to know about the field. What is it that
makes NLP a tool for the 21st century classroom? It is fast and easy to apply. It
helps teachers and students to identify trouble spots quickly. For example, students
who exhibit behavioral patterns such as forgetfulness or hyperactivity are frequently
diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). While medication-Ritalin in
particular-is prescribed as a temporary or long-term solution for some children, NLP
can provide an alternative approach. Learning how to anchor a strong sensory
impression and then link it with an internal image helps a forgetful learner to
remember. Knowing how to control the intensity and speed of images can relieve
internal pressures which hyperactive learners experience and then express through
The Student's Perspective
NLP training also shows students how to identify outcomes and then test them
for viability. Chunking up (enlarging) and chunking down (detailing) a task or a goal
using guided imagery teaches students how to sequence learning into achievable units.
Subsequently, self-knowledge and confidence develop as students learn how to read the
road maps of their experience and how to deal with the internal dialogues and
emotional reactions which result in behavior and concepts of self-worth.
Significantly, NLP's "trail of techniques" can show students how to confront personal
fears and angers, freeing them from ego-agenda traps which restrict potential.
Getting the students to adopt such attitudes is not as difficult as it might seem.
NLP's Basic Action Model (BAM) of NLP is a fundamental technique for learners to
understand the process of communication and to practice behavioral strategies for
meeting goals while relating effectively with others. Through role plays and problem
solving exercises, teachers can provide their students with an important NLP concept:
The Basic Action Model
The Basic Action model is simple for students to understand and for the most
part self- evident. The problem in using it, however, is that understanding does not
necessarily lead to practice. Consequently, many different NLP techniques have been
developed which allow a practitioner to explore goal setting or sensory acuity or
communicative flexibility. For example, students can quickly and easily learn to use
many NLP exercises use "Life Levels" to check on the desirability of a specific
outcome by viewing it from the perspectives (or levels) of students' individual
resources and behavior, personal beliefs and values and, ultimately, their identity
and mission. Another example is the "Walt Disney" strategy which helps students to
problem-solve an outcome by having them shift perceptual states from dreamer to
realist to critic as they explore how creative ideas become successfully realized. A
third technique is "Swish", a fast phobia-cure which requires students to substitute
positive mental imagery or positive sounds for negative ones which restrict or limit
These and other NLP exercises make it possible for students to become
self-directed and and self-confident learners primarily because they start to assume
more responsibility for the communicative and behavioral decisions they make in their
lives. That means students learn to recognize and acknowledge that they create their
own belief system and act accordingly. NLP models require those who use the
strategies to live more honestly, without blaming others for what is happening to
them. It does no good to blame others for interpersonal situations that are
uncomfortable or for goals that are unmet. NLP reminds learners "if you always do
what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got. " NLP then invites
learners to take charge of our own lives.
Oh To Be an Eagle
Oh to be an eagle
And swoop down from a peak
With the golden sunlight flashing
From the fierce hook of my beak.
'Oh to be an eagle
And to terrify the sky
With the beat of wings like thunder
And a wild, barbaric cry.
'Oh to be an eagle…but why keep dreaming?
I must learn to be myself,'
Said the rubber duckling sadly
On its soapy bathroom shelf.
Like the rubber duckling of the poem, many students have dreams of flying high.
When children, they play at make-believe and invite others to "let's pretend." As
adolescents, they imagine what it would be like to star in a movie of their life
story. They try out various roles: "Rocky," "Indiana Jones," or, perhaps,
"Shakespeare"-in love. As college students, they explore majors based on what they'd
like to "be" rather than "do." And so it goes throughout life. For many students, the
dreams fail and, borrowing a phrase from Langston Hughes poem "Harlem," wither and
"dry up like a raisin in the sun" (Barnet, 1989). If schools can help students to
believe that they are works in progress, then we can empower them. Their futures are
not determined and their identities are not fixed. As this article is suggesting, NLP
can be a tool for the 21st century classroom to help students re-create themselves.
NLP can make a difference in a life that makes a difference.
Come to the Edge
"Come to the edge!"
"Tis too high!"
"Come to the edge!"
"We might fall!"
"Come to the edge!"
So they came to the edge and
He pushed them and
What Makes the Difference: Background
At the University of California, Santa Cruz, in the early l970's, linguistics
professor John Grinder and mathematician-computer programmer Richard Bandler were
exploring the nature and science of human excellence. In particular they were
investigating the difference that makes the difference between someone who excels and
someone who does not. They wondered, for example, why one individual was able to
remain positive in spite of great difficulties, while another was crushed by small
setbacks. They questioned why some people had a facility for building and maintaining
relationships, while others failed to establish rapport. They were curious about the
distinctive linguistic patterns and nonverbal messages individuals used in comparable
interpersonal situations. What made the difference between a superior performance and
an inferior one? What were the factors in language patterns, physiology, the
experience of reality and the interpretation of that experience which contributed to
success or imposed limitations?
Metaphors for a Change
NLP is a methodology for managing rapid and positive change. It is a
methodology, some say "an attitude," that could prove especially useful for the
classroom, enabling teachers to become more successful communicators and empowering
students to process for excellence. It is a blueprint for educators to share with
students as they learn how to make positive changes which can make a difference in
lives both in and out of the classroom. One favorite NLP technique to communicate
ideas and help someone tap into the unconscious self is to use metaphors. A
particularly skillful master of the story metaphor was hypno-therapist Milton
Erickson, who served Grinder and Bandler as a role model in this area. As most
teachers know, metaphors can raise a learner's awareness of hidden resources but they
can also identify limitations. Consider, for example the following story:
The Dancing Centipede
Once there was a centipede who delighted in dancing. At night when the moon began to
rise and shed its soft light onto the grassy slope below, Centipede would stretch one
of her several beautiful long legs. "Aaaahhh…" she would sigh into the cool night
air. And then, she would close her eyes and begin to sway to the music of the nearby
stream as it splashed over the pebbles and stones. Slowly, at first, her numerous
dainty feet started to move by two's and four's and ten's in a carefully
choreographed pattern, faster and faster, until she found herself framed in her
spotlight from the moon. Head thrown back, legs outstretched she belted in true Ethel
Merman fashion "I'm just a Broadway Baby… 100 legs-each kicking higher than the
last, "Struttin' my stuff…" 100 feet , each encased in a tiny gold slipper, "All
over the earth to-night." Now swinging from the branch of an abandoned hut, Bat
wanted to join her - Top hat, tails, and all - but the movements were so … amazing!
So brilliant! So dazzling! So absolutely out of his league! He would have to settle
for admiration only - and a dream. From the water's shallows, Frog ribbeted
appreciation and Cricket chirped as Centipede executed one multi-legged split after
another, finally concluding with a twisting top spiral balancing herself deftly on
the tips of her 50th right and left legs, all 98 others tucked one round the other.
Goose was absolutely energized by the evening's performance and couldn't stop honking
"Bravo's" as she waddled over to where Centipede paused still lost in her moment of
artistic brilliance. "Simply stunning," Lizard hissed and whistled. "Oh, please, show
us how you do it," cooed Dove from a branch. "Yeesss, pleeaassee," they all shouted.
"Tell us! Which foot do you start with? And which foot do you end with? How do you
know what to do?" "Quiet, everyone," said Centipede confidently untwirling herself
with ease. Everybody moved closer to hear her words of wisdom. She smiled at the
admiring audience in front of her, took a deep breath and said, "Well, first I…"
She paused, looked at her feet, moved several of them this way and that."I…"And,
then, she wobbled - ever so slightly - and a curious, confused expression came across
her face. From that night on, Centipede never danced again.
(Adapted folk tale)
Although the talented Centipede was baffled into paralysis by questions
exploring her technique, had she studied NLP, she probably would have danced after
that night and,what's more, she could have learned how to share her skills with
others. How can this metaphor be useful for teachers to learn about NLP and to share
insights about behavior? Many teachers-and students-are like both the Centipede and
her Admirers. They have a special skill (the Centipede) and, still they desire
something more (the Admirers). They have a knack for doing some things well but
suddenly become confused and stumped when trying to explain or analyze performance.
What does that imply about skill or talents and, also, the thinking processes? How
conscious are we of what we do? Is a particular skill inspired by the gods or is it a
habit developed over time by persistence and practice? Viola Spolin, the American
artist-educator and author of several books on improvisational theatre techniques for
children and adults, strongly objected to the concept of talent as a special genius.
Spolin insisted that each of us, at birth, has a capacity to experience and as we
progress through life, we either expand that capacity or we limit it.
We learn through experience and experiencing and no one teaches anyone anything. This
is as true for the infant moving from kicking to crawling as it is the scientist with
his equations. If the environment permits it, anyone can learn whatever he chooses to
learn, and if the individual permits it, the environment will teach him everything it
has to teach.
Grinder and Bandler might disagree with Spolin that "no one teaches us
anything,"but they would concur with her that students learn holistically, through an
involvement which is mentally, physiologically and emotionally interconnected. In
working with students, Spolin helped them to "re-form" through exercises that
encouraged spontaneity and stimulated sub-conscious memories. In this way, Spolin
claimed, students could free themselves from old frames of reference (habits or
perceptual models) and discover the abundant resources hidden within. NLP research on
high achievers similar to Spolin, confirms that individual perceptions of reality, of
personal effectiveness and particular limitations are based on the way our senses
filter personal engagement with the world. Thus, we all program ourselves for success
or failure from an early age through the perceptual models we create and which we
identify as "reality." Students, for example, who do not perform well on exams often
carry feelings of inadequacy into subsequent testing experiences or other aspects of
their school lives. Teachers who assume that their communicative style serves
students who know how to learn often become frustrated and demoralized when
assignments are misunderstood. The anthropologist Carlos Castaneda describes this
process of creating reality in metaphoric language.
Sorcerers say that we are inside a bubble. It is a bubble into which we are placed at
the moment of our birth. At first, the bubble is open, but then it begins to close
until it has sealed us in. The bubble is our perception. We live inside that bubble
all of our lives and what we witness on its round walls is our own reflection.
Models and Modeling
Teachers who want to understand how they do what they do (Centipede) can find
in NLP procedures to increase personal awareness. For those who want to move beyond
perceptual and behavioral limitations (Centipede again), NLP can serve as a toolbox
to liberate and empower. This freedom is at the heart of NLP and flows directly from
the fundamental presuppositions we considered above. The roots of the NLP
presuppositions can be traced back to those individuals that Grinder and Bandler
chose to study and to model in the early days. Among the central subjects were
anthropologists Gregory Bateson and Carlos Castaneda, linguists Noam Chomsky and
Alfred Kozybski, and three distinguished psychotherapists: Virginia Satir (Family and
Systems Therapy), Fritz Perls (Gestalt therapy) and Milton Erickson (Hypno-therapy).
The research focused on how these individuals used interpersonal and
intrapersonal language to achieve their goals over and over again. But what were the
thought processes that were occurring that helped them perform so successfully?
Bandler and Grinder along with co-workers Robert Dilts, Judith DeLozier, Stephen
Gilligan, and Leslie Cameron Bandler identified mental patterns interconnected with
physiological, and linguistic ones that they then codified. Often these