The Many Myths We Believe Are Real In NLP

A quick quiz for you ..

How many of the ten statements below are true?

  • The unconscious mind is real
  • The purpose of the Meta Model is to elicit deep structure and drill down to get to answers
  • Anchoring is really just stimulus response conditioning
  • Strategies are real and are how people process experiences and act in the world
  • Meta States are real
  • Modelling is all about replicating human behaviour
  • With NLP, you can fix anyone once you know the right technique to use
  • Human beings have many parts to them .. that is why they have conflicts
  • The field of NLP hasn't changed much in the past 30 years
  • NLP is a science

Ten, nine, seven? What did you guess?

Actually the answer is 0.

That's right zero .

You see all of the above are long standing myths or errors in their presentation but that sound real. In fact most people still teach them as real.

These and many others, are the kind of myths that cause no end of confusion around getting really good with NLP. They did for me. In fact, possibly like you, I've consumed tens of thousands of pages from many NLP authors that said as such.

And what do you think happens when you treat something as REAL?

Well for most of us … it usually means we CAN'T see it another way. Our mental filters become fixed, stuck and unless something comes along and jars it you are not likely to ever notice it as any different. And something worse happens .. you also adopt the limitations of that worldview . And you also, as so many others have done, install in others the same limitation!

So for example by thinking that you only use the Meta Model to drill down to get more sensory specific answers you don't realise that you can use it as an elegant tool for persuasion and installation…

If the unconscious is "real" then where is it? No one has ever empirically proved there is anything called an unconscious. Yet we accept is as "real".

When you adopt the worldview, you take both sides of it ... the limitations and the benefits. And sometimes the limitations can keep you stuck or be less effective with it than you might otherwise be.

I know that some members reading this might think that this is heresy.

But before anyone starts flaming, stop and think about what Richard Bandler once shared with me…

He said:

"Be distrustful of feeling right if you can't alter something quickly and easily … [The most important distinction for NLPers to get about NLP] is to shut up the f*** up inside their head.  That thinking about skills that you're supposed to perceive is a BIG mistake."

Clearing Up Any Confusion:

Now so we are clear, let me review some of the statements I made earlier so you get where I am coming from…

If the unconscious is "real" then where is it? No one has ever empirically proved there is anything called an unconscious. Yet we accept is as "real". The terms conscious, unconscious and sub-conscious are mental constructs we use to talk about processes that we believe are occurring. And they can be handy metaphors but aren't literally true, to the best of any person's knowledge.

Anchoring is not stimulus response conditioning because it doesn't take into account one time learning experiences, of which a functional anchor is an example.

Strategies are a model, a description we (NLPers) use to describe processes that we note to be occurring in others. It doesn't reflect everything that is going on inside of someone when they are .. making a decision, buying, feeling attracted etc .. but it is a very powerful tool we have for doing all kinds of effective work.Yet if you think that "strategies" are inside of people, you can quickly start over-focusing on eliciting the strategy and not see the human being in front of you!

Meta States - this will be a hot potato I suspect, but these aren't real either. Why? Well think about it, a meta state is a linguistic description about a neurological process. The term itself is a consequence of trying to language a neurological process. The body is a whole and integrated system. If I am sad, and you ask me, "how do you feel about being sad?" .. there are lots of things involved .. it presupposes that I have a feeling about my first feeling "sad" and so sends my attention inwards to do a TDS and to now label a new feeling to my first experience. Bingo, if I follow along I now have a new linguistic description to describe my experience. I might say, "well I feel annoyed about being sad" and a 'meta state' has been formed ... or has it?

One can repeat this process several times and come up with a chain of meta questions "how do you feel about being X, about feeling Y, about feeling Z?" and very quickly you have created a whole linguistic world … and specific feelings that come with that line of meta-thinking, but ultimately in the body it is experienced as ONE state.

Personally for me I don't mind what "new inventions" or ideas anyone comes up with but it is important that we keep a perspective, and that our meanings about 'what is what' and 'what is stuff we make up' remain clear so we don't trip ourselves into distorted worldviews that have little to do with what is going on 'out there'. If we don't regularly test our thinking (and the Meta Model is a great tool for that), we risk getting caught inside our own or someone else's mentally invented worldviews … and suffer the consequences .. and rewards (assumedly the new models were found by some to be better that what they had before).

Change Your Thinking & Be A Practitioner Of The Changes

The field of NLP is constantly changing and updating but only inside the minds and community of those who are constantly challenging their thinking about it and testing the results they can get. There is A LOT more to the elegant use of the Meta Model for example, that masters of the field can do today, than what Richard and John wrote in the Structure of Magic. From what I can see, neither of the founders have stopped developing and refining what they are doing with their own take on the technology.

However, after spending years reading, learning, and practicing NLP, I've realised that in the majority we seem to be suffering over-theorisation about NLP and that is why I co-founded the Platinum Audio News Club: To approach learning and getting really good with the technology of NLP with minimum theory and have to Master Trainer Michael Breen lead the program as someone who has been on the inside track of NLP, part of a small group of "old school" NLPers who are constantly challenging and updating their thinking about technology for circa twenty-five years.

And learning to challenge and update our skills and thinking is something we can all do more of. So I'll leave you with a quote, from Dr. Bandler that inspires me to constantly evaluate and improve my own thinking and skills:

"I've learned so much so quickly because I never assume that I understand. So I always go and ask and then make sure that what they're telling me actually works. And that I have enough of the process that I can do it.

... It's like you keep finding out until you can do something. How do you know when you have enough? When you actually can do it. And then you're sure you have enough when you can teach somebody else to do it. And once you understand a limitation you begin to discover that it's always a double-edged sword. It does good things but it also does bad things. So you have to separate them out."

If you'd like to buy the full interview I did with Doctor Bandler, including the full transcript you can get it here.

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I'm Tom.

Everyone has something they’d like to change in their life. I’m here to help you transform the behaviours that get in your way so you can have the life you really want.

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