Hypnotic Techniques 3: Neurolinguistic Programming

NLP, Neurolinguistic Programming, is a fascinating technique and my favorite. I became obsessed with it in while studying philosophy in graduate school and it’s mostly trumped my previous understanding of the mind (though, I think it can be explained via phenomenology and post-structuralism rather well!)

Nutshelled, NLP is the idea that people are “programmed” to have the experiences that they have and that this programming can be altered by uncovering and altering the structural mechanisms within their thought itself. So, rather than focusing on the content of communication or problems, one focuses on the structure constituting the communication or problem as such and addresses or works with that. However, how one does this is practically wide open once you understand the principles (which are far too much to explain here–a lifetime of learning).

For instance, if someone interested in dating women is shy around women, this will have a specific structures they use to think, feel, or act in any area relating to dating–often arising out of a negative schema. So, their experience will be something like they’ll likely look at a beautiful woman; then, say to themselves, “she’ll never like me”; then, feel bad/rejected; this loop will likely reinforce their belief that they’re a loser and no one likes them, which will loop on itself.

This pattern, however, can be interrupted by altering the pattern set. For instance, one could begin to consciously pop holes in this model: no woman has ever liked you? How do you know that? Have you ever asked one? As a therapist, this would be a good place to reframe it by introjecting, “No, you’d rather just not try and feel safe feeling rejected because rejecting yourself in your mind frees you from the possibility that she might have a choice whether or not to like you. It’s easier to stay at a distance than to allow the possibility of rejection, isn’t it?”

However, a well-trained therapist, like me, would take this to a deeper level. For instance, this client likely has some “traumatic experience” around or relating to women (e.g. they were rejected horribly or molested or developed a fear from too much TV or friends’ horror stories, etc.). I would likely do an “age regression” and get them to revivify that experience of trauma and then to alter the emotion within that experience. Then, we could move the client forward and explore their current feelings on the matter, which will necessarily have changed. From there, we can use NLP-based processes like “the fast phobia cure” or “the circle of excellence” in order to decrease feelings of pain and frustration and then to increase the feelings of power and confidence in these situations.

This modality is good for almost any situation and supposedly doesn’t actually require an induction–though, the seminar gurus who posit that also have the benefit of massive authority in a room full of people who paid to learn these techniques and the ease of putting other hypnotherapists into trance (any hypnotist worth their salt is a terrific hypnotic subject). I, however, mostly use NLP techniques in deep trance because I find people get much better benefit when they fully visualize and vivify hypnotic experiences.