NLP is the most powerful methodology in Applied Psychology. It is powerful because it gives us a strategic model to make changes at the level of human subjective experience. It equips us with the process to disassemble any human problem into its inherent elements, and break down the strategy a client uses to create a problem. Equipped with this understanding we are in a position to help the client strategically construct a new experience. I call this process the NLP Method.
If applied correctly, the NLP method helps us remove the guess work from our practice. It also allows us to test our work. We know when we have succeeded with our client when the client has experienced a major breakthrough. We can also recreate the model of a successful therapeutic strategy and teach it to others.
We can not only evaluate the effectiveness of our strategy, but if it didn’t work to our satisfaction, we can make the necessary strategic changes using the NLP techniques for change. Those are extremely powerful.
To maximize their effectiveness we must develop a system of intervention using the NLP model.
NLP fundamentally differs from the traditional approach, which focuses on the original pain. Traditional approach focuses on the original causal agent, and many people attend therapy for years examining that reason.
There are problems with this approach. First, people often do not remember what happened. Second, even if they remember, their memory is incomplete. People forget things and fill the blanks with their current expectations. Memories are seldom accurate. Third, reinforcing a belief something external causes a person feels a certain way renders a person a victim of the event and helpless. It also reinforces the emotional pain, similar to re-breaking an arm that was already broken once.
NLP approach is totally different. Our focus as practitioners is on how we are creating our current experience, and gaining the tools to create a different future, independent of the past event.
Some people spend years defining their current reality by their past, oblivious to what is possible today, and unavailable to stepping into a compelling future. The NLP method is designed to liberate people from the chains of the past, leading them into a reality that is independent of what happened in the past.
NLP system is particularly effective when breaking down the patterns of addiction. An addiction is a habituated pattern of behavior supported by other than conscious pattern of behavior. An individual became an expert at replicating this pattern and does it without any conscious awareness. Asked why they do it, a typical answer is “I don’t know”. “I like it”, “I tried to stop but couldn’t” or “I feel the urge and can’t stop myself”.
To help that client, a traditional approach will attempt to disrupt the actual behavior. NLP method goes a lot deeper and this is where the NLP techniques become very effective.
Let’s take a look at smoking addiction from an NLP point of view.
If you are smoker, you have developed a behavioral pattern of smoking. Beneath that obvious pattern is another set of patterns that are the drivers for your behavior.
On the surface level, you have created a ritual of reaching for a cigarette with a particular hand, reaching for your lighter, lighting the cigarette and inhaling. The inhalation with a resultant good feeling” completes the pattern.
If you are a heavy smoker, you repeat that pattern many times during the day. Using NLP techniques at this surface level, we could disrupt the pattern at the level of reaching for the cigarette.
You could try in vain to reach with the other hand and light it up with the opposite hand. The behavioral pattern would be disrupted and you wouldn’t be performing the smoking ritual unconsciously. It wouldn’t feel right, and if you did it enough times you could find time to talk yourself out of the behavior.
You could also decide to smoke the same way as you always, had but take 60 seconds between holding the cigarette in your hand and lighting it. That would disrupt the pattern too.
You could also imagine something disgusting (like fresh cat shit) while placing the cigarette in your mouth. I used this strategy effectively. I literally disgusted the client from smoking. Disgusting things are very effective in breaking habituated patterns.
Now, let’s dig deeper. You would not reach for a cigarette without doing something in your brain – the internal cue to start smoking. Let’s go back to the last time you reached for a cigarette. Now, let’s go back few seconds to a time you are making a decision to start smoking.
Typically you have a feeling of desire to smoke, preceded by either saying something to yourself and seeing an internal image, or just saying something to yourself, or just seeing an image. Emotions do not happen in the absence of something making them happen.
Emotions are always preceded by some sort of an internal dialogue or an image or both. That happens very fast. I found people typically say something like “I want a cigarette”, “This is the last one”, “I need to relax” or something along those lines.
This internal pattern happens very quickly and can be disrupted. You can erase the voice or change its qualities. You can make it say something different. You can add another voice that says “that tar in my lungs is getting thicker” or something like that. You can bring in a revolting image of a smoker’s lungs (or whatever disgusts you), or employ a dozen of other NLP techniques to make the changes at the level where you have been giving yourself permission to start smoking.
Let’s dig deeper. You know when to start smoking. There can be a number of reasons. It could be a situation where you feel stressed or happy. It could be a situation where you feel awkward or a situation where other people are smoking. Regardless of the reason, you know when to start smoking. The situations where you found yourself smoking are your context for smoking. Once upon a time you made a decision to smoke in a particular context and it felt good. That context is your internal reference point required for you to engage in the ritual of smoking.
To make changes at that level, using NLP techniques, we may erase the context from your mind by using powerful subliminal influence methods. We may also reframe the meaning of the context. If smoking gave you a temporary sense of control, for example, you can reframe your behavior into a realization you have been experiencing a habituated loss of control. We may install a phobia of smoking or create an amnesia for ever having smoked. Options are endless.
Underlying the ritualistic smoking pattern is a belief about your own capability to stop. Many people think they are unable to stop on their own. My purpose as a therapist is to reinstate their sense of control over their behavior. On a daily basis you make thousands of decisions. Why couldn’t you make that one? If you were in a burning building and had to jump from the first floor to save your life, would you wait and burn, or would you jump? The answer is obvious.
One of the biggest misconceptions among “addicts” is a belief they are incapable of changing their behavior. As illogical as it is, it prevents people from taking action.
The truth is that people are more inclined to seek an immediate gratification than fear a delayed pain. The reward from smoking is immediate while the potential pain from cancer is delayed and unspecified.
That pattern can also be changed with NLP techniques. If your fear of the consequences of your actions were than a desire to engage in a behavior, you would win the war with your addictive pattern. That can be accomplished with a very elegant fear installation system.
Most importantly, to stop an addictive pattern you need to have a compelling reason to stop. What is your motivation? What is your vision for your future? What is your life going to be like in the absence of that behavior? Imagine being there right now. Do you have an adequate reason to stop your behavior?
I work only with the people who are motivated to change. Before I take them on I test that motivation. I tell them my next appointment is available three months from now. If they plead with me to get them in sooner, I know they are motivated. If they tell me they will call me in three months, I know they are not motivated. If they are not, they are wasting their time and mine. I always tell them to comeback when they found a reason to make the change. Then we can accomplish magical things and turn NLP techniques into a magic wand.