Neuro Linguistic Programming Explained

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) has been around since the early 1970’s, when its co-founders, John Grinder and Richard Bandler, initiated their quest to account for the complexities of human behaviour. Their journey began by psychologically modelling three individuals who were considered geniuses: Fritz Perls, Virginia Satir and Milton Erickson. These intellectuals were pioneers of personal change, creating breakthroughs in the realm of therapy. The models that were developed laid the foundation for NLP, which grew into a technology for personal change.

Over the years, NLP has advanced into a toolkit of powerful techniques and strategies to effectively experience, communicate and serve as a catalyst for personal change. NLP offers a set of practical psychological tools, practices, and strategies to develop yourself both professionally and personally. It provides us with deep insights into how our thinking patterns can affect our behaviour and every other aspect of our lives.

NLP is frequently known as the “user’s manual” for your mind. It is the study of subjective experience and provides us with a complete understanding of how we structure our thoughts, feelings, meanings, language and behaviours to create our reality.

We all run specific patterns through our mind on a regular basis during our daily lives; some of these patterns bring us joy and happiness, others bring us desolation and despair. NLP provides a methodology for understanding how we make sense of our experiences, the meaning we give those experiences and the subsequent patterns of behaviour we exhibit. These patterns determine the results we get in all aspects of our lives. Understanding these patterns can bring about a positive change in your life and the lives of the people you interact with.

NLP is not only about competence and excellence, it is about wisdom and vision.

The co-creators of NLP defined it as follows:

“The strategies, tools and techniques of NLP represent an opportunity unlike any other for the exploration of human functioning, or more precisely, that rare and valuable subset of human functioning known as genius.”
– John Grinder (co-creator of NLP)

“NLP is an attitude which is an insatiable curiosity about human beings with a methodology that leaves behind it a trail of techniques.”
– Richard Bandler (co-creator of NLP)


We perceive the world through our five senses; Images, Sounds, Sensations, Tastes and Smells. These senses consume millions of bits of data and transform this data through our neurological filtering system, forming a unique internal representation of the world outside. This process in NLP is identified as ‘First Access’ and is the primary process of our psychological response to stimulus.


Once we absorb the stimulus through one or more of our five senses, we then go through an internal process of filtering the millions of bits of information through our Beliefs, Values, Memories, Decisions, Life Experiences, and Meta-programmes. Establishing and assigning our own distinct meaning to the stimulus leading to the formation of language, creating our reality. In NLP this is referred to as our ‘linguistic map’.


As a result of this neurological filtering process (pre-awareness) and the linguistic meaning we have attached to the stimulus from any of the five senses (our conscious experience), we produce a specific or a set of behavioural responses which result in reinforcing behaviours and the formation of patterns.

NLP Origins

Neuro Linguistic Programming – NLP – originated in 1971, at the University of California, where Richard Bandler, John Grinder and Frank Pucelik first connected. Richard was an undergraduate student of Philosophy and Computer Science, John Grinder was an associate professor of Linguistics, and Frank was a teacher of Gestalt Therapy to students at the university.

All three of the founders had an obsession with human excellence and a passion for human development. This paved the way for deeper exploration into the inner world of ‘geniuses’. They set out to decode how ‘geniuses’ operate, and in doing so, they generated personal change models that can be applied to everyone, which advance individual abilities and set the foundations for personal development.

Initially, Richard and Frank began to organise group training sessions in Gestalt therapy (as created by the famous Fritz Perls). They witnessed amazing changes within their therapy sessions, but were unable to identify and analyse the components of their successes, to replicate them. Richard knew that a significant part of the jigsaw was missing. He needed someone to find a way to communicate these processes, to enable the transference of skills. Richard needed the speciality of a linguistic expert – and invited John Grinder to his trainings to detect the linguistic patterns within their processes. This was the beginning of pattern detection – through analysing the expressions of the mind, the body and linguistic output.

After consecutive patterning successes, Richard and John agreed to exchange expertise. It took John two months to learn the art of therapy by modelling Richard and then he started re-teaching what Richard had taught him. These sessions were called the ‘repeat miracle group’. John’s input as a student, course supervisor and later, as co-leader, was invaluable. The group could now decode the patterns they had learnt, and then recode these patterns to produce rapid and rooted results.

They began to spend time and energy on growing the seeds they had sown. For approximately six years, they held Gestalt sessions with each other on every conceivable problem they had, even analysing their own family problems and restructuring them many times over – searching out any scent of psychodrama from every possible perspective, organising ‘parts parties’ (group therapy sessions) by the hundreds, and conducting dream therapy with every dream of any significance. They evaluated these patterns both verbally and non-verbally, repeatedly refining them, and continually testing the participants for results. They kept practising until they were convinced that a technique or process could not be any further improved.

Through this process, they made a profound discovery. Common misjudgements were made in psychotherapy, and many styles of psychotherapy would fail, more often than not, owing to the precondition psychotherapists used as basis for therapy. Richard, John and Frank identified that valuing the client’s map of the world was at the core of any effective therapy.

This is when they recognised that they were on the cusp of discovering something far greater than they had anticipated, and NLP was born. The exhilaration felt by the trio during these early times was the driving force in the development of NLP.

These three young men, passionate and excited about what was being created, spent a lot of time modelling the best therapists in their fields. They achieved this through unconscious assimilation in person, watching video recordings, and by using transcriptions and manuscripts to learn therapists’ language patterns. They formalised strategies and procedures as successfully as the leading therapists did, and sometimes, even better.

During 1974 and 1975, Grinder and Bandler continued their pursuit by unconsciously modelling three pioneers of human change: Fritz Perls, Virginia Satir and Milton Erickson. All three were exceptional in the sphere of personal change and were widely acknowledged as geniuses. Each possessed intuitive skills they were unconsciously excellent in demonstrating, yet were totally unaware of their genius. Grinder and Bandler could see the magnificence in the patterns they elicited from these three masterminds.

These exchanges provided the foundation for some of the leading therapeutic interventions available today. The NLP founders learned and experienced every trance phenomenon they found or read about and spent hundreds of hours working with each other and anyone else on whom they could test out these patterns. They would model every person with any form of genius. Through this process, they defined the field of personal development.

Their findings ultimately led to the Meta Model, the Milton Model and other fundamental change models becoming fully recognised. Before long, the knowledge and use of reframing, representational systems and eye accessing cues were increasingly being taught, developed and experimented with. The core components of NLP were well on their way to becoming established, on this journey of human exploration.

Their experiments continued throughout their research phase through modelling/copying, experiencing personally, evaluating, testing, practising and refining everything they believed to be valuable in effecting positive change in the realm of human behaviour.

Gregory Bateson was a world-renowned British anthropologist, writer and expert on communication and system theory, having written on a range of subjects – from biology to cybernetics and psychotherapy. Bateson was known for his development of the double bind theory of schizophrenia. His contribution to NLP was priceless. He described NLP as the first systematic approach to learning to learn: the first applied epistemology process. In his introduction to Grinder and Bandler’s book, The Structure of Magic, he stated: “Richard Bandler and John Grinder have done something similar to what my colleagues and I attempted fifteen years ago.”

In the mid-1980s, NLP was starting to become more and more popular across the globe and people were beginning to apply NLP in many areas such as business, personal development, education, and health.

The parting of ways

By the 1980s, John and Richard’s relationship had broken down completely and they were now on different paths within NLP. Many of the original group continued to develop new theories and techniques and contributed books and models to the field of NLP.

Richard Bandler focused on what he valued most: belief models, later creating his Design Human Engineering DHE strategy, developing and refining various applications and patterns with great success and publishing two books – Using Your Brain For a Change and Magic in Action.

With Judith DeLozier, John Grinder formed Grinder Delozier and Associates, focusing more on NLP in business and leaning towards the work of Gregory Bateson and Milton Erickson’s patterns of communication.

In 1983, Grinder and DeLozier created a ‘New Code’ to replace the original or Classic Code of NLP. John focused on the ‘unconscious mind’ and regarded it as more intelligent and supreme than the conscious mind. John and Judith – whom he married – wrote Turtles All the Way Down, setting the platform for what can be described as John Grinder’s next chapter of NLP.

New Code NLP

New Code NLP was developed initially by John Grinder and Judith Delozier, and then, with Carmen Bostic St Clair. Michael Carroll joined the development team, later. John initially wanted to correct coding flaws in Classic Code NLP and recognised the increasing number of NLP Practitioners who, although well-versed and effective in NLP, needed significant help with their own lives. John highlighted that the self-application of New Code patterns is an indispensable part of training for New Code NLP Practitioners.

NLP has undoubtedly stood the test of time and is proven to contain the most transformative set of processes and strategies available in the personal development field. Classic Code NLP, combined with New Code NLP, is a powerful transformational methodology that has contributed to improving the lives of so many people. Its effectiveness and proficiency in providing sustainable change can only be described by those who experience its insights. NLP provides accelerated processes and dynamic applications for producing deep, lasting and natural changes. Its wisdom is as relevant today as when it was first conceived.

John Grinder, Richard Bandler, Frank Pucelik and the first NLP pioneers accomplished far more than they set out to achieve, offering a deeper understanding of what it is to be human beings. They assembled a set of personal change models and tools that surpassed anything previously available in therapy, in their effectiveness.

These trailblazers will forever stand firm as the inventors of the most advanced set of human change techniques, enabling powerful and lasting transformation.

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