NLP History

NLP History and Development

Early Days of NLP

Neuro-linguistic programming is initially the work of Richard Bandler and John Grinder, working under the supervision of a team of anthropologists, social scientists, linguists and a cyberneticist (Gregory Bateson). The development of this groundbreaking neuroscience was largely done at the University of California, Santa Cruz, during the 1960’s and 1970’s.

NLP and Modelling

The initial goal of the scientists was to research the methods through which excellent psychotherapists manage to achieve their results, but gradually this grew into a field and methodology of its own. Attention was given to studying the skill of modeling, used as a mean to identify and confirm aspects of others’ behaviours and ways of thinking, as well as how these can be changed to a specific result. The approach was not finding a client that had an undersatanding for the problem, but rather one that had successfully managed to overcome the problem, and sketch out a model of this.

Three individuals that were considered highly capable in their own fields, became the main focus of the research. Their patterns and approaches to solving problems were analyzed in detail and later became the basis of NLP. Specific traits of each of their methods were analyzed, such as speaking patterns, voice tones, the selection of words they were using, their gestures, postures and eye movements. This is now referred to as a modelling project and the findings of Grinder and Bandler from those days were later introduced into other fields, such as health and disability, law enforcement, or hypnotherapy and life coaching.

NLP in the 1960s

All through the 1960’s NLP seminars gradually became more popular and although during the early years it only attracted therapists, later on these events drew the attention of business people, salespersons and artists. The small group of co-founders of this New Age science are reponsible for setting the foundations and establishing most of the techniqeus that are still in use today. Richard Bandler and John Grinder have the merit of identifying successful people and then efficiently turning their patterns of approach to solving problems into general models that can be applied to anyone.

NLP and the Meta Model

Their first published model was the meta model. This contained an approach based on a response to syntactic element’s from the individual’s language. This gave the therapists information about certain limits of their model of the world. This initial NLP work received a positive response from Gregory Bateson, who was also involved in some early research into NLP. He introduced the co-founders to Milton Erickson, a man whose work immensly influenced the subsequent development of neuro-linguistic programming. Bandler and Grinder were given full access to his work and later developed and published the Milton model. This was based on Erickson’s hypnotic language, therapeutic metaphors and a few other behavioral patterns, such as pacing and leading in to build rapport. Erickson shared the idea of NLP co-founders, that the resources of an individual’s conscious attention are limited and therefore the focus should be turned to engaging the attention of the unconscious mind, by using clever metaphors and different hypnotic language patterns. Observations were made that people give away information about their unconscious processes through their eye movements, body posture, gestures and voice tones. All this could be mapped out and turned into the therapist’s advantage, with the purpose of leading the individual to certain approaches used for solving a problem.

NLP 1980 onwards

After development of the basic NLP principles, the 1980’s brought controversy for this groundbreaking science, with John Grinder and Richard Bandler falling out and getting tangled in disputes for intelectual property, which were only resolved towards the end of the 1990’s. NLP started being developed freely by many individuals, but with principles having very little in common with the original nature of NLP. Neuro-linguistic programming was better organized under formal institutions during the 1990’s, especially in countries such as the UK and Germany.



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