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What’s the difference between NLP and Hypnosis?

I get this question all the time.

You might even have wondered about that yourself sometime back.

I scoured the internet quickly to see what “experts” had to say on the topic. Didn’t really find anything all that enlightening so I decided to write up an answer for you here.

First, let’s talk about Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP).

As I’ve written about extensively in other articles, the field of NLP centers on the modeling of outstanding performers, those people who produce astonishing results in a variety of fields.

In NLP, we want to figure out how Ronaldinho dribbles, how Kobe Bryant decides to pass the ball, how Barack Obama mesmerizes the public in his speeches, or how a Cirque du Soleil artist performs a brilliant feat.

While many beginning students and outsiders mistake Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) as a therapeutic modality, it goes way beyond that. The reason for this confusion is that the co-founders of the field initially modeled outstanding therapists, notably Fritz Perls, Milton Erickson and Virginia Satir.

To be able to accurately describe these models, John Grinder and Richard Bandler developed an epistemology, or a formal “code”, for how human beings process sensory information they gather from the world around them. This code flows all the way from how we pick up sensory cues to how we use language to manipulate our perceptions and communicate them to others. This code is Neurolinguistic Programming, or NLP.

So modeling is the end game and NLP is the tool that makes it happen. It’s a language, a code, a formal way of describing and coding human phenomena that you’re modeling. In the same way that mathematicians express themselves in equations, symbols, algorithms and so forth, trained modelers of human behavior express themselves in representational systems, accessing cues, strategies, four-tuples, states and TOTEs.

You can then take these models – these instruction sets or codes – and apply them in a variety of fields (psychotherapy being only one of them). You can leverage coded models in business communication, leadership, sales, team building, sports training, and so forth and so on.

NLP is a code. Nothing more.

This is why the idea that “NLP will solve all your problems” is bogus. It would be the same as saying that C++ will eliminate all viruses from your computer. You can use NLP to create problems in the same way that you can use C++ to create viruses.

Hypnos, God of sleep

Hypnos, God of sleep

Now, let’s move on to hypnosis.

Think of hypnosis as a word that labels an altered state (both mental and physiological). People commonly associate hypnosis with the notion of “sleep”, which has a lot to do with the fact that Hypnos is the God of Sleep in Greek mythology. The truth is, the hypnotic state is rather a state of heightened awareness and suggestibility than a “sleeping” state.

Someone experiencing hypnosis has shifted his or her attention and awareness from common patterns to new or inhabitual patterns, which may be more focused or peripheral, depending on the person’s habitual state.

What characterizes hypnosis is the shift from usual patterns of awareness.

We achieve hypnosis through induction. We can induce the hypnotic state through verbal commands or suggestions, or through non-verbal, sensory input, that leads us or our subject into the altered state. Induction is a SKILL that you can learn and master. There are several different types of induction and each can be leveraged in different contexts to produce a desired result.

So, in this case, hypnosis is a state and induction is the process to get there.

Let’s get back to the difference between NLP and hypnosis.

Hypnosis is an altered state you attain through induction. Induction is a process that can be performed using a variety of methods, which can be learned like any other skill. The most effective way to master the skill is to model a master of induction. You can then document your model using NLP, the code or language developed specifically to document the fruits of a modeling project.

Does it make more sense now?

Mike Robinson - November 5, 2009

Excellent explanation Martin! Your site looks great too… Keep it up!

    Martin Messier - May 14, 2012

    Thanks Mike!

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