NLP Therapy: Designing Transformational Experiences

In Whispering In The Wind, John Grinder describes how he designed an experience to assist a woman in licking cancer.

Here’s the story in a nutshell: during his conversation with her, she repeated a few times that, for her to get over cancer, “her whole world would have to turn upside down”. Grinder then proceeded to arrange an acrobatic flight for his client with a pilot friend of his.

His client went into remission.

Now, let’s be VERY clear here…

I AM NOT SAYING THAT NLP SERVES AS A MAGIC BULLET THAT WILL SOLVE EVERY PROBLEM IN HUMANITY. IT IT NOT THE PANACEA THAT SOME PEOPLE MAKE IT OR WANT IT TO BE. THIS MIGHT NOT WORK IN EVERY CASE. IT MIGHT HAVE WORKED BY LUCK.

Now that we’re over with the NLP-religion disclaimer, let’s move on.

What I find interesting in the example is the possibility to impact neurology and belief systems through the keen design of concrete life experiences.

If you want a gajillion more examples like this one, you MUST read Phoenix, a book written by David Gordon about Milton Erickson’s behavioral patterns of intervention — which are, in my opinion, as interesting if not more than his hypnosis work.

The problem with talking in therapy is that it’s talk and it requires rapport and trust in the content and/or process being offered to you by the therapist (I know, I know, we don’t do content in NLP).

The power of real experience in NLP

Now, real experiences provide UNDENIABLE material the client is now FORCED to assimilate and process.

If someone you believe to be your enemy saves your life, the impact on your neurology will significantly differ from someone else telling you: “Deep down, he’s a good guy…”

It’s the significant difference between building products from specs vs. building products from prototypes.

Every belief is grounded in references. A reference is either:

  1. Real live experience
  2. Hallucinated experience
  3. Another set of beliefs (for which the same analysis holds)

Needless to say, beliefs built from real live experiences have infinitely more power than those of hallucinated experiences. You can use the second as a piggyback to get to the first, but nothing beats having the first.

Imagine an athlete who wants to develop the belief “I can win races”. He can visualize all day to build his confidence, but eventually, he’ll have to win a race for the belief to take root.

Why games are so effective in NLP

Another set of experiential devices you can  design to effect transformation is games.

Games offer microcosms, experiential metaphors, of real life situations in which new learnings are needed.

For instance, the game Cash Flow by Robert Kiyosaki offers a brilliant metaphor of the path to take to achieve financial independence. And all this learning happens without you having to “believe” in anything except in your ability to achieve it.

The game itself teaches you.

The same holds for the New Code games designed by John Grinder. What’s most interesting about those is that many of them generate kinesthetic learning, often lacking in our development.

Nothing beats experience

Nothing, and I mean nothing, beats real, live experience.

How can you apply this principle to your own life and in your coaching of your peers and/or children?

  • Insightful. From experience people believe that beliefs make a up a part of them, instead of understanding that they created them

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