The early years of Neuro-linguistic programming
To my knowledge there is no definitive history of neuro-linguistic programming. There are many
stories told by some of the earlier developers and top trainers who
trained with them. What follows is a general page on what NLP is and
how it came to be developed.
Back in the 1970s Richard Bandler and John Grinder got together and did
some research into the communication patterns of three of the top
therapists in the world - Fritz Perls, Virginia Satir, and Milton
Erickson. John Grinder had a PhD in Linguistics, while Richard Bandler
was a student of his and brilliant mathematician and computer
Prior to their meeting Richard Bandler had been studying the works of
Fritz Perls and Virginia Satir. After they met they became involved in
studying the language patterns and general communication techniques of
Fritz Perls, Virginia Satir, and Milton Erickson. They published two
books based on this work, The
Structure of Magic I and The
Structure of Magic II. They also published the hypnotic patterns
of Milton H. Erickson and Frogs Into Princes.
It was this work that formed the field of neuro-linguistic programming.
You may find several different descriptions of what it is, but what it
boils down to is an exceptional model of communication.
Neuro-linguistic programming has evolved over the years from this
initial work. It really is a model of communication with broad
applications. NLP has been used therapeutically, which is the area it
probably receives the greatest criticism.
Neuro-linguistic programming has made its greatest contribution in the
development field, and athletics. The actual process of modeling
experts is an untapped field made possible by the work of Richard
Bandler, John Grinder, and others. There have been other offshoots or
repackaging of NLP.
Tony Robbins is probably one of the most influential people in terms of
bringin neuro-linguistic programming to the general public. His book Unlimited Power is far more
readable and became a far more popular book than any of the more
academic books written by Richard Bandler and John Grinder. Tony
eventually repackaged what he was marketing and in his second book, Awaken the Giant Within, began to
refer to Neuro-Associative Conditioning, which is an updated and
repackaged version of NLP.
Tad James and Wyatt Woodsmall's contribution was the book Time-Line Therapy and the Basis of
Personality. Like neuro-linguistic programming, time-line
Techniques (TLT) has not been extremely well-received in mainstream
psychology circles, but does offer tremendous potential. It will need
continued documentation and experimentation, as does NLP itself in the
area of therapy.
The most popular use of neuro-linguistic programming is in the sales
community where the communication techniques taught have tremendous
financial value - increased sales means increased earnings. Athletics
would be another potential lucrative market for the use of NLP as would
There is inceasing interest in NLP and TLT applications in the health
field. Tad James has written articles about TLT applications to helping
cancer patients. There are also many connections with the works of
NLP, TLT, and Concerns of Christians
There are those in the Christian community who shun NLP, TLT, and
hypnosis. There are valid reasons that should not be ignored if you are
Many of the people involved in these areas are much more involved in
New Age spiritual practices. Tad James for instance teaches courses on
the ancient Hawaiin spiritual practices of Huna.
These fields are
also closely tied to the notion that humans can create their own
destiny (Tony Robbins offers such courses) or program their future (Tad
James has a course entitled The
Secret of Creating Your Future), which many Christians have an
The communications model that has become known as NLP has many
applications and some very powerful and legitimate ones for anyone who
communicates with others for a living - pastors, teachers, sales and
marketing professions, advertisers, lawyers, and politicians all come
If you are a Christian learning these communication techniques does not
mean you are entering a humanistic, new age field. You will want to
carefully select a trainer and be clear on what your purpose is in
learning these skills. You will want to maintain a discerning heart.
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