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Badly Edited, but Incredibly Smart
on January 6, 2012
You may have heard of NLP, but if you haven't it's not your fault: Neuro Linguistic Programming (fittingly) has been simmering below the surface of the public consciousness for a few decades now. NLP is the study of how our minds use, interpret and process language and thought. This seemingly geeky subject turns out to be incredibly fun and useful, if you can figure it out. Using NLP in your day to day life effectively is kinda like the 'stop the bullets in mid-air' scene in The Matrix. Yes, I'm talking about hypnosis. Buckle up.
To start, I found the title 'Frogs into Princes' (though obscure to the casual Barnes and Noble shopper) brilliant in what this book is attempting to do. As any Westerner reading this will immediately understand, the reference is to many a fairy tale about a princess's relationship with a shapeshifting frog (in some versions, the princess would turn a frog into a prince with her kiss). Presumably, there is supposed to be a lesson in there about how looks can be deceiving (don't judge a book by its cover etc), but there's more to it than that. The writers of this book, esteemed NLP researchers and pioneers Richard Bandler and John Grinder, were therapists. This book is actually a transcription of a three day course given to NLP Students who wanted to use the ideas to treat and heal psychologically damaged patients. The idea is that if you can change the way people see the world, you can give them a better outlook, and they'll go back to being healthy happy productive members of society. Sound crazy? What do you think Tony Robbins has been doing for the last 30 years?
Okay, let's dig in: Neuro Linguistic Programming (in laymans terms: using language to train/encode the mind) is the process of talking someone (eg. a patient, a friend, a loved one) into seeing the world in a different/new/broader way. Again, if you've ever seen demonstrations of Hypnosis, you know exactly what this looks like, and how powerful it is, and how fast it can take effect. But that's a terrible example, because most intelligent people turn their nose up at Hypnosis and dismiss it as a hoax, or a scam. So here's my bombshell'my red pill, if you will' to you: what if I told you that you're performing Hypnosis on yourself and others all the time?
It's true. After all, if Hypnosis is so powerful that you can 'activate' it just by talking, don't you think you'd be 'doing it' all the time? Sure. And you are doing just that. It's just that, when you do it randomly, the cause and effect is completely missed, and so you think nothing of it. When we feel a little depressed, or ecstatic, we chalk it up to 'animal spirits' or a 'mood' or a large intake in calories, or certain chemicals (eg. coffee, beer, etc). We find lots of different reasons for our emotions, none of them straightforward, or reliable. In other words, we just accept that our 'moods' are largely random, and we try to deal with them ebbs and flows as best we can. We 'use' NLP like a youngster swinging a baseball bat at a Piñata. Sometimes you hit something, sometimes you hit others, sometimes you hit yourself. Without even the faintest knowledge of how to use NLP, you end up using it randomly. As a result, you're skeptical that it even exists.
According the NLP, our emotions and memories can be linked to auditory, kinesthetic and visual cues. Have you ever noticed how you feel a 'certain way' whenever you walk into a library, or an examination hall? For some people it's a positive feeling (the love of knowledge), for some people it's a negative feeling (the bitterness of academic failure). Maybe you feel a 'certain way' whenever you go into a loud dance club. The trick to NLP (and the purpose of this book, and NLP training in general) is understanding how to change these associations to give people more power.
And so the first detractor says,
'But Mike, I feel great in a club because logically it's a fun place to be.'
And the next detractor chimes in,
'But Mike, I feel nervous in a club because logically it's an uncomfortable place to be'
How can both be true? The truth is the Dance Club (either the visual stimuli, or the music, or the feeling of being there) isn't logically or necessarily anything. We just associate it with our previous experiences via visual, kinesthetic and auditory cues that get triggered when we go there. If our associations are positive we'll look for positive points and highlight them. If our associations are negative (eg. a barfight, rejection, seeing your ex-lover with someone else), we'll do the reverse. Do you have a love song from your childhood that gives you goosebumps? Maybe your favorite hip hop song from the 90's that brings back memories. Of course you do. Why do we have these bizarre connections? Probably because that's the way our brains store memories: linkages between audio/visual/kinesthetic stimuli can protect us for future events. You know, like associating the sound of a lion's roar with panic/terror.
So in this world, we walk around touching things, talking to people, and logging events and memories, like a huge relational database. Maybe you almost drowned one time in Hawaii, so you developed a phobia of swimming. It's not crazy, because Logic doesn't exist. Logic is just a matter of association. Is it logical to be afraid of the dark? Probably. Do monsters exist? Of course not. So why are we so scared to walk around the attic in the middle of the night? Probably because we associate the darkness with every scary movie (bathroom scene, shower scene, being chased through the woods at night scene) we've ever watched in our entire lives. The scarier the movie, the stronger the connection.
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