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Neuro-linguistic programming is not as popular as it used to be, but that doesn't mean it has been invalidated. It's still worth looking at if you want to change your thinking and your life. The following is my own understanding of NLP, and an attempt to condense its most valuable insights and techniques into a few dozen paragraphs. Since using even one of these techniques can change things for you dramatically, I think this is a worthwhile endeavor.

Richard Bandler and John Grinder developed NLP into a usable science of self-improvement. They noted that in traditional psychotherapy, when something doesn't work, the therapist considers it to be a problem of a "resistant client." Bandler and Grinder approached their work differently, saying, "If what you do doesn't work, do something else."

They often started their seminars by telling the audience that everything they would say would be a lie, and that other teachers believed their own lies, not realizing they were invented explanations. The difference with Bandler and Grinder was that they understood that words are a feeble and shifting attempt to understand things. The other difference, they claimed, is that "Most of our lies will work out really well if you act as if they are true."

Many thousands of people will attest to the truth of this claim. So what did they do? How do people use NLP to change their lives?

Try This NLP Technique

Let's start with a simple demonstration of an NLP technique. Choose a bad memory, a real event from your past that still hurts you when you think about it. In your mind watch the event like you are watching a movie, to be sure it still affects you.

Now watch it again, but take the most painful moment and make a still photo of it in your mind. Take away the color, and put it in a frame. Imagine the frame in detail. It can be wooden, plastic--whatever you want. Imagine taking your framed black and white photo and hanging it in a dark corner of some room in your house. See it there from the other side of the room.

Repeat this exercise several times, and then test the results. Recall the bad event again. For most people who try this, the memory will have lost its emotional power. It will no longer hurt to recall that moment. If it doesn't work, try the exercise again, and then try anything else in the NLP "arsenal." Always remember, "If what you do doesn't work, do something else."

What Is NLP?

"Neuro" has to do with the brain of course, and "linguistic" refers to things having to do with language. Neuro-linguistic programming is about changing the brain by speaking its language. For example, for most people, a memory is more vivid and emotionally strong when it is close to them in their imagination. Recognizing this "coding" or language of the mind, you can do something as simple as imagining a scene to be farther away from you, and this will diminish the emotion. Bring it closer if it is a positive memory, and you'll feel the positive emotions more strongly.

NLP identifies the important ways in which information is encoded in your brain, and teaches you to use that knowledge to program yourself how you want. It also recognizes that there are differences in the ways different individuals function mentally. For example, some of us are more visually oriented, and some of us put more emphasis on what we hear. It even shows in our language. People who continually say, "I see," are processing things differently than those who more often use "I hear what you're saying." This has to be taken into account whether you want to influence others or your own mind.

The way we use our words, the words themselves, and even body posture affects our experience of life, and therefore our success in life. To see (or feel or hear) the truth in this, slouch, let your mouth hang open, stare at the floor, and say "everything is messed up." Then sit up straight, close your mouth, take a deep breath through your nose, look slightly upwards and say "What a great day!" If you do this exercise, you'll notice the difference in how you feel during the first part versus the second. You are using the language of the brain to change your experience.

Note: Part Two looks at sub-modalities.

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