Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a little-known form of psychotherapy with potential for life-changing impacts. If you’ve felt stuck in your life and nothing else has seemed to work, this could be precisely the tool you need to break out of old patterns.
Founder Jacob Moore had an enlightening chat with an expert in this field on his podcast Passion & Profits Without Burnout. His guest Michelle Ensuque and I delved into NLP to help listeners better understand how to identify and investigate unconscious driving forces in their lives. This is a brief breakdown of what we covered.
The History and Definition of NLP
According to Michelle, the polarizing nature of NLP stems from its relative newness and the lack of monetary investment studying its effectiveness. Despite this, the therapy has given incredible results for the patients of its founders and fellow early adopters in their own clinical practices.
One of the central tenets of NLP is self-awareness. The therapy works by examining both the conscious and the subconscious mind through patterns in an individual's behaviors and language. Essentially, by becoming more aware of your tendencies and the reasoning behind them, you can intentionally shape the parts of yourself you want to cultivate, and begin letting go of characteristics that are harmful.
NLP vs Mindfulness
One of the first questions that came up for me when talking with Michelle was the difference between mindfulness and NLP therapy. Mindfulness practices have become increasingly popular, no doubt due to their widespread presence on social media. This is a positive thing, but as Michelle insightfully pointed out, all the mindfulness practices in the world won’t necessarily help you change your behaviors on their own.
Building mindfulness is a great way to manage stress, increase happiness and observe ourselves, but there’s another layer we need to peel back for real change. If you sit in peaceful meditation for 10 minutes and then immediately return to a life of friction and habits you can’t seem to shake, your day-to-day behaviors are still unchanged. Often, the root of our behavior lies in our past, so without understanding this context by using a tool like NLP, we might be fated to stay stuck in the same ruts over and over again with mindfulness only offering momentary relief.
Discovering the Source of Unconscious Drivers
When talking with Michelle, she made it very clear that much of what we deem to be our innate attributes are simply traits that we’ve adopted in response to our surroundings. We develop characteristics throughout young life to help us survive our circumstances in the best way we know how at the time. The trouble is, we usually carry these traits forward into later life where they might no longer serve us.
The commonalities between NLP and mindfulness are many, but the major distinction is that NLP aims not only to identify the parts of ourselves that are causing pain, but also to better understand ourselves by examining past experiences.
Viewing Yourself From a Third Party Perspective
The question that naturally arises next is, how do we gain insight to our blind spots? How do we begin the journey of identifying and then essentially “reprogramming” the wounds remaining from childhood? Michelle had a wonderful answer to this. She suggests viewing yourself and your life as an outsider observer. Perhaps as a friend or therapist who can objectively look at you with your best interests in mind. What advice would they give you? We often already have the answers inside of us, but they can get drowned out by emotions and impulses ingrained from long ago.
Her final piece of advice for listeners interested in exploring NLP was to simply to begin with a list. Physically write down the areas of your life you’d like to improve, then investigate what might need to change for that to happen through non-emotional observation. This can begin to set you on the path to healing. Self-awareness is truly one of the best tools you can cultivate, and NLP might just give you the key to open that door.
If you’d like to hear more about NLP you can listen to the complete podcast episode with Michelle here.