Or…How Neuro-Linguistic Programming Might Change Your Mind
I admit it, I’m a football junkie. A college football junkie, to be more specific. One of the great scenes and traditions in college football takes place at University of Wisconsin home football games at the end of the 3rd quarter. The entire student section and nowadays, the whole rest of the stadium, jumps and gyrates to the House of Pain song “Jump Around.” It is a scene to behold on television. I can tell you from experiencing it live: it is awesome!
I recently attended a seminar in San Jose, CA, and the “Expert” holding the four day conference (with barely enough real content for a half day) attempted to emulate an experience similar to the University of Wisconsin football one by playing the same music and getting the crowd to jump around before making his “Grand Entrance” to the stage. Likening himself to a rock star, he bounced around on stage, awkwardly clapping his hands as if he had some neuromuscular disorder. His real problem was a lack of any identifiable rhythm.
His “Jumping Around,” was not awesome.
Throughout the course of four days, he spoke of how great, successful, rich, and well-connected he was while repeatedly going through this inane ritual of being re-introduced, blaring “Jump Around” through the conference center’s sound system, and then subsequently jumping around when he came on stage. I guess it makes good fodder for sales videos when you are trying to get other suckers to attend your conference.
As much as I detested the jumping around gimmick, and hoped to God none of my former colleagues saw that I was even in this room, some people loved it. I could not help but wonder…what happens when those people get home and there aren’t 500 other nitwits jumping around to get them excited. I could imagine that in the course of 24 hours they were going to go from leaving the seminar saying, “The seminar was great; I’m so excited,” to sitting at home, twiddling their thumbs and wondering, “What do I do now?”
The conference leader had some ideas, some “take-aways,” if you will– ideas that conference attendees could maybe use once they got home to help them change their ways and get about the business of living fulfilling lives. He suggested people write down expressions like “I am strong and powerful,” and “I am a great salesperson”– stuff that very much sounded like, “Me Tarzan, you Jane.” WTF?! I can’t believe I paid money for this “conference!” UGH!
Look, I believe in the potential benefits of positive affirmations. However, if you have to look in the mirror every day and tell yourself you are happy, then you probably aren’t very happy. The “Fearless Conference Leader” referenced that his takeaways were based in scientific research, yet he is an amateur and had no credentials to be a clinician of what he was suggesting attendees do– change their thinking patterns by writing down a few positive affirmations. I find it irritating when amateurs pretend to be capable of teaching others.
However, there IS some scientific research that supports the notion that one CAN change their harmful thinking patterns; that there IS, indeed, a way to “change one’s mind.” Yet this work requires much more effort than writing down a few silly sentences and smiling at yourself in the mirror.
This work is called Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).
According to Psychology Today, NLP is “a set of language- and sensory-based interventions and behavior-modification techniques designed to help improve the client’s self-awareness, confidence, communication skills, and social actions. The goals of NLP are to help the client understand that the way one views the world affects how one operates in the world and that it is necessary to change the thoughts and behavior patterns that have not proven beneficial in the past and that only serve to block one’s healing and success.” NLP has been used to help patients overcome phobias and anxieties as well as to help them regulate stress.
Obviously, we cannot change our experiences (what happened), but we can change how we process and interpret the occurrence. A person who can learn to interpret situations and react to them in a positive manner will be more likely to produce positive behaviours that lead to positive results…and that’s the payoff of NLP.
Mental health professionals can help with four specific NLP techniques:
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Framing and Re-Framing: A trained professional can help you to “re-frame” or “change your perceptions.” Re-Framing is the practice of editing how we see and interpret negative events in our lives and in our memory.
Anchoring: Anchoring is the idea of conditioning your brain to associate a positive emotion with an environmental or mental cue without much conscious action. Anchoring can enable you to feel a positive emotion in the face of a stressful situation.
Loop Break: A loop break allows you to break an unconscious cycle of negative emotion such as stress or depression. A loop break is harder than many NLP techniques because it requires you to be able to consciously recognize negative loops in order to be able to break them.
Submodality Belief Change: A submodality belief change allows you to take limiting beliefs and discredit them. SBC is the most used NLP technique because it is used by parents, teachers, and others to form collective norms of morality and ethics in society.
I cannot teach you how to use any of these NLP techniques. I do want you to know, though, that they ARE specific techniques which, when taught by a trained professional, can have a meaningful, positive influence in your life.
So if NLP is something you think might help you to think in a more constructive and positive way, then seek out a mental health professional in the field who does NLP as part of their professional practice.
If I see you “Jumping Around” this coming fall, I hope it’s at a college football game and not some self-proclaimed “expert’s” seminar.