Stella Photi and NLP co-founder Richard Bandler - image courtesy of Stella Photi
Neuro-linguistic Programming, or NLP for short, was first recommended to me a few years ago by a friend who had recently completed a course on the subject. Her motivation was to improve communication as a means of furthering her career in the large and very political corporation in which she worked. She learned skills that helped her to emulate her colleague's language patterns and body language, therefore helping her to relate them and come across in a more professional manner. She claimed that the results were remarkable, quickly getting noticed and promoted whilst finding work a much more pleasant environment. I wondered how the course had helped her and if her new burst of self confidence and vitality could be rooted in these NLP techniques.
I've been interested in the workings of the brain for many years and so the concept of reprogramming the brain through techniques and language was fascinating to me. I took the first step and bought a book by Richard Bandler, NLP's co-founder, who famously challenged psychologists in the 1970s by treating the mentally ill through brain engineering rather than the electric shocks. Burning the midnight oil I quickly thumbed through the pages learning a lot about the inner workings brain and how NLP harnesses it along the way.
NLP is not concerned with analysing why you feel a certain way or why you have certain behavioural patterns; instead it is interested in how you can make positive behavioural changes in your life. This seemed particularly relevant when I thought about my own clients at Wellbeing Escapes. Our clients invest their time and money to go on a healthy holiday that will relieve stress and make them look and feel better. We put our packages together carefully so that our clients can come back home armed with tools that will help them maintain their healthy lifestyle. So why is it that a large percentage of our clients can't keep up the good work when they come home? Wondering if the tools imparted by NLP could be used help my clients I took the plunge and decided to train as practitioner.
The course itself was run by Bandler, who comes to the UK once or twice a year, attracting a diverse audience of doctors, dentists, business executives and more. The week covered a range of subjects from understanding the basic science behind the techniques to different ways of rewiring your synaptic responses to overcome responses to negative stimuli. During the first couple of days I remained slightly sceptical, wanting to see some results before being converted, then my number was called and I was asked to divulge and tackle my own personal fear - heights!
For as long as I can remember I've been afraid of heights, I was never really sure why and so never thought to address my vertigo. The fear itself was debilitating and embarrassing, most recently my phobia had seen some boot quaking and a mad panic headed towards the summit of The Shard. Needless to say my son wasn't too impressed taking his shivering mother back down ground before running off to see London's skyline alone.
NLP wasn't concerned with where this fear came from (although I later learned swinging above the Alps on a broken ski lift for 3 hours when I was 5 probably had a lot to do with it), instead it looked for ways to conquer my issue in a practical fashion. The memory had long been hidden but the neural pathway had been set. To face my fears they had to be reset, once I started to believe that I was no longer afraid of heights the distance between me and the ground became irrelevant and my anxiety dissipated until I no longer felt it at all. I truly believed I had no fear and with that I was fearless. It was incredible.
There were other success stories in my group, most commonly people looking to overcome fears of public speaking - one man went from being too timid to introduce himself to the group to happily standing around and cracking jokes with an air of quiet confidence.
As a qualified NLP practitioner I've been implementing my skills in everyday activities. Here are my 5 favourite reasons to practice NLP and the positive vibes that come with the territory.
1. It changes patterns of behaviour - Examples include stopping high levels of anxiety, anger and stress. I am a very motivated person, but for me it has helped me achieve higher levels of focus.
2. The elimination of bad habits - overeating, smoking, drinking, it could even prevent spending too much time on digital devices.
3. Helps to overcome fears - such as public speaking, heights, spiders...you name it.
4. Improving communication - through the use of language. By recognising your own and other people's style of communication and adapting you can communicate more effectively (both verbally and physically, professionally and personally).
5. Building confidence - Through our fear of failure we convince ourselves that we can't do something well or at all. My belief was that I was not a good runner and therefore I chose not to go running despite the fact that I love exercising outdoors. Whilst I know I'll never be Usain Bolt I do have a lot more self confidence in my running ability, this has seen me pull on my old trainers and head out to Hyde Park for a spot of sun and run.