Finding your voice

It’s early afternoon in Arkansas, and a high school gym full of kids in assembly listens raptly to a bespectacled man with a microphone. “We have two minds,” he tells them. “We have our logical, analytical mind, and we have this other part of us where our emotions and feelings live. And that other part gets freaked out easily.”

 

This is not a lecture on neuroscience, as you might expect by now, but a session on how to -prevent bullying—and according to the -bespectacled speaker, bullying prevention is all in the mind. “The biggest problem with -bullying isn’t that someone’s going to hurt you,” he -continues. “The biggest problem with bullying is what goes on in your own mind.”
 

He presses a foot pedal, and his tone turns deep and ominous. “I’m gonna get you at the bus stop!” he growls. Students in the bleachers giggle. “But what if instead of making it into that monster sound in your brain, you turned it into this?” He presses the pedal again, and repeats the threat in a high, squeaky voice. The students laugh more loudly.
 

“Now imagine someone who’s been not so nice to you on your mental movie screen, think of what they said. Got it? Now turn it into that chipmunk voice in your mind. What happens?”
 

A girl halfway up the bleachers raises her hand. “It makes me feel like I have power, instead of the other person.”
 

“Exactly,” says the speaker. Class dismissed.
 

The speaker is Mark Shepard, an author, singer-songwriter, percussionist, visual artist and -self-styled “bullying-prevention trainer.” He’s also a certified master practitioner and trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), a psychological modeling technique that incorporates language processing to consciously—and quickly—change the way we relate and respond to reality. By becoming aware of the “programming” we’ve learned throughout our lives, we can alter unproductive behavior -patterns and nourish patterns that are already healthy, believe NLP practitioners. According to Shepard, NLP “puts us in charge of our experience rather [making us victims] of our experience.”
 

NLP teaches that we are responsible for our own actions, beliefs and responses. We can’t blame the  economy, our parents or the weather. We are not necessarily in control of events, but we are always in control of how we respond—and for NLP practitioners, that is an empowering experience. Even if we can’t change what’s happening around us, they argue, we can always change the way we think about it.
 

We are accustomed to -believing that change takes a long time, like the years of investment required for talk therapy. But NLP -practitioners say people can change much faster than that; sometimes, in fact, transformation can -happen instantaneously.
 

Want to change your state of mind from hesitation to -confidence? Recall a time when you felt confident in the past. Look at the scene through your own eyes. Remember what you saw, what you heard and what you felt. These sensory memories bring the feeling of confidence into the present. You can anchor it there by assigning the feeling a specific word, image, or sensation, like touching the back of your neck. Next time you need to summon some pluck, just reach up and touch your neck.
 

Sound too simple? I thought so, too, until I tried it. I had been doing a lot of new things for several months—like moving alone across the country and writing magazine articles—but had gotten into a habit of dreading these potential adventures. So I thought of learning to ride a bike when I was 7. I looked dead ahead in my mind’s eye as the trees and houses sped by. I saw my legs pedaling away. I heard my dad cheering me on halfway down the block as the wind rushed past. And for a split second, I felt that elation in my 7-year-old gut, knowing I was doing something I’d never done before. The feeling filled me, and I pinched my earlobe and held it. Whenever I pinch my earlobe now, that memory floods back—and I feel courageous and free.
 

Last year, Tom Reed (not his real name)—a composer and educator in New Haven, Connecticut—worked with Mark Shepard to create an anchor of his own. Reed was experiencing what felt like conflicting urges in his work: to dive into the thick of things consistently and to be more thoughtful and conservative. The dichotomy, he says, often resulted in paralyzing indecision.
 

During their session, Shepard repeatedly asked Reed to name the higher purpose of both the enthusiastic aspect and the careful one—“almost to the point of frustration and irritation,” he remembers.
 

As the dialogue reached a peak, Reed realized both aspects of him wanted the same thing: “to cultivate wholeness throughout my being and the world,” he says. “There was a sense of orbiting around a center. The two approaches to accomplishing a purpose balanced each other. Both are correct.” For the first time, he felt as “one being with different tools and options, all of which lead to the same transformational goals.”
 

Shepard guided Reed to hold out his palms and imagine one aspect on each hand. Then he had him bring his hands together as the aspects joined in his mind’s eye. Finally, while that feeling of inner unity was still strong, he had Reed pinch his earlobe.
 

A year later, Reed says he feels “a lot more trust in myself.” He doesn’t pinch his earlobe much these days, though. He doesn’t need to.
 

One of NLP’s guiding principles is that the mind and the body are the same system. We can use a physical trigger, like our earlobes, to anchor a feeling into our nervous system. We also express our internal experience through physical gestures, stances and facial expressions—often without realizing we’re doing it. When people tell you they’re overwhelmed, says Larry Field, an NLP life coach in Surrey, England, they might hold up their hands and turn away. He demonstrates, hiding behind his raised arms. “It shows the image is very close.”
 

Everyone has mental images, Field says, “and the size, location, color and texture of those images in the mind are relevant to how you feel about the experience.” Through NLP, people learn to adjust the quality of their mental images. Many clients tell Field they have a big problem and don’t know how to manage it. “If you have a really big problem,” he says, “then you have a really big [mental] image.” His answer? Make the image smaller, just like Shepard told the high school kids to do with the bully’s voice. Field might guide a client who uses his or her arms to block an overwhelming experience to face the image and imagine pushing it away or shrinking it. “You have images in your mind; you can move them around,” he says matter-of-factly. “They should teach it in schools.”
 

According to NLP, we develop internal maps of reality as we grow that help us know what to pay attention to and how to behave. We learn to notice certain things and ignore others, depending on our upbringing, education, beliefs and experiences. For example, growing up as a straight “A” student, I developed a map that said, “You’re good at school but unathletic. Pay attention to what’s going on in your head. Don’t listen to your body.” 
 

Our maps, though, are malleable, and by using NLP techniques, we can consciously change our maps, expand their borders or even redraw them. I can, for example, expand my map to include being fully aware of my mind and my body at the same time, imagining myself as both intelligent and athletic. In NLP, this is called reframing.
 

Every moment, we are awash in a vast sea of information. We perceive that sea through our senses, but we’re only conscious of a few thousand of the 4 billion bits of information that Roger Ellerton, an NLP trainer, coach and autho
r based in Ontario, Canada, says we process every minute. We filter our world as if through a frame. -Day-to-day experiences shape our frames, too, says Ellerton. “Let’s suppose you have a new boss at work, and before the boss has even arrived, she’s said to be an evil witch. Have you ever experienced something like this?” Sure, I say.
 

“So someone has put a frame on this -person. And when they show up, you look for evidence and discount what doesn’t fit that frame. We put people into boxes, especially ourselves.”
 

Twenty years ago, Ellerton—who has served as a tenured professor of statistics and an executive with Canada’s federal government—was head of a large computing complex, developing systems and working with IBM mainframes. But something was missing. He turned his analytical eye inward, away from computer programs and toward the programs within himself. Along the way, he discovered NLP.
 

“I would assume,” Ellerton says, “that you’re not really aware of how your right foot feels at this moment.”
 

No, I admit, I wasn’t. At least not until he mentioned it.
 

“I would guess,” he continues, “that some of those [4 billion bits your mind was -processing just] went to your foot and less to your typing and listening. You pay -attention to the information you perceive to be -important. So when I mentioned your right foot, you said, ‘He’s mentioning my right foot. I better focus on it.’”
 

Similarly, -as Ellerton argues, other information—-information that says we’re gifted at what we do, for example—is -always there, waiting for us to notice it.
 

“The question,” he says, “is what information are you paying attention to?”
 

In focusing suddenly on my foot, I changed my frame. It’s a skill we can use to our advantage. Reframing, says Ellerton, gives us the chance to step outside our parameters or push the boundaries to give ourselves more room. “If I put a box around myself as far as what is possible in my career,” he says, “I’ve really limited myself. If I push it 10 percent, I give myself room. So it’s either step outside the frame to a whole new area of those 4 billion bits or push it until it’s larger and I can see, hear and feel more information.”
 

This applies to our language, too, says Julie Silverthorn, an NLP coach and trainer in Scottsdale, Arizona. Silverthorn trained as a clinical psychologist and worked for several years as a family therapist before co-founding a branch of NLP. One of her recent clients, Rob (not his real name), told her, “I’m depressed.” Rob’s language revealed the internal structure of his frame: He was equating himself—literally—with his -feeling. “It’s like saying, ‘Hi, I’m Julie.’ ‘Hi, I’m depressed,’” she explains. “The more we focus on a label, the more that label sticks.” Which is why NLP practitioners insist it’s crucial to pay attention to the way we -describe things.
 

Rob had gotten so used to running his “depression program” that it had nearly solidified. But introducing playful and -unexpected language patterns can help break the frame. Like Zen koans, nonsensical -patterns create a pause in -clients’ -habitual mental programming.
 

“I want you to consider -depressing your depression,” -Silverthorn told Rob, who sat there with his eyes closed. As Silverthorn -repeated the -suggestion several times, Rob’s brow furrowed. Several minutes later, Rob blinked and looked at Silverthorn. He said he wasn’t feeling -depressed.
 

“What are you feeling instead?” Silverthorn asked.
 

“It just feels really weird,” Rob replied. Silverthorn asked him to name the feeling.
 

“Something is moving inside me,” Rob said -slowly.
 

“And what would you call it?” prodded Silverthorn.
 

He paused, then spoke. “I feel alive!”
 

Silverthorn nodded. “That’s right. You feel alive right now. And as you are feeling alive, go ahead and think about how you were feeling depressed before. Are you ‘Rob Depressed’ now, or are you just feeling -aliiiiiiiiive?”
 

By drawing out the vowel in “aliiiiiiiive” throughout the rest of the session, Silverthorn helped make the word stronger and anchor it into Rob’s nervous system. “We’re using [clients’] language to lead them to any place other than ‘depressed,’” she explains, “and to expand those resource states so they’re always bigger than the depression.”
 

Later that week, Rob told Silverthorn that for the first time in months, he’d dialed in a different radio station on his way to work and sung along. “I didn’t even think about being depressed,” he said.
 

NLP’s origin story takes a few different forms, depending on whom you ask. What most accounts have in common is this: In the 1970s, University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) student Richard Bandler began noticing patterns in the therapeutic language, gestures and vocal tone of Fritz Perls and Virginia Satir, two psychotherapists who were consistently successful with clients. Bandler was leading a Gestalt seminar and replicated those patterns with other students. He mimicked the way Perls and Satir made suggestions and -gathered information, copied their tone of voice and altered his language to fit the way his clients saw the world. Though Bandler was untrained in therapy, the techniques he used worked.
 

UCSC associate linguistics professor John Grinder joined Bandler, and together they studied recordings of Satir, Perls and hypnotherapist Milton Erickson. The discoveries of Grinder and Bandler coalesced into a book called The Structure of Magic. -Suddenly, the success of Satir, Perls, -Erickson and others could be explained and replicated by anyone. As “NLP” evolved, a group of students and psychotherapists coalesced around Bandler and Grinder to delve deeply into the structures of successful thought and behavior.
 

Eventually, the two founders went their separate ways and the project’s participants scattered. Since then, NLP has branched out in many different directions—into therapy, business, self-help, education, sports and other disciplines. NLP is used for everything from grief counseling to helping clients overcome phobias, managing classrooms to increasing sales, teaching foreign languages to transforming limiting beliefs. And for many, it’s become a way of life.
 

NLP practitioners and training courses exist all over the world, including the U.S., Europe, Canada, the Philippines, India and Indonesia. Though founder Richard Bandler says NLP was meant as an “evolutionary tool” rather than a therapy, many therapists incorporate NLP into their practices. In the UK, NLP is a recognized form of psychotherapy, though in the U.S. and elsewhere it remains unregulated.
 

Bandler still trains NLP practitioners, including Larry Field, the NLP life coach in Surrey with whom I discussed my habitual frame that associates “work” with the feeling of “constricting and overwhelming.” I tell Field that I want my writing work to feel joyful and filled with ease but often end up feeling bullied by it instead.
 

Every pattern, Field explains, is a loop that has an exit point. We can keep going around in the same loop or break out of it into a new one. When I let myself feel -repeatedly overwhelmed by work, I’m just looping a -program. How do I find its exit point?
 

“It’s kind of a miniature movie that plays out,” Field explains. “And it’s all about the state that you end with.” He suggests that I simply come up with a more fulfilling, interesting outcome. “You carried on a sequence that ended with feeling nervous, bullied, out of control and overwhelmed,” he says. “But if you run the movie past that to where you’re getting rewards and ret
urns, it relaxes you. And that’s the best state for doing your kind of work: being relaxed and alert.”
 

After a moment, though, my logical mind pipes up. “You can’t relax while you’re writing!” it says. “How will you get anything done?” As I describe this to Field, my hand gestures to the right. “But then there’s this voice on the other side,” I say, waving with my left hand, “that says, ‘No, it’s okay. Just try it out.’”
 

Field shows me how to use NLP to adjust the critical voices. I can turn the -volume down, shut the voice’s mouth so the words come out muffled or change the tonality. That way, says Field, the voice “becomes ridiculous and doesn’t have an impact on our feelings.”
 

“The problem is, you’re taking it too seriously. It’s just internal dialogue,” Field explains. We don’t act on every thought we have; rather, we choose among them. If I want to, I can choose to work in a relaxed, intuitive way instead of feeling like my life depends on it. I can fast-forward my mental movie into the future, where working this way has brought about amazing results. And I can anchor these feelings into something simple, like my breath. Learning about NLP has been like learning a new language. As I realize just how malleable my mental habits are, it feels like long-dormant neural muscles are waking up. NLP is a process, says Field. When people say they don’t know what to do with their lives, he answers, “What would you like to do with the next five minutes?”
 

As I’ve used NLP to change my attitude toward work, I’ve kept that outcome of the miniature movie in mind—the rewards that will come from working my way. To get there, I take it moment by moment: feeling if my body’s relaxed, choosing a sense of ease instead of tension. I can spend the day before a deadline -hiking in the woods because I know I’ve programmed myself to have the work done on time. Living like this is a big shift from the status quo. But it seems to be working. The night before wrapping up this article, I can’t sleep, so I try out a technique Field taught me. I slow down my inner voice until it’s speaking very slowly. I conk out before it finishes its next sentence. 
 

Solution News Source

Finding your voice

It’s early afternoon in Arkansas, and a high school gym full of kids in assembly listens raptly to a bespectacled man with a microphone. “We have two minds,” he tells them. “We have our logical, analytical mind, and we have this other part of us where our emotions and feelings live. And that other part gets freaked out easily.”

 

This is not a lecture on neuroscience, as you might expect by now, but a session on how to -prevent bullying—and according to the -bespectacled speaker, bullying prevention is all in the mind. “The biggest problem with -bullying isn’t that someone’s going to hurt you,” he -continues. “The biggest problem with bullying is what goes on in your own mind.”
 

He presses a foot pedal, and his tone turns deep and ominous. “I’m gonna get you at the bus stop!” he growls. Students in the bleachers giggle. “But what if instead of making it into that monster sound in your brain, you turned it into this?” He presses the pedal again, and repeats the threat in a high, squeaky voice. The students laugh more loudly.
 

“Now imagine someone who’s been not so nice to you on your mental movie screen, think of what they said. Got it? Now turn it into that chipmunk voice in your mind. What happens?”
 

A girl halfway up the bleachers raises her hand. “It makes me feel like I have power, instead of the other person.”
 

“Exactly,” says the speaker. Class dismissed.
 

The speaker is Mark Shepard, an author, singer-songwriter, percussionist, visual artist and -self-styled “bullying-prevention trainer.” He’s also a certified master practitioner and trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), a psychological modeling technique that incorporates language processing to consciously—and quickly—change the way we relate and respond to reality. By becoming aware of the “programming” we’ve learned throughout our lives, we can alter unproductive behavior -patterns and nourish patterns that are already healthy, believe NLP practitioners. According to Shepard, NLP “puts us in charge of our experience rather [making us victims] of our experience.”
 

NLP teaches that we are responsible for our own actions, beliefs and responses. We can’t blame the  economy, our parents or the weather. We are not necessarily in control of events, but we are always in control of how we respond—and for NLP practitioners, that is an empowering experience. Even if we can’t change what’s happening around us, they argue, we can always change the way we think about it.
 

We are accustomed to -believing that change takes a long time, like the years of investment required for talk therapy. But NLP -practitioners say people can change much faster than that; sometimes, in fact, transformation can -happen instantaneously.
 

Want to change your state of mind from hesitation to -confidence? Recall a time when you felt confident in the past. Look at the scene through your own eyes. Remember what you saw, what you heard and what you felt. These sensory memories bring the feeling of confidence into the present. You can anchor it there by assigning the feeling a specific word, image, or sensation, like touching the back of your neck. Next time you need to summon some pluck, just reach up and touch your neck.
 

Sound too simple? I thought so, too, until I tried it. I had been doing a lot of new things for several months—like moving alone across the country and writing magazine articles—but had gotten into a habit of dreading these potential adventures. So I thought of learning to ride a bike when I was 7. I looked dead ahead in my mind’s eye as the trees and houses sped by. I saw my legs pedaling away. I heard my dad cheering me on halfway down the block as the wind rushed past. And for a split second, I felt that elation in my 7-year-old gut, knowing I was doing something I’d never done before. The feeling filled me, and I pinched my earlobe and held it. Whenever I pinch my earlobe now, that memory floods back—and I feel courageous and free.
 

Last year, Tom Reed (not his real name)—a composer and educator in New Haven, Connecticut—worked with Mark Shepard to create an anchor of his own. Reed was experiencing what felt like conflicting urges in his work: to dive into the thick of things consistently and to be more thoughtful and conservative. The dichotomy, he says, often resulted in paralyzing indecision.
 

During their session, Shepard repeatedly asked Reed to name the higher purpose of both the enthusiastic aspect and the careful one—“almost to the point of frustration and irritation,” he remembers.
 

As the dialogue reached a peak, Reed realized both aspects of him wanted the same thing: “to cultivate wholeness throughout my being and the world,” he says. “There was a sense of orbiting around a center. The two approaches to accomplishing a purpose balanced each other. Both are correct.” For the first time, he felt as “one being with different tools and options, all of which lead to the same transformational goals.”
 

Shepard guided Reed to hold out his palms and imagine one aspect on each hand. Then he had him bring his hands together as the aspects joined in his mind’s eye. Finally, while that feeling of inner unity was still strong, he had Reed pinch his earlobe.
 

A year later, Reed says he feels “a lot more trust in myself.” He doesn’t pinch his earlobe much these days, though. He doesn’t need to.
 

One of NLP’s guiding principles is that the mind and the body are the same system. We can use a physical trigger, like our earlobes, to anchor a feeling into our nervous system. We also express our internal experience through physical gestures, stances and facial expressions—often without realizing we’re doing it. When people tell you they’re overwhelmed, says Larry Field, an NLP life coach in Surrey, England, they might hold up their hands and turn away. He demonstrates, hiding behind his raised arms. “It shows the image is very close.”
 

Everyone has mental images, Field says, “and the size, location, color and texture of those images in the mind are relevant to how you feel about the experience.” Through NLP, people learn to adjust the quality of their mental images. Many clients tell Field they have a big problem and don’t know how to manage it. “If you have a really big problem,” he says, “then you have a really big [mental] image.” His answer? Make the image smaller, just like Shepard told the high school kids to do with the bully’s voice. Field might guide a client who uses his or her arms to block an overwhelming experience to face the image and imagine pushing it away or shrinking it. “You have images in your mind; you can move them around,” he says matter-of-factly. “They should teach it in schools.”
 

According to NLP, we develop internal maps of reality as we grow that help us know what to pay attention to and how to behave. We learn to notice certain things and ignore others, depending on our upbringing, education, beliefs and experiences. For example, growing up as a straight “A” student, I developed a map that said, “You’re good at school but unathletic. Pay attention to what’s going on in your head. Don’t listen to your body.” 
 

Our maps, though, are malleable, and by using NLP techniques, we can consciously change our maps, expand their borders or even redraw them. I can, for example, expand my map to include being fully aware of my mind and my body at the same time, imagining myself as both intelligent and athletic. In NLP, this is called reframing.
 

Every moment, we are awash in a vast sea of information. We perceive that sea through our senses, but we’re only conscious of a few thousand of the 4 billion bits of information that Roger Ellerton, an NLP trainer, coach and autho
r based in Ontario, Canada, says we process every minute. We filter our world as if through a frame. -Day-to-day experiences shape our frames, too, says Ellerton. “Let’s suppose you have a new boss at work, and before the boss has even arrived, she’s said to be an evil witch. Have you ever experienced something like this?” Sure, I say.
 

“So someone has put a frame on this -person. And when they show up, you look for evidence and discount what doesn’t fit that frame. We put people into boxes, especially ourselves.”
 

Twenty years ago, Ellerton—who has served as a tenured professor of statistics and an executive with Canada’s federal government—was head of a large computing complex, developing systems and working with IBM mainframes. But something was missing. He turned his analytical eye inward, away from computer programs and toward the programs within himself. Along the way, he discovered NLP.
 

“I would assume,” Ellerton says, “that you’re not really aware of how your right foot feels at this moment.”
 

No, I admit, I wasn’t. At least not until he mentioned it.
 

“I would guess,” he continues, “that some of those [4 billion bits your mind was -processing just] went to your foot and less to your typing and listening. You pay -attention to the information you perceive to be -important. So when I mentioned your right foot, you said, ‘He’s mentioning my right foot. I better focus on it.’”
 

Similarly, -as Ellerton argues, other information—-information that says we’re gifted at what we do, for example—is -always there, waiting for us to notice it.
 

“The question,” he says, “is what information are you paying attention to?”
 

In focusing suddenly on my foot, I changed my frame. It’s a skill we can use to our advantage. Reframing, says Ellerton, gives us the chance to step outside our parameters or push the boundaries to give ourselves more room. “If I put a box around myself as far as what is possible in my career,” he says, “I’ve really limited myself. If I push it 10 percent, I give myself room. So it’s either step outside the frame to a whole new area of those 4 billion bits or push it until it’s larger and I can see, hear and feel more information.”
 

This applies to our language, too, says Julie Silverthorn, an NLP coach and trainer in Scottsdale, Arizona. Silverthorn trained as a clinical psychologist and worked for several years as a family therapist before co-founding a branch of NLP. One of her recent clients, Rob (not his real name), told her, “I’m depressed.” Rob’s language revealed the internal structure of his frame: He was equating himself—literally—with his -feeling. “It’s like saying, ‘Hi, I’m Julie.’ ‘Hi, I’m depressed,’” she explains. “The more we focus on a label, the more that label sticks.” Which is why NLP practitioners insist it’s crucial to pay attention to the way we -describe things.
 

Rob had gotten so used to running his “depression program” that it had nearly solidified. But introducing playful and -unexpected language patterns can help break the frame. Like Zen koans, nonsensical -patterns create a pause in -clients’ -habitual mental programming.
 

“I want you to consider -depressing your depression,” -Silverthorn told Rob, who sat there with his eyes closed. As Silverthorn -repeated the -suggestion several times, Rob’s brow furrowed. Several minutes later, Rob blinked and looked at Silverthorn. He said he wasn’t feeling -depressed.
 

“What are you feeling instead?” Silverthorn asked.
 

“It just feels really weird,” Rob replied. Silverthorn asked him to name the feeling.
 

“Something is moving inside me,” Rob said -slowly.
 

“And what would you call it?” prodded Silverthorn.
 

He paused, then spoke. “I feel alive!”
 

Silverthorn nodded. “That’s right. You feel alive right now. And as you are feeling alive, go ahead and think about how you were feeling depressed before. Are you ‘Rob Depressed’ now, or are you just feeling -aliiiiiiiiive?”
 

By drawing out the vowel in “aliiiiiiiive” throughout the rest of the session, Silverthorn helped make the word stronger and anchor it into Rob’s nervous system. “We’re using [clients’] language to lead them to any place other than ‘depressed,’” she explains, “and to expand those resource states so they’re always bigger than the depression.”
 

Later that week, Rob told Silverthorn that for the first time in months, he’d dialed in a different radio station on his way to work and sung along. “I didn’t even think about being depressed,” he said.
 

NLP’s origin story takes a few different forms, depending on whom you ask. What most accounts have in common is this: In the 1970s, University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) student Richard Bandler began noticing patterns in the therapeutic language, gestures and vocal tone of Fritz Perls and Virginia Satir, two psychotherapists who were consistently successful with clients. Bandler was leading a Gestalt seminar and replicated those patterns with other students. He mimicked the way Perls and Satir made suggestions and -gathered information, copied their tone of voice and altered his language to fit the way his clients saw the world. Though Bandler was untrained in therapy, the techniques he used worked.
 

UCSC associate linguistics professor John Grinder joined Bandler, and together they studied recordings of Satir, Perls and hypnotherapist Milton Erickson. The discoveries of Grinder and Bandler coalesced into a book called The Structure of Magic. -Suddenly, the success of Satir, Perls, -Erickson and others could be explained and replicated by anyone. As “NLP” evolved, a group of students and psychotherapists coalesced around Bandler and Grinder to delve deeply into the structures of successful thought and behavior.
 

Eventually, the two founders went their separate ways and the project’s participants scattered. Since then, NLP has branched out in many different directions—into therapy, business, self-help, education, sports and other disciplines. NLP is used for everything from grief counseling to helping clients overcome phobias, managing classrooms to increasing sales, teaching foreign languages to transforming limiting beliefs. And for many, it’s become a way of life.
 

NLP practitioners and training courses exist all over the world, including the U.S., Europe, Canada, the Philippines, India and Indonesia. Though founder Richard Bandler says NLP was meant as an “evolutionary tool” rather than a therapy, many therapists incorporate NLP into their practices. In the UK, NLP is a recognized form of psychotherapy, though in the U.S. and elsewhere it remains unregulated.
 

Bandler still trains NLP practitioners, including Larry Field, the NLP life coach in Surrey with whom I discussed my habitual frame that associates “work” with the feeling of “constricting and overwhelming.” I tell Field that I want my writing work to feel joyful and filled with ease but often end up feeling bullied by it instead.
 

Every pattern, Field explains, is a loop that has an exit point. We can keep going around in the same loop or break out of it into a new one. When I let myself feel -repeatedly overwhelmed by work, I’m just looping a -program. How do I find its exit point?
 

“It’s kind of a miniature movie that plays out,” Field explains. “And it’s all about the state that you end with.” He suggests that I simply come up with a more fulfilling, interesting outcome. “You carried on a sequence that ended with feeling nervous, bullied, out of control and overwhelmed,” he says. “But if you run the movie past that to where you’re getting rewards and ret
urns, it relaxes you. And that’s the best state for doing your kind of work: being relaxed and alert.”
 

After a moment, though, my logical mind pipes up. “You can’t relax while you’re writing!” it says. “How will you get anything done?” As I describe this to Field, my hand gestures to the right. “But then there’s this voice on the other side,” I say, waving with my left hand, “that says, ‘No, it’s okay. Just try it out.’”
 

Field shows me how to use NLP to adjust the critical voices. I can turn the -volume down, shut the voice’s mouth so the words come out muffled or change the tonality. That way, says Field, the voice “becomes ridiculous and doesn’t have an impact on our feelings.”
 

“The problem is, you’re taking it too seriously. It’s just internal dialogue,” Field explains. We don’t act on every thought we have; rather, we choose among them. If I want to, I can choose to work in a relaxed, intuitive way instead of feeling like my life depends on it. I can fast-forward my mental movie into the future, where working this way has brought about amazing results. And I can anchor these feelings into something simple, like my breath. Learning about NLP has been like learning a new language. As I realize just how malleable my mental habits are, it feels like long-dormant neural muscles are waking up. NLP is a process, says Field. When people say they don’t know what to do with their lives, he answers, “What would you like to do with the next five minutes?”
 

As I’ve used NLP to change my attitude toward work, I’ve kept that outcome of the miniature movie in mind—the rewards that will come from working my way. To get there, I take it moment by moment: feeling if my body’s relaxed, choosing a sense of ease instead of tension. I can spend the day before a deadline -hiking in the woods because I know I’ve programmed myself to have the work done on time. Living like this is a big shift from the status quo. But it seems to be working. The night before wrapping up this article, I can’t sleep, so I try out a technique Field taught me. I slow down my inner voice until it’s speaking very slowly. I conk out before it finishes its next sentence. 
 

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