NLP: Insights and Pitfalls

Twink (
Wed, 26 Nov 1997 19:42:52 -0500 (EST)

At 17:57:15 Tue, 25 Nov 1997 -0800 Ramez Naam
<> wrote
>That having been said, after relatively scant experience with it (a
>handful of books over the past few months) I see the outlines of theory.
>Or minimally of a set of extensions to the generally conceived
>folk-psychological theory.

A theory is usually implied in any of this stuff. Making it explicit
is the first step toward refining it.

>I'd characterize the key insights of NLP thus:
>1) One's identity and emotional landscape are malleable. Indeed, they
>are constantly changing in response to our internal dialog, subjective
>experience, interpretation of that experience, the social mirror, etc..

Insight? I'd be more likely to call it a banality.:)

>This forms a feedback loop where [ identity & emotional landscape ]
>-affects-> action (including internal dialog) -affects-> [ identity &
>emotional landscape ]. Thus if we wish to affect our future identity &
>emotional landscape, we can do so by modifying our subjective
>experience, and also by taking certain actions that sculpt our future

Again, this seems commonplace, though it might be good to make
it explicit, given the need to come up with a good theory of identity.

>2) Our subjective experience is constructed from multiple qualia, and
>is usefully sculptable at this level. This is elementary cog sci, but
>rarely put into use. For example, most of us at some time use internal
>dialog to reason or motivate ourselves. However, it is far less common
>to find individuals who consciously create imagery, sounds, or
>kinesthetic experiences with the intent of self-motivation or more
>generally self-modification. (Though I do grant that abstract thinkers
>extremely often use visual imagination to explore abstract ideas.)

An instance of this might be anorexics who generally start the dieting
process by "seeing" themselves as extremely obese. They try to
picture themselves as overly fat when they look in the mirror.

>The essence of the NLP "cure" to the phobia, then, is to have the phobic
>individual imagine the subject of their phobia in a small, distant,
>unthreatening way.

It all sounds very interesting, but does it work? And as compared to
other cures, what is its success rate?

>To me this points to a basic tenet that the /intensity/ and /immediacy/
>of a sensation (including an imagined sensation) is proportional to the
>intensity of the emotional response evoked. Again, fairly elementary
>on the face of it - the insight of NLP is to use the imagination to
>/change/ the intensity and immediacy of a stimuli to evoke the desired

I believe there is some precedent for this. NLP might have deep roots.
For example, it would seem that Aristotle's theory of tragedian is
based on the notion that the guided (by the poet) action of the drama
can effect changes in the audience's emotional makeup. See my: and the
references contained therein.

>On the other hand, NLP is very much an attempt to leverage our
>subjective experience to augment our objective capabilities. In this
>light, belief in the effectiveness of NLP is a boon to the practitioner,
>and disbelief is a detriment. This is essentially a manifestation of
>the placebo affect: those who firmly believe in the cure are cured,
>those who do not are not.

I would think otherwise. It could be placebo, but it could be more
if actual "permanent" change is had.

Daniel Ust