History of NLP

By June 3, 2014 April 18th, 2020 Articles
history of nlp

Let’s travel back to the tumultuous times of the 1960’s; the Vietnam War, Soviet Union hostilities nuclear devastation, and massive social change, which, if you weren’t born yet, all continued into the 1970’s.  Major influence’s included a growing discontent of our government, Watergate, impeachment of a president, the civil rights movements, increased influence of women’s liberation, a serious concern for our environment and the pinnacle of space exploration.  Many of these “radical” ideas of the 60’s gained more acceptance and were mainstreamed into the American way of life during the early 70’s.

Amongst all this chaos, the American culture flourished, thrived and grew with every teenager entering puberty. Our literature, entertainment, fashion and especially music were highly influenced by both these decades. And it seemed that California was on the forefront of this momentum. Our culture was changing!

The Early 1970’s –  

In a time of social upheaval a young college student got the opportunity to work with Fritz Perls. Transcribing some of his therapy sessions for him he found he could imitate, with a high degree of accuracy, his language skills to help clients change unwanted behaviors. Working next with Virginia Satir, he was able to model her ability to uncover and resolve deeper issues within a family environment. 

His success caught the attention of the linguistics professor on the campus of the University of California at Santa Cruz. So (Richard Bandler) the student, used what he knew about patterns in mathematics and computers and (Dr. John Grinder) the professor, used what he knew about patterns in linguistics began to organize this information into a formal operational process. They commandeered a classroom and began teaching language patterns to eager students and suddenly they both were replicating the same capabilities that were supposed to be of graduate therapy skills. They called it a meta-model (“meta” is Greek for “above, beyond, or about).

Richard and John set out to model the hypnotic skills of Milton Erickson. And it so happened that he and Dilts and others of the original group were taking classes from Gregory Bateson at the University who not only introduced them to Erickson, but to other influential individuals of that time. From their work together they produced “Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, M.D. Vol. I & II (1975, 1976) which examined the verbal and behavioral patterns of Erickson, founder of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis and one of the world’s most widely recognized hypnotherapist / psychologist of his time.

Within a couple years, they published two original NLP books –
The Structure of Magic, Volumes I and II
The Patterns of the Hypnotic Language of Erickson, Vol. I & II

And that’s how it all began. They built a communication model about human “thinking” and “processing” and used that model of how we see images, hear sounds, reproduces smells and tastes and touches in our mind to code and represent the structure of our subjective experiences.

Those years since, NLP has developed some very powerful tools and skills for communication and change in a wide range of professional areas including: psychotherapy, education, health, creativity, law, management, sales, leadership, marketing and even parenting.

The Future of NLP –

There is no longer anything called just “NLP.” John and Richard split up sighting creative differences, forming their own practices of NLP trainings and workshops. It has evolved into so much more, especially with the 1980-1990 infomercial craze of Tony Robbins on the Television. And NLP still flourished even though he re-branded the name just for himself and his organization to N.A.C. Many individuals have used the foundation of NLP; the attitude and methodologies to create off-shoot practices such as; EMDR, Sedona Method, parts of EFT, even Meta-States.

From this NLP became somewhat of a movement rather than a well-organized methodology. It’s become a rapidly growing, diversification and developing body of knowledge and information of HOW TO help model success and help others change.

Some people may look at this lack of regulation as an unquantifiable franchise of the entire field of NLP. But the truth is THIS IS HOW IT ALL STARTED… with an open mind, the ability to stay flexible, and change as outcomes change. This is where I believe NLP strengths begins and  lies, in the creative potential, because this requires one to notice HOW (the structure) of the evolution of change. DO WHAT WORKS, Model success!

Caveat: This is not an accurate description of the ‘history’ of NLP. I have yet to find one that actually tells the whole truth about what really happened in those early days. Much is rumour, speculation, gossip, a re-telling of stories per-se, kinda like NLP itself, it’s based upon subjective experience. I personally have spoken with many of the original founders and developers and each one has different memories of the history and events of those precious days long gone. Decide for yourself. Discover your own path and history using your new set of skills. BE CURIOUS!

I’d love your comments and feedback. Email me directly or leave a comment here!

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John James Santangelo PhD

Author John James Santangelo PhD

John James Santangelo PhD - nationally acclaimed speaker, author, seminar leader, and business results coach, has been a guiding force in empowering individuals, businesses, and corporations to excel at peak performance. John is a foremost authority in success principles and expert in the field of communication; an NLP trainer and clinical hypnotherapist. He has worked with companies such as The Learning Annex, Los Angeles Sheriffs Dept., Mary Kay Inc, Multiple-Sclerosis Society, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Well-Point, Xerox, RE/MAX Realtors, the Teamsters Union, and the US Army counter-intelligence team. Whether you’re looking to fulfill short/long term goals, increase your sales performance, or hire John for your next event, John will help you achieve that success! Visit www.LANLP.com or call (818) 879-2000

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