The History of Neuro-Linguistic Programming

history of Neuro-Linguistic Programming

The history of Neuro-Linguistic Programming

The history of Neuro-Linguistic Programming began in the early 1970’ s with two people at U.C. Santa Cruz. Richard Bandler was a 20-year-old psychology student. Dr. John Grinder was an associate professor of linguistics at the university in his late 20’s.

Bandler started out as a math major who was also interested in the new field of computer science. As he became more interested in the behavioral science he switched his major. But his initial interest in computer science is why NLP is often linked to it.

Gestalt Therapy

As he studied behavioral science, Bandler became fascinated with the methods used by Virginia Satir (1916-1988). At the time, Ms. Satir was an American author and social worker at Mental Research Institute (MRI) in Palo Alto, California. She was considered one of the best family therapist of her time.

Bandler also studied the work of Fritz Perls, (1893–1970).  Perls, was a highly regarded German-born psychiatrist and psychotherapist. He developed a form of psychotherapy that he called gestalt therapy. Perls was associated with and lived at Esalen Institute at Big Sur, California, from 1964-1969.

As a result of his studies, Bandler started forming study groups around gestalt therapy. This is also when he began giving workshops.

The history of Neuro-Linguistic Programming began in earnest when Bandler teamed up with Grinder. They wanted to develop a set of rules and principles that governed the language structure of excellent therapists.

Studying Excellence

Bandler and Grinder analyzed the writings and recordings of Perls and Satir. They did this to extract the essence of what made these two therapists exceptional in their work. 

They wanted to break down the therapy of Perls and Satir into definable techniques and skills. Their goal was to make these skills available to anybody. This would allow individuals to overcome their own obstacles and issues themselves.

First Written Works

Their studies of Perls and Satir brought about the first two books by Bandler and Grinder. Published in 1975 and 1976, they were called The Structure of Magic, Vol I & II. These two books identified examples of language patterns that are used by effective therapists.

Another book written by the duo, Frogs into Princes, published in 1979 was targeted mainly at therapists. Basically, it’s a transcript of one of their early seminars. 

Other Influences on The History of Neuro-Linguistic Programming

Later, Bandler and Grinder included studies of Gregory Bateson (1904–1980).  Bateson worked in Anthropology and Cybernetics. They also referenced General Semantics from the studies of Polish born Alfred Korzybski (1879-1950).

Another major influence was American psychiatrist and psychologist Milton Erickson (1901–1980). Erickson specialized in family therapy and medical hypnosis.

They were also influenced by American linguist, cognitive scientist, philosopher and political commentator Noam Chomsky (1928-present). Near the end of the 1950’s, Chomsky had developed a new theory of grammar called transformational grammar. His new theory encompassed the linguistic theory of Generative Grammar.

The Milton Model

They two founders of NLP were fascinated by Milton Erickson’s approach. As a result, Bandler and Grinder incorporated Erickson’s manner of conversational hypnosis into the NLP toolkit.

Conversational hypnosis is an “artfully vague” way of speaking to the subconscious mind. This was in direct contrast to the authoritarian suggestions commonly used by hypnotherapists at the time.  Erickson found he wasn’t met with as much unconscious resistance when he used this approach with his patients.

Erickson’s approach became a core characteristic of NLP. It is known as the “Milton Model.” The Milton Model is a codification of Erickson’s hypnotic language style.

Take What’s Useful

The philosophy of Bandler and Grinder was to use whatever worked. If something they tried didn’t work, they would move on to something else. They kept doing this until they found something that did work.

As their knowledge and insights developed, they began trying these techniques out on friends and colleagues. These include Leslie Cameron Bandler, Robert Dilts, Judith DeLozier, and David Gordon. Their enthusiasm about their results helped expand NLP’s reach. Of course, each of these soon contributed even more to the history of Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

Modern Neuro-Linguistic Programming

Many of the NLP techniques in use today grew out of the research, ideas and trainings offered by the people we’ve just discussed. Of course, others continue to add to and develop the expanding scope of the practice of NLP. And so too will the history of Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

About the Author:

Wil DieckWil Dieck is an author, speaker, college professor and researcher. He is also a master hypnotherapist, NLP Trainer and master martial arts instructor. For the past forty years, he has taught people, from a variety of backgrounds, how to create and maintain the habits of success.

Wil runs a leadership and peak performance coaching practice in San Diego, California. He helps his clients create the belief systems of successful people and leaders, allowing them to make the most of their personal and professional lives.

Wil is also a professor of psychology and business at San Diego University for Integrated Studies.

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