NLP is a way of becoming aware of our thoughts and behaviors that are driven by the subconscious mind in order to enhance self-awareness, increase confidence, improve communication, and motivate positive social action.
Neuro linguistic programming (NLP) was originally developed back in the 1970s. Although there is no formal regulation of NLP, there is a collective agreement amongst practitioners as to what it is and what the techniques hope to achieve.
It’s crucial to remember that NLP is not actually a type of psychotherapy, however it is usually practiced by professionals as an extra field of study.
Although some NLP techniques may be useful when combined with traditional therapies, there is no strong evidence that they are effective alone.
However, many people who undergo NLP have reported a marked improvement in their anxiety symptoms.
Similarities To Hypnosis
Hypnosis is often thought of as being about suggestion – making people do things they don’t want to do.
However, there is much more to it than that. In fact, some of the most powerful suggestions come from the unconscious mind.
This is where the ideas behind Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) come into play.
In his book ‘The User’s Manual For the Brain’, Dr Richard Bandler described how he came up with the idea of NLP.
He wanted to understand why people did what they did, and devised ways of understanding the language of the unconscious mind.
NLP uses tools such as ‘patterning’,’schemas’ and scripts’ to help us gain insight into ourselves and others.
These tools enable us to identify patterns in behavior and use them to change behaviors.
The Subconscious Mind
Hypnosis and NLP work because they target the unconscious mind. When we go into trance, we’re able to access our subconscious mind.
We can use hypnosis and NLP to help us change our behavior.
The way hypnosis works is that you establish a strong, positive anchor. Then, you give yourself a suggestion that changes how you feel.
For example, you might say, “I’m relaxed.” Or “My anxiety is gone.”
You’ll find that the more often you practice, the easier it becomes.
Anxiety And Representation
NLP offers us many techniques that can help us work towards our therapeutic goals. In particular, it helps us understand how we represent ourselves internally. This includes how we think, feel and behave.
If you struggle to overcome anxiety, you might find yourself having unwanted thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that surface and sustain those anxious feelings.
You may also experience these feelings and behaviors without being aware of them.
You may consistently imagine fearful situations and experience those unwanted feelings. Furthermore, you may even run an anxious inner narrative about things going wrong in the near future.
This may sound like a lot of mental activity, but it’s actually just one aspect of what we call ‘representation systems’ – the ways in which we code information into words, images, sounds, sensations, and actions.
Representations are used to make sense of the world around us and allow us to communicate effectively.
In addition, NLP uses the term ‘submodality’ to describe the internal representation. These include things such as color, size, shape, texture, and movement which can all act as triggers.
So, if you have difficulty controlling your emotions, you may find yourself feeling anxious because you have been representing yourself in a way that creates and sustains those feelings.
NLP In Practice
Focusing On The Good
If you’re worried about something, you might be imagining all sorts of negative scenarios that you think might come true.
When you imagine these events happening, they become real for you. And when you start to worry about them, you get anxious.
So by creating these thoughts in your mind, you’re already starting to experience anxiety.
An NLP process of dealing with anxiety involves concentrating on the best possible scenario that can occur, or on a wide variety of possible good outcomes.
Ask yourself the simple question, “What would I really love to see?” Then think about what it might be if that happened.
Perhaps you can draw a picture in your head, or write out a detailed description of what you would say to yourself, or perhaps you can just make an imaginary conversation with yourself.
You can also write down a description of that ideal situation. One benefit of doing this is that it helps you remember what you wanted to achieve, so you can remind yourself of it whenever you start feeling anxious again.
Reaching Beyond The Outcome
Another NLP method involves imagining yourself in the situation you’re worrying about. Think about where you are, who else is around, what you’re wearing, whether you’ve eaten enough, etc.
Then ask yourself: “What would I do if this actually happened?” You’ll probably find that you find that your anxiety lessens as you get used to the uncomfortable (imaginary) situation.
A sort of ‘facing your fear’ in an imaginary way. After all, your brain can’t tell the difference.
Now, once you’ve thought about it like this, you can start to relax. If the worst does come true, you won’t be surprised, and you’ll be prepared. And if nothing goes wrong, well that’s good too!
Working With An NLP Coach
If you struggle to apply NLP methods yourself, then you might consider using a professional coach. An NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) trainer will begin by helping you identify the non-verbal signals that your physical being is sending out.
For example, behavior by assertive colleagues may make you feel anxious, or nervous at the office—which will then affect your ability to perform your job correctly.
This is an excellent example of a trigger. A trained NLP practitioner can teach you to change your behavior, using language patterns called “pacing” and “leads”.
We’re all creatures of habit and pattern, so when we face something new, we usually react the same as we would if we were faced with a similar situation before.
NLP helps us to interrupt the pattern of behavior and change it.
Finding A Therapist
Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) therapists are trained professionals who use methods based on neurobiology, psychology, and language to help people overcome challenges and improve performance.
They offer counseling, coaching, therapy, hypnotherapy, and life coaching.
You should always check the reputation and qualifications of a potential therapist. Furthermore, you should feel confident and at ease working with any NLP therapist you decide to start working with.
You could prepare some questions to ask a prospective NLP therapist, such as:
- Have you dealt with issues such as mine before?
- How would you identify if someone would benefit from NLP?
- What is it like to practice NLP?
Hypnosis and NLP work because they help us change our behavior. We don’t just “think differently,” we start changing our entire belief system, which in turn makes us behave differently.
This is why many people find hypnosis and NLP useful tools for dealing with anxiety, stress, phobias, and addictions.
In addition, some people use hypnosis and NLP to deal with specific issues such as weight loss, smoking cessation, and overcoming fears.
In fact, there are even books written about how to use hypnosis and NLP to overcome specific problems like depression, insomnia, and panic attacks.
NLP for anxiety is a great way to learn to control your own emotions and reactions. It’s also a good way to get to grips with the subconscious mind and change our patterns and behavior for the better.