Although Neuro Linguistic Programming is in its 4th decade as a discipline, it is still relatively new by comparison with many other approaches to cognitive function. Psychological professionals do not regard it thus either; they see it as a method of self-help.

The goals of NLP are not very clear but appear to relate to personal perception; freeing individuals from ideas which are holding them back. The concepts and teachings behind Neuro Linguistic Programming are complex so they are broken down below.

Learning Language

People in cultures around the world have learned to relate words to actions, items, people, and thoughts. These words evoke images but are not the “things” themselves. Sometimes words also evoke emotional or behavioral associations between words and the world.

They obtain significance in context such as where, when, and how they were coined. Language is our tool of communication and is intertwined with actions. How we use language affects how we interact with people and their behaviors towards us.

Responding to the World

Language is also determined by a culture depending on how they perceive their world. Reality, according to NLP theorists and teachers, is a construct. Each individual develops a reality which is limited, broad, or something between but which is not a truth about reality universally held.

In other words, everyone’s reality is different and legitimate; this is the only actual truth about it. What society finds, however, is that the most successful people do not limit their sense of what is right and wrong, opinions, perceptions, or choices. They embrace everything until they know what works. This is part of NLP teaching.

NLP University

One can be trained to automatically look at the world through a different lens; programmed, in fact to adjust attitudes. Neuro Linguistic Programming is not a science but its founders and practitioners consider it to be legitimate.

Participants in studies about NLP are looking for ways to unlock their potential and to be successful. Here is where semantics and communication come into play: how does one regard success? What does it mean to be successful?

Success and NLP

It would seem, from first glance, that the meaning of success is a personal one, not related to community. If success gained its meaning from community ideal, there would definitely be a sense that some choices and realities were right and others were wrong.

Otherwise, no one could be successful because everyone’s morals, ethics, and standards would be subject to personal interpretation.

At a glance, the NLP version of success is much like every other self-help ideal which includes being healthy, wealthy, and popular. One who determines success more in terms of relationships will probably find this approach unhelpful.

Self-help Culture

But we currently live in a culture that embraces “self” above “community,” “religion,” or any socially held set of beliefs. Self-help begins with an individual’s desires and ends with achieving those, sometimes at any cost. When an individual’s reality is self-created, that’s a good example of self-centered living which might crush the success of someone else, even a participant in the same style of thinking.

The University

Those who disagree might claim that, between them, most people share a generally similar perception of reality to the extent that they all hold similar ideas of what is correct and actions which are not acceptable, but these are not “morals” in the religious sense. They are free to choose their own destinies and only social constructs or their personally determined limitations hold them back.

As the teaching goes, there is no “map” to a satisfying reality because everyone’s destination is individual and everyone arrives at the destination via their own route by following and personal journey.

Neuro Linguistic Programming Today

The study of NLP got its start in the 1970s with two men, John Grinder and Richard Bander. They wrote a popular book together which has since lost ground against related schools of thought. Other self-help studies have taken their place and there are overlaps with psychotherapy in which one is challenged to change perceptions of pain and suffering; to change perceptions of stress or disappointment to cope with loss and set-backs.

One can still engage in NLP studies today by attending classes at a “university” in California or go online to find out about related books, but the seminal texts about this communication study date back to the origins of NLP.