NLP: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (Part 1.)

by admin on January 30, 2012

Shifting Sands and New Paradigms

Louise LeBrun
NLP Master Trainer, Reiki Master and Huna teacher


NLP has come a long way. Over the last 30 years, who could estimate how many have been touched — intentionally or otherwise — by this incredible discovery of the structure of human behavior. And yet, despite these amazing contributions, there are nonetheless those for whom NLP has not been enough. There are many who have studied and applied the knowledge of NLP, at all levels of certification , only to discover that they continue to be taken hostage by something greater ; and that the tools and techniques of NLP have not offered the portals and passages that allow them to engage the world differently and — even more — to shape it.

As the years have rolled by and one century has passed into the next, little attention has been paid to what we have taken for granted for close to four decades. The vast majority of advances in NLP have been refinements within the body of knowledge itself and not discoveries in its connections and relationships to other advances in the field of human potential. As a metaphor, this is akin to continuing to explore and perfect motor vehicle transport as a mechanical device without considering the advances in electronics. In any other field of endeavor, this would be considered at best, folly and at worst, a recipe for missed opportunities.

After 30 years, NLP is no longer ‘new’! Now is as good a time as any to stop and consider not just the content of what we know but the context within which we have learned it, expressed it and passed it on to others. The 21st Century not only invites but demands that we reconsider both the practice and the potential that NLP offers. Since all meaning is context dependent, this shift in perspective is essential to continuing growth and evolution in the application of NLP; and for sustaining NLP as a viable and practical resource in the transformation of our species. It has been said that “Before we can change our lives, we must first change the way that we perceive our lives.”

This shift in perspective will be framed by two notions from NLP: Logical Levels of Thinking, and Representational Systems…with one very big difference. Instead of six representational systems and six logical levels, we will work with seven.

We have come to discover the power of Logical Levels of Thinking as a framework for the structure of thought. Like learning to play along the piano keys, moving from note to note and octave to octave, Logical Levels of Thinking helps us to listen not just for the content of a thought but to identify its positioning in the greater scheme of existing thought relative to possible thought. Negotiation, conflict resolution, problem identification, etc. becomes a far more rapid and rewarding process.

Logical Levels of Thinking, or neurological levels, has formed part of the body of knowledge of NLP for some time and has proven to be a very useful tool. The tool is always, in some way, a creation of the artist in recognition of a requirement for the expression of that artistry. Logical Levels of Thinking is no different.

The first six Levels of  Thinking, as developed by Bateson and Dilts, (Environment, Behavior, Skills and Capabilities, Beliefs and Values, Identity, Community/Society) have been extremely effective in ordering information. However, human beings are organic. Our ability to choose differentiates us from each other as well as from other ‘life’ forms. Unlike your car which cannot choose to become a motor cycle, human beings can choose, at any time, to be and do other than what is currently available. As far back as 1997, we added and began working with the seventh Logical Level of Choice (between Beliefs/Values / Attitudes and Identity), taking that which has always been present and yet transparent to the process and bringing it to conscious awareness. By bringing the act of choosing ‘out of the closet’ so-to-speak, we acknowledge the ability of human beings to shape their experience. We create a platform for choosing that also makes it impossible to deny that we are indeed, doing so; and acknowledges the power of its presence…and the natural by-product of its expression, whether conscious or otherwise. We are always choosing, whether we do so with focused intention (design) or from habit (default or fall-back position).1

With this discovery came the willingness to play with other things which appeared fixed and were indeed, mutable. In the area of representational systems, we have historically agreed that there are six forms that information can take to allow for it to be stored, accessed and retrieved from ‘inside’ us: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory, gustatory, auditory digital. From working with these six, we’ve identified a seventh: PsI, or PsychicIntuitive. In creating this seventh, we acknowledge that a continuum exists, with auditory digital (or the absence of sensory cues) at one end and PsychicIntuitive (the presence of all sensory cues) at the other end. Like black and white represent this phenomenon, so representational systems can easily be enhanced to reflect this in the world of sensory input.

NLP — Yesterday

“All meaning is context dependent”. We must have said those words at least a thousand times over. Yet, how often have we actually stopped…and considered the profound implications of their meaning in how we live — and teach — NLP?

The Communication Model of NLP identifies a variety of filters through which we process information and the power that these filters carry to shape what we do and don’t allow ourselves to consider. The primary filter is that of  Space/Time/Matter/Energy… the filter through which we consider what we hold as true and ‘real’ about the very shape and structure of our physical world and our presence in it. Science — the god of the culture — tells us what is ‘true’ about space/time/matter/energy… and from that ‘truth’, we proceed to interact in our world. We have learned not to argue with science!

Being the voracious creatures that we are for MORE, our sense of curiosity and adventure has taken us down unknown paths and into brave, new worlds. We have discovered more in the last 20 years than we had in the 100 before that. Our ability to learn and then build on that learning has allowed us to move through the world in a way that invites the miracles of technology that we experience today. The cars we drive to work and play will, in the not-so-distant future, be driving us! The planes we fly now have the ability to move in and out of the earth’s atmosphere…and beyond. Our technological advances allow for magic and miracles in medicine, communication, entertainment, transportation…the list goes on and on.

The things we once held to be true — and unquestionably so — have time and again been proven not so much to be untrue but to be constrained by our ability to perceive them in their wholeness. Take, for example, Kirlian photography. Now exceeding 50 years since its discovery, there was a time when this ability to detect electromagnetic fields around the body through image, did not exist. Does that mean that the field was not there? Absolutely not. What did not yet exist was our ability to detect it. What we needed was a new framework within which to detect this phenomenon and then consider our discovery.

Think of all those poor souls who burned at the stake because their internal ‘camera’ allowed them to detect these fields…these auras of light and color…around living things. Think of other times and other places when we have dismissed as untrue or non-existent that which was only out of the range of detection. It was there. We just could not ‘represent’ it in ways that matched the current context or paradigm of thought.

NLP began to unfold in just such a context. The science of the time was grounded in a Newtonian perspective… or context. Grinder and Bandler, through a process of external calibration (observation) and internal calibration (questions), were able to nudge into awareness that which had always been there and yet had gone undetected. Using the combination of observation and enquiry, they created a platform for ‘modeling’ (or replicating) that which was already present and not yet generalized.

This process was unique and different . For the first time, we were able to consider human behavior beyond the level of content (I said, you said, he/she did, etc.) and consider human interactions in a different light. The claim was made that NLP did not engage human behavior at the level of content but at the level of structure. We held the ability to notice and make distinctions at this level to be one which freed us from content and allowed us to affect change directly by interplay with the structure itself.

The one thing we did not ask was: what is the context for this notion of structure? All meaning is context dependent.

The Science of the early ‘70’s — which determined who we believed human beings to be and more import a n t l y, who we believed them to be capable of becoming — was deeply rooted in Newtonian principles. This was the science of predictability in physical realms; the science of norms and standards and range of operation based on physical realities. This science has spawned the ‘therapy’ model of the world, which has permeated and shaped all that we have known and touched. To ask someone to consider that the therapy model, with its norms and standards and limited range, was not ‘truth’ but a limited context based on the limitations of our knowledge, would be like asking the fish “How’s the water?” The context for considering the question was the subject itself, with no consideration for ‘not water’ available at that time. The ability for a larger context did not exist.

Things Have Changed

Science has moved in leaps and bounds to invite us to consider magic and miracles as every day occurrences. The science of even 10 years ago, let alone 30 years ago, invited consideration of new things and yet had not begun to shine bright lights on the dark little spaces and places of who we thought ourselves to be. We’ve come a long way, Baby…and we’re moving fast into an amazing future!

To reiterate, the vast majority of advances in NLP have been refinements within the body of knowledge itself (Environment/Behavior/Capability) and not discoveries in its connections and relationships to other advances in the field of human potential (Spirituality). Given that within the framework of Logical Levels, every level is contained in the levels above it; and that changes at higher levels of thinking flow through and alter lower levels, imagine what becomes possible if we reconsider NLP within that higher level of thinking.

How can we take the principles of the quantum sciences and apply them not just to our technologies and gadgets and ‘things’, but to our own evolution as organic, living systems? How do we take what we now know about the science of who we are as human beings; the science of energy and potential, and make our potential come alive within the limitlessness that it offers? How do we take what we now know from science — the knowledge that we are quantum biological processors, capable of moving information/energy at incredible rates and in huge amounts — and apply this to how we live our lives, every single day, and to how we affect the lives of those we touch?

How do we take NLP — originally set in a Newtonian context, a ‘therapy’ model context — and bring it to life in the new paradigm of expression that we have already become…and have yet to notice? Is it not time to consider that NLP may better serve us all if it were to keep pace with science? Could it be that the potential of NLP will expand exponentially when considered in a new context? Given that all meaning is context dependent, what meaning will NLP take on when considered within an antipoetic framework and a model of the world that says that human beings are not mechanistic devices but quantum biological instruments of expression?

The thing that is most enticing is not ‘what can we become’. The thing that is most incredible to consider is: what have we already become…and have yet to notice?

If all meaning is context dependent, what is the context that we have held for NLP up to this time? NLP can only expand within the limitations of our ability to consider it. As we expand the context within which we position NLP, its potential will expand accordingly.

In its existing context or paradigm, NLP came into being within the science of the day and our beliefs about the nature of being human. NLP as a body of knowledge was ‘built’ and has been sustained within the context of human beings and their behavior (i.e. a therapy model). What if we were to consider NLP within the context of human beings as quantum biological devices — organic computers — (i.e. an autopoietic model)? What potential now sits, unexplored, and invites our attention?


Part 2 : Shifting Sands and New Paradigms



1 Refer to “The Seventh Logical Level of Thinking”, by Louise LeBrun
3 Refer to “WEL-Systems®: The New Paradigm for NLP” by Louise LeBrun

Bateson, Gregory (1972) Steps to an Ecology of Mind. Ballantyne Books.
Bateson, Gregory (2002) Mind and Nature. Hampton Press.
Dilts, Robert (1990) Beliefs. Pathways to health and well being. Metamorphous Press.
LeBrun, Louise (2001) The Seventh Logical Level of Thinking: choosing with purpose, power and intention. NLP World, November 2001, Vol. 8, No. 3.
LeBrun, Louise (2001) The New Paradigm for NLP: A Non-therapy context for change. Rapport, Winter 2001.

Louise LeBrun — Founder of Partners in Renewal Inc. and the WEL-Systems Institute — is the creator of the WEL-Systems approach to change, Quantum TLC™ and The CODE Model™. A WEL-Systems: NLP Master Trainer, Reiki Master and Huna teacher, she is the author of two books and several audio tape programs as well as a regular contributor to the field of NLP. A third book will be published in April 2004.