A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

From Abracadabra to Zombies

reader comments: neuro-linguistic programming

1 Dec 2009
Why didn't you include this on the NLP? For people who are investigating before enrolling in those courses this info might be very important. Don't you think?

The Murder Of Corine Christensen - 1986

November 4, 1986, the Santa Cruz SENTINEL reports Corine Anne Christensen, 34, is found dead of a point-blank inflicted .38 caliber gunshot wound just beside her left nostril. This discovery occurs 36 hours after James Marino and Richard Wayne Bandler (and no others) were in her Live Oak residence, bitterly arguing and snorting a lot of cocaine.

“Bandler and Christensen were friends , not lovers. But Bandler often hired her to have sex with his friends.”


reply: I don't include the sordid accusations that Bandler was a cocaine addict and murderer because I am writing about neuro-linguistic programming, not the character of those who invented it. Even evil people can create good things. Wagner may have been an anti-Semite, but he still wrote some fine music. For all I know, Stalin played a mean fiddle.

If Bandler had given all his earnings from NLP to charity, it wouldn't change the value of NLP. It is what it is, no matter who created it.


1 Nov 2008
I just read the article on NLP posted on the Skeptic's Dictionary (http://skepdic.com/neurolin.html) And I agree with what you wrote. I am taking a basic NLP course right now, which will be ending in about 3 weeks or so. Basically, I took this course out of curiosity. I always need to experience first hand if something is what it claims to be or not, so that I can further evaluate it or pass any judgment on it, based on my own experience.

So far, what I found out [about NLP] is this: While, here in my country (Argentina), some people claim something like NLP can change your life completely and without NLP you cannot succeed in life, I found that this may be true for some people, but it's definitely  not the rule.

I personally believe that no one (including myself) is the "owner" of the "absolute universal truth." And my experience taking this course has proved my beliefs to harbor some commonsense traits. For instance, I found that this NLP course -in their booklets and manuals for students- resorts to a number of fallacies which make their own theory inconsistent and contradictory. On the other hand, it did prove to be a useful technique or methodology for some people, just because they strongly believe in it. But it's been their own choice to believe in it. In my opinion, it is the power of believing in whatever we want to believe in that ultimately operates changes in us, not a given technique per se.

In this course, the "teachers" also discussed and supported the idea that Reality does not exist and the Truth does not exist. In all honesty, I believe that to make such a generalization is a bit simplistic. Who is the supreme intellectual authority to affirm or confirm that reality and truth exist or do not exist? And one of their own contradictions is that they see generalizations as a mistake, yet they generalize a lot.

Once again, thanks for the article.


reply: I think you've identified one of the main attractions to programs like NLP. They provide some people with a sense of empowerment, with a belief in themselves that is needed to motivate them. Unfortunately, the feeling of empowerment is not the same as being empowered. Nevertheless, even though this and other self-help programs are hodgepodges of truisms, aphorisms, commonsense, and nonsense, they do motivate some people to set goals and work toward accomplishing them. How long the motivation lasts is questionable since nobody in the self-help business does any studies to find out if their methods are effective for any specific purposes. Steve Salerno's Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless (Three Rivers Press, 2006) attempts to deconstruct the nature of the self-help industry and explain why it is more destructive than constructive. "Self-help," he says, "is an enterprise wherein people holding the thinnest of credentials diagnose in basically normal people symptoms of inflated or invented maladies, so that they may then implement remedies that have never been shown to work."

18 Jan 2004
I noted a comment, by Armin Shmilovici, that "NLP contains many working models (in the sense that they can be used to teach other people)". I would first like to point out that this is NOT the meaning of "working", and in fact DIFFERS from "working" in that context: Any "working" model, is that which, when applied, is operative; teaching is NOT included (it MAY be the action itself, but outside of something that specific, the capacity to teach is not inherent to "working", and indeed many working models cannot be shared with others, let alone "taught"). If, however, one tried to describe this model in such a way as would enable others to learn it, the model might be inadequately described; only those students with the "intuition" to fill in the gaps the teacher left, by thinking in the same way that teacher did (or close enough), that such students would automatically assume what other students did NOT see. Such a description would be useless for teaching "other people", generalized; the best one could hope for is to repeat the same words despite lack of understanding, and hope that a student in the future would find the old teacher's wording intelligible. Insofar as "teaching" goes, this does not work: it COULD work, based on the NLP principles Armin Shmilovici later expresses (that things should change fast, and one must believe first), but since quality-unspecified "other people" are unlikely to believe in these principles of NLP (prior to knowing about them) enough to rapidly delude themselves into confidence that they have understood what they cannot translate, all before they understand the "lessons"; but this is a CLOSED circle, not an OPEN circle, which means that instead of finding your way into the circle and never out in an endless loop, one cannot find their way in.

Not to lose track of what Armin Shmilovici was saying, none of this contradicts what she said. But, it does show how she seems to have a slightly off definition for terms she used. Did I use the plural form? I must have forgotten some documentation:

"NLP relies *explicitly* on the placebo effect - if a person believes that a personal change is possible, then he will obtain it more easily than if he does not believe. So, the first step in a treatment, is usually to change the person's belief - i.e. to prepare a specially made placebo for him!"

Unless "specially made" means "altering the definition", this "specially made placebo" is still a "placebo": presumably (and based on "What makes NLP hard to validate in a scientific way is its recognition of the difference between different people, which in essence means that according to the person's behavior, he would be treated in a slightly different approach.", earlier that paragraph), what is "special" about the making of any particular placebo (via NLP) is that it has been tailored to that person's beliefs, ensuring they will believe in it; since this is a changing of the placebo "template" to match their beliefs, not the other way around as Armin Shmilovici states ("So, the first step in a treatment, is usually to change the person's belief"), she again shows some confusion over the definitions for terms she uses.

I don't think you missed anything there. It simply doesn't make sense, because it's self-contradictory, extracting a principle ("change") and then pulling it away from where it belongs to place it in support of the conclusions she wants to make.


reply: I think what PackCat is trying to say is that if you are not clear people won't understand you. If they don't understand you, they can't test your claims. And, if you criticize them, they can always claim you didn't understand them. This will be made clear by the next letter.

19 Jan 2004
Nice site, I am glad that so many occultists I know are even following it's word so as not to be consumed by the chaff that exists in magic related literature.

I am e-mailing to notify you of an article written that is quite out of context. I apologize for any parts of my mail that appear bias, I do not mean to be.

The article regarding Neuro-linguistic Programming is grossly out of context and I fear for the people taking information from wherever it came from. The parts referring to the presuppositions of NLP are where the error lies. In NLP seminars it is intended (though I see you didn't get this treatment) that the presuppositions be taught not as be all and end all's but as beliefs that are more useful in many situations. In your article you give rundown of 'what ifs' i.e. the space shuttle crash, the stabbing. NLP is about restructuring belief so that they are more useful and individualized to situations as many people restrict themselves by being negative, the presuppositions are intended as 'try this instead and see how things go' rather than 'this is true and it gets me out of stuff'.

Also... "But there is no common structure to non-verbal communication" - this quote from the article is put across as though it is not a belief shared by the NLP community, I assure you it is much more like the basis of NLP, it should be corrected.

Hehe, I will not comment on Bandler as I think he is an asshole anyway, but the field I believe deserves better words or at least for what you have included to be put into proper context.

Thank you.

Gary Frewin

15 Nov 2000
I've talked to many people who dislike your site merely because it isn't "right" on hypnosis and NLP. I think they want you to point out how great hypnosis can be (I have seen it do some exciting things - if not magical or mystical or unexplainable things - very easily and quickly). I'm sure that anyone who tries hypnosis and maintains a skeptical, scientific mindset about it from the start will know this - why should you bother to mention it? The point of your article is that many "hypnotherapists" believe in rubbish, and that hypnosis is nothing special or exciting in itself. I have been using self-hypnosis for years, and have hypnotised some friends and family - it is a rather boring thing. I am quite taken aback by the amount and loudness of these people who wish to attribute magical qualities to it.

And NLP. Poor, stupid NLP. I can't see how people could take offence at this article. No - it does not mention how NLP can be useful, which it can be, very mildly. But it hits the point home - hard - that NLP teaches little, that it's basically new-age pseudo-scientific self-motivational Anything-2-Everyone standard cretin fare.

Yes. I may be able to use NLP techniques to improve my self-confidence. I may be able to use it to impress people socially more. But then, the techniques are useful (and only a few of them), not NLP, not Bandler, not the "practitioners" - the evidence that some techniques are useful does not validate the seminars or the whole "science" itself. In the end though, the techniques are more interesting than useful.

A friend of mine recently asked about NLP. I hope my reply may be useful to some other people.

I started really looking into NLP a while ago - and I started off thinking it must be something REALLY COOL! But, unfortunately...

NLP IS totally bogus - it was s built by 2 men - one who has run away from NLP as it is now, and one who says things like - "I think the more you want to become more and more creative you have to not only elicit other peoples' (plural) strategies and replicate them yourself, but also modify others' strategies and have a strategy that creates new creativity strategies based on as many wonderful states as you can design for yourself."

Yes - it has useful, or interesting but impractical, "tools", or "techniques". These were taken from elsewhere - and claims were set up that NLP could :- a) Cure severe mental illness b) Cure anything mental, in fact c) Make ANYONE successful d) Find out when someone is lying 100% e) Influence people easily f) etc. etc. etc.

If it's that good - why is it not used everywhere by everyone? Why is the knowledge of NLP held by the boring, the unfamous, the unrich. Why do NLP practitioners not change the world?

Do you know what I can do with "NLP"? I can "pace and lead" - match your verbal "intensity" (swearwords, volume, speed), body language etc. to build rapport, and then slow down my speech, become more articulate etc. to "lead" you to a more calm state. Does matching these things build rapport? About as much as listening to someone and pretending to care.

I can look at someone's eyes, and depending were they move, I can tell if they're having an internal dialogue, remembering a sound or sight, creating a new sound or sight etc. It's not 100% and it's not that useful.

I can't tell if someone's lying by where their eyes move. However - some NLP practitioners can.

Can I use it to become a social force to be reckoned with, using clever tricks to subconsciously create a bond of friendship? No more than being nice to people and listening and pretending to care.

Some NLP techniques may have a small place in social interactions, in therapy, in self-motivation.

But as a stand-alone "discipline", there is little to it, except the standard new-age lies.

Thomas Taylor

8 May 2000
I thought you might be interested in the following link:

This guy is a magician here in Milwaukee and along with many other magicians, he has latched onto NLP as the be all and end all of magic patter and scripting. Just adding to the long list of BS and bogus claims that NLP has generated, I suppose.

Finally, thank you for the effort and maintenance you put into your site. It has been a great help to me in many areas.
Tim Catlett

reply: see the next letter.

15 May 2000 
Hello, By way of a very brief introduction, I am a professional magician in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and a member of a private magicians' Internet forum (called the Electronic Grymoire, or EG for short, hosted by Bruce Barnett). There are 700-800 serious magicians and magic hobbyists from around the world on this forum, which produces email dialogue at least 5 days a week; pending holidays or days off by the moderator (who operates it for a tiny yearly membership fee to offset expenses, from his home). I should add that this forum is a very serious effort on the part of the moderator (requires a "knowledge-based" magicians' questionnaire for entrance) - as a response to the abominable 'free public' magicians chat-lines (alt. magic. etc.) -- that are constantly being 'tainted' by non-magician outsiders and general rabble-rousers. The founder of the EG didn't think magicians should be 'talking shop' out there on a public-accessible forum, under such dismal conditions.

I hope you've survived the above introduction. Now to my reason for writing:

Recently a few magicians got into a spirited conversation on the EG over the alleged marvelous attributes of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). What brought the subject up and sustained it, was Kenton's book (for magicians) called "Wonder Words", which taught NLP "techniques of persuasion" in the performance of conjuring shows. Several enthusiastic testimonials for both NLP techniques and said book were then give over the course of a couple of weeks, by people who purchased the book and applied its principles, and by people directly involved with selling seminars [$$] and tapes on NLP. And a few magicians had dished out the big bucks for courses on NLP (some of them medical practitioners of one sort or another).

Prior to this discussion, I had never heard of NLP (I'm an extensive 'hard science' reader and in sympathy with Randi and the skeptic's cause). The 'damn broke' for me, when a lady with a Ph.D. in linquistics and psychology and 20 years in the field (by her admission), said that she'd never heard of NLP either, and wanted to know more about it. As an armchair skeptic myself, the very word "programming" (of the brain) raised a warning flag in my mind. So...I decided to do a little research of my own, starting (and ending) with the Internet.

I was immediately appalled by the number of web sites on NLP that literally screamed "NEW AGE" and had all manner of paranormal, metaphysical, hypnotic, and psychic-type links attached. Then I found a page that had a long anti-religous dissertation, containing the theme of how NLP was the revolution that would replace organized religion, blah blah. I'm not in the least religious myself, but by now I had pretty-much nailed NLP as a non-scientific piece of claptrap.

The above web sites then prompted me to examine what skepticism had to say about NLP -- and that's when I discovered your essay.

Trying to be brief as possible here (it's hard, forgive me): I took the liberty of downloading your NLP essay and, since it was copyright, I didn't send it to the forum (a form of cyberspace 'publishing'), but instead, re-formatted it for simple email (editing out NOTHING). I then went on the EG and offered the essay (complete with your URL address at the end so anyone could access the original), just by having them say to me, "SEND IT." (I did this so that I could learn how many magicians would actually be interested in getting and READING the essay; just listing your web address alone on the EG would have told me nothing.).

Some 84 out of 700 magicians asked for the essay over a one-week period, and in a nutshell, this caused a small uproar of consternation among the few more vocal NLP converts on the magicians forum. One of the chaps most upset was an NLP lecturer with a set of tapes on neuo-linguistic programming; and so his vested financial interest in NLP was considerable. Others took me to task principally because the Wonder Words book worked well for them, making them better magic entertainers. A strangely myopic statement came from one requester of your essay: "I've tried the NLP techniques and since they work well for ME, nothing will change my mind!" - makes me almost wonder why they asked to see your essay in the first place!

The final 'straw' in all of this, was that the NLP lecturer with the tapes (filled with frustration over the skeptical point of view, I suppose) referred to skeptics carte blanche, as those "EVANGELICAL FUNDAMENTALIST SKEPTICS", and "fanatical zealots out to destroy"...and so on. Rather than make an intelligent and reasoned attempt to address the facts, all the fellow could do was engage in an emotionalized character assassination of the skeptical cause....

IN SUMMARY: I am writing you simply to say that even in a field where you'd think there'd be mostly (if not entirely) reasonably intelligent, free-thinking, scientifically literate people (as exemplified by James Randi, Martin Gardner , et al)...there are instead, a lot of people as gullible, self-serving, and scientifically-illiterate as any typical sampling of people among the general public.

By contrast, it seems to me, the skeptics' magazine/organizations would have the general public thinking that magicians are, in the main, pretty much aligned to the sensibilities and aims of skepticism. This is something of a misconception. Curiously, though, in defense of my profession, there WERE at least a half-dozen of the magicians (who asked for, and read your article) fully in support of your position on NLP. They KNEW it was bunk, from their own scientific training. But alas, though they were professional psychologists and/or medical practitioners of one sort or another, none would speak up on the forum. I became more-or-less a 'lone wolf' bellowing in the wilderness...

Thank you for reading this letter, and I especially thank you for writing such a great article critiquing "neuro-linguistic programming".
Larry Thornton

14 May 2000
A few months ago, I bought a book called, "Instant Rapport", which introduced me to the concept of NLP. What interested me in NLP was how people typically view the world through three of their senses, how you could tell which sense they often use through language and eye movements, and how this improves communication with others. Then I decided to search the 'Net for more info on NLP, and noticed that many sites talked about seminars and programs, but didn't go into detail unless you attended for some fee; also there were some claims of NLP that seemed too "New Agey". This immediately sent up a red flag, so I went here to find out more about the darker side of NLP. I'm glad I found out more about the whole picture of NLP before going in too far. Now my opinion on NLP is like my opinion on Myers-Briggs: sure, it helps in understanding yourself and others, and communicating with other people (especially when you bring up the method as a topic), but its more grandiose claims are bunk.

Wyatt Parkinson

15 Dec 1999 
I studied English Language and literature at college. I then enrolled on a correspondence course in neuroanatomy. I now work as a computer programmer and am currently implementing a neural network. I can assert that NLP has nothing to do with neuroanatomy, nothing to do with linguistics, and nothing to do with programming. I also suffer from manic depression with schizoid tendencies. The idea that NLP could treat schizophrenia is absurd. We do not understand schizophrenia (for what it's worth my pet theory is that it is not a mental disorder) but one of the effects is to inhibit the patient's sense of perspective when making logical deductions. "I am God. I know I am in a mental hospital. Therefore God must be insane ... " is a typical chain of reasoning. What we do know is that blockading dopamine receptors with specially designed drugs will inhibit the symptoms. It is a psychiatric condition not a psychological one, and it doesn't seem at all likely that a non-pharmacological therapy could possibly work.

Keep up the good work.
Malcolm Mclean

9 Dec 1999
I read your comments about NLP. There is much that you have written that is 100% on. There is a lot that you have written that is off. Way off. We tend to say that people all have different experiences. If that is so, and I believe that it is, then how can you expect one thing to be the correct thing for all. Everyone cannot say that their home address is 3285 Kinard Ave in Pensacola as I can. I could not say that was my address 50 years ago, 30 years ago, 10 years ago, and it might not be so in another 15 years. Fritz Pearls might have said that what you have written therefore is a bunch of Elephant S... because it only comes from the brain. If I want to say that I will get wet, which of the following will work? Stand in the shower-not if my shower is not connected. Go out in the rain-not if we are in the middle of a draught. Go to the beach-not if I am in the middle of a desert. Go to a restaurant and pour the water they give me over my head-not if I I am in the lost in a forest. Yet all of the above answers could be correct. Which one is scientifically correct if you do not know your location?

reply: If you are lost you should be asking a different question.

NLP understands that we are different, and therefore we have to do different things to help people to meet their needs "where they are." "The scientific theory" that you insist on says we are all at the same place. NLP goes to where the person is and then helps the person to get from there to where they want to go. NLP insists that nothing is a crazy as continuing on doing the same thing over and over again that has not worked before as most of the "proven therapies," by your standard, insist on doing. If you need surgery do you want a surgeon who says 90% have the part we operate at this spot, so we will cut you there, or would you want them to be flexible enough to use what will work for you, it is not scientific, but it is what you need. NLP meets the needs of those who need help not the PSEUDO SCIENTISTIFIC PHILOSOPHY that you insist on.

reply: Sounds like it's working for you! Hey, if it gets your elevator to the top floor, who am I to point out that I don't see the building.

12 Sep 1999
Thank you very much for the enlightening articles on Landmark Forum, LGAT, and NLP. I just met a woman over the phone tonight via a singles ad who claimed to have had her life turned around through an LEC experience. She continues to recruit for them two years after the encounter, has moved back in with her 82 year old father (I will now ask her if that was a result of her experience), and essentially resembled the rest of the ideological physiognomy outlined in your articles and links. Her vagueness about Landmark led me to seek enlightenment on the Web, which led me to your site.

After reading up on NLP, it occurs to me that the Suzuki Method of teaching violin and other musical instruments to masses of very young children who are not necessarily prodigies is an example of this kind of thinking. I understand now what it is about the Suzuki Method that disturbed me during the four years that my son was taking lessons. It was evident to me, at least, the Suzuki had a motivation to teach millions of children to play tiny violins: his father left him a violin factory after WWII and he needed to come up with some way to stimulate demand! The most common brand of violin played by these students is a Nagoya, which comes from Suzuki's factory.

Chomsky's theories of deep language structures in the brain are evoked by some Suzuki theorists as the reasoning behind the urgings that any child can learn the language of music as easily as a spoken and written language. While there is probably something to the belief that all children should be exposed to music in whatever form as early as possible, it is also probably a cruel joke to imply to gullible parents that their child possesses the talent to play the violin as well as the next kid. A high degree of skeleto-muscular- optical coordination is required, as well as the ability to discern small changes in pitch. In my experience -- I studied the piano for ten years as a child and teenager -- not every child can possess all these traits.

In addition, Suzuki enthuses that anything can be accomplished with enough love, including teaching a child to play like Fritz Kreisler. When my child wanted to stop playing or refused to practice -- he eventually quit the violin -- I felt like a total failure as a loving parent. Fortunately, he continues his musical training in other ways and has announced his intention to retry a stringed instrument, in this case the mandolin and the viola. But he really is talented musically, unlike other very unhappy looking children I have seen in Suzuki workshops and group lessons.

Thank you again for an enlightening website, which I shall refer to often and recommend to my friends who are mislead by all sorts of New Age nonsense from killer asteroid attacks to Wiccans. The article about LGAT made some things clearer for me about the joint motivational projects we are subjected to in the auto industry. And thanks for pointing me to Dave Barry's article about Tony Roberts(TM). The business about motivating large groups of people by spinning a prize wheel was totally on point from my experience at the quarterly Individual Quality Partnership meetings that the UAW and Daimler Chrysler Corporation subject us to. (I stopped going after the second one!) I laughed until I cried! 
Robert Glassman
Ypsilanti, MI

7 Sep 1999
Mr Carroll do you know that a good many of the so called facts on NLP are not true and if they decided to Bandler and Grinder could easily sue you for slander.

reply: Be specific, please.

You might consider changing the page or withdrawing it. My guess is that they do not know about your page.

reply: I'm always ready to change my mind.

First of all , Tony Robbins only got through practitioner training and is not a therapist in any state.

reply: Good. I never wrote otherwise.

He also denies any allegiance with NLP.

reply: Good. I stated that he does not claim to be doing NLP anymore.

Tsvi Kilstein who I know personally knows next to nothing about NLP. He took a modeling course from David Gordon with me at an NLP center. He must be part of that therapy mill that he refers to because. He is a Rabbi who works on middle eastern negotiations. He is a college professor. As far as I know he has no formal training in NLP.

reply: I assume you are referring to the quote from the Rabbi, featured at the top of the entry on NLP: If medical schools turned out doctors the way NLP mills turn out "therapists", people would die like flies. No other mention of the rabbi is made in the article, and since the Internet site from which this quote was taken has vanished, I'm removing the quote from the entry.

Richard Bandler and John Grinder founded NLP in an attempt to help psychology students who were unable to model Fritz Perls effectively. Bandler is a mathematician and John Grinder is a professor of Linguistics. They went on to model dozens of other people with respect to the excellent work they did . NLP is about modeling not therapy , therapists just happened to be the first group they modeled. Oh by the way Tsvi Kilstein showed up only for a couple of modeling sessions where David Gordon introduced him and he gave a report on his negotiations which were successful using the NLP modeling techniques.

reply: As I did not rely on Kilstein for anything more than a blurb, I cannot say that this information is of much interest to me.

One Thing I can say that I do not know of a single NLP center that has a program that says if you take one of their courses that you are a therapist.

reply: And I can say that I never said otherwise.

Some have state certification for hypnosis; however, therapy and who can be a therapist is controlled by the individual states in the United States. You claim your page is about critical thinking. I for one can not see any thing in your page that approaches thinking much less critical thinking. Get your facts correct before you print something. Your NLP page is a major fabrication of someone's imagination, not critical thinking

Tim Keating
Master Practitioner of NLP

I am not a therapist, nor do I claim to be.

reply: I can truthfully say that makes me very happy. (p.s. I'll bet you're not a lawyer, either.)

Rabbi Kilstein has seen this exchange. His comments are posted here.

Hi Bob. I am the infamous Rabbi Tsvi Kilstein whose comment about NLP you pulled from the site. I have a few thoughts on that. 

1. I believe my original quote on that was pulled from a discussion on alt.psychology.nlp.

2. I stand by that quote.

3. I was trained by Richard Bandler, John Grinder, Robert Dilts, David Gordon, and many other stars of NLP. I served as a co-trainer for NLP-International and led NLP trainings.

4. I am not a university professor but if there are any openings please let me know.

5. I have never been involved in Middle East negotiations but if there were any openings, again, I would be interested.

6. NLP is divided into groups of trainers who think that knowledge of a technique makes someone a therapist. Only training as a therapist makes one a therapist.

7. I have watched your site grow and it is very impressive. Keep up the good work.

I love being the recipient of ad hominem arguments. I guess I must have really hit home with that NLP quote.

Rabbi Tsvi Kilstein

17 Mar 1999
You have helped me enormously with your great site. Although already a critical thinker, the skeptic dictionary really left me astonished with its breadth of articles, and I have become a regular visitor to your site.

At the moment, I'm taking a course in ADR (Alternate Dispute Resolution) at a respectable college in Ontario. Last week, we had a guest speaker talking about the use of NLP as a negotiation and mediation tool. Never having heard of NLP and since the whole presentation left a rather bitter taste in my mouth, I decided to find out whether you had any relevant information.

Needless to say, your article on NLP expressed all the misgivings I had. I downloaded the article and will share it with the other students in my class. Hopefully, the NLP article will persuade some of them to visit your site.

Thank you for a great site.

Gratefully yours,
Louis Van Hout
Ontario, Canada

11 Dec 1997
I enjoyed the Skeptic's Dictionary very much. I'm putting together my own site on doublespeak and propaganda, and I'd like to point to your site, if you don't mind.

Re: NLP. Back when NLP was just Bandler and Grinder (the latter, a legit linguist, having since distanced himself from all things NLP), I believe it was just a combination of mainstream therapeutic theories and practices recognizable to any practitioner. Eclecticism was the rage then, and NLP was, I think, just a run-of-the-mill (if pretentious and overstated) eclectic psychotherapy framework. It seemed to draw an awful lot from rational-emotive therapy and other cognitive-behavioral techniques.

The basic idea was to induce changes in behavior by changing the client's language in various ways, supposedly freeing him from restrictive or ritualized thought patterns and therefore from inappropriate behaviors. This is an uncontroversial and even bland idea, but I think Bandler deliberately obscured that fact with pseudoscientific and New Agey gibberish designed to give NLP its own special, trademarkable, profitable mystique.

Later, NLP began pulling in ideas from all over the theoretical map, perhaps trying to become all things to all people and only succeeding in becoming, as you've seen, anything to anybody. Whatever-- for a time, Bandler and associates could charge top dollar for seminars and workshops, which was the whole point.

Thanks again for a great website.
Scott Burright

05 Jan 1998

I have taken the Persuation Engineering 3-day seminar in New York (I think in March, 1997). It was part of the NLP practitioners program (which I did not take), and it was coached by Richard Bandler (one of the co-developers of NLP, and the developer of DHE) and John LaVale.

The stiye of teaching included nested storytelling by Bandler (which is supposed to convey messages to the unconscious mind), and more "formal" teaching by LaVale with excercises.

The material focused on applying NLP skills to the sales environment. What I remember was the strong focus on creating rapport with the customer, either by mirroring his movements and his tone of voice and language, or creating it instantly, by going there before him

I also remember the idea of well posed questions about what the client values, needs; wants; should haves etc, and than replying with the information arranged in a specific order from most important to least important, while repeating the words which the client stressed. Also the idea of innoculating about buyers remourse in advance by repeating to him the critics he might here from others, or asking him to commit to send other clients.

There is also a book called Persuasion Engineering by the same people, which I bought and did not read yet, but it contains the content of the seminar.

All in all, I enjoyed the course, because of its almost "standup comedy" style, but since I am not in the sales business, I cannot really testify about the effectiveness of the sales methods, or compare it to other sales methods. I used the "rapport building" methods in social environments, and they do seem to be mostly effective.
Armin Shmilovici

07 Jan 1998
I have attended both the DHE and the NPE seminars and I can honestly say that I enjoyed just being in the environment with R.Bandler. He's brilliant. However if you are after personal improvment then I would recommend Tony Robbins who originally learned NLP from Bandler.

Have you read the books Unlimited Power by Tony Robbins or Frogs into Princes by Bandler & Grinder?
Pål W. Jota

reply: No, but they come highly recommended.

11 Dec 1997
I do not find your description [of NLP] as either fair, or informative in any way, especially the irrelevant association with firewalking.

reply: Thank you for sharing. I mention firewalking because in one of his many incarnations as a self-help guru, Tony Robbins (who used to promote firewalking) promoted NLP. Robbins is still promoting self-improvement. From what I can tell from his infomercials and interviews, he is teaching "communication skills".

"The map is not the territory" - one of the cornerstones of NLP, basically says that the model of the world should not be confused with the real world. Isn't that a philosophy any scientist would adapt?

reply: Not confusing the world and models of the world is not a philosophy, but a bit of caution that anyone doing philosophy must heed. It is hardly profound and it certainly is not a cornerstone of anything significant in philosophy.

NLP originated by trying to model the behavior of various peoples which are successful in their fields, beginning with the language patterns of the Hypnotist-Therapist Milton Erickson, and that is the source of the name.

reply: Is this the source of that writing correspondence course I took years ago which advised me to copy out word for word War and Peace? By mimicking the style of the great writers, I was promised I, too, could become a great writer. But don't tell me that you believe that if someone learned to parrot the speech of Bill Gates that person would become a billionaire?

There are many things to admire in Dr. Milton Erickson's life: determination, self-will, confidence, hard work, seeing physical disabilities as challenges rather than handicaps. But his language patterns are not where I would advise anyone to begin if they wanted to model their life after Dr. Erickson's. But then I am not a believer in hypnotherapy as a way to find deep truths hidden in the unconscious mind.

It originated in the middle seventies, and over the past 20 years, several of the "models of human perception" were modified, or replaced. Like scientific theories, they evolve. .Currently, NLP contains many working models (in the sense that they can be used to teach other people) to perform various mystical things on your list, like therapy, hypnosis, induced memories, psychic reading, etc. For each one of those activities, the explanation given is quite reasonable regarding why it should work.

reply: I don't know of anyone who considers therapy, hypnosis, and induced memories to be in the same class as psychic readings. What kind of modeling leads to treating these items together?

What makes NLP hard to validate in a scientific way is its recognition of the difference between different people, which in essence means that according to the person's behavior, he would be treated in a slightly different approach. It can be judged by the results, rather than by the theory. They claim very high success rates in helping people lose weight, or stop smoking. Unfortunately, even those claims are hard to validate scientifically (unless you can do it in a prison population). NLP relies *explicitly* on the placebo effect - if a person believes that a personal change is possible, then he will obtain it more easily than if he does not believe. So, the first step in a treatment, is usually to change the person's belief - i.e. to prepare a specially made placebo for him!

reply: I must be missing something here.

The most comforting aspects about NLP practicians is the belief that things should change fast - if a client did not get the change he was asking for within 1-3 sessions, than he should be left alone. Over the course of the years, because of legal and marketing considerations, many of the leading NLP practitioners decided to develop their private copyright brand name, e.g. DHE [Design Human Engineering™].

Armin Shmilovici

reply: I am sure our readers now have a much clearer understanding of NLP. Thank you.

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