Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Positively swishing forward fast to desired energy

EoR has been aware of Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) for decades, but never really thought much of it other than some sort of wacky fringe mind programming cult. It has been brought to his attention, however, by the constant advertising from the local bonecracker who, regardless of his constant claims that the 'body has the power to heal' and chiropractic's miracle cures, still feels the need to pile on improbable therapy on top of improbable therapy, including trigger point therapy and kinesiology (the applied — fake — kind). Not only that, but his advertising also includes a Christian ichthos so, presumably, prayer helps as well. Now NLP is included in the package:

NLP life coach Terri Messenger said she offers NLP studied by Bandler & Professor Grinder to move people forward fast and effectively. "It's the study of human excellence and how people think on a neuro-synaptic level," she said. "It models Milton Erickson, Fritz Pearls [sic] and Virginia Satir. It is successeful in the fast phobia cure and swish pattern. These are some techniques used to beat depressive, anxious, fearful and addictive states. People can expect to reach desired states of energy, motivation and positivity very quickly."

Now, perhaps EoR is alone in seeing that as gibberish, but he'd never realised just how deeply mad NLP is. Even though its practitioners seem to be heavily skewed towards the holistic kind where the preference is for the deeply mad.

While there are seemingly millions of sites on the internet explaining NLP, Wikipedia provides a good single-source summary.

To sort out some of those names Ms Messenger rattles off: Bandler and Grinder were the originators of NLP back in the seventies. Fritz Perls was a gestalt therapist, and Virginia Satir was another therapist, both of whom inspired the creation of NLP. They were not, however, part of NLP.

NLP does not appear to have any sort of scientific validation of any kind. Instead, its practitioners seem to rely on the double edged sword of "it works for me" and "it can't be tested scientifically". Long term skeptics will recognise the cri de coeur favoured of homeopathic practitioners in the face of all evidence that their preferred form of magic is, in reality, a placebo.

Perhaps the single most telling condemnation of how brilliant NLP is in increasing energy, motivation and 'positivity' is the protracted and acrimonious breakup of Bandler and Grinder, and the subsequent court cases. If it doesn't work for the creators, what hope for the rest of the world?

Furthermore, like cults that break up into increasingly more isolated subcults, NLP has a plethora of forms. Wikipedia notes that you can become an NLP practitioner in Europe with only 2-3 days of training. For the truly dedicated, those prepared to devote themselves longterm to the hard slog, you can become a professional in a wearying 35-40 days. In Australia, the average seems to be around a week to become a fully qualified practitioner, though you could opt for the incredibly lengthier 13 day training course (though that does, of course, give you "3 international certificates"). That last site offers scientific proof of all the claimed miracles that NLP delivers ("Click here to find out what the latest research has shown about NLP Practitioner Training in Australia"). Unfortunately, that link only takes you to a solitary recommendation from a fellow coach.

I know all this to be true because I've worked with Wilbert before on various projects and I've also had him as my coach...and he's brilliant! One of the best.

In the context of "lastest research" it's worth less than nothing.

But what is that bizarre 'swish pattern'? Apparently it is

The process of taking a behaviour or state and changing the submodalities to enhance a new behaviour or state, sometimes accompanied by a noise like swwwwishhhh at the time of changing them.

It involves two (imaginary) pictures, one showing the desired behaviour and one the negative behaviour which are swapped around faster and faster — the 'swishing'. It basically seems to be a method of distracting yourself from an unwanted or negative behaviour. Whether it works or not is another question. But if the next public speaker you see stands on stage sweating nervously, and making 'swish' noises over and over, at least now you'll know why.

What's that noise? Swwwwiiiissshhhh.... Oh, it's the sound of evidence disappearing...


  1. Oh, how I hate 'neuro-linguistic programming'. Not the least reason is that they use the acronym NLP, which causes confusion with 'natural language processing', an empirical field of study.

  2. And, for something completely different (yet still Perth-based), be watching SBS at 8:30pm Tuesday, Nov 30.

  3. Thank You EoR
    We have arrived!!! All greaat thinkers of the past (Edison,Kettering,O'Connor,Gallileo.......and yes even Bandler and Grindler et al)have all been branded mad, wacky, charletans, frauds and many other derogatory names, mostly by people with a vested interest in the status quo or as Eor's picture aptly shows him with his head buried in the sand. We are greatly honoured to have you put us in the same league as these great thinkers.
    Thank You again.
    P.S. When you point a finger, you have three fingers pointing back at you.

  4. Buried? Sand? Which blog are you looking at? EoR's head is neither buried, nor is there any sand visible. Are you viewing the image's aura?

    Once again: The Galileo Gambit.


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