Programming and NLP (R11)

In a LinkedIn discussion on NLP, there’s a good article by Michael Hall alluding to the ‘problem’ of the word ‘programming’…

I wonder why it’s a problem… I can see that, to outsiders, there’s rather more than a suggestion that the word itself carries the notion of ‘brain-washing’—either, in the initial analysis,  that human-beings are ‘brain-washed’ or that NLPers do ‘brain-washing’ in order to achieve what they want. If that were true it would be a problem.

There’s a general simplistic assumption that ‘brain-washing’ is what the Russians and the Chinese do whereas we in the enlightened West believe in Freedom and Democracy and so on—but that’s a prime example of how we’ve been programmed: it’s a belief that doesn’t stand much analysis when the politicians as a matter of course engage in demolishing the function of intellect and clear thinking—they do not want us to see through them. When government makes decisions that no individual in their right mind would assent to that’s not democracy—it’s dictatorship. One simple contemporary example will do: at a time when coasts around the UK are threatened with severe & unprecedented flooding, in the name of ‘Austerity measures’ the government has seen fit to sack hundreds of people in the Environment Agency responsible for monitoring the effects of severe weather and taking measures against it. Like many other things done here in the name of ‘Austerity’, it’s unbelievable!

To bring it closer to home, what did you do in the recent regular bout of manic celebration? Did you waste money on sending Xmas cards? Did you sing a carol about God’s notional gift to the universe? Did you stay up all night to welcome something called a ‘New Year’? Do you go around wishing people a ‘Happy New Year’? That’s all the result of the way we’ve all been brain-washed or programmed. We are programmed to respond to whatever it suits the money-grubbers to present us with. Because I’ve not sent an Xmas card in fifty years and have dispensed with the e-box in the corner of the living-room that programs us into what to think, I am regarded as a crackpot or an old Scrooge. And that’s how anybody who kicks against programming is dealt with. Why is Noam Chomsky called ‘the great American crackpot’? Because he consistently and brilliantly challenges the way we are programmed and he does it in fine detail, in small chunk analysis.

Instead of NLPsychology, why don’t we call it NLPhilosophy or, more specifically, NLPhenomenology? Neuronal relationships in the brain set up patterns of behaviour which get expressed in language which in turn creates the world in which we imagine we live and presents us with a multitude of ‘seemings’, subjective constructions of ‘reality’ which we could freely choose to construct in a different, preferably more congruent, way. The underpinning philosophy of NLP is phenomenological.

What’s more it presents a challenge to a Platonic (large chunk) construction of ‘reality’ by its existential approach (small chunk). The challenge is to get people to understand for themselves how the Platonic western thinking mode has programmed us into thinking that abstractions (‘democracy’, ‘freedom’, ‘beauty’ and so on—nominalisations as we like to call them—the things you can’t put in a wheelbarrow) have some real meaning; at the large chunk level they have no meaning except as froth in the mouths of politicians.

We can choose to kick against the way we’ve been programmed or we can just cave in. Kicking against::Caving in—that’s a meta-program.

The most effective way to get out of having been programmed is, of course, to step up a level or two, to get to a meta-level where brain-washing can’t touch you. The meta-mirror process as originally taught to me consists of four stages (1 self, 2 other contemplating self,  3 meta-self, capable of assessing the relationship between 1 and 2, and 4 decision-maker). What if we add a fifth stage, as Robert Dilts once did in a session I attended, ‘hero’ or historical figure of some kind to contemplate 1-2-3-4, and a sixth stage, as it might be an admired thinker to do the same, and a seventh stage and so on until explorers find themselves in another galaxy looking down on 1-2-3-4 and everything in between?

This would be to get to a meta-level of the kind recommended long ago by the Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius who suggested going out into night dark and looking up at the stars to realise what a speck of dust you are in the universe. This you might carry around with you at 1 from now on. What difference would it make to the way you process things?

But we identify all too readily with the things of this world, here and now; we lose a sense of self when we identify with, for example, a football team, a political party, a religious system, a relationship, an exchange in LinkedIn…

We are asleep. We are machines—wind us up at birth and with luck or determination we keep going into old age. I observe that by the time most people get to my age they are unwinding considerably but, apart from creaking bones and ydslexsi typing skills (all the letters but in the wrong order) I remain intellectually and emotionally as I was at 15.


I still hoard yards of adolescent diaries. A few years ago I wondered what to do with them.

Recognising a meta-program I could make a decision about (somewhere between throwing away::hoarding), I decided to use the contents to write a novel. Extracts from the diary came to alternate with fragments of an unfinished SF story I was writing and a fantasy about my self as tramp figure. As a result of this process, what I found extraordinary was that, although they had been written across 45 years, the three strands that eventually made up the novel contained the same language format, the same image structure, the same ideas and conclusions. At the end of the novel, the three characters merged to become myself—it was parts work on a truly creative scale. This was one way in which I came to recognise and relish my own programming.

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