Making Sense of Senses With NLP

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Dave Berman

The field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) began in the 1970’s, gaining its initial recognition for “Fast Phobia Relief.” Quite simply, people with phobias tend to create mental images that are life-size and otherwise realistic representations of their feared experience. When the attributes of the visualization are changed (for example, made smaller, black and white, run backwards and from a detached perspective), the conditioned response is interrupted and a more resourceful behavior can take its place. This can usually be accomplished in just one session, and sometimes in only a few minutes.

In NLP, these attributes are called submodalities and exist in each of the other primary sensory systems – auditory (hearing), kinesthetic (touch/feelings), gustatory (taste), and olfactory (smell). Senses play a powerful role in the way the brain subconsciously stores and accesses memories, beliefs, attitudes and feelings. You can probably think of a song that reminds you of a place and time, or an aroma that reminds you of a person.

Adjusting submodalities is like reorganizing your mental filing system and can rapidly create profound and lasting change in thinking, feeling and behavior. NLP successfully addresses phobias because the unwanted behavior occurs on the conscious level while being driven by subconscious sensory experiences below the level of awareness. There are many other ways the human body behaves or performs contrary to conscious intention or desire, which may be thought of as a guideline for the applicability of NLP: addiction and other unwanted habits; anxiety, trauma and stress; insomnia; sexual dysfunction; chronic fatigue and pain; and even allergies.

Last year while earning my NLP Practitioner Certification, my teacher helped me eliminate my food allergy to nuts. I’ve since used NLP on myself to break my long time pot smoking habit, without leaving behind cravings or withdrawal of any kind. Working in an office in Arcata (and sometimes via webcam on Skype or iChat), my clients have given up cigarettes, stopped biting fingernails, taken control of pain management, let go of self-defeating beliefs, learned more helpful patterns of self-talk and self-esteem, and accelerated learning.

Yes, NLP is good for more than just changing undesired behaviors and can be used to cultivate excellence in any field using the concept of modeling – if one person can learn to do something, then anyone can learn to do it. Often we are our own best teacher. One client came to me for help with her memory. We methodically sequenced a model of her sensory experiences in areas where her memory worked well. Using hypnotic language patterns to communicate with her subconscious, I was then able to teach her how to adjust her submodalities and apply her effective “memory strategy” to improve her learning abilities in subjects she found more challenging.

In addition to the senses, the success of NLP hinges on staying focused on the desired outcome. Just as with the Law of Attraction, NLP operates on the premise that what you keep your attention on is what you will get more of in life. The starting point for all NLP work is two questions: What do you want? and How will you know when you’ve got it? For the second question, specifically consider what evidence your senses will require as proof you’ve created your desired outcome. The more you can imagine these sensory criteria being satisfied, the more you will be able to manifest your desires with confidence.

NLP is a model of communication practiced in a modality we call coaching. As a whole, this approach differs greatly from traditional talk therapy in that NLP is basically “content free” and forward looking, rather than focusing on stories about the past in search of understanding causes. To the extent that NLP ever does explore the past, such as the traumatic origin of a phobia, the point is building an understanding of how beliefs perpetuating the behavior are currently structured (beliefs are not inherently true, they are just thoughts we think a lot).

We call this structure the “map” of an individual’s perception of reality, and we presuppose there is no absolutely correct reality so we may accept without judgment that everyone has their own unique map. It is the map that indicates which NLP techniques are right for each client’s situation. To learn more about how NLP can help you, please explore, attend one of my workshops at the Isis Osiris Healing Temple on April 18 or May 2, or call me for a free consultation at 707-845-3749.

UPDATE 4/2/11: This article has been published in the April/May Isis Scrolls magazine, widely available throughout northern CA and southern OR.

UPDATE 6/15/11: I’m deeply honored that this article has now also been republished in the Summer 2011 Newsletter (.pdf) of the North Coast Association of Mental Health Professionals.

UPDATE 8/15/11: Once again I’m proud to announce the honor of having this article republished, this time in the summer 2011 newsletter (.pdf) of The Emma Center, a volunteer organization in Arcata that “provides information, referrals, support and education on trauma and trauma-related conditions for women survivors of abuse and violence.”

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Dave Berman is a Life Coach and Certified Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). He offers private and confidential sessions in his Arcata, CA office and remotely via Skype. Learn more at or call (707) 845-3749 for a free consultation. Subscribe to future articles from Manifest Positivity:

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Posted 2/8/11


About the Author:

Dave Berman offers Life Coaching, Laughter Coaching, Laughnosis and Hypnotherapy. He earned a B.S. in Communication from Cornell University and has extensive experience as a public speaker and workshop facilitator. His book, "Laughter For the Health of It," co-written with Kelley T. Woods, is available here. For speaking or writing requests, or for a free coaching/hypnotherapy consultation, write to Dave, connect with manifest_positivity on Skype, or use the Viber app to call his mobile number from anywhere in the world +1 707-845-3749. Connect with Dave on Facebook, Twitter, or subscribe to future blog posts via RSS or by e-mail.
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