“Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.”
“A family is as sick as its secrets.”
Behind and within every new development
Whether in politics, psychology, physics, etc.—there is a story—stories— and within them are secrets.
Typically these stories are based partly on some facts of history and partly on wishful thinking. So it is with the NLP story. Whatever story you’ve heard, it’s inevitable that a great deal of that story is made up of exciting, strange, and untrue fictions. That was true of most of the stories I heard when I entered into NLP. And that’s all too common for received stories, stripped of critical details, and pulled out of historical contexts. Why would anyone do that? Probably as memorable selling points to boost someone’s ego.
I have written this to tell the NLP secrets that I’ve heard and discovered.
My goal is to tell the all too human story of NLP—a story mostly untold and unknown. The stories that have been told have a lot of spin in. Now given that the history is what it is, my intention is not to change it or fit it into a preformed template. Nor do I want to be an apologist for a person, group, or idea. Instead my intention is to report as cleanly as possible so we can understand and learn from that history. Nor am I under any illusion that the stories in this book tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” In NLP we know better than that! Our stories of what happened are constructs of fallible memories. Yet I believe that these stories do tell the basic story, and the many sub-stories, as well as possible— given the current data available at the time of this writing.
Where do the facts come from?
The stories I have put together come from multiple perspectives and often are fragmented pictures of what really happened. You will find, as I found, that there are still many gaps and unexplained events. I have taken an investigative reporting approach to tell, as best as I can, the stories that define NLP. I have also attempted to document them with facts, dates, quotes, and statements from the original players. Some of it is based on my personal experience with many of the key players. Some of it is based on my research into the writings of the field. And where there’s no documentation or evidence, some is based on guesswork.
In my early years in NLP
That’s where I focused exclusively on learning to develop my communication skills. I did not pay that much attention to what was going on around me in the field. I would have paid much closer attention if I thought I would one day write about that history!
Why write about the NLP stories?
Primarily to understand where we came from and the factors that have influenced and contributed to our current state. Without learning from history, we are far more likely to mindlessly repeat it. Further, by embracing our history, rather than sweeping it under the carpet, we can prevent ourselves, our field, and our community from becoming sick. Hence, Virginia Satir’s comment quoted in the opening of this Preface: “A family is as sick as its secrets.”
Now while understanding our stories exposes and frees us from its mythologies, typically it upsets those who have vested interests in spinning history in a certain way. Given the breakups and splits, mythologies arose early in NLP as each party told stories to validate its claims.
There’s another reason to research and write history.
In systems, “sensitivity to initial conditions” plays an incredibly formative role for later developments. This is especially true of human systems. Some of the divisive fruits which NLP reaped in the 1980s and 90s and into the twenty-first century, are the results of what happened in the 1970s.
Meteorologist Lorenz (1963) describes this sensitivity in his work on weather systems. He found that even the most minute changes in the initial conditions of a weather system tend to amplify over time. This is the famous “butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world influences the weather in another part.” As you will discover, many of the initial conditions of NLP, are still influencing us today.
What You Will Find in NLP Secrets?
You will discover that NLP was created by and in a community. Two men took exclusive credit for it and that disguised the secret … until now. Hence you will discover that NLP has evolved over the decades to become so much more today than what it was at the beginning. It began as a rebellious iconoclastic model and over the years became a well-researched communication model. It began as a California-style new-age free-wheeling adventure with Gestalt and grew to become a worldwide movement highlighting a professional communication model.
1. Accidents That Started It All (1971-1972) 11
2. Mimicking a Master (1972-1973) 22
3. Then Came the Experiments (1972-1975) 32
4. The Experimenters’ Exemplars (1972–1976) 45
5. Exemplar’s Contributions 58
6. On the Shoulders of the Giants (1933– 1976) 77
7. The Delivery was a Success: NLP’s Birthday (1976) 89
8. The Un-Acknowledged Giants (1933– 1976) 108
9. Established Dis-Unified (1975– 1980) 122
10. Murder She Wrote (1986- 1987) 138
11. NLP Goes International (1986– 1996) 147
12. The Fight Over Ownership (1995-2000) 158
13. The Period of Expansion (The 1990s) 165
14. Expanding by Modeling (1990 — 2018) 176
15. Walking on the Weird-Side 184
16. Forging into the 21st Century (2000– 2018) 191
17. The Next Big Secret 201