History of NLP

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History of NLP

History of NLP

These days NLP is the buzz word in the corporates, amongst students, homemakers, Leadership Coaches, Life Coaches, etc.  Hence, many people are curious to know, about the history of NLP, how did NLP start, who created NLP and what is NLP.  Short for Neuro-linguistic programming, NLP is an approach that helps you become the person you want to be by changing ‘how’ you think. Once you learn how you can think better, you can significantly improve many aspects of your life – that too almost instantly!

  • Neuro refers to the mental pathways of our brain that we use to experience life.
  • Linguistic refers to a person’s language – both verbal and non-verbal.
  • Programming suggests that we can reprogram our mental state by changing the language we use and by changing how we recollect an experience.

NLP has been used to increase motivation, change feelings, build rapport, eliminating unwanted habits, improve self-esteem, etc. NLP can help you become the person you want to be.

NLP is applied in various fields like business, education, health and wellness, therapy, etc.  Let’s look at history of NLP, how did NLP start, and who created NLP.

History of NLP and creators of NLP

Richard Bandler was a student of Mathematics and Computers at the University of California. Bandler recognized that he was good at modeling when he was transcribing Fritz Perls’ manuscripts and transcripts on Gestalt therapy (1973). Bandler began using Gestalt techniques. Along with Frank Pucelik, he started running Gestalt therapy group sessions at the university and got very good at Gestalt.  That is where the history of NLP began. A critical element of history of NLP, how did NLP start, and who created NLP is Frank Pucelik, who in NLP circles is known as the third co-founder of NLP, however, does not get the right credit and mention in some sites who write about NLP, as they probably don’t know about the history of NLP, how did NLP start, who created NLP, and the development of NLP.

Dr. John Grinder was the professor of Linguistics at the university and had published several books on ‘Transformational grammar’. John Grinder was invited to the Gestalt sessions run by Bandler where Grinder explained many questions Bandler had on why certain techniques worked, using transformational grammar. They together created a weekly group where the focus was ‘use of language as an agent of change’. Bandler theorized that the human mind functions like a computer; clear and unambiguous input would create the expected output. He realized that if positive behavior is broken down into unambiguous components, people can easily and quickly model it. To this, John brought in the transformative power of linguistics. From ‘Transformational grammar’ came the understanding of ‘surface and deep structure statements’ that transform the meaning and impact of information in the brain.

Bandler and Grinder got introduced to Milton Erikson who had developed a model of conversational hypnosis, known as Eriksonian Hypnosis. Eriksonian hypnosis was a proven model recognized by the American Medical Association. (Since the 1950s, hypnosis has been used as a healing tool after surgery.) Erikson was a master of hypnotic suggestions and widely acclaimed for his successes with his patients. As Bandler and Grinder modeled Erikson, they realized they were able to get similar successful results. Many NLP techniques are modeled on Eriksonian hypnosis.

Bandler and Grinder also worked with Virginia Satir (world-renowned family therapist). Bandler identified the patterns used by Virginia and understood why she was so successful in her work. From all this work of Gestalt, Ericksonian Hypnosis, and Virginia’s work, Bandler and Grinder devised the model that explained how people get ‘programmed’ by languages which then result in regular and systematic behaviors and psychosomatic effects. The model also explained ‘how’ to create lasting positive psychological improvement. NLP was born.

NLP later grew to incorporate concepts from other disciplines like cybernetics (the scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine), cognitive psychology, psychology, studies of ‘unconscious’ mind, philosophy and neurology.

Beyond NLP – Meta NLP

Classic NLP was what Richard Bandler and John Grinder created, along with many other co-developers of NLP (Robert Dilts, Christina Hall, Steve and Connie, Leslie Bandler,  Judith De-Lozier etc).  During 1980, and end of 80s there was lot of infighting among NLP trainers due to various reasons, but what stood the test of time was the spirit of NLP, and that makes History of NLP and What is NLP even more attractive in present times.  Michael Hall who studied classic NLP with Richard Bandler, later on co-founded Neuro-Semantics (Meta NLP), where he brought in the missing links of NLP, the real history and work done prior to NLP, and what made NLP come together, as a result of Human Potential Movement.  How is Neuro-Semantics different from NLP, is something which is doing the rounds in the NLP World these days. Meta NLP is the latest code of NLP, which has been continuously improved by Michael Hall, and his team to bring in the latest tools, techniques, patterns, and models of NLP.

Why NLP going beyond history of NLP

NLP is a practical model that focuses on recognizing excellence in someone, identifying its elements and installing the elements in a person’s mind so that the person can exhibit the same level of excellence as the source. NLP focuses on a person’s subjective experience and how excellence can be melded into it. NLP has been defined as ‘Study of the Structure of Subjective Experience’ by Robert Dilts, a co-developer of NLP. Dilts especially focused on emulating excellence. He has written many books and articles on “The strategies of genius”, “Modeling using NLP”, and many other modern day applications of NLP.  This is a critical element of history of NLP, and What is NLP.

As you do more deeper into the history of NLP and what is NLP, you will notice that NLP is experiential – i.e. NLP gives importance to modeling, experimenting and testing rather than theorizing. NLP classes are always hands-on; people are called upon to try different patterns to see which works for them.  These mental exercises will help you understand how your brain thinks and stores information. NLP will invite you to experiment with your feelings and experiences. This will help you understand your patterns and processes. The more attuned you become to your unique mind-body-nervous system connection, more easily will you be able to implement the techniques to take control of these processes. If we are unaware of these mechanisms, they control us.

In the present context of NLP, many NLP trainers are not even aware of the history of NLP, and at times about What is NLP as well.  That is due to the courses facilitated by NLP Trainers who don’t have the required knowledge of NLP, nor information about the history of NLP, and are training others on NLP. It is imperative that one learns pure NLP, from authentic NLP trainers, reads NLP FAQs and get the best out of an NLP Practitioner Program.

NLP is more applied in nature these days, where trainers and coaches, are exploring other benefits of NLP in the personal and professional lives of people.  If you are contemplating to attend an NLP training in India, then to know about the history of NLP helps, as it helps to know where the trainer that you are going to work with has learnt his/her NLP from.


Do you want to be a better communicator? NLP gives you a model you can start applying immediately.

Do you want to be a superstar salesman who is loved by the clients? Learn how you can quickly create a rapport using NLP.

Does your child have trouble spelling? NLP has identified the structure of excellent spellers that you can get your child to easily model.

Do you have a fear you want to overcome? NLP can help you with it. The result is almost instant.

Closing thoughts on history of NLP, how did NLP start, and who created NLP:  NLP is about becoming aware, choosing your goal and achieving it by consciously modeling excellence in your thoughts, emotions, and lives. The best part about NLP is that as a coach you don’t have to think about the history of NLP, how did NLP start, who create NLP or what is NLP, you learn how to use NLP, and as a result, you can see the changes almost immediately.  As mentioned by one of the top developers of NLP while speaking about NLP, “One question that many people ask in my class is, “What happens if the old fears/thoughts/tendencies return? My answer remains the same – in the off-chance that the change is reversed, just do the technique again to change the pattern. Whether the change lasted 1 day or 1 hour, once you know how to make the change you can make the change again and again. NLP does not give you a fish; It teaches you how to fish.

Welcome to the world of NLP. Welcome to the new you.

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