Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a kind of “User’s Manual for the Brain”. In fact, NLP techniques can be very effective in changing the way you experience the world by transforming your thoughts and emotions about reality, to achieve a more balanced and beneficial mental state. Learning NLP techniques will allow you to effectively manage your emotions and change negative thought patterns that harm you or limit your development. It’s like “accessing” the brain and changing its programming.
What is NLP?
NLP attempts to understand how people organize their thoughts, feelings, language and behavior, providing a framework to achieve the results proposed in different areas of life.
According to NLP, we all have unique mental maps that are the result of the way we perceive and filter information through the senses. In NLP the most basic mental map is called “first access” and is formed by internal images, sounds, tactile awareness, internal sensations, tastes and smells as it is created primarily through the senses.
In a second moment we assign a personal meaning to those stimuli that we receive from the outside world. Thus we form a second mental map in which we assign words to internal images, sounds and feelings, tastes and smells. It’s the linguistic map.
Our behavior is the answer to both maps and the result of them. This means that we don’t just react to what is happening around us, but we react according to the meaning we attribute to the facts, which depends on many psychological factors, from our past experiences to our expectations or even our state of mind.
NLP techniques allow us to work internally, in this linguistic map, to change our behavior and the emotions generated by certain situations.
Effective NLP techniques to feel better and achieve balance
Have you ever been in a situation that made you feel bad? Maybe something turned you depressed or nervous, a pattern that repeats itself in certain situations. In those cases, when those feelings seem to be automatic and are triggered when certain circumstances converge, this NLP technique called dissociation can be very helpful.
Start by identifying the emotion you feel, it can be fear, anger, discomfort or sadness. Then imagine that you can float out of your body and look at yourself, observing the situation from the perspective of an outside observer. Notice how that emotion changes drastically.
This technique is even more powerful if after imagining that you have floated out of your body, you re-imagine that you have left that new body and you look at it from another perspective. It’s a double dissociation that will allow you take a great psychological distance from what happens and better manage the emotions you are experiencing.
2. Content reframing
When you’re immersed in a negative situation in which you feel powerless because you can’t change it, this technique will become your best ally. It’s about refocusing the negative situation to experience it in a more positive way.
Imagine, for example, that your relationship has come to an end. At the beginning it may seem terrible, but you can reconsider it. What are the benefits of being single? It’s about giving a new meaning to the break not focusing only on its negative aspects.
It’s normal that in certain situations we feel panicky or discouraged, but that only generates more difficulties, especially when you have no control over what happens. The best way to clear your mind and make more rational decisions is having a more complete vision, which implies being able to see also the positive.
Anchoring is one of the most used NLP techniques, and also one of the most effective. It’s about creating an association between a stimulus and a response through “anchors”. It is very useful when you have to face situations that stress you or generate negative emotions.
It’s about choosing the emotion you want to feel, like confidence, happiness, calm… and anchoring it to your body through a movement, such as squeezing a nail, pulling the earlobe or touching your knuckle.
You must start by bringing to your mind a situation in which you felt confident, empowered, happy or calm (the emotion you wish to anchor). Recreate that memory with all the details. While you relive that feeling, touch the part of your body where you will create the anchor. You must repeat that exercise several times, always remembering different situations that have generated the feeling you want to anchor.
With practice, when you’re in any situation that makes you feel bad, it will be enough to perform that simple physical gesture to activate the emotion to which you have associated it. In fact, it’s a very effective and powerful technique, although it requires constant work to anchor. The more you practice, the stronger the emotional response you activate.
This NLP technique is very effective in reducing or even eliminating the power of recurrent negative thoughts, or subtracting the emotional impact of both past events whose effects we continue to drag or future events that generate fear or anxiety. With this technique you don’t need to fight against those thoughts or emotions but you simply train your brain to respond in a different way generating a new line of thought or emotion.
First of all, you need to find the unwanted thought (activator), as well as the feeling it evokes. It also determines what the trigger is, for example, the image or situation that activates that negative thought. Then you must choose a replacement thought. What would you like to be thinking and feeling instead of getting stuck in negative thinking?
You also need to be certain that this unwanted thought doesn’t demand taking any action, it’s not a problem to be solved but simply an annoying idea generated from an irrational belief.
Then you must concentrate on creating a replacement image. Recreate it in great detail. In this way you won’t fight against thought or emotion but simply substitute them.
5. Emotional disc
This NLP technique, which is a visualization exercise, is very useful to free ourselves from the emotions that affect us, those that, however hard we try, stick to us, from sadness to anger or disappointment.
Choose one of the negative feelings that bother you. Ideally, you should start with a feeling that’s not very intense. As you practice you can start working with stronger emotions.
Concentrate to determine in which part of the body you experience this feeling. Note the end points and the direction of the feeling. Suppose the feeling begins at point A and ends at point B.
Now imagine that, as the sensation moves from A to B, in B it leaves your body and comes back through point A, forming a complete circle. Observe the speed with which the disc rotates as it forms, and imagine the color it acquires.
Next, visualize a hole in the middle of the disk and place an imaginary lever on it, hold one end with your hands. Move that lever so that the disc/feeling turns faster and faster. You can mentally count to three and push the lever forward, pulling the disc out of your body.
Keep holding it in front of you. Observe the circle, its speed and color. Now change that color to a nice one. Turn the lever very fast so that the end of the right hand now goes to the left hand and vice versa. And look at the disc. You’ll notice that the direction in which it moves has been inverted.
Now mentally count to three and pull the disk hard till your body. Immediately you will notice a sense of relief.