Neuro-linguistic programming could be used to treat some of the most common forms of psychological problems, viz., phobias and undesirable behavioural traits, including childhood social disorders, developmental problems, addiction, learning difficulties, hyperactivity and post-traumatic stress disorder

Speaking to people, or not speaking to people, for some reason, is all a question of your communication style. It is also a matter of knowing your approach.

If you know the real you, you can build the necessary bridges for not just better, but also effective communication, interaction and/or interface.

If not, how – you may well ask.

Wait a moment.

One way of achieving 'on-the-ball' personal, behavioural and communication skills is neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).

NLP relates to 'ordering' your thoughts, attitudes, feelings, behaviour and, most importantly, language.

It is just as much as responding effectively to other people, as much as understanding and respecting their views, opinions, interpretations and needs. Its goal – to give individuals a host of choices in their range of responses.

NLP practitioners believe that NLP teaching is based on a logical premise. That the unconscious mind as related to in Jungian psychology is far more powerful than the conscious mind, and that all of us already have, within us, the resources to achieving excellence.

Now, the basics. The 'neuro' part of NLP refers to the concept that all behaviour results in sensory stimuli – sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch and feeling.

This explains why NLP provides us the facility to getting in touch with the senses, and be able to 'read' thought processes in others through eye movements, subtle changes in breathing and skin tone, and language.

NLP also includes changing internal conflicts, negative thoughts and behaviour patterns for more positive states. 'Linguistic', of course, reflects how we use language to formulate our thoughts – to communicate with others our opinions, emotions and needs.

'Programming' explains how we organise our behaviour to produce results.

It goes without saying that what you say, or do, influences the other person.

NLP looks at and examines the entire system of feedback and response – behavioural and biological – occurring in our interaction between ourselves, other human beings, and also the environment.

Why? Because, all of us have internal 'feelings', and a sensory system, responsible for processing a set of characteristics, unique to each individual, about our immediate surroundings.

NLP behaviour is not just external, observable behaviour, like walking, but also activity in any sphere – from eye movement to hearing, or internal visualisation.

Example: you've barely moved out of the way of a high-speed truck, seconds before it might have mowed you down. In such an event, you'd probably experience the symptoms of mild clinical shock.

When you recount the story, similar symptoms may recur. However, the way you react to imagined, or remembered, events can be altered, from a negative to a positive experience, through NLP. That you did not get hurt is a positive outcome. Inference: all you need to do is dwell on the things that went wrong, but didn't – and allow the 'self-fulfilling prophecy syndrome' (negative images) to come and go out of action. You will quietly feel better.

It is possible you may also think of the same bad things to happen another time. But, if only you replace 'bad' memories with positive feelings/patterns, the self-fulfilling prophecy will work for – instead of against – you.

Though practice makes perfect, many of the techniques used in NLP may need professional support, or training. However, a few of them – and the most important – could be mastered, subject to one's own requirement, over time.

NLP is a composite theory based on the fact that each of us is unique, yet composed of similar physiological, biological, emotional, and spiritual, parts that are intrinsically linked to one another. In actual terms, it captures the language aspect, style, use of unspecified nouns, verbs, comparisons, judgments, generalisations, presuppositions, cause and effect, not to speak of intuition to 'read' a person – to the extent possible.

All you'd need to do is apply certain pointers, as cited elsewhere – to 'anchor' a positive feeling, such as confidence, by mentally 'living' your desired state, for better outcomes. One simple way to do this is to use your touch. Just press your finger and thumb together, where the feeling is most intense, to fire the 'anchor'.The feeling of self-belief will recur.

John Grinder, a professor of linguistics, and Richard Bandler, a specialist in information sciences, became fascinated with the question of how it was that certain individuals could claim apparent success while working with diverse systems of therapy. This led them to study ways in which these individuals worked; they also extracted successful elements from their techniques and 'moulded' them into a set of therapeutic models.

For this, they drew upon the ground swell of their research from various fields – family therapy, hypnotherapy, anthropology – and, supplemented them with their own proficiency, as also expertise, in linguistics, semantics and communication.

The body of research the duo built for NLP has a number of different components – each with its related curative techniques.

It seeks to explore the deeper meaning and significance of words people use.

In like manner, the subject's neurological components are also dealt with a view to represent one's physical, or internal, experiences from both verbal and visual parameters.

NLP also relates to body posture, movements, gestures and shrugs, including the manner in which individuals access and process information.

It is suggested that NLP could be used to treat some of the most common forms of psychological problems, viz., phobias and undesirable behavioural traits, including childhood social disorders, developmental problems, addiction, learning difficulties, hyperactivity, post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), relationship problems and sexual disorders, aside from allergy, anxiety and depression.

Nidamboor is a wellness physician, independent researcher and author

A version of this article appears in the print on October 21, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.