Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) can be described as a set of insights that enables adjustments to occur within the “programming” of our minds that allows different results to become manifest in our outlook and day to day behaviours. With change, our interaction in the world changes and the world responds accordingly.
One of those insights involves language that we use and how it influences and how our internal world is structured (or programmed). This internal structure determines how we go about our day to day life in our outer world. So it follows that by adjusting how we use language, changes will occur to our inner structure and this will result in changes in our day to day outer world.
We learn our language from our earliest moments on the planet. We learn that by crying we get attention. We learn that by smiling and “gooing” we get hugs and cuddles. Later we learn that specific sounds also get results. We learn that the sounds are called words. We learn that how we say the words and how we hold our body can vary the results we get. Most of this we learn by trial and error and based on what we experience from those around us; family, friends, peers, teachers, clergy and so on including TV, adverts and vid games.
What do you really understand about the language you use?
For instance do you know that your mind cannot understand a non-thing. A non-thing is the absence of anything and everything. This means that when we use negative language, the mind interprets first the opposite (the actual thing) and then negates it or removes it from the way it is represented in your mind, for example, as a picture, words or sensation.
So if we say “Don’t think of pink elephants” our mind immediately creates a representation of pink elephants, and then deletes it. Too late, pink elephants have been registered in your mind and recorded as an event somewhere in your unconscious.
What often happens when a parent says to their child “Don’t spill the milk”? The child’s mind first makes the representation of spilling the milk then ..… Whoops, too late the milk is split. Are you blaming the child? I hope you have found another path.
What can you do to make changes to your language?
Well, I like to have something that is fun when making a change. It will mean that there is a better chance of sticking with the task for as long as it takes.
What I created some years ago was a system based on the swear jar concept. I called it the ‘Don’t Should But Box’. I’ll discuss the words “Should” and “But” at some later time.
So what you do is get a large jar or cup and write “DON’T Penalty 50 cents” on it. Why a large jar? Well, it is because you will fill it quickly, especially if you play this ‘game’ with friends, work mates or family.
When you are caught using the word “Don’t” in your language, you must pay the penalty. Then you must restructure the language you have used to say what it is that you want to convey with “Don’t” excluded from the language. Best to say what you DO want instead, for example “Drink the milk at the table please.”
It sounds simple. Try it for a month, after all it’s simple to do, right? Also, “Do Not” = “Don’t” so find more creative alternatives for your sentence and focus on positive structures.
Also think about how you will be spending the “Don’t penalty” earnings – maybe a charity.
By doing this little exercise, you are retraining yourself to think in the positive rather than the negative. You will be thinking about what you DO want and so your thoughts and efforts are directionalised unconsciously to achieve them more effectively. If you want to challenge yourself more, extend this to include “Not” and all of its derivatives. You may also want to adjust the penalty amount to suit your budget.