Is NLP pseudoscience?
What is Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)? It was born out of an attitude of curiosity. How do people who demonstrate excellence in anything do it? What are their skills and capabilities, what are the things that they value, and what is their hierarchy of values (priorities)? Are their beliefs (what they hold to be true for themselves) empowering them or are they limiting them?
Based on interviews of different successful people from different professions, Richard Bandler and John Grinder, the founders mapped some interesting set of patterns among them. And from it, a whole field of knowledge based on observation was born.
By one of its definitions by Robert Dilts, "NLP is the study of the structure of subjective experience". In simple terms, it means, each human being looks at the world in a different way. So how does NLP work?
Take dogs for example. Some people love them and some fear them. NLP deals with how these people process information subjectively. NLP doesn't prescribe how one should look at dogs, but if the fear of dogs is preventing a person from attaining a certain goal, it has several tools (patterns) that can help a willing person to overcome the fear.
Similarly, if you would like to learn how Walt Disney came out with such brilliant work, his patterns have been modelled into the Disney Strategy.
People who overcame phobias were modelled and the Fast Phobia Cure model (V-K dissociation model) is now one of the most powerful tools help people break their phobias. People who are in a stuck state like an addiction seem to have a stationary image of that state, while people who overcome addiction develop a way of visualizing outcomes that have many compelling images of other desired and empowering states. Neuro Lingusitic Programming techniques give us the mastery to change the internal imagery to bring that shift at the very deep unconscious level.
NLP started in the 1970s. Is NLP relevant today? To me NLP is timeless. It is a set of frameworks that focus on the "How" rather than the "Why". I look at it as a software upgrade for the mind. It helps us communicate better with self and others, helps us create more behavioural choices to attain our goals rather than getting stuck with just one pattern we're hard wired into, helps us to develop Emotional Intelligence and Mindfulness. It helps us learn better and teach better. Sportspeople can build the right attitude and train better as NLP is becoming an integral part of sports psychology. NLP tools are helping in leadership coaching more than ever before.
So while NLP was not born in a lab, it does confirm broadly to what we know in neuroscience. We can alter our thoughts and change the chemicals flowing inside. NLP patterns do create a change at the neuro synaptic level. The way we visualize pictures does change the emotional intensity of the memory. And so on.
Since all these changes are triggered linguistically it is also an art.