NEURO-SEMANTICS AND THERAPY
Our primary focus in Neuro-Semantics is on psychologically healthy people
and facilitating their ongoing development so that they can create the best
version of them and the best version of their families and organizations.
This focus led to all of the developments in Meta-Coaching (the 12 books in
that series) and in Self-Actualization Psychology (four books on this
subject). It has led to our focus in business on leadership,
self-actualizing business leaders (Unleashing Leadership); it has led to our
focus on politics- on developing self-actualizing politics and politicians
(Political Coaching). It has led to our focus on wealth creation
With all of this focus on people who are basically okay, what about those
who are not? What about those who need therapy- psychological healing?
What about those who are not only not-okay, but suffering on the inside
their mind-emotion system? Who are inwardly traumatized and who simply are
not psychologically healthy, but unwell?
This is actually where NLP began as it model the therapeutic skills of Fritz
Perls, then Virginia Satir, and then Milton Erickson. For that reason, NLP
was quickly and early mis-identified as a therapy, or a meta-therapy
discipline. Yet it is not. While the early developers modeled
psychotherapists, that was not their interest and it was not what they
actually created. Yes, they were fascinated by what those world-class
therapists were able to do and how they did it. Yet above and beyond the
content of therapy, they were interested in the process of communication and
change. Subsequently they created a Communication Model- the Meta-Model of
Neither Bandler nor Grinder were therapists, only Pucelik studied therapy
(Gestalt Therapy) at the University and only he continued doing what we
would recognize as "therapy" as he focused on drug and alcohol addictions
and ran (and still runs) recovery programs. And yet, in spite of that
history, NLP has numerous patterns that are recognized as therapy patterns
and for the first two decades, NLP mostly attracted therapists.
Accordingly, the majority of the early books on NLP applied NLP to therapy
and some of the early authors didn't differentiate what NLP is (i.e., a
Communication Model) and its application in psychotherapy.
My primary work in this area was the book I wrote on personality,
Personality Ordering and Disordering using NLP and Neuro-Semantics (2000) in
which I addressed the 14 personality disorders in the DSM IV. Collaborating
with me in that book was Bob Bodenhamer, Richard Bolstad, and Margot *.
Other books on psychotherapy was the second book on the Meta-States Model,
Dragon Slaying (1996/ 2000) and Games for Mastering Fear (20??) With Bob
Bodenhamer, also Mastering Stuttering and Blocking (20??) By Bob Bodenhamer,
now titled, In Their Voice. Later, The Crucible (200?).
Therapy- The Neuro-Semantic Approach
What is the approach that we, in Neuro-Semantics, take regarding therapeutic
work? How do we conceptualize therapy- what it is, how it works, who needs
it, the therapeutic change work, etc.?
What it is. "Therapy," by definition, refers to healing. So given that
we're talking about psycho-therapy, this kind of therapy focuses on healing
the mind, emotions, memories, and relational and social skills. Given that,
what is there about one's mind, emotions, memories, etc. that is "hurt"or
"sick" (toxic) and needs "healing?" How can our mind-body-emotion system be
hurt or get sick?
Using Carl Roger's definition of self-actualization provides what I consider
an excellent answer. He said that a self-actualizing person is a
fully-functioning person- fully functioning mentally, emotionally,
relationally, professionally, etc. So when that is not present, when one is
not fully well, then one is not-fully-functioning in those areas or
So what is hurt or damaged or not working the way it ought to work? Answer:
One's mental maps. The meanings that a person has constructed about things
are not the kind or quality of meanings that enables a person to function or
cope well in the world. What's wounded is one's understandings, beliefs,
decisions, identity, etc. How one thinks (cognitive processing style,
cognitive distortions) and what one things (erroneous understandings,
limiting beliefs, toxic decisions, false knowledge, etc.).
To have "hurting" emotions requires having a mis-match between what you
think, believe, and expect from what you are getting and living. If the
mental map is severely disconnected with the reality on the ground of one's
everyday experiences, then we experience what we call "the negative
emotions." These "negative" emotions (anger, fear, frustration, annoyance,
stress, upset, grief, sadness, depression, etc.) indicate a gap between
experience (territory) and mental model of the world (map). The larger the
gap between experience and expectation, the more we sense that our map of
the world is being violated. That's what gets hurt when we feel bad. We
feel disappointed or upset or disillusioned because reality felt far short
of our expectations.
Neuro-Semantically, these "negative" emotions provide tremendously important
information and are therefore highly significant and valuable. The negative
emotion of anger says that something of value in your mental map feels
violated. The negative emotion of sadness says that something of value in
your mental map feels lost. Fear says that something feels dangerous. To
the extent that this is true, and an accurate appraisal, that emotion
provides emotional energy to "stop, look, and listen" to make appropriate
change. This is the positive use of negative emotions.
Normally none of this does any semantic damage to us. In fact, it is the
natural and normal functioning of our emotions. But if we hate, reject, and
refuse the negative emotion- paradoxically it does not go away, but gets
stuck in us. Then we keep re-processing things over and over and keep
feeling worse and worse. This is the resentment (feeling the sentiment
repeatedly) process and thereby turns our energies against ourselves (hence,
it creates a "dragon" state). And if we do not use the negative emotional
energy for changing either our mental map about things and/or our skills in
handling the challenges of life (our coping skills), the "hurt" doesn't go
away, but keeps repeating. In this way we keep re-traumatizing ourselves
with limiting beliefs, inadequate coping skills, meta-stating of negative
emotions against ourselves ... and let that continue and it will distort
human thinking-emoting- and coping. And given that is how we "do"
personality, it will over time distort personality. It is in this way that
we create a strategy for misery- depression, anxiety, and all of the other
problems that call for therapy. While there is nothing wrong with the
person as a person- the person has come to so misuse his or her personality
powers and functions that the person now needs to stop the traumatizing and
heal the old traumas that are kept alive inside.
L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.
Neuro-Semantics Executive Director
P.O. Box 8
Clifton, CO. 81520 USA