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3. What are the roots of NLP ?

3.1. Fact sheet of a starting field

The people of the inner circle:
NLP was started by Richard Bandler (1949- ) and John Grinder (1940- ). The group expanded fast to include Judith Delosier (1946- ) (ex-wife of John), Lesly Cameron (1948- ) (ex-wife of Richard) and Robert Dilts (1955- ). Some other persons were also around, and many of them became trainers, but their contribution is not reflected in the author list of those writing the early books (e.g. Todd Epstein, who passed away in 1995 / Steve Andreas, who had been editing books even before NLP started and did some NLP books as well / David Gordon / Steve Gilligan / ...).

Their background:
Richard was interested by Computer Science and "studied" psychology. It is not clear if during the "NLP period" Richard was still working on his Master's degree, or already had obtained it and just was "hanging around" in Santa Cruz. Anyway, I heard from several sources that he didn't obtain his Ph.D from Santa Cruz... (but there is no agreement where he got it from???). John had studied Linguistics (up to Ph.D. level), and had written some books based on the work of Chomsky <LINK: more details about John's Background>. Judith studied Anthropology. Lesly was a psychotherapist. Robert was a student in psychology and various other subjects.

The environment:
The University of California, Santa Cruz, (75km's from San Francisco). Bandler started studying psychology here. Grinder was a associate professor in Linguistics at that time (he never got tenured as "full professor"). As far as I know, at least Robert, John and Judith still live in that area. It is still the location for the NLP University, where Judith & Robert teach each summer.

The period:
Bandler started collaborating with Grinder in 1972. The first publications appeared in 1975. The inner circle started falling apart in 1978, and closed their collaboration in 1981 with the publication of "N.L.P., volume I" (which was in fact Robert Dilt's Master's Thesis).

The original models:
Milton Erickson (The Father of Modern Hypnotherapy) was their first systematic modeling-subject, followed by Virginia Satir (The Mother of Family System Therapy). Bandler had transcribed a seminar with Fritz Perls (a leader in the Gestalt Therapy movement) before for Science and Behavior Books (by watching videotapes (or films?) and listening to audiotapes) - the resulting book is "The Gestalt approach & eye witness to Therapy".

The chronology of the first publications:

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3.2. Contribution from Tad James (just off the top of his head)

Most everything in NLP came from somewhere else. I think that the following is more or less correct:

Any definitive references to the early work that underlies NLP can be found in the bibliography to The Structure of Magic, Volume 1

You can contact Tad at CompuServe: 73160,352.

3.3. Some additions by the editor.

  1. Some early NLP-ers were also inspired by the books of Carlos Castaneda.
    I heard Judith Delosier referencing to "The teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui way of knowing" during a training on second position modeling (in Oct. '94).
  2. Another important influence was the person of Bateson (1904-1979).
    He was a mentor to John Grinder and Richard Bandler and was the one sending them to see Milton Erickson. He also wrote a foreword to one of the first NLP-books written by Bandler and Grinder.
  3. The work of Noam Chomsky on Universal and Transformational Grammars, on which Grinder wrote 2 books before meeting Bandler (John got his Ph.D. is this area of study). From this the concept of surface structure and deep structure and the transformations between both (generalization, specialization and distortion) has been borrowed and worked out in "The Structure of Magic", I & II.

Further reading on the quest for the roots:

  1. As a historian of Science: "The roots of Neuro-Linguistic Programming" by Robert Dilts (dating from 1976); "EEG and representational systems" (1977) and "Applications of NLP" (1978), written by the same author. These 3 texts, published by Meta Publications in 1983 (collected in a book) are a report of early scientific work and point out some of the roots, especially about eye movements.
  2. Out of curiosity: "The Wild Days: NLP 1972-1981" by Terrence L McClendon (Meta-Publications, 1989) is a light-hearted-guide to the development of the basic concepts of NLP.
  3. For serious study and as reference: "La PNL en Perspective" from Professor Monique Esser gives a complete picture of the epistemological, theoretical and methodological roots of the field of NLP. It was published in 1995 by Editions Labor. A pity the book is in French.
  4. As a modeler: a web page with some information on the background of John Grinder.
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3.4. What is new code NLP?

(Answer is a summary of the answer given by Judith Delozier in September'94)

Actually, the term should be "New coding", or as a synonym: "another description"

It was invented in '85 by Judi, Robert Dilts and John Grinder as a reaction the the perception at the time that NLP was a set of techniques. The question was: "What didn't we code yet?" (after "discovering" the metamodel, representational systems and submodalities, anchors and applying these representations to come up with techniques like 6-step reframing, ...) At the time people where thinking there was wisdom in the techniques, but wisdom is in the persons using the techniques.

The things that came out of the "new coding" period where perceptual positions (based on Bateson's quote "It takes two to know one.") and (neuro)logical levels (going back to logical levels in mathematics). "New coding" meant "applying perceptual positions and the logical levels to describe the "experience" of a person, and look what came out of it (what comes out of the tension?). A seminar where the term new code was introduced was also more based at the unconscious level than at the conscious level, since the conscious level was already studied (but this had nothing to do with "new coding").

Now, the focus of attention in NLP is moving towards relationship (systems thinking).


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This page last edited on 27 jul 2001 / Page assembled by
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