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How To Discover Your Unconscious Programming With NLP

8 Nov 2017

How To Discover Your Unconscious Programming With NLP

Sinister Programming?

When I first learnt NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) I was constantly asked, “Why is it called ‘programming’ – it sounds so sinister!?” At that time (early 90’s) people associated programming only with computers.

One of the co-developers of NLP – John Grinder – defined Neuro-Linguistic Programming as ‘the science of human excellence’.’ Together with Richard Bandler, the two set out to determine how people achieved success. Examining success was a radically different approach, as most researchers in the mid-1970’’s were investigating how people became ‘broken’ or unable to function.


The NLP founders discovered the components that determined how people could successfully overcome severe illness, recover from phobias, and how people excelled in their chosen fields. In the process, they also noticed how people were successful in generating anxiety, phobias, nervousness, unhappiness, procrastination, lack of motivation etc., In other words, how people had been programmed or had programmed themselves negatively.

Unintentional terminology

The term Neuro Linguistic Programming came about when Richard Bandler was pulled over by a Traffic Officer in the USA. He explains that he had a whole lot of books on the floor of his car. When the traffic officer asked him what he did for a living he glanced at the books and took a part of each of the 3 books to describe his vocation. He explains that one was a neurology book, one was John Grinder’s linguistic book and one was a computer programming manual. Regardless of how it came about, it’s pretty aptly named.

A ‘programme’ in NLP is merely a series of steps that lead to an outcome

Let’’s use the analogy of creating and saving a document on your computer to illustrate this:
There are a series of steps you would take to make this happen. The critical steps would be:

  1. Turn on the computer.
  2. Find the word processing application you want and open it.
  3. Select ‘’new document.’’
  4. Key in information.
  5. Save it with a logical title.
  6. Save it somewhere so you can find it again.
If it looks too simple, try doing things in a different order!

Creating a document is simple – once you know how to do it. But, if you change the order of those steps – let’s say you did step 4, (key in information) before step 3 (select ‘new document’) – you wouldn’’t achieve the outcome.

If you don’’t do step 5 and save it with a logical title, you might never find it again. And if you don’’t do step 6 and save it where you can find it, all your time will have been wasted – or you’’ll waste time in future trying to find it again. So each step is vital to achieving the outcome. So how does this computer analogy relate to people?

We’ have all received ‘programming

Throughout our lives, we’’ve been programmed by parents, teachers, religion, the media, peers and of course by ourselves. There’’s nothing necessarily sinister about this; it’’s just the way life is.

As children, we learn programmes from our parents, either by being taught or by just absorbing and copying behaviours, such as learning to walk. School installs further programmes; addition, subtraction, multiplication and spelling programmes for example.

Newspapers, what we read on the internet, TV and other media provide us with additional programming. And as we experience this programming we form opinions and beliefs about life in general.

Once learned, a programme becomes automatic

Most often this is extremely useful. Let’s face it if you didn’’t have a consistent, automatic programme for cleaning your teeth you would have to relearn the ‘’cleaning your teeth’’ programme every day. You wouldn’’t have time to learn anything new because you’’d be relearning everything from the day before!

As well as the teeth cleaning programme, you probably have a ‘’tying your shoelaces’ programme’, a ‘’having a shower’’ programme and a ‘’locking the door’’ programme. You’’ve been running these for years and are particularly skilled in performing these activities. So by now, the chances are they’’ve become unconscious. You can have a shower and sing, tie your shoelaces while talking, and lock the door while carrying a heavy bag.

You know they’re unconscious when you forget you did them!

The teeth cleaning, shoelace tying and locking the door programmes are useful and no longer require conscious thought. Sometimes they are so unconscious you might wonder whether you’’ve done them at all. If you have ever gone back to check that you locked the door because you didn’’t remember doing it, you’’ll understand what I mean!

The anxious, nervous or unhappy programmes

You might have other unconscious programmes running that are not very useful at all. Sometimes, you might have a programme running that results in you feeling anxious, nervous or unhappy.

People don’’t deliberately set out to make themselves anxious

They’ve run the programmes so often that they’’re not even aware that they’’re in the middle of one. They might only be aware that they don’’t feel right. The reason people find it difficult to change these harmful programmes and behaviours is that they are automatic. The person no longer knows, consciously how they do them.

Mental programmes involve pictures, sounds, feelings, talking to yourself and sometimes tastes and smells as well as specific behaviours. One of the roles of an NLP Practitioner is to discover, or unravel how someone has unintentionally programmed themselves to be, say, anxious, in certain circumstances and to facilitate changing this.

How do they do this?

An NLP Practitioner will ask lots of questions and notice where your eyes move as you respond. (See the NLP Eye Accessing eBook you got when you subscribed to this newsletter)

They also pay attention to how you move, any gestures you make (Neuro) and the language you use (linguistic). They aim to discover your current (unhelpful) programming. By doing so that they can figure how and where to change it, so you achieve better outcomes.

However, there are some things you can do on your own to change any unwanted programming you might have. We all have some – so don’’t think you’’re the only one! Many of my blog articles are about empowering you to make your own changes.

NLP will give you the tools to change, giving you back the conscious control you need to change any unhelpful programming, so you feel better and achieve your goals.

  • We all run automatic programmes for the activities we do every day.
  • Mostly these programmes are useful and save us time and energy.
  • Sometimes our automatic programmes prevent us being happy, or from reaching our goals.
  • Programming can be changed to achieve better outcomes.

Listen to the interview I did in February 2013, to find out more about how NLP works.

Read more articles about NLP

Attend an NLP Training Course