Other Stories

The Sense of a Goose

Next Autumn, when you see geese heading south for the winter, flying in a “V” formation, you might consider what science has discovered as to why they fly that way. As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds at least 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own.
People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going more quickly and easily, because they are travelling on the thrust of one another.
When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front.
If we have the sense of a goose, we will stay in formation with those people who are heading the same way we are.
When the head goose gets tired, it rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point.
It is sensible to take turns doing demanding jobs, whether with people or with geese flying south.
Geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
What message do we give when we honk from behind?
Finally – and this is important – when a goose gets sick or is wounded by gunshot, and falls out of the formation, two other geese fall out with that goose and follow it down to lend help and protection. They stay with the fallen goose until it is able to fly or until it dies; and only then do they launch out on their own, or with another formation to catch up with their own group.
If we have the sense of a goose, we will stand by each other like that.

Other Stories

Autistic Girl

You MEET people at their own level, just as you don’t discuss philosophy with a baby learning to talk . . . you make NOISES at the baby. Now there was an autistic child at Arizona State Hospital. $50,000 had been raised and the child had been sent to Chicago for very special care. And a lot of psychiatrists, psychoanalysts worked with the child until the $50,000 was gone and they sent her back completely unchanged. One of my patients was rather lonesome and she liked to be a do-gooder and she visited the Arizona State Hospital, saw that ten year old girl, and finally persuaded the authorities to let the girl go for a walk with her. And that girl went with her, grimacing, and mouthing sounds, and grunting, and twisting and acting very peculiar. And this patient decided to bring her to see me. She brought her in. She had told me first about the girl and I told her, Yes, I’d see the girl. I assured her I couldn’t take the girl as a patient but I’d see the girl once. And she brought the girl in, and introduced the girl to me and me to the girl. And the girl made a number of weird sounds and so I REPLIED with weird sounds, and we grunted and groaned and squeaked and squawked for about half an hour. And then the girl answered a few simple questions and very promptly returned to her autistic behavior. And we really had a good time squeaking and squawking and grunting and groaning at each other. And then she took the patient back to the hospital. In the ,night time she took the patient for a walk. She told me later, “that girl almost pulled my arm off, yanking me down the street, she wanted to see you. . . the one man who could really talk her language

Other Stories

A turn of the screw

There was an industrialist whose production line inexplicably breaks down, costing him millions per day. He finally tracks down an expert who takes out a screwdriver, turns one screw, and then – as the factory cranks back to life – presents a bill for £10,000.
Affronted, the factory owner demands an itemised version. The expert is happy to oblige: “For turning a screw: £1. For knowing which screw to turn: £9,999.”

Other Stories

Giving Blood

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at Stanford Hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease.
Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness.
The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying,”Yes, I’ll do it if it will save Liz.”
As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded.
He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?”
Being young, the boy had misunderstood the doctor. He thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood.

Other Stories

The Tower of Babel

After the great flood, the people of the world grew in number again and they all shared a single language.
After travelling, they came to the land of Shinar. And there, the leader of the people who was called Nimrod, decided to build a great tower that would reach high up into the sky – so high that its top would be in the heavens..
And God looked at the people and at the great tower that they were building and he said, “You are one people and you have one language, and you will be able to achieve whatever you put your mind to.”
So God decided to confound their speech – to confuse the tongues and the minds of the people. And the people became so confused by the multiple languages that they could no longer communicate easily with each other, and as a result they abandoned their efforts to build a great tower, and they abandoned many other things, too. They even began to forget that at one time, all people could communicate easily and that people can achieve whatever you put your mind to.
And much of communication turned out to babbling, little more than the sounds that a baby makes to pass time through the day. And so the tower that was never finished was called the Tower of Babel.
There are many stories of the Tower of Babel in different cultures, Indian, European, Hebrew. Perhaps one of the most interesting is the Kaballah story which tells us that …
… one third of the Tower builders were punished by being transformed into semi-demonic creatures and banished into three parallel dimensions, inhabited now by their descendants.
And when we see, hear, or feel the problems in our communication today, perhaps we are also living in three parallel dimensions.

Other Stories

The Little Boy

A six year old boy asked his mother, “What is NLP?”
His mother answered, “I’ll tell you in a moment, but first go and ask your grandfather how his arthritis is today?”
The little boy went over to his grandfather and asked the question and his grandfather replied, “oh it’s terrible, my legs and hands are very painful today. It’s very hard.” And as he spoke, the little boy saw his grandfather’s face grimace and wrinkle in pain.
So the little boy went back to his mother and asked again, “What is NLP?”
His mother said, “OK, I’ll tell you in a moment, but first go and ask your grandfather what is the funniest thing that you ever did.”
The little boy asked the grandfather and immediately his grandfather’s smile broke out into a big smile. “Oh that’s easy”, he said. “I remember when you and your brother decided to play as Santa Claus and you decided you needed snow. So you put white talcum powder all over the bathroom and made it completely white! That was so funny.” Grandfather looked so happy and then said, “Or maybe it was the time that you were singing in the street as we walked together and a stranger asked you to be quiet.” You turned to him and said “If you don’t like my singing, you can just stay at home. Oh yes, you were a funny little fellow. So grandfather continued smiling and laughing to himself and looked so happy and the little boy went back to his mother and asked again, “What is NLP?”
His mother replied, “That’s NLP – with just a few words, you completely changed how your grandfather felt.”

Blog Other

Reading Resources for Treating Addictions with NLP

This is a work-in-progress–an attempt to make a list and discussion of NLP resources for treating addictions. Please get in touch if you would like to suggest a useful resource.

  1. Decision Strategies: A major point in addictions recovery.
  2. Addiction – Some Notes
  3. NLP: The Quantum Leap (this is only the first couple of pages. The original appeared in NLP World).
Blog Other

Criticisms of Alcoholics Anonymous

When doing NLP work with people who have substance-abuse issues, particularly alcohol, there is almost invariably a mention of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). There is no doubt that AA has helped a lot of people, but it is not without its critics. One such article at does raise some interesting points and potential problems with AA. However, while I recommend this article, I do find that it is a little overly critical and unbalanced – please keep that in mind as you read!
For a slightly more balanced critique of Alcoholic Anonymous and some interesting insights into other treatments for addiction, have a look at Richard Bolstad’s article.
In another post, I have described the Brooklyn Program and the freely downloadable manual is a great resource for an NLP-based approach to addictions.
All of the above is not intended to be a criticism of AA, just information about the wider range of possibilities available for people with issues with alcohol or other substance abuse.

Blog Hypnosis Reviews

Review: Time Line Therapy and the Basis of Personality

Time Line Therapy and the Basis of Personality
by Tad James & Wyatt Woodsmall

I have long been a fan of Time Line Therapy and find it to be one of the most powerful techniques in the field of NLP. In this book from 1988, James and Wyatt give a very clear description of Time Line Therapy including how to elicit the Time Line, release a limiting decision or trauma, remove anxiety, or set a goal in the future Time Line. All of these are explained with clear language and easy-to-follow steps. For this alone, this book is well worth having, but it offers much much more.
In Section I, the authors explain the NLP Communication Model and the filters which we use as we process the world around us. At their best, these filters delete, distort, and generalize experience so that we can function effectively in the world. When they are optimal, they limit our options and cause problems in our lives. These filters are the substance of the NLP expression: The Map is Not the Territory. In other words, the way that we represent the world in our heads is not the same as the world itself.
The filters include: Metaprograms, Values, Beliefs, Attitudes, Memories and Decisions. The authors postulate that these form the basis of our personalities, and after the excellent description of Time Line Therapy in Section II, Section III explores Meta Programs in great detail and Section IV explores the formation, evolution, and changing of values.
The description of meta programs in Section III is divided into simple meta programs and complex meta programs. Simple meta programs are based on Jung’s work into human archetypes and also form the basis of the Myers Briggs personality testing system. These are Introvert/Extravert, Intuitor/Sensor, Thinker/Feeler, and Judger/Perceiver. In another post, I described the complex meta programs discussed in this book. Many different NLP trainers and researchers have explored a variety of Meta Programs, but the description and means of elicitation described in this book are among the best to be found.
Section IV is a very valuable discussion of Values. James and Woodsmall give a nice metaphor for values and beliefs. If beliefs are considered to be cups, then values can be considered to be the cup holders onto which they hook. In other words, beliefs are supported by values. The authors also make the suggestion that beliefs are generally conscious, whereas values are more embedded in the unconscious mind. In particular, core values can be completely invisible to the conscious mind unless we explicitly explore them in some way. Even more unconscious are meta programs which are the unconscious strategies by which we live our lives. This section also includes an excellent exercise for eliciting values and shows how the hierarchy/order of values can be changed by altering the submodalities.
The book finishes with a long transcript of a therapy session with a cocaine addict which illustrates many of the concepts of the book very well and shows how personality can potentially be changed in positive and practical ways in order to help people to live happier lives.
Much of the material in this book has found its way into NLP practitioner courses around the world, but returning to the original source is always valuable and highly recommended for anyone interested in either Time Line therapy or the nature of human personality.

Blog Reviews

Complex Meta Programs

I have always found Tad James to be one of the clearest writers in the field of NLP and recently I reread his wonderful book, Timeline Therapy and the Basis of Personality. In Chapter 14, he gives a fine description of what he calls complex meta programs. These are in addition to the four basic meta programs which emerged out of Jung’s work on human archetypes and which are used in the Myers Briggs personality testing system. Below, an elicitation question is given for each of the complex meta programs. Just using the questions on yourself or with other people is enough to help you understand how people work in different ways, but for fuller understanding of the ideas presented here, I highly recommend getting a copy of the original book. The questions here are phrased for the workplace, but you can easily tailor them into other areas of life.
Tad James believes that the four most important complex meta programs are:

  • Direction Filter (1)
  • Frame of Reference Sort (3)
  • Relationship Filter (12)
  • Attention Direction (16)

1. Direction Filter
“What do you want in a job?”
This expresses the type of motivation and could be Towards (moving towards desirable things like money), Away (moving away from undesirable things like poverty), or somewhere in between these extremes.
2. Modal Operator Filter (Reason Filter)
“Why did you choose your current job?”
Answers can reflect Possibility (they look for new opportunities), Necessity (they do what needs to be done), or Both.
3. Frame of Reference Filter
“How do you know when you’ve done a good job?”
Possibilities are Internal Frame of Reference, External Frame of Reference, Balanced, Internal with an External Check, and External with an Internal Check.
4. Convincer Representational Filter
“How do you know when someone else is good at what they do?”
Possibilities include See it, Hear it, Deal with them, and Read about it.
5. Convincer Demonstration Filter
“How does someone have to demonstrate competency to you before you’re convinced?”
Possibilities are Automatic, Number of Times, Period of Time, and Consistent.
6. Management Direction Filter
There are three questions which can determine how effective a person would be as a manager. As with all these questions, the original book offers much more information and is highly recommended.
a) Do you know what you need to do to increase your chances for success on a job?
b) Do you know what someone else needs to do to increase his/her chances?
c) Do you find it easy or not to easy to tell him/her?
Possibilities include:
Self & Others (answered yes, yes, yes)
Self Only
(answered yes, no, yes/no)
Others Only
(answered no, yes, yes/no)
Self but not Others (yes, yes, no)
7. Action Filter
“When you come into a situation, do you usually act quickly after sizing it up, or do you a detailed study of all the consequences and then act?” Possibilities for this filter are Active, Reflective, Both, or Inactive.
8. Affiliation Filter
“Tell me about a work situation in which you were the happiest (a one-time event).” The person is likely to be one of: Independent Player, Team Player, or Management Player.
9. The Work Preference Filter
This is best elicited through more general questions about a person’s previous experiences. It indicates a person’s preference for working with Things, Systems, or People.
10. Primary Interest Filter
“Tell me about your favourite restaurant.” People will talk about People, Place, Things, Activity, or Information.
11. Chunk Size Filter
“If we were going to do a project together, would you want to know the big picture first, or would you want to get the details of what we’re going to do first?”
You will generally find that people fall into one of Specific, Global, Specific to Global, or Global to Specific. Of course, people may change from one context of their life to another.
12. Relationship Filter (Matching/Mismatching)
“What is the relationship between what you are doing this year, and what you did last year?” A Matcher will tend to notice similarities. A Mismatcher will tend to notice differences.
13. Emotional Stress Filter
“Tell me about a work situation (a one-time event) that gave you trouble.”
Notice if the person is Dissociated (no access to Kinesthetic), Associated (access to Kinesthetic), or Choice (first accesses Kinesthetic and then comes out of the feelings).
14. Time Filter
This is usually best elicited by observation, but you could potentially use a question like “Do you have your attention on the Past, Present, or Future? Or are you not concerned with time (Atemporal)”
15. Modal Operator Sequence
This is how a person motivates himself/herself. This is best discovered by observing words used over time. Notice which modal operators they use including I can’t, I should, I have to, I mustn’t etc.
16. Attention Direction
There is no specific question – simply observe. Is the person paying more attention to Self or to Others.
17. Goal Filter
There is no specific question. Just look at the person’s goals and see if they are aiming for Perfection or for Optimization.
18. Comparison Filter
“How are you doing on your job? How do you know?”
e.g. Quantitative (numbers) vs. Qualitative (good, bad, etc.) vs. Nature of comparison (comparing to others, to self in past, etc.)
19. Knowledge Filter
“When you decide you can do something, from where do you get that knowledge?”
20. Completion Filter
“If we were going to do a project together, would you be more interested in the startup phase, where you were generating the energy for the BEGINNING of the project, or in the MIDDLE of the project, where you were involved in the maintenance of the project, or in the END, where you were involved in shutting it down?”
“Is there a part of the project that you’d rather not be involved in?”
21. Closure Filter
“Once you have started receiving information that has, for example, four steps, how important is it to you that you receive all four pieces?”


Have fun exploring these questions and meta programs with yourself and other people!