NLP II: The Next Generation
Enriching the Study of the Structure of Subjective Experience
by Robert Dilts and Judith DeLozier with Deborah Bacon Dilts
It has been a long time since NLP Volume 1 was published back in 1980 with its wonderful subtitle: the study of the structure of subjective experience. That’s 30 years in the development of NLP. Volume 1 is still one of the most prized NLP books that I have on my shelves and is the one that I took to have signed by the authors, Robert Dilts and Judith DeLozier, when I trained with them in Santa Cruz. The original volume was also authored by the two founders of NLP, John Grinder and Richard Bandler, and their absence from Volume II is as good a sign as any of the fragmentation that has taken place in the field of NLP since its founding. More than almost anyone else in the field, however, Robert Dilts has tried to keep the field of NLP coherent and up-to-date through his work at NLPU and his constant development and refinement of traditional NLP processes.
However, there is also no doubt that the absence of Grinder and Bandler is significant. As far as I understand, since the development of New Code Grinder has placed the primary focus of NLP on modelling, particularly on unconscious modelling, and Bandler has led NLP and other techologies such as DHE much much deeper into hypnosis and into the use of submodalities at a very rich level. I am sure that others may have a better understanding than me of the current work of Grinder and Bandler, but what is clear is that NLP Volume II is the fullest statement and development of Robert Dilts’ and also Judith DeLozier’s ideas to date.
Dilts and DeLozier worked together on the Encylopedia of Sytemic NLP and NLP New Coding and after all the time and development on this project and others such as the trainings at NLPU, they note that
… the time had come to finally complete our commitment to a second volume. In our view, there was clearly something new to say. This book NLP II: The Next Generation is a result of that decision.
I have read a lot of Robert Dilts’ books recently and I have found this one to be among the best, certainly the most completete statement of his thinking especially his conception of NLP as focusing on three minds: cognitive, somatic, and field. His ability to generate models and back them up with processes is superb, and in this book he and the other authors have presented the broadest, most systemic, and possibly most explanatory view of NLP–one that could possibly eventually become the most influential model in the field of NLP, the study of the structure of subjective experience.
Chapter 1 of the book examines the cognitive mind, in particular the new ways of thinking about the structure of subjective experience that have been elaborated since the first volume in 1980. These include Timelines, Perceptual Positions, and probably the best explanation to date of Dilts’ Neurological Levels model. However, what really stands out in Chapter 1 is the so-called Unified Field Model. This is a superb achievement in creating a powerful model which unifies different aspects of NLP such as timelines, perceptual positions, neurological levels, and metaprograms. Just these 28 pages which describe this model in detail would make the cost of this whole book worthwhile. The Unified Field Theory provides a way of understanding many older processes in NLP such as Change Personal History, New Behaviour Generator, and Reimprinting. It’s not necessary to know about this new theory to make the old processes work–it simply creates a much better understanding of exactly what is happening in the client’s subjective reality. The authors also call this model (or the total spaces in time and perspective that the model covers) the NLP Jungle Gym, and this is an apt name because it provides a remarkable three-dimensional virtual space in which a huge number of perspectives can be taken on any situation. The core presupposition of NLP is that the map is not the territory, and the NLP Jungle Gym provides us with one of the richest sets of maps that has yet been made available. This map is also shown to be highly useful in Generative NLP, where instead of the traditional approach of helping someone to solve a problematic issue, the NLP practitioner helps someone to really enrich something that they are already doing well.
Chapter 2 of the book focuses on the Somatic Mind, the representation of intelligence throughout the body (rather than the more traditional view of intelligence being located only in the brain). Recent research into neuroscience, children’s education, and psychology are all indicating strongly that the old maxim, a healthy mind in a healthy body, is excellent advice. The original formulation of NLP was primarily cognitive. Others in the field have already drawn close attention to the importance of the body (e.g. work on State Management by Bandler and Grinder’s work in NLP New Code), but DeLozier and Dilts have taken it considerably further, noting that the body acts as a representational system and including motion in most NLP processes. They attempt to develop this idea of a body representational system through ideas such as somatic syntax, biofeedback, the representation of the body within the brain, and the presence of very significant clusters of neurons in both the human stomach and heart. There is no single model for Chapter 2 with the explanatory and exploratory power of the Unified Field Model presented in Chapter 1 for the Cognitive Mind, but the explanation of Somatic Mind in this book can potentially open up many possibilities and provide a useful framework for further research and development in the field of NLP.
Chapter 3 of the book examines what the authors call Field Mind which is defined as
a type of space or energy produced by relationships and interactions within a system of individuals. Central to this idea is the idea that relationship itself is a “third entity” generated between those involved, similar to the way that hydrogen and oxygen can combine to produce the third entity of water. The relationship becomes a container tha holds, processes, and evolves the thoughts, emotions and experiences of those involved.
The concept of Field Mind draws heavily on aikido, energy work, and the work of Stephen Gilligan in Generative Trance. While many of these concepts are not widely accepted and may be considered as pseudo-science by many, the authors do emphasize that the concept of Field is a ‘subjective’ understanding and does not need to be taken literally. In other words, if an experience in a person’s life can be improved in some way through the subjective perception of a field, then it does not necessarily matter whether that field can be measured in any ‘objective’ way. Chapter 3 does offer many convincing descriptions and exercises which help to show the value of the notion of Field, and while it is unlikely to become accepted as easily as the concept of Somatic Mind, it is a valuable idea that will be useful to many practitioners and their clients.
Applying Next Generation NLP
Chapter 4 completes the book with guidelines and exercises on how to interpret and apply the ideas in the first three chapters. It offers some very useful suggestions for NLP coaches, especially at the level of Identity. This brings the authors to the idea that Identity can be usefully seen to consist of two components, the ego and the soul. The ego focuses on survival, self-benefit, and ambition. The soul focuses on awakening, service, and connection. This idea is used to tie the ideas of the book together in a rather artistic and touching conclusion:
When our body (somatic mind) and our intellect (cognitive mind) connect like two dancers responding to the music of life (the field), then the soul has a vehicle for expression and we find ourselves more alive, with greater joy, more intuition, and we feel more at home in the world. Charisma, passion and presence emerge naturally when these two forces (ego and soul; vision and ambition) are aligned. Optimum performance comes when the ego is in the service of the soul.
This is one of the best Robert Dilts’ books in a long time and a good description of his current thinking, a systemic view of NLP which is recommended for reading and consideration by all serious NLP practitioners and researchers. It offers some very strong models which many people may not accept but which could potentially have a strong long-term influence on the future of NLP. By expressing these strong and sometimes controversial ideas in clear terms, this volume puts NLP on a more solid footing and provides a framework for future research and practice.