Blog Reviews

Review: The Hero's Journey

In the summer of 2010, I took part in a week-long training seminar in Santa Cruz called The Hero’s Journey conducted by Robert Dilts, Deborah Dilts, and Judith DeLozier. The seminar is also conducted in many locations around the world by Stephen Gilligan and Robert Dilts. Recently, I purchased the book by Gilligan and Dilts of the same name.

The book is a transcript of a four-day version of the seminar that the authors carried out in Italy. NLP books commonly use this seminar-transcription format. In one of the classic NLP books, Frogs into Princes, Grinder and Bandler frame this format as a “challenge to the reader” saying

We would like to reassure the reader that the non-sequitors, the surprising tangents, the unannounced shifts in content, mood or direction which you will discover in this book had a compelling logic of their own in the original context. If these otherwise peculiar sequences of communication were restored to their original context, that logic would quickly emerge. Therefore the challenge; Is the reader astute enough to reconstruct that context, or shall he simply enjoy the exchange and arrive at a useful unconscious understanding of a more personal nature?

This beautiful reframe and double-bind set up by Grinder and Bandler is equally applicable to The Hero’s Journey. I found some parts of the transcript to be rather bizarre, for example, the constant humourous use of the refrain Amen and other church references, but it is also true that I found myself reconstructing the context in my own mind and thus arriving at my own useful unconscious understanding of the situation. For readers of the book who have not attended the Hero’s Journey seminar, this reconstruction is going to be considerably more challenging.
The seminar and book are derived from Joseph Campbell’s works on mythology including The Hero with a Thousand Faces. While it is not necessary to read Campbell’s works, I would strongly recommend it as it provides much more context for understanding the underlying rationale of Gilligan and Dilts’ work.

A summary of the hero’s journey framework is also provided in The Hero’s Journey, and the stages of the journey provide the timeline for the seminar and the book. The stages of the journey are summarized in Day 1 as:

  1. The Calling
  2. The Refusal of the Call
  3. Crossing the Threshold
  4. Finding Guardians
  5. Facing Your Demons and Shadows
  6. Developing an Inner Self
  7. The Transformation
  8. The Return Home

In his work, Joseph Campbell traces these steps in a myriad of myths from around the world, showing how they reoccur in very diverse cultures and how they seem to form a strong part of the human psyche or collective unconsciousness of humanity. Campbell also suggests that each person can choose to view their life in terms of a hero’s journey and thus lead a more congruent life in which challenges are seen as opportunities for growth.
While Campbell provided the initial insight, it seems to be primarily the work of Stephen Gilligan in generative consciousness which has developed this initial insight into the concept and exercises which make up The Hero’s Journey. Robert Dilts has a great talent in integrating useful ideas into NLP and this book appears to be one of the fruitful results of his collaborations with Gilligan over many years since they first met in Santa Cruz in the early days of NLP. Many of the ideas of generative consciousness have found their way into Dilts recent formulations of NLP–what he calls Third Generation NLP. Much of this can be regarded as an extension and elucidation of the classic NLP idea of state. This is described in more detail below.

Generative Self

In Gilligan’s model of Generative Self, it is postulated that every person has access to three minds. The first mind is the somatic mind, the intelligence of the body, a concept that is becoming more and more recognized in research areas such as neuroscience (e.g. The Second Brain by Michael Gershon in which he talks about a independent network of 10 billion neurons in your stomach) and more widely in education (e.g. Smart Moves by Carla Hannaford). The second mind is the more generally accepted cognitive mind. The third mind, the field mind, is the most controversial as it postulates that there is something beyond us that we can somehow tap into it–an idea similar to Jung’s notion of the collective unconsciousness. The idea of the field mind also draws strongly on ideas from Aikido and other oriental concepts. Gilligan describes the field mind as follows:

Not only is there consciousness within you, there’s consciousness all around you. We all live in multiple, co-existing dynamic fields: history, family, culture, environment. You may work in the field of NLP, or live in an oppressive field of fear. How you relationally engage with these fields, and hopefully what is beyond these fields, is one of the great challenges of a human life.

If the word field in this paragraph were to be replaced by another word such as sphere, there would be nothing controversial at all. It is when Gilligan brings in concepts of energy perception beyond the body that some people may start to dispute the validity of the concept of field mind. However, another way to view the concept of field mind is to apply the NLP frame of As if … In other words, if a person simply acts as if a field mind really does exist, that can be highly effective in achieving a desired outcome even if the person does not really believe that such a field mind does exist.

Levels of Consciousness

Gilligan and Dilts propose that there are three levels of consciousness and that each of the three minds is at its own level of consciousness at any particular moment. The usual level of consciousness is the ego level. For example the ego level of the somatic mind is described as follows:

just walking through your day doing your daily business, the body is generally regarded as an “it”. Or you may regard it as a dumb animal that needs to be pushed through the day. You load it up with caffeine in the morning and rush off to work, pushing your body through a hectic day. Then at night, you come home, put food and maybe alcohol in the body and “relax”. You pass out, go to sleep, get up the next morning, and do it again….you’re not experiencing the magic in your body. You’re not experiencing the creative mysteries of the body. You don’t sense its connection to ancestral wisdom, to intuitive knowing, to courage and tenderness.

Excellent performers in any field tend to be at the highest level of consciousness, the generative state. This is the most appropriate level to respond to the kind of challenge that we perceive in our life as a hero’s journey, but when faced by a serious challenge the majority of people will actually regress to the lower level of consciousness, the primitive state. This is a “more basic, primordial, pre-ego state….more emotional energy, less linearity, more intense imagery.” This generally involves a loss of identity and can be caused by such traumatic events as losing a job, a relationship breakup, or the death of a loved one. It can also be entered into voluntarily, for example when people fall in love or spend the night dancing ecstatically, so entering the primitive state is not necessarily a bad thing. What is problematic is when people get stuck in that state and cannot access the resources that are available to them in the ego state or more usefully, the generative state.

Creating a Generative Self

The bulk of The Hero’s Journey is the presentation of examples and exercises for helping people to create a generative self, in other words, attaining the generative state in all three minds.

Somatic Mind: Align and Center

The authors postulate centering as the most vital part of moving the somatic mind into a more generative state. In this, they are clearly influenced by the techniques used in Aikido and other oriental practices which are used to quiet the mind and center the body.

Cognitive Mind: Accept and Transform

On the hero’s journey, the hero will often resist the call to leave the safety of the home village and may seem to be in an adversarial relationship with the forces that are calling him onto his quest. Much energy is lost in this conflict between the two parts of the hero – the part calling him forward and the part causing him to stay in the village. Instead of fighting it, Gilligan and Dilts suggest that the hero should be looking at what parts within himself the resistance represents. In other words, it can seen as a resource rather than as an enemy to progress.
Later on, the demons and monsters that the hero will meet (as described in the tales related by Joseph Campbell) also represent parts of the hero that are not in his conscious awareness. It is only when the hero learns to accept the existence of the demon, either inner or external, that it has the potential of becoming a resource and helping him become a more centered congruent person. The first step is to accept the shadow and the second step is to transform it into a resource. So it is that we see stories where the dragon becomes the friend of the hero after initially being an adversary. In the recent movie, Avatar, there was the very clear example of the hero overcoming the flying beast before it is willing to carry him.

Field Mind: Open beyond (the problem) and open beyond that

The authors define field mind as “a mind that is created by relationships between multiple minds … a knowing that happens beyond the individual mind.” Like the other minds, the field mind can be generative, non-generative, or even degenerative. For example, at some companies where Dilts has done consultancy, he finds that negativity has become such a prevalent concept that there is a perceptible degenerative field mind which prevents effective creativity and change.
The book offers exercises based on Eastern energy techniques such as creating a chi energy ball between the hands and then using this energy ball to create a second skin. The authors recognize that the use of this type of technique and language may be offputting to some readers, but note that it is very difficult to describe this kind of experience in normal language.


I have read through The Hero’s Journey twice as well as taking the seminar in person last year and still find that I have not absorbed many of the ideas sufficiently to really understand it at a deep level. The links with Campbell’s work could have been made more systematically and some of the demonstrations could have been edited down leaving more space for a fuller elucidation of the underlying ideas. While the seminar and book are clearly designed to be experiential, some more cognitive underpinnings for the experiences would have been helpful.
The Hero’s Journey is certainly worth reading. Carrying out the exercises with a partner or a group would enhance the reading enormously. Taking part in the seminar would be more beneficial still. If at that point, like me, you still haven’t absorbed the ideas fully, perhaps that is inevitable because mythology is a reflection of the deep unconscious mind and it is perhaps only at that deep unconscious level that we can ever truly understand these concepts.

Blog Hypnosis Reviews

Review: Richard Bandler's Guide to Transformation: Make Your Life Great

This is one of the most useful NLP books that I have read recently, and it reminds me again that Bandler’s work lies at the very heart of NLP, remaining far more important than some of the other components that have been bolted on to classic NLP over the years. In particular, it focuses on submodalities and the utilization of trance states. The book is divided into four sections.

Part 1: Patterns of Process and Elicitation: How People Create Their Reality and How We Can Know
This introduces some basic NLP techniques such as disocciation, the visual squash, submodalities, and modeling in a very reader-friendly fashion.
Part 2: Patterns of Induction: Hypnosis and the Art of Creating Powerful Learning States
Here we get into the core of the book where Bandler discusses trance induction.
Part 3: Patterns of Utilization: Using the Tools of Trance-formation
This section gives examples of how to utilize trance states effectively to achieve change.
Part 4: Trance-formation in Action
Here we find two full trance inductions which show the mastery of Bandler’s language. This is followed by two transcribed client sessions with editorial annotations showing how Bandler uses the language patterns of NLP and hypnosis to achieve change in clients. The transcriptions show effective use of humour, great listening skills, and a corresponding ability to identify the client’s important submodalities.
The resource files at the back of the book are a useful reminder of the Metamodel, Milton model, submodalities, and other useful areas.
The book also includes a DVD which features Bandler on stage carrying out rapid inductions. While he is clearly a fine entertainer and he entertains the audience greatly, he also carries out phenomenal learning trances and healing trances on the volunteers. He turns traumas into giggles and makes neck pains disappear within a couple of minutes. Bandler’s long experience and mastery with inducing and using different forms of trance is apparent through his instant inductions and powerful embedded commands. The DVD alone would have been worth the price of the book, and it is worth coming back to again and again to see a true master of hypnosis at work.
For someone new to NLP, this book will not give a comprehensive picture of the field of NLP as it is generally known and taught, but what it does offer is a strong introduction to the work of Richard Bandler with a much stronger focus on trance states than most NLP books or training programs.

Blog Reviews

Review: Michael Hall and the History of NLP

Michael Hall is a well-known trainer of NLP and the founder of neurosemantics. I have not met or trained with Michael, but recently I have been reading or re-reading some of his books which include:

  • Mind-lines: Lines For Changing Minds
  • The Spirit of NLP
  • Users Manual of the Brain (Volumes I and II)
  • Figuring Out People
  • Communication Magic
  • Winning the Inner Ga,e

Over the next few months, I hope to get around to posting reviews of some of these books.
Michael Hall also writes about the history of NLP in a very informative manner. Although his viewpoints are quite strong and critical in places and they may be questioned by some people within the field, NLP values multiple perspectives, so I would recommend reading his history of NLP articles if you are interested finding out more about where NLP came from or why it seems such an unintegrated field today.
Along with Robert Dilts and Judith DeLozier and some other trainers, Michael Hall seems to be one of the most effective writers in drawing the field of NLP back together and setting it on a more solid research footing. However, he has set up what can be viewed as a repackaging of NLP under the name Neuro-Semantics.
To be fair, his use of the term, Neuro-Semantics seems to come from Korzybski’s writing in which the terms neuro-linguistic and neuro-semantic were used. Korzybski’s field of General Semantics is also still a relatively strong movement and Hall’s tying of the two areas together may be ultimately useful for NLP. His focus on carrying out research-backed work is also very admirable. Since Hall writes about history, it will be interesting to keep reading his work and remember the old adage:

Those who do not study history are destined to repeat its mistakes.

That is not to say that those like Michael Hall who study history won’t repeat its mistakes and produce further divisions and splits. There is even the potential criticism that the writing of a history is a very political act in itself.  Was it Winston Churchill who said:

History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.

What the field of NLP could certainly benefit from is less of what Hall cleverly called The War of the Magicians. Instead, NLP could move towards becoming a more unified field that supports solid research into its techniques and yet retain the flexibility that continues to encourage the attitude of curiosity that is at the heart of NLP.


©Copyright 2010 by Dr. Brian Cullen

Blog Reviews

Review: The Structure of Magic (Volume II)

After rereading the Structure of Magic (Volume I), I went straight onto rereading the Structure of Magic (Volume 2). These two volumes were published in 1975 and 1976 respectively. Over the same two years, Grinder and Bandler were also writing and publishing their study on the hypnotic patterns of Milton Erickson as well as carrying out training seminars for therapists and carrying out their modelling activities–it was truly a productive period of time. This is even more evident when we look at the depth of detail in The Structure of Magic (Volume 2).

Part I – Representational Systems

Part I starts out relatively simply with description of representational systems and the strong claim that people have a highly-valued representational system that can be identified by listening to the predicates that they use in their speech.
In this book, Grinder and Bandler claim that we represent our experiences of the world most strongly in our most-valued representational system, first within the deep structures of language within our minds, and then later in the words that we use in describing our perceptions.
Examples of representational systems are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic and they still lie at the very heart of NLP. A  person with a highly valued visual representation system is likely to use predicates (verbs) such as see or view. A person with a primarily auditory representation is likely to use words like hear, say, and listen. A kinesthetic  person might say feel, touch, or grasp.
A knowledge of the client’s representational system can help an NLP practitioner in several ways:

  1. By noticing the predicates in a person’s speech, an NLP practitioner can match those predicates and talk into that person’s map of the world, thus making it much easier to both create rapport and to help that person to change in some way.
  2. The practitioner can help the client to change representational system in order to represent experiences in a different way.
  3. In some cases, a client will have almost completely blocked one representational system out of consciousness. For example, a person brought up in a very strict traditional household may have learned that it was wrong to express emotion and learned to repress his own feelings so much that they are no longer easily available for conscious reference. The practitioner can gradually help the person to move from the highly valued representational system slowly into the repressed representational system. This may provide a richer map of the world and a more useful way to re-experience trauma or to cope in future situations.

Part II – Incongruity

Part II discusses incongruity at length, also bringing in issues of logical types and describing Virginia Satir’s four categories: placator, blamer, computer, and distractor. Incongruity is described as non-matching output from different representational systems. For example, a high shrill voice and a pointing finger (both indicating blame or anger) combined with the words “I love her very much.” The transcripts of the therapeutic sessions in Part II are particularly useful, and the authors provide many useful ways that an NLP practitioner can help a person to use multiple representational systems congruently and usefully. This section also discusses the use of meta-position (an important concept throughout NLP) and the bringing together of two parts in something which is now roughly equivalent to visual squash or parts integration.

Part III – Fuzzy Functions

Fuzzy functions involve an input channel or output channel in which the input or output channel involved is used in a different modality from the representational system from which it is being used. This is now more generally known as a synesthesia. For example, if a client says “when my father looks at me this way, I feel angry,” this can be called see-feeling.
The authors connect the metamodel patterns of mind-reads and cause-effect to fuzzy functions. In a mind-read statement such as “He doesn’t like me,” the client thinks something and this preconception influences what they actually see or hear from another person (feel-see or feel-hear). In a cause-effect statement such as “He makes me feel bad,” the client sees or hears something and believes that it causes a certain feeling within themselves (see-hear or hear-feel). Again, the transcripts of therapeutic interventions are very informative.

Part IV – Family Therapy

Grinder and Bandler modelled the highly respected family therapist, Virginia Satir, and this section provides good examples and explanations of translations from one representational system into another. For example, if the mother is primarily visual and the father is primarily kinesthetic, their communication can be greatly facilitated by the practitioner stepping in and translating between these modalities.

Part V – Formal Notation

The title of Part V says it all. This is a highly technical section which introduces the idea of six-tuple which consists of:
I: the input channel used by the client for the problem
R: the client’s most highly valued representational system
O: the output channel which the client is using for the problem
S: the Satir category for this problem (Blamer, Placator, Computer, Distracter)
F: the type of semantic ill-formedness of the client’s utterance
M: the most frequently occurring metamodel violation
While the six tuplet is certainly comprehensive and this section gives a good example of its use, it would need considerable use to become familiar with it and there are perhaps more useful tools available.
Overall, The Structure of Magic (Vol. II) is a useful book, but its primary influence can perhaps be found in Part I where representational systems are explained in detail.


©Copyright 2010 by Dr. Brian Cullen

Blog Reviews

Review: The Structure of Magic Volume I

The Structure of Magic (Volume I) is a remarkable book and one that should certainly be read by anyone interested in NLP. It forms the basis of most of the ideas underpinning NLP and explains them much better than many of the books that came after. Like experience and our representation of experience in ‘deep structure’, many of the ideas have gone through a little too much generalization, distortion, and deletion 🙂
The book is dated, but still highly valuable in its insights. I read it years ago and then came back to it again recently and gained a lot more out of the second reading. The descriptions of the metamodel and the examples of actual therepeutic interventions were much richer for me this time around, probably because the metamodel has become a much more hard-wired resource for my behaviour. It takes a long time to internalize these powerful ideas and revisiting the originals from time to time always gives a useful new perspective both on the original ideas and on your personal progression over time.
Chapter 3 and 4 are very practical, and Chapter 6 gives an excellent (if rather dated) description of the Metamodel’s usage within other therapeutic systems.
The Structure of Magic emerged out of Richard Bandler’s thesis and is a fine blend of theory and practice.

Blog Reviews

Book Review: The Tipping Point

Malcolm Gladwell is one of my favourite writers, and I have great respect for the manner in which he can popularize important research findings in a way that respects the original research and still manages to be accessible to non-specialists. I read The Tipping Point when it came out first in 2000 and reread it recently. The subtitle of the book says it well: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.
In Gladwell’s view, there are three type of people who are responsible for producing epidemics, trends, thought viruses, fashion, or whatever you may wish to term the popularization of a phenomenon. The connector brings people together. The maven is highly knowledgeable about the phenomenon, and the salesman is able to convince people of its merits. Sometimes one person can combine more than one of these roles, and sometimes they are different people, but in general a phenomenon (product, idea …) needs someone to create a group, someone to have expert knowledge, and someone to market the phenomenon.
Gladwell gives some excellent examples including the long life of Sesame Street, the fall in crime in New York, and the high rate of suicide in some areas. This is a valuable book for people interested in spreading ideas or raising the profile of products. In his conclusion, Gladwell notes that a big budget is not always necessary to get the word out, and that conventional advertising can be a huge waste of money sometimes. Instead, producing a message that is congruent with its context, finding an appropriate messenger, and setting up a network is the key. I talked to a publisher recently who had just spent $5,000 dollars on newspaper advertising that had yielded a single phone call which led to nothing.
People are innundated by advertising and while nobody would say that it is meaningless, people are powerfully influenced by their surroundings, their immediate contexts, and most importantly the personalities of those around them. Finding the special people to spread the message can make the difference that turns a product or an idea into a runaway success.

Blog Reviews

Book Review: My Lessons with Kumi

I met Michael Colgrass when he took on the role of a trainer at our NLP course at NLPU in Santa Cruz this summer. I say that he took on the role because Michael is a fascinating and inspirational man who takes on many roles throughout his life. From a very young age, he fell in love with the drums and went on to become a professional jazz drummer. Later, he studied composition and wrote extensively for drums. Along the way, he became a clown and many other things besides. Also, along the way, he met John Grinder who decided to model him which led to Michael’s long-term interest in NLP.
My Lessons with Kumi is the ultimate expression of this interest in NLP by a person who has truly lived the spirit of NLP and the striving for excellence in his own life. Michael is a highly congruent person and the same inspirational spirit comes to his audience whether he is talking, standing on his head, dancing, playing the drums, or taking on the role of an author in this book.
My Lessons with Kumi is very different to most NLP books. Rather than being a straightforward description of the presuppositions, concepts, and processes of NLP,  the book is written as a fictional account of Nick who is having problems in his work, relationships, and health and who has decided to find answers. In the book, the character Kumi is clearly helping Nick to naturally develop the concepts of NLP through exercises and raising of self-awareness, but the word NLP never actually occurs within its pages.
As we read about Nick’s growth at Kumi’s cabin in the mountains and later in New York City, people who have undergone their own development through NLP will recognize many of their own experiences, but in a very readable style almost completely absent of the terminology of NLP that can sometimes be off-putting and sound pseudo-scientific.
In this easy-to-follow narrative, Kumi guides Nick through standard NLP techniques and concepts such as submodalities, anchoring of resourceful states, modelling and role-models, somatic syntax, logical levels and much more. Colgrass also draws on his other life experiences as a performer to include important areas such as voice projection, tuning the human instrument, and silent performing.
For those who are already familiar with NLP, this book offers a new perspective in which to explore it, as well as a different form of metaphor which can be used to explain it to others. For readers who are not familiar with NLP, this book will be an interesting introduction to the subject which can teach at an unconscious level as well as a conscious level.
The book is divided into two parts a) the narrative of Kumi and Nick and b) Nick’s notes on the exercises. Part b at the back of the book provides a completely different perspective on the narrative and an additional way to use the book. In each case, Nick has transformed his experience with Kumi into an exercise. In other words, he has recreated many NLP exercises through modelling of the experiences that he went through with Kumi. This model of modelling provides a pathway to the very core of NLP and is a fine example of how NLP is ultimately the pursuit of the structure of excellence and of ways in which we allow others to replicate that excellence.
I highly recommend getting a copy of My Lessons With Kumi, a book that lives up to its two subtitles: “How I learned to perform with confidence in life and in work” and “…enlightens as it entertains.”
Copyright © 2010 by Dr. Brian Cullen,
Associate Professor, Nagoya Institute of Technology

NLP Coaching and Training

Blog Reviews

Book Review: NLP–The New Technology of Achievement

I bought this book after seeing some videos online by Steve Andreas and being very impressed by his sincerity. The same sincerity comes through in NLP: The New Technology of Achievement. The other members of the writing team include Charles Faulkner and Suzi Smith, and along with several others they comprised the NLP Comprehensive Training Team based in Colarado in the United States.
The book covers all of the basics of NLP including submodalities, rapport, mission, values, and perceptual positions. In most cases, it is quite light on terminology and instead provides very practical exercises to help the reader to internalize NLP. These include standard NLP exercises such as the swish and the fast phobia technique, as well as less common ones such as the lovely Autobiography exercise which involves you seeing yourself through the eyes of someone who loves you.
A reader who carries out all of the exercises in the book will definitely develop a strong internal sense of NLP and the power that it can provide. The reader will not necessarily be able to explain all of the concepts, but ultimately the purpose of any NLP training must be to get it “in the muscle”, so for the non-specialist, this is a highly useful book.
After the main text, the NLP 21-Day Unlimited Achievement Program is an additional section which provides a completely different way to understand and practice the content of the book by setting out a three week program with an exercise to do each day.
Copyright © 2010 by Dr. Brian Cullen,
Associate Professor, Nagoya Institute of Technology

NLP Coaching and Training