You'll often see discussions about whether NLP needs to be proven in order for it to be useful. Here's what I think.


Today, on an online training discussion forum, someone posted a comment about how it would be good to see more of NLP's techniques 'scientifically tested'. But his angle was to give NLP validity,  saying, "I agree with many NLPers that if something is useful and works it does not necessarily have to pass a scientific test. There are many billions of people around the world who are guided by religions which fail most scientific tests but I know that many find it useful in their lives, it works for them."

Well, I see it from two sides.

"If it works then don't question it, just enjoy the results" - that's one way to paraphrase what NLP trainers might say.

"If it works, find out why, so that you can do it again" - that's one way to paraphrase a scientist's view.

In my limited experience, I have found that most NLP trainers buy Bandler's pseudo-science so completely, even though it's based on models of neurology that are decades out of date, that they don't question, or research, or form their own theories.

But I digress. The point I wanted to make is this: It IS important why something works. Because when you can understand why something works, you can refine it and improve it. If you don't question why, you just get better at doing the incantations and rituals which are the things you do WHILE it's working. And even many NLP trainers have said to me that they realise that the incantations of NLP, such as trance or timeline, give the client a reason to believe in the cure, rather than being the cure themselves. They fully realise that the client just decided to change. And Derren Brown's most recent TV performance where he gave people a placebo kind of supported this. His theory was that the placebo allowed the people to give themselves permission to change. Now, 'permission' is a very person-centered philosophy and I'm not sure I agree with the use of that word to explain the placebo effect. My personal view is to use 'excuse' rather than 'permission'. The person had given themselves reasons for why they had to smoke, or be afraid of heights, or be afraid of singing in public. They had built a lifetime of excuses around that assertion, so they can't just change their minds because then that makes them look like a weak, hypocritical liar. So instead, give them a big enough excuse, "Well I used to be terrified of potatoes but I took this new wonder drug that's really special and new and changed my brain chemistry and it cured me. There used to be something wrong with me, honest, but now the drug has cured me".

Faith in a religion, and the strength that your faith gives you to face life's trials is something important and valuable. I'm not a religious person myself, but I sometimes envy people who have that level of true faith. But the mental resilience that a person atributes to their faith is not a good enough reason to say that religion 'works' and we should leave it alone. I have generally found that people with true faith delight in having that faith tested through enquiry and debate. The people whose faith is a show, a pretense, get defensive and aggresive when you defend it. But that's always the case with people who don't truly believe what they say. I admire anyone with the courage of their convictions, whatever their faith or beliefs may be.

Coming back to the question about scientific analysis of NLP, I find that in any 'coaching' interaction, I could say this:

Something in the technique works, and something in it is an excuse.

A scientist tries to find out which is which.