Neuro-linguistic Programming developers and community consider NLP as a model and not theory. This is because while a theory provides explanation on why a system works, Neuro-linguistic Programming does not do this. A model is a simple step-by-step description on how to use the model. That does not indicate that NLP has no theoretical underpinnings.
NLP simply does not try to defend or validate these theories. Neuro-linguistic Programming assumes a certain set of ideology and declares the presuppositions used. The primary presuppositions of Neuro-linguistic Programming were formulated by Bodenhamer in 1995. The presuppositions used by NLP are not proven per se, but they work with the beliefs and values of most people.
NLP Presuppositional Beliefs
As per Neuro-linguistic courses, a belief us a basic structure of our model of the world that we think is true. We may have different degrees of beliefs, some might be strong, and others could be changed easily. The beliefs that very near and dear to us, and to whom we give utmost importance are our core beliefs. The core beliefs are used for formulating presuppositions.
According to Neuro-linguistic courses, a belief is a major neurological filter that determines the way we perceive reality. Our beliefs tell us what is important and what is not, and we shape our perceptions accordingly. Beliefs are also used as the foundation for our other qualities such as introversion or extroversion, motivation by want or avoidance, gestalt or detailed thinking etc.
Operating System of Presuppositions
In some Neuro-linguistic training, NLP presuppositions are termed as the operating system of Neuro-linguistic programming. They are used to run the entire system of skills, technologies, processes and insights.
The various NLP presuppositions as described in Neuro-linguistic courses are:
1. Mental Processing presuppositions
The map is not the territory
This means that the internal perception of an event is different from the actual event. Our mind takes in information about the event using our sensory functions such as sights, sounds, smell, taste, feeling and emotions, and then creates an internal representation of the experience. This map of the event will not be same as the actual event or territory.
People respond as per their internal maps
Since our perception of the world is different from the actual world, all our responses are based on this perception or internal map of the world. Therefore, as per Neuro-linguistic courses, we cannot directly operate on the world, but on our individual representation of the world.
Meaning is context dependent
All words require some context in order to be meaningful. Words by themselves do not contain any meaning. Since meaning depends on the context or the experience, it depends on how we code the external stimuli to form the internal representation.
Mind and body inevitably affect each other
According to Neuro-linguistic courses, the mind and the body cannot function as separate entities. They are dependent on each other and form a cybernetic whole. This concept can be explained using the placebo effect, where the mind is made to believe that a drug will work for the body, and in most cases, it does.
Individual skills operate by developing and sequencing rep systems
Our skills are determined by the way we use the VAK rep systems for thought, emotions and behavior. As per Neuro-linguistic training, the developing and sequencing of these sensory information is known as strategies. By knowing how we receive, store, elicit and process information, we can develop our rapport building and communication skills.
We have respect of other person’s model of the world
We all create an internal Neuro-linguistic representation of an experience that is unique to us. Some of us may use more visual information; others might use sound. When we respect and understand each other’s model of the world, we can respect them as a person and be flexible in our communication. If we do not respect other person’s Neuro-linguistic model, we will create unnecessary altercations and misunderstandings.
2. Presuppositions about human behavior and responses
A person is not that same as his behavior
That means we are more than our behavior. A behavior of a person cannot be used to define the person or identify them. A behavior depends on the person’s beliefs, values and emotions, past experiences, feelings and thoughts at the time of the event. Sometimes factors such as stress, grief, anxiety might temporarily change the behavior but not the identity of the person.
Every behavior has a purpose in some context
As per Neuro-linguistic training, every behavior has a positive intention. Not every behavior is the correct behavior, but the inherent intention of the person is positive. Even during an inappropriate behavior, the person is trying to accomplish something good. However, our Neuro-linguistic attributes filter the intention using incorrect understanding or limited information generating a bad behavior.
We evaluate change and behavior in terms of context and ecology
This Neuro-linguistic presupposition asks us to be aware of the impact of our behavior and actions on the ecology of the system. Our behavior is not controlled using Neuro-linguistic training can harm other people of the experience or the ecology.
3. Communicative presuppositions
We cannot not communicate
It is impossible for us to not communicate, even when we are not speaking. That is because major part of the communication is non-verbal and comes from our gestures, posture, and body language, breathing and facial expressions. These Neuro-linguistic indicators will give away our underlying thoughts, feelings and emotions unconsciously to others.
Our way of communication affects perception and reception
Since majority of our communication is non-verbal, it is more important how we say things using the non-verbal channels of body language, tone, volume, breathing, posture etc. rather than what we say using words.
The meaning of a communication depends on its response
According to Neuro-linguistic training, the mind interprets a communication using its internal map. Therefore, the listener can create a map that does not match the intention of the speaker. The true meaning of the communication can therefore be obtained via the response of the listener according to his internal map.
The person who sets the frame for communication can control it
The frame decides the perception, meaning, behavior, emotion and values. Therefore, by controlling the frame you can control the response and the communication.
There is no failure in communication, only feedback
Feedback can be used to alter our behavior, and become excellent communicators and achievers.
More the flexibility, more the influence in the system
A person who is flexible in his behavior and can adapt to the system has more choices for himself and can efficiently control and influence the system.
Resistance is an indication of lack of rapport
Usually we give up on people who exhibit resistance. However, this should be seen as a lack of rapport, and the Neuro-linguistic rapport building techniques should be applied. By matching or mirroring the internal world, the resistance will be replaced with cooperation and understanding.
4. Learning, choice, change presuppositions
Every one has the internal resources required for success
Neuro-linguistic Programming understands that every person has an internal ability for enhancing their skills and learning new techniques. These resources might be hidden within the unconscious processes. By discovering and accessing the internal skills, every person can achieve success.
Humans are capable of one-trial learning
The human mind has the potential to learn an activity, skill, fear, emotion or feeling upon one time occurrence. The learning can be used for positive purposes. For example, anchoring demonstrates and uses this one-trial learning capability for therapeutic purposes.
All communication should increase the choice
When a person has more number of choices available, the experience of the person can become whole. People with a strong rapport have more number of choices available to them, and therefore feel comfortable with each other. We can introduce more choices in our life, to make it more fuller and happier.
People will make the best choices available to them when they act
We often criticize others for making a certain choice. This criticism is based on our model of the world and not theirs. With this Neuro-linguistic presupposition, we can realize that a person had made a certain choice depending on his model of the world. This choice was the best choice as per their world. On realizing this, we can then strive to understand their model of the world, and help to change the negative attributes.
We can control our brain and produce results
We can control our behavior and responses by controlling our mind. We must not act or behave as if our brain is not operational. We are capable of controlling the mind and achieving great heights, by altering our internal representation and map of the world.
Our internal system of beliefs and values drives the NLP model, which uses a presuppositions reality frame for determining human behavior and mind-body functioning. NLP believes in hands on practice rather than theoretical proofs, and comprises of a transformational and experiential model for achieving excellence.