What is NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming)?

NLP DiagramNeuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) as a Communication Model

What is NLP? NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) as it is commonly known was originally developed by John Grinder and Richard Bandler as a model explaining how we communicate and interact with ourselves and others.

We make sense of an external event by running the event through our internal processing which leaves us with an Internal Representation (I/R) of the event. This I/R of the event together with our physiology or internal functioning, creates a state which influences our behaviour. The word “State” refers to the internal emotional state of the individual. Our individual state is dependent on our various filters and we may be feeling shameful, guilty, fearful, sad, angry, happy, joyful, peaceful, in love etc.

In NLP we say perception is projection. It is estimated that your brain receives about four billion nerve impulses every second. It goes without saying that we are not consciously aware of all of this information.

For this very reason our perceptions are treated differently for a given relationship between things.  Generally the conscious mind can only handle seven (plus or minus 2) pieces of information at any given time.

Internal Representation (I/R) includes our internal pictures, sounds and dialogue, our feelings, tastes, and smells. The five senses of our input.

Once the external event comes in through the sensory input channels the event is filtered and managed by our neurology. As we manage the perception of the event, we deletedistort, and generalize the information according to the following processes that filter our perception.

Processes that filter our perceptions


To stop our conscious mind from overload we delete the majority of the information and we selectively pay attention to certain aspects of our experience and not others. We overlook or ignore others.


The information we do not delete, distorts reality by making changes in our experience of the data from our senses. Sometimes we imagine things and see what we want to see, hear what we want to hear, smells odours not present and taste things without eating it. Just think of the taste when you take a bite of a slice of freshly cut lemon. Distortion can be used to motivate or demotivate us. Motivation can happen when we actually twist or distort the material that has come into our neurology and acted and changed our behaviour.


When we generalise we draw universal assumptions based on limited experiences. We generalise by having a particular opinion about an experience and then have the same opinion about similar experiences. I may “rescue” a cat from a tree and then have the generation that a cat cannot climb out of trees.
We simplify, make decisions and establish attitudes based on inadequate data and if we did not delete, distort and generalise information we would have an overload of information and our neurology would have not been able to cope, leading to a breakdown.

It is no wonder that, with such limited information available to learn from and to draw conclusions from, no two people have the same response, reaction and or behaviour irrespective of having the same stimulus

The Five Filters

The deletion, distortion and generalising of sensory information takes place via one or more of five filters. The filters are, Meta Programs, Belief Systems, Values, Decisions, and Memories. Let’s look at these in more detail.

Meta Programs

In NLP Meta Programs are the first filters and mental processes, which manage, guide and direct other mental processes. Meta Programs are the unconscious set of filters to our perceptions and are the main reasons for personality adaptations. Meta Programs are processes that are affecting other mental processes such as our values, beliefs and attitudes. We might think of Meta Programs as "habits of thought" or "programs of attention". It is the process we use automatically and unconsciously to filter and sort what we pay attention to.

Understanding Meta Programs assists us to noticeably and watchfully predict people’s states, and therefore predict their actions and behaviours. Contrary to many and even professional points of view, Meta Programs can be changed and therefore the basis of our personality. As Tad James mentioned in his book Time Line Therapy and the Basis of Personality; “Who we are is a result of our collection of memories, our values and beliefs and the parts that maintain them. Any incongruities, inability to get things done or health problems are a result of basic-level, core-parts conflicts. In addition, there are parts responsible for maintaining values and values hierarchies inside the individual. Finally, our personality is based on the collection of our memories and the templates of perception that are a consequence of significant events in our past.”


The next filters in NLP after Meta Programs are Values. Values are essentially what we move toward or away from an assessment filter. Values are largely unconscious and drive the core and true purpose of people as human beings.

Values are those doctrines upon which our life is originated, made up of beliefs and ideals arising from our culture and family backgrounds, combined with their understanding of their own life experience. Normally values are classified in a hierarchy of importance meaning that under different circumstances and context we may act and behave differently than the norm dictated by our value and remain true to our values. Our most important value is also normally at the top and lesser ones below that. Values provide the drive and push behind our motivation.

As for Meta Programs, values can also be changed and shifted within the hierarchy.  Values are changed and shifted in a particular context.  Incongruities and inconsistency in a person is normally as a result of values conflicts and the values in question can and need to be aligned to ensure lasting changes.


The next filters after Meta Programs and Values are beliefs. Beliefs are generalizations and subjective ideas about what is true and not true for us and the world and are developed through exposure to experience, and as we know by now modified by the perceptual filters of distortion, generalisation and deletion. In other words, beliefs represent our internal representation of how we believe the world is. A set of beliefs are related and clustered to a value and are normally more conscious than values. Limiting beliefs can keep us away from personal power to bring about what we desire for ourselves our family and our career and we should eliminate the disabling beliefs.


The fourth set of filters is our memories. NLP explores the relationship between our thoughts and language and our emotions and patterns of behaviour. NLP is how we use the language of the mind to consistently achieve our specific and desired outcomes. It provides opportunity to change limiting, negative patterns of behaviour and we can use Time Line Therapy® to make changes in our negative non supported memories for a positive result.


The fifth filter in the NLP Communication Model is the decisions that we have made in the past. The quality of the rest of your life depends, in large, on the quality of the decisions we make. Decisions can change the way we believe and eventually the way we perceive life over time. From a very early age we all make (consciously and or unconsciously) some good decisions, and some that are not so good. We can make changes to the limiting decisions in our past using Time Line Therapy® techniques and to consistently improve the quality of decisions that we make, and so improve your life.

In a Nutshell

It is ultimately our internal representation, derived from our five senses via the five filters mentioned, that is responsible for a certain state we find ourselves in, which creates a certain physiology and ultimately determine our behaviour.

Ben's Specialities

With NLP and Time Line Therapy®, you have the capability to take control of your thoughts, emotions and actions and by doing so determine your own destiny.