In 1995 I combined transactional analysis (TA) with neurolinguistic programming (NLP) in an article which I had headed ‘Motivation Location’ but which appeared with the heading of ‘How NLP locations work’ (Hay, 1995).
I began by pointing out that I had recently completed my TA training and taken my “final, final exams” – little did I know that having obtained my TSTA Organisational I would keep going over the next 20 years also to get even more TA qualifications. I also wrote that I was “half-way through” and NLP Master Practitioner course – again not realising at the time that I would continue to become a Licensed NLP Trainer. What I was concentrating on was how the NLP was giving me lots of ideas for integrating the two approaches.
I was writing the article because I had worked out a way to combine the NLP technique for changing beliefs through changing their location with the TA concepts of strokes and life positions. I explained in the article that “stroke is TA shorthand for units of recognition, meaning the ways in which other humans let us know they recognise our existence. Life positions are our windows on the world, through which we sometimes distort our view of what is actually going on.” (p.30).
Within NLP there is a pre-supposition (among others) that we have specific locations in which we store our beliefs. If we think about what we believe, we can become aware of imaginary physical positions for different beliefs. (Try it - it really does work, much to my initial surprise.) Our location filing system is quite specific, so that we generally have separate locations for beliefs that we hold strongly, beliefs that we are not sure about, and beliefs relating to things other people believe but which we disbelieve.
If we want to change a belief, we can do so by changing the location for it. This can be very useful for dealing with those beliefs we all have that are out of line with current reality. These include what TA would label injunctions and attributions - qualities and characteristics that we accept as our own only because the grown-ups somehow convinced us when we were little. Examples would be a belief that we are clumsy or stupid, that we will always fail (at work, at maths, at relationships . . . .), or that we are destined to follow in the footsteps of a particular relative (“You’ll come to a sticky end just like XYZ.”)
The belief changing process works as follows:
1. identify the location of the belief you want to change. This will be Belief A.
(note: this assumes that you have first checked the benefits as well as the drawbacks of this belief and have made sure that changing the belief is ecologically sound for you i.e. that changing it will not lead to unforeseen problems. If it still does, you can of course reverse the process and put the belief back!)
2. identify the location of a doubt that you have - something you believe may or may not be true. This is Belief B.
3. identify the new belief that you would like to have in place of A. Label this Belief C.
4. move beliefs around as follows:
You may need to add more detail as part of stabilising the new belief. If so, check the modalities (how you imagine seeing it, hearing it, feeling it) of the unwanted belief and apply these to the new belief. Match modalities in terms of aspects such as brightness, colour, tone, volume, internal and external sensations, and any other ways that you recognise are significant within your personal filing system.
We all need strokes to survive and develop. The orphans in Romania are tragic examples of what happens if strokes are not available in childhood; solitary confinement is known to have a similar traumatic effect on the way people function. Positive, growth encouraging strokes are best but we will settle for negative strokes if that is all we can get - any attention is better than being constantly ignored. Small children learn early that negative strokes are often easier to stimulate than positives; grown-ups notice as soon as you are naughty but not always when you are good.
Our stroke pattern is an analysis of the ways in which we tend to give and receive strokes. If we identify the five or six people we have most contact with at work, for instance, we can then consider what types of strokes we exchange with them, how often, what about, how intense, and so on. We can prepare patterns also for our social and family situations.
When we do this, we become aware that there are strokes that we accept and strokes that we reject. It’s as if we let some strokes in but keep others out. We may even tell the person that we are rejecting the stroke, as when we say someone else deserves the credit or the blame, or that we were just doing our job. We will of course still remember the strokes that were offered. It is as if we have a separate place outside ourselves where we can keep the strokes without feeling the impact within us.
Using the idea of locations, we can now identify where we store our strokes. We probably have different places for positives and negatives, for strokes about appearance versus strokes about performance, for strokes we ‘earn’ and those given to us unconditionally. We can explore our own patterns in terms of the territory it occupies for us. Having explored, we can decide to accept positive strokes that we previously rejected and to reject negative strokes that we previously accepted even though they were not justified.
To accept more positive strokes:
1. identify the location of the strokes you have been rejecting in the past and in future want to accept. This will be A.
2. identify a location for strokes you receive that you have doubts about - strokes that you believe may or may not be true. This is B.
3. identify where you have been putting the positive strokes that you now want to accept. Label this C.
4. move strokes around as follows:
Again, you may need to add more detail to stabilise the new sensation of being stroked. Check and adjust the modalities as you imagine receiving and accepting the desired strokes.
Then continue to enjoy the sensation as real people give you the same strokes in future. Repeat the process for strokes that you give out if you want to have even more of a positive impact on your interactions with other people.
Hay, Julie (1995) How NLP locations work Management Development Review 8:4 30-31
© 2018 Julie Hay
Julie is a fan of open access publishing so feel free to reproduce any of these blogs as long as you still attribute it to her.