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Interview with John Grinder and Frank Pucelik

M. Greenfield: - There are many legends about the origin of NLP. Could you tell how it really started?

John Grinder: - Really started? My story will take several hours! I think it would be interesting to identify and trace the sources of NLP. NLP was created by three people. Richard Bendler and Frank Pucelik conducted Gestalt groups together. I was a friend of Richard and Frank but our relationships had nothing to do with therapy. I was professor at the University of Santa Cruz (California). By that time, Richard and Frank have already been working with Gestalt groups for a year. Their work was highly successful. So they set a goal to teach this skill other people. Then Richard and Frank addressed to me with a request (both studied at the University at that time): "John, on your lectures you clearly show how language operates in human consciousness. Could you show how to move from the ability of performing miracles to teaching other people to create a miracle?" I asked - "In what area? What life spheres are we talking about?" They replied - "Therapy." I immediately said "No! This is a conservative area! Rather than adapting people try to change the system!" They insisted and I decided - "Well, I really think that therapy is a conservative area, but I will come and listen, although I doubt a lot in all this stuff." I came to observe - they both worked perfectly. I suggested the following: every Monday they work at the university with a group of 15-20 people, and every Thursday I train my team. Whatever "miracles" they did on Monday, I repeated them in my group on Thursday. I repeated them, regardless of whether my clients needed it because my main goal was to repeat their behavior.

I chose this approach because it allows designing a strict system and visualizing the process. I need a scheme located in my brain to reconcile with my sensations. Therefore, we agreed with Richard and Frank that at first, I master the practice at the same level with them and then I will be able to competently design a new vivid model to help them. I think this was one of the preconditions for NLP formation.

So, we did Gestalt therapy. Then I went to Africa while they learned from Virginia Satir, mastered her system. When we met again, it was easy for them to teach me this method because we already had experience of working together. Two approaches of Satir and Perls are incompatible, but it was clear that both use very similar formal behavior patterns. That discovery led to the development of NLP as a therapy into a modeling system. Thus, Richard and Frank were able to make their practice a model that met their objectives, i.e. to teach others their science. It was then that NLP began to achieve results. There are many other stories, but this was a key moment in the development of NLP.

Frank Pucelik: - …this happened at the university. A strange man with obvious prejudice visited our classes...

John Grinder: - [laughing] I came in, sat aside, watched, listened and went away.

Frank Pucelik.: He could also suddenly come up with questions like - "Here you do this and this, do you do this on purpose?" etc. Richard and I were puzzled: "There now!" I now think that these questions boosted the birth of NLP. That was great. There definitely were ups and downs but ... I think that NLP exists only thanks to him, to John Grinder. Now there are many people claiming authorship, or claiming bringing up the idea of this method, but without him, there was no "miracle".

M. Greenfield: - Do I get it right that you have brought modeling and structure to NLP?

John Grinder: - Yes, the formal description of processes. In those years, I taught linguistics, mathematics and economics at the University, therefore I could easily create a model.

M. Shcherbakov: - So nobody else could do it?

John Grinder: - No, it's not true.

M. Greenfield: - But your education and profession helped you?

John Grinder: - My ability to analyze judgments and training in linguistics played role and, of course, enthusiasm, characteristic of all three of us.

Frank Pucelik: - I think all three have contributed to NLP.

John Grinder: - Exactly! None of us would create NLP alone. It was real collaboration of three people. Therefore, I react negatively to everything like "it was you who started ..." etc.

M. Greenfield: - How and in what context did the term NLP appear?

John Grinder: - We did not sleep for 36 hours at that time... I remember that we worked throughout the night with Richard, and Frank appeared at about 4 or 5am. The term "neuro-linguistics" already existed in the scientific language; we have not invented anything new. It seems to me I suggested this term and Richard and Frank supported the idea. Then one of them said the word "programming". Now it is clear that the term is unsuitable - it scares off. Analyzing the term "NLP" in view of marketing we can barely imagine a worse name. The only thing I can say in defense of the title is first, that we were not very experienced and did not even expect NLP would have anything to do with marketing, and second is that this title really connects two neuro-linguistic levels: neurology and linguistics. There is one joke about this: some guys from Philadelphia demonstrated "neuro-linguistic programming" from time to time, calling themselves "lingvini" - (name of a sort of sausages). I think they chose this witty title on purpose.

Frank Pucelik: - Some called this method "META" from the very beginning.

John Grinder: - The fact is that the idea of "META" also reflects a very important element of neuro-linguistic programming - its logic. "META" means an external logic level, "communication of communication."

M. Greenfield: - What are the relations between NLP and official science? Psychology in particular?

John Grinder: - To be more accurate – what you mean - science or psychology? I do not think psychology is a science; I have to clarify what science you mean?

M. Shcherbakov: - On the West, and particularly in the U.S., there is a strict distinction between psychotherapy, medicine, consulting, New Age, etc. What place does NLP occupy in this system?

John Grinder: - NLP, as I conceive it, and I think that Frank would say the same (dash knows what Richard thinks about it!), so - NLP essence is modeling skills. This is explanation and codification of behavioral skills that make a distinction between ordinary and brilliant effect. In that sense, this science is “figural”. And it could well be applied to any other discipline. Most people talk about neuro-linguistic programming with a view to its application in the field of psychotherapy. I worked hard to separate the two logic levels. However, in popular magazines, journals and so on the border is not clearly defined. If we understand NLP in its application to therapy, it automatically gets to one line with psychology, business consulting, etc. In this meaning NLP becomes a certain strategic approach to the problem, aimed at creating changes in the frame of psychotherapy.

M. Shcherbakov: - In what kind of magazines do those who call themselves NLPers place their ads - magazines on psychotherapy, on medicine, New Age?

John Grinder: - I have seen such advertisements in all kinds of magazines. I think they are totally confused, but this is my personal opinion.

M. Shcherbakov: - In Russia, many people believe that NLP is a set of technical skills. Is that true for Europe and America?

John Grinder: - It’s just the same. I have just mentioned that I have always tried to distinguish between NLP as a perfect science of modeling skills and practical NLP as a form of psychotherapy, etc. Despite all my efforts, neither press, nor public opinion sees the distinction. Mixing logic levels and inability to separate them happens often enough. This is a mistake of not only NLP, but of the entire scientific world. In a sense, competence of a thinker can be measured by his ability to separate logic levels and types. Vast majority does not handle this.

M. Greenfield: - What is the key point of NLP for John Grinder?

John Grinder: - I have two answers! Here is the simple one: Why do you create these models? At a certain stage, you have to stop playing and move from school to University or enter professional community. When you master NLP in some areas, you have to move forward, reach a higher level. Find a genius, create a model, encode it so that it was convenient to handle and effectively transform and then - rule the world. Then I recognize you as an equal human, acting maturely and correctly. But until then – you can continue playing games as long as you wish. This is my simple answer. And here is the complex one: I have been thinking over the answer for four days! [it is a joke]

M. Greenfield: - A few words about you...

John Grinder: - About me? Well, I'm studying, learning, and that is all. I like doing things I succeed in. I like to learn something new - languages, cultures, learning from geniuses... Here's what I often say: everyone has dreams, so do I. Quite a big dream! And why do people dream? Because dreams involve a certain set of qualities you would like to have. Is religion opium for the people? This is dreams speculation. I agree with Marx, who said this. The ultimate meaning of this idea of Marx is that people are given a dream, which distracts them from real life in the hope that they will come to something in the future. If you have a dream, it gives you a certain direction and mobilizes resources. But if working for that dream (which embodies all the dignity missing now) you sacrifice the quality of your "today", then you were cheated just as all those who are deceived by religion. The dream exists as a reminder of full live every day. Do not sacrifice your "present" in the name of your "future"! This does not mean that you do not plan your life, that you are not disciplined, but that you are prudent and do not get deceptive by this - "we must live for tomorrow." We must live today for tomorrow. And already now, in daily life, we must have the dignity our future is aimed at. Otherwise, you will never create your future.


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