One thing that really excites me is the sheer potential of the human mind body system and the amazing things that people can do without the input of conscious will. In fact conscious will in many areas of our life simply gets in the way. Whist the term unconscious has certain baggage attached through the connotations Freud attached to the term in NLP, the unconscious put simply, is the part of processing the mind of which the individual under consideration is unaware. Given how little we are aware of in our systems and the vast number of potential neural pathways in our nervous system, unconscious processing represents a significantly larger part of our experience. Often we look for unusual medical cases or talented savants as examples of the power of the mind, but how can we harness our own unconscious processes to perform at higher levels of conscious awareness?
Coma victims often provide the medical field with cases where there is simply no so called scientific explanation for post coma behaviour. In 2010 there was case of a 13 year old girl in Croatia who fell into a mysterious coma for 24 hours and came back to consciousness speaking fluent German. The girl who prior to the coma had been studying German and watching German films etc had only a basic grasp of speaking the language prior to the coma. The interesting question is how did she learn the language so fluently in such a short period of time and do we all have access to this skill? Did she have latent ability with the language leaning towards Chomsky’s universal grammar argument accompanied by some rapid assimilation of the structures of language? This case is an example of unconscious processing where there is no logical explanation or conscious influence.The term autistic savant (a term I don’t particularly like) is used to describe people who have profound prodigious capacities and/or abilities far in excess of those considered normal. These talents can be musical, arithmetical or artistic to name a few. However the talents savants display are accompanied by developmental delays in other areas. One exceptionally gifted person who also has autism is Stephen Wiltshire, an artist who can be exposed to large cities such as London, New York or Tokyo in a short helicopter ride and then reproduce a detailed full scale drawing of the landscape. This exceptional talent is a remarkable feat of memory accompanied by the gift of drawing. Other savants can do six figure mental arithmetic on a par with a calculator. Such feats are examples of unconscious processing and very sophisticated use of cognitive processes, again without conscious influence.
We often think of the conscious mind as the part of us that makes decisions. A simple decision would be to reach out and pick up the pencil on the desk. Such a decision is typical ‘free will’ in action, or is it? In 1985, researcher Benjamin Libet (Libet 1985) set up series of experiments at the University of California to test the extent of free will we actually have. The participants were fitted with EEG sensors to measure brain activity. They were told to make specified hand movements whenever they wished and asked to note the moment they ‘consciously’ decided to move their hand by noting the position of a spot light that moved around a large clock face. A readiness potential (RP) is a spike in the electrical activity of the brain that happens when a person gets ready to move one arm, leg, or foot. In the case of Libet’s research, (over hundreds of trials) the RP occurred 250 -300 ms before the conscious reported decision to move the arm. This suggests the unconscious part of processing preceded what was thought to be a conscious decision and our behaviours and choices in the world (no matter how much we think are consciously selected) could actually be far more unconscious than we think.
John Grinder tells an interesting story about when the famous Jazz musician McCoy Tyner came to town. One of Grinder’s students at the time Paul Nagal himself an ‘average’ pianist was a fan of Tyner but was unable to get tickets to the Tyner concert. It also happened to be Paul Nagal’s birthday. Grinder and Bandler as part experiment and probably part joke, hypnotised Nagal and in the trance had him deep trance indentify with Mcoy Tyner and play on the piano a short Tyner set ending in the tune Happy Birthday. An audio recording was made of Nagal’s deep trance identification and amnesia was installed so Nagal had no idea of what had occurred. The following day as a birthday present, Grinder and Bandler presented Paul Nagal with the audio tape of himself in deep trance playing the piano as McCoy Tyner but told him it was actually McCoy Tyner himself and they had managed to get a private set recorded specially for his birthday. Given Nagal had amnesia for the previous day’s activities he had his own musical ear to evaluate the recording which he judged based on the high quality of the piano playing and distinct style as a genuine McCoy Tyner recording. In essence in the trance McCoy was able to access unconscious brain processing that enabled him to perform at a significantly higher level than he did when he used his every day processing strategies to play the piano. This is an example of a higher level functioning that comes from the unconscious. This is also linked to NLP modelling where highly skilled performances are initially replicated unconsciously and without conscious influence.
So how can we in our everyday life access higher level unconscious functioning to improve levels of performance? New Code NLP (Grinder and Bostic St Clair) offers such opportunities. One of the biggest flaws in Grinder and Bandler’s Classic Code of NLP is the consciously selected new behaviour to replace an old unwanted behaviour. This was the ‘programming ‘ part of NLP. Given the limited capabilities of conscious processing and what seems to be the enormous resource bank of the unconscious, the unconscious surely is the system to generate new choices, and this is the essence of New Code NLP. John Grinder in his critique of the Classic Code of NLP and conscious selection of new behaviours said ‘when it works we are turning unhappy robots into happy robots’. The New Code of NLP does something much more generative by engaging lateralised activity in both hemispheres, multiple representational systems via parallel processing tasks produce what is known as a content free ‘high performance state’ which can be generalised to any activity producing new unconscious behaviours in contexts where an individual was once challenged. I will now present a brief case study of the New Code NLP and its high performance states in action. A client came to see me who on a one to basis was a confident communicator but in public speaking scenarios experienced fear. I watched him present and observed tension in his body, higher pitched speaking, a stammer, ‘uhmming’, and swallowing which made it difficult for him to speak. I set up what is known as the New Code change format and had him play the NASA game, a ingenious game which cleverly uses the processes described in the previous paragraph to instigate a high performance state where an individual performs at a high level without thinking. When in this state, I associated the client into the context where he was challenged i.e public speaking and asked him to present. Without thinking the client gave a highly skilled performance with none of the fear responses present in his earlier performance. The following week he gave a cracking Best Man’s speech at his friend’s wedding, a task he had been dreading prior to the coaching work with me. In this case I had harnessed the client’s unconscious processing to produce a state that is different than every day conscious mind thinking.
This article began with examples of how people perform with amazing unconscious competence due to medical conditions, the examples given were a coma victim who showed amazing prowess with language acquisition, savants with amazing prowess for recall and artistic ability. Benjamin Libet’s research was then presented, which indicates that conscious choice may not be as much free will as we think and is preceded by unconscious activity. Drawing on the flaws of Classic Code NLP and its over involvement with conscious selection of resources, the New Code of NLP is introduced with a case study of how it operates by engaging the unconscious and producing high performance states where new choices emerge without conscious influence. To learn more about how you can create more choice in your life through New Code NLP and High Performance States, click this link http://www.nlpacademy.co.uk/courses/view/nlp_in_the_sun_nlp_practitioner_training/
References: LIbet, B. (1985) Unconscious cerebral imitative and the role of conscious will in voluntary action. Behavioural and Brain Sciences pp 529 -66