An NLP Modelling Adventure

December 12, 2010

The exploration of Master Practitioner

A friend once told me about a 3 day course he attended where he felt drawn in by one of the presenters whose style sparked intelligent group discussions and created an environment in which my friend found himself challenged to expand his own thinking in a way that he hadn’t for some years. During those next few days, he was totally immersed in this deep learning experience. Towards the end of the third day he was talking with fellow participants during the coffee break and a funny thing happened. He said that from his mouth came a sentence that was both unfamiliarly elegant and complex in its construction, and thoughtful and provocative in its content. Where had this come from? And, furthermore, what on earth was he doing with his hands?! And then, he said, the recognition came: he had picked it up from the speaker.


Have you ever found yourself doing something or saying something that gives you a sense of someone else, only to recognise that this unfamiliar familiarity is a mannerism or a phrase you’ve picked up from someone else?

When it came to ‘learning’ modelling as part of the Master Practitioner course I wondered what I was going to experience that would be new. Surely we model every day as part of being human – observe any pre-verbal child to witness this. But the distinction here is that NLP modelling includes being able to code and teach what you’ve modelled, to others. There was further challenge at the Master Practitioner course, that is we were tasked to present our model to our course colleagues. This means we would find a model of excellence, unconsciously assimilate the pattern, deploy it, code and then teach it. Michael Carroll explained in doing this we would be following the same path as Grinder and Bandler did. Whilst our projects were micro in comparison, it’s the process that is important.


It’s not untrue that I began my NLP modelling adventure by overcomplicating the task in hand. Thankfully, the arrival of two humungous crows on the lawn outside provided the necessary interrupt and prompt to adopt something more appropriate for my first modelling project… crow modelling. Not the bird, but Bakasana, the yoga pose, something I fancied doing but gave up on many years ago as requiring too much effort and probably a lot of falling over.

Not being any kind of yogi, I watched a few people performing Bakasana on YouTube before settling on a model of excellence, watching her over and over with the sound turned off, and micro muscle mirroring as best I could from a screen. Three days before my presentation and confident that I had enough tacit knowledge to deploy the pattern, I got my ‘know nothing’ state before heroically collapsing onto a heap on the floor. Something was amiss…

One challenge for me in this context was to not consciously observe but to unconsciously assimilate. It seemed strange to me – surely without rapport between the model and the modeller, there can be no ‘hookup’ of the unconscious? Without this I had little other than conscious observation, limited further by what was visible in the video. I wanted a real live model of excellence and luckily, I found one in Myrto, who was thankfully assisting on the course.


With my live model of excellence there was both the rapport and the unconscious ‘hook up’ that I had felt was missing from the YouTube experience. It wasn’t long before I got an internal sense of an abdominal contraction, a sense of ‘in and up’, which was something completely new. Of course, this immediately pulled me into conscious processing – it’s hard to not be conscious when you discover something new – so, back to a ‘know nothing’ state and back to unconscious assimilation…

This time, when I came to deploy the pattern it felt very different. I didn’t have internal dialogue as I performed the skill, I just did it (though I have to admit that there was a conscious awareness of the ‘in and up’ before I entered the pose that later became part of the coding). So, I had successfully assimilated and deployed the pattern…


To complete the NLP modelling process, there is more than being able to unconsciously assimilate another’s skill. There are some extra steps that go beyond what we do naturally when we learn through being human.

The steps for NLP modelling are:
1.  find a model of excellence
2.  unconsciously learn the pattern
3.  deploy the pattern, perform the skill
4. code the pattern
5.  test it: teach the pattern


What was interesting to me was the rapidity with which I was able to uptake the skill when I had access to a live model versus the lengthy (and previously unsuccessful) process of conscious observation and interpretation. Suspending conscious analysis was, whilst a bit like being lost in the fog, hugely liberating and a lot of fun.

But I’m left with a question: could it be that the modeller needs access to a live model in order to successfully unconsciously learn a physical skill such as this?  If so, consider a teenager who becomes a fan of a pop star… after fanatical observation and the devouring of any materials available (excluding seeing them in person) isn’t it possible that they could display their idol’s mannerisms? Is this unconscious modelling?  Most likely. Of course, the two men who brought NLP modeling to us, John Grinder and Richard Bandler, did have access to two of their models, although as I understand it, Bandler used lot of video material when modelling Perls. So as we approach our modelling projects, Michael Carroll reminded us that these co-creators of NLP unconsciously assimilated the patterns of excellence that the exemplars portrayed, before attempting to understand what the models did. I found this quite challenging but am glad that Michael designed an NLP Master Practitioner course that offered this challenge, because he insisted we follow a modeling path that somewhat resembles the modeling style on which NLP was built ”“ isn’t that fantastic?

© Suzy Cross and the NLP Academy

About The Author

Suzy Cross, recently graduated the NLP Academy Master Practitioner course. Modelling was one area of the course that fascinated Suzy.  Modelling is the skill that built NLP and is a major feature of the NLP Academy Master Practitioner course. Here Suzy shares her modelling adventure starting her story when she was just five and was modeling as children do.

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