“Neurons” Meta Reflections 2015 #37
August 26, 2015

Monday August 24, Robert Dilts led us (the 140 of us at NLP U.) in singing “Happy Birthday” to NLP. Robert also encouraged those from different language groups to sing Happy Birthday in many different languages. That was one of the ways that the group recognized and celebrated the 40th Anniversary of NLP. For the celebration, Robert invited Trainers and Leaders from around the world, I was there with Ian and Paulette McDermott, Christine Hall, Frank Pucelik, and others who came in for a couple days before I got there, Tim and Kris Hallboam, Sid Jacobson, etc. I was glad that five of us there were Neuro-Semantic Trainers and Meta-Coaches.

Forty years means that we have to go back to 1975 when The Structure of Magic was finalized and then published. Prior to that we have what Terry McClendon called, The Wild Days of NLP: 1972-1975. Those were the days that two different groups of people, some 20 people in all, co-created the field and model that we now call NLP. What stands out for me about that is this: It took a community to create it. We often say that the co-developers were Richard Bandler and John Grinder, but that’s really not accurate. Frank Pucelik was also a key player as were another two dozen people who actually made it all happened.

Further a strange thing happened. Somehow the first group of people never really knew what they were involved in and saw no real future for it so except for Terry McClendon none of them stayed around and became leaders. It was the second group made up of Judith DeLozier, Robert Dilts, Leslie Cameron, David Gordon, etc. who actually stepped up to leadership and developed NLP as a field and discipline, this included Steve and Connaire Andreas (1975-1980).

From the beginning Bandler and Grinder did not provide anything that we would call “leadership” for the field of NLP. They were not, and are not, “leaders” in the sense of thinking about others, building a community, bringing out the best in people, grooming leaders, organizing conferences, creating ongoing support for trainers and up-coming leaders, etc. They did none of that. What they did was at the creation level; they articulated “the magic” which they found in Perls, Satir, and Erickson.

Richard embodied those skills in himself by his gift of mimicry and patterning; John used the formulations of Transformational Grammar (TG) to give it professional and academic credibility.

John brought into NLP the Cognitive Psychology premises from Chomsky (TG) and George Miller (having worked in his lab).

Frank was from the beginning the connector that put the people together and organized the first Gestalt Therapy class at the College.

But they also did not understand what they had or its potentials. After Richard chased Frank away in 1976, Richard and John became business partners for a couple years to take advantage of all of the bubbling energy and creativity and money which was available during that early period (1976-1979). For them it seemed to be about money, seminars, fame, power, etc. It never seemed to be about community, gifting people with tools for changing the world, grooming others to be leaders. That fell to Robert Dilts who has done the most in this regard and Leslie Cameron Bandler who put the format of the first trainings together (now called Practitioner and later, Master Practitioner). Judith joined Robert as did Todd Epstein and many others.

Robert Dilts is reported to have once said, “NLP was created by two wild individualists who modeled three wild individualists.” And also, “Richard and John gave birth to NLP but never stayed around to father the field.” So in the field of NLP, the originators never led, and have never provided leadership. We tried to get them back involved in 1997 at the Visionary Leadership Conference. They would not come or participate. That was repeated at the Millennial Project (2000), and it happened again now at the 40th Year Anniversary. Although Richard Bandler did send a short video recognizing what we were doing. That’s a first! Late by 40 years, but a warm and kind gesture.

So who have been the leaders? Mostly that second group mentioned above. Then joining them were many of the second generation of trainers who arose. Many of them began exercising a lot of influence via the NLP Associations that arose in most countries, in the Journals, and at the Conferences. These leaders sometimes pulled people away from the others to create a “kingdom” around themselves. In those areas of NLP, they were exclusive rather than inclusive. And they were mostly organized around a business model of some sort.

The leaders of NLP have therefore mostly been thought leaders. Those who wrote and/or clearly articulated NLP— its principles, premises, patterns, etc. in writings or in presentations became recognized as those leading out. This is how I “accidently” found myself in a position of leadership. I didn’t plan for it. I didn’t even understand that it was happening until later. I think there was such a hunger for leadership, that when I began detailing out the Meta-Model and expanding it (1991-1993) and then when I found and articulated a model for self-reflexive consciousness (the Meta-States Model, 1994-1997), people wanted to be a part of it. I wrote NLP books primarily to learn the model more thoroughly. Yet as more and more of my books appeared, I found that there was a following.

With the books came opportunities to train— both Prac. and Master Prac. and Meta-States and from that people wanted to join up and be a part of what I and others were doing. When Bob and I created Neuro-Semantics and registered it in 1996, just as soon as we put our Vision statement on the website, people started calling and wanting to join. That’s how the International Society of Neuro-Semantics was given birth. I trained Accessing Personal Genius (APG) for five years (1995-1999) before running our first Trainers’ Training. Soon thereafter the 90 million dollar lawsuit against the field of NLP ended with Bandler losing and “NLP” being put in public domain (Feb. 2000).

Fast forward to 2015 and we have now reached 40 years as a field. Frank Pucelik and I launched The NLP Leadership Summit in 2012 as a way to gather “the elders of the tribe” together so that they could get acquainted, begin a conversation of the future, and see if we can associate with one another. We decided to not create another association— just to associate as people with a common interest and vision— Promoting the value, credibility, and professionalism of NLP (www.nlpleadershipsummit.org). That is now fully underway and corresponds to what Robert, Judith, and Teresa are doing with the NLP Community Project. A big thank you to these three for their vision and leadership!

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.