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Cause and Effect in NLP

Posted on the 09 March 2011 by Combi31 @combi31

Cause and Effect in NLP

Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) has been slammed as a pseudo-science by academics, due mainly to the claims that it makes which are not backed up by solid empirical research evidence.

Regardless of what one my think about NLP, there are some aspects which appear to offer solid and logical explanations and techniques for some situations, especially related to human behaviour.

Let’s have a brief look at one of the NLP metamodels – Cause and effect.

Just to give a bit of background, NLP is largely made up of Presuppositions and Metamodels – Presuppositions being the founding tenets of NLP and Metamodels define the language and processes of which a model is formed.

The founding members of NLP set out to model excellence in high achievers and to examine how people overcame phobias – the Metamodel is, in some ways, a technique to model excellence, hence the subheading of NLP – “The technology of achievement.”

‘Real’ sciences, such as physics, look for cause and effect to explain the world around us through cause and effect, although this can sometimes lead to confusion when factors and variables are thrown into the mix, but there are laws which govern such disciplines, such as the law of thermodynamics, which facilitates understanding.

Cause and effect, as seen in NLP are often linguistic patterns that clarify limiting beliefs to a relationship where two (or more) events are related in a way that one impacts on the other forming the effect.

If we were to talk about a law in NLP, we would refer to the presuppositions, one of which is that we always have a choice – and I mean Always!

We have a choice to live and act in either cause or effect – it is totally our decision (although at times it may appear that we do not always have a choice – we do).

A clear linguistic marker that denotes effect is the use of the word “But” when describing an event.

Take a step back for a moment and examine your thoughts as you read this article – you are going through a Cause and Effect process at this very moment.

How do you feel?

If you can draw parallels with your own life and behaviours you may be agreeing with what you are reading and feel more focused through introspection.

If you have approached the article with prejudice to wards the ‘N’ word (NLP) you may be feeling irritated – “Ok, I agree in part …. but” – But, please read on … whatever you are experiencing you are either cause or effect.

The reality is that very few people are able to go through life at cause.

The difference between Cause and Effect is one of responsibility and accountability versus one of blame, (self) limiting beliefs and lack of choice.

Cause means taking decisions which create opportunity leading to what one wants and not what one feels one should achieve – if things don’t work out in the way that they were planned, one is able to rectify, adjust and explore other possibilities – there is always a choice.

There is always a choice – how many are thinking, well, yeah, but No, not always? Yes there is, you can choose to act or not to act, take a decision or not take a decision, whatever you choose, you have made a choice.

Effect means blaming outside factors, people or events for what you are experiencing and living – there is a sense of impotence and helplessness, waiting for things to change, without taking responsibility for that change to happen – it is ironic that, although there may appear to be no choice available to them – they have chosen to be at effect.

Perhaps a more pertinent model to consider when applied to the complexity of human behaviour is Intention – Consequence, or is this just splitting linguistic and semantic hairs?

In my view, intention and consequence actually short-circuits the notion of blame, transforming it dynamically into more of a learning tool that implies a deeper sense of responsibility for results and events, which blaming outside variables cannot encompass.

Personally, I feel that the application of the Intention – Consequence model does imply a deeper feeling of learning, but we will look at this at another time – let’s get back to the model in hand.

At Cause Signals At Effect Signals

You feel comfortable in your environment You feel stressed in a particular environment

You can naturally say what you like Others dictate what and when you say things

You act with a level of competence and abilities You are panicking and questioning your abilities

You feel at ease, energetic and vibrant You have low energy and feel overwhelmed

You are at ease to be yourself You question if you are good enough

You take difficulties and setbacks in your stride You cannot say “No” and try your best to please

Your choices are based on what you want You do what you ‘should’ do, not what you ‘want’ to do 

Cause & Effect – Metamodels

You can use this model to help change behaviour and to clarify what is causing the behaviour.

The Meta Model has three main uses:

1. It compiles and filters information by examining deletions.

2. Meaning is clarified by questioning techniques – “What exactly do you mean by that?”

3. Limitations are identified, especially when words such as “Can’t”, “Ought”, “but”, etc. are used, opening up more choices.

Internal dialogues that we go through often reveal the limiting beliefs that we hold as hard facts – opening up outdated judgements and prejudices, distortions and generalisations or even other people’s opinions.

Listening to your own internal dialogues can help you to find the ‘oughts’ ‘buts’ and ‘can’ts’ that limit your own freedom of choice.

Let’s take a few examples:

  • I ought to do this

- What would happen if you didn’t?

- What would happen if you did?

  • I just can’t do this.

- What is stopping you?

- Why can’t you do this?

  • She doesn’t like me.

- How do I know this exactly?

- What exactly does she not like about me?

- How is this manifested?

  • I’m bored.

- How exactly are you boring yourself?

  • Change is impossible

- How is changing impossible?

- From what into what?

- Why is change impossible?

  • It is difficult to decide.

- How am I finding it difficult to decide?

- Why am I experiencing difficulty deciding?

- What is preventing me from making a decision?

  • Nobody likes me.

- Nobody?

- Nobody at all?

There will be times when you cannot avoid speaking with generalisations in order that others, for example, can make their own meaning from what you say.

Have a practice yourself – there are sure to be lots of examples, then it remains another personal choice regarding whether you want to change the behaviour that results.

  • I can’t ski.
  • It’s impossible to speak French.
  • I can’t cook.
  • I ought to take more exercise.
  • I should learn mathematics to help my kids with their homework.
  • I can’t do maths.
  • I’m useless.
  • I would like to but ….
  • I ought to learn to ….
  • I can’t say that ….

Try this out for yourself.

As a final note, these are not fixed nor stable states, once again we have the choice to be at either Cause or Effect, we are ultimately in charge of our own feelings and how we want to feel – sometimes this may be difficult to accept.

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