Can Spiritual Leaders and NLP get along?

Guest writer – Philip Gustafson

Several faiths around the world have issues with NLP and especially hypnosis.  They are primarily based on misunderstandings of what NLP and hypnosis is.  I will discuss primarily the Christian faith and its opinions as that is the faith that I am most familiar with.  You may find, if your faith background is not Christian some similarities, or some congruence with your faith background.

In the portions of the Christian faith that focus on “bounded set” judgement on NLP and Hypnosis is strongest.  “Bounded Set” is a paradigm view that things (behaviors and beliefs) need to be within prescribed boundaries to be “true” or genuine.  Anything not within the boundary is suspect at best, regarded as “not-Christian” or Satanic at worst.

Root Cause of Not Getting Along

The Bible in the Old Testament and New Testament describes “sorcery” as a sin Deuteronomy 18:10 and punishable by death Exodus 22:8.  St. Paul lists it as a major sin in Galatians 5:20.  In Acts 8 a sorcerer thinks that the miracles Peter and John do are sorcery and wants to “buy into it”.  Revelation 21:8 and 22:15 condemn those who practice sorcery into the lake of fire and eternal separation from the righteous.

Sorcery’s definition includes: practice whose adherents claim to have supernatural powers and knowledge; the ability to foretell the future and to summon evil spirits through charms and magic spells.

Some view the ability to help a person change behavior or even beliefs with language a form of sorcery.  And hypnosis as “mind control” i.e. possessing the other person’s will to force them to do things or believe things they would not do if in their “right mind”.  That is what demons do in “possessing” a person.

Therefore because of perceptions of NLP and hypnosis doing those things they are outside the boundaries of good Christian behavior & beliefs they are to be judged as evil, or under the authority of the opponent of God – i.e. Satan.

Unfortunately, there has been some abuse of NLP and hypnosis, or unethical behavior of its practitioners, which may give examples of this to those looking for that behavior.  In NLP we know that to meet one’s expectations one will perceive activities to support their belief.

Getting Along

If hypnosis is “an altered state of consciousness” which some definitions state then we can find in the Bible several times where God induces an “altered state of consciousness” to those of faith that allow them to perceive new truths about God and the world.  The visions of patriarchs and prophets, even apostles are all God given and fit that definition of hypnosis.  Other faiths share a similar narrative of key leaders in the faith having their state of consciousness altered.

NLP and Hypnosis are tools that can assist a person to better use the gifts that God has given them.  Just as a hammer can be a useful tool for a carpenter to build things, it can also be used destructively to damage or injure.  The hammer is not evil, its user chooses how to use the tool.

Though NLP has only been identified since the early 1970s its principles and concepts can be found throughout history.  In my Spiritual Leaders course students will find examples of NLP in their books of faith and for us Christians that is notably the Bible.  A tool used well can bring resourceful results.

Spiritual Sources of NLP

In the iNLP Center’s Spiritual Leader Coaching Certification program we spend time looking in our books of faith to see examples, usually resourceful examples, of NLP Concepts.  If it is something used in a book of faith to show the revelation of one’s God to you and the world, it should have worth and be able to be replicated.

The Bible has all the concepts we study at the iNLP Center of NLP in it.  It is having perceptual skills to be able to find them.  Some are very evident some may be less so, but they are there.

An easily identifiable NLP Concept of Metaphor, symbolic language, can be seen in the parables of Jesus.  Who is my neighbor?  Jesus was asked after a direct question about who to care for by God’s standards.  Jesus tells a story of a traveler ambushed, robbed and beaten and 2 people of good repute come by, who refuse to help, and one, of ill repute, who does and goes above and beyond.  “Who was the neighbor?” A challenge to see neighbor as even the least desired person. (Luke 10:25-37)

In the Old Testament, Ezekiel 37,  the “valley of dry bones” is a wonderful metaphor of hope for a people whose nation had been destroyed and who were exiled away from all they knew.

This is a wonderful example of Metaphor in the Quran: 

 Surat Al-Baqarah [2:74]:  Then your hearts became hardened after that, being like stones or even harder. For indeed, there are stones from which rivers burst forth, and there are some of them that split open and water comes out, and there are some of them that fall down for fear of Allah . And Allah is not unaware of what you do.

Reframing, seeing the same thing from a different perspective, can be seen in the story of several individuals in the Bible.  In the Old Testament Moses goes from being a fugitive and shepherd to a leader of his people by God reframing him.  Saul of Tarsus, in a visionary encounter with the divine, sees everything from a new perspective and reframes to a new identity, Paul the Apostle.

Each book of faith contains narrative or insights that reframe the reader to seeing things from a new perspective.  Even ancient faiths that are no longer observed have that as a key portion of the faith.

One can easily find other NLP concepts/techniques in books of faith – timeline, eliciting resourceful states, anchoring, collapsing anchors, outcome specification, meta-programs, meta and Milton questioning, aspects of levels of development, presuppositions, Psychological Safety and others.  It is with the lens of NLP that we can perceive them there.  “If you have eyes to see…….”

Ending with Positive Intent

The conflict between faith and NLP/Hypnosis comes from a generalization and distortion of perceptions of abuse of NLP/Hypnosis, and deletion of the good that is done and how common much of NLP and Hypnosis is in life.  All are language breaches that we examine in NLP with Meta questioning, or chunk up with Milton vaguery.  Ethical behavior and practices are consistent with many resourceful spiritual disciplines and serve as strong counter examples to the negative feelings towards NLP and Hypnosis.

We, in NLP, use the NLP Presupposition of “Positive Intent” to apply to Spirituality practices.  We can only hope to assist those in Faith backgrounds to apply the same lens to NLP/Hypnosis.  In discerning and respecting the positive intent of spirituality and of NLP/Hypnosis we can utilize the strengths that all offer and diminish the negatives.

About Philip Gustafson:
Retired after 41 years of service as a Lutheran Pastor, Philip is an NLP Master Practitioner, Life Coach and the facilitator of the Spiritual Leaders Coach Training Program at the iNLP Center.

Philip sees a powerful purpose for NLP in all ministry as well as coaching, mentoring, counseling and consulting. “My passion is to journey with people to imagine and live out the possibilities of life especially in times of transition”

You can learn more about the Spiritual Leaders Coach Training at this link.

Categories: NLP Coach