On neuro-linguistic programming

What are your thoughts on NLP? (Useful? Bullshit? Useful bullshit?)


NLP is total bullshit, but it’s very convincing bullshit, because it’s rooted in two very legitimate concepts from psycholinguistics and systems theory.

Back in the creepy half of the 1970’s, two douchebags with one PhD took Chomsky’s brilliant ideas about transformational grammar and smashed them together with the principles of second-order cybernetics to make a shiny but totally useless pile of pseudoscience.

Basically, they took a jet engine and strapped it to a submarine and told everybody that they’d built a spaceship. The problem is, if you don’t know any better, a jet engine strapped to a submarine kinda looks like a spaceship, and the world has always been full of idiots who’ll line up if you promise them free trips to the moon.

The really fucked up thing is that a jet engine is an incredible piece of technology, and a submarine can take you to some amazing places, so it requires a remarkable combination of idiots and assholes to misuse them both so blatantly.


30 thoughts on “On neuro-linguistic programming

  1. erica says:

    Just remember, anyone can call themselves a psychotherapist. No training, education, or degree required. So personally, when I see anything defined as psychotherapy, I fucking run away.

    • The Coquette says:

      Fair point, but asking me to expand your knowledge of NLP is like asking me to expand your knowledge about Scientology. I’d rather not waste the brain cells. (Mine or yours.)

    • erica says:

      I apologize…I’m trying to be better at thinking before speaking. I’m a long term reader but only began commenting lately.

      Basically anyone can claim they are a psychotherapist, but not everyone can claim they are a psychologist, or a psychiatrist, or a counselor, or a social worker, etc. Psychotherapy is something that is unfortunately used in a lot of modern social work masters programs and is based on Freud – who coined the similar term psychoanalysis, and therfore psychotherapist long ago used to imply someone trained in Freud/psychoanalysis but today the meaning means many things, or basically whatever any hack says it is – which while historical and interesting, much of his work is outdated to say the least, and unscientific. The social sciences use the scientific method too. Basically, with Freud one can say, “we can’t prove it, but we can’t disprove it.” I personally don’t buy the Oedipus complex or frankly any his thoughts on child development. But he’s interesting to study from a historical standpoint. that’s why I personally avoided any MSW programs, because many were a bunch of psychotherapy based garbage that were completely unscientific, as all psychotherapy pretty much is.

      Many pastors and religious leaders etc. also claim to study and use psychotherapy treatments…yya. again no special training required, literally anyone can claim to be a psychotherapist. It is considered a non-legally protected term that anyone can claim and use as a title, unlike psychiatrist (a medical doctor) or psychologist (a doctorate in psychology) or a counselor /social worker/therapist (almost always or most usually requires a license or a degree to allow them to work with the public).

      Hopefully this clears it up a bit.. but I didn’t hold back on my personal bias here. Sorry if it is more of a rant.

      • The Coquette says:

        I think maybe TBunny was critiquing my post, not your comment, but thanks for expanding your thoughts on psychotherapists. Personally, I don’t mind the term, but then again, I’ve never come across someone claiming to be a psychotherapist who doesn’t hold some sort of license.

      • Lovefooling says:

        I don’t think Tbunny’s comment was a reply to yours. Replies are indented. Your comment was informative, though, so thanks for that.

    • Margo says:

      Why would that be a good criteria for an advice columnist’s writing? The only person capable of and responsible for expanding your knowledge of something is you. Coquette is not a Wikipedia-regurgitation-device, and there’s a difference between expanding knowledge and expanding thinking.

      I came here to say that this piece was choice.

  2. Lucy says:

    It’s 6:46am in Sydney and one of our major political parties (or rather, coalitions) in Australia is called the LNP. You can imagine what my first impression of this post was.

    • Rachel says:

      Eh, nevermind. Wouldn’t really even make sense for anyone to think natural language processing is bullshit. If you were to call bullshit on something, it would make more sense for it to be about neuro-linguistics programming.

  3. Pavel says:

    Google trends suggests NLP is about as unpopular as it has ever been. Why even give a washed up new age philosophy the attention? And why now? Usually you’re in keeping with current events….

        • CynicalGrey says:

          Having suffered through a Landmark Forum just a month after losing my grandmother, I enjoyed reading about all the Fuck-NLP posts. I’ll go back and reread them because gawd, humor is the best way I can process that hell 3 years ago.

  4. Pants says:

    “the creepy half of the 1970’s” is one of the most magnificent grouping of words I’ve read in the last year, at least.

  5. Barefootsie says:

    Just wanted to say I’m glad you wrote about these shenanigans. I’ve been auditing an acting class that wasn’t sitting right … and then the teacher started talking about how he had just started reading an NLP book and I remembered this post. So I’m nope’ing the fuck out of that situation.

  6. Pingback: Is Hypnosis Bullshit? – DIANA REY

  7. girlwithaboysname says:

    Weirdly a huge chain of international hair stylists use NLP in all their managerial training.
    It makes me feel very uncomfortable to even think about.

  8. Buttercup says:

    Just sat at dinner with two decent persons who seem to buy (and sell!) NLP wholesale. Mostly sounds like placebo, which mostly bothers me because it costs them gobs of money (unless they rope others into it, then there may be some kind of discount…or just a sense that they’re not in this money-wasting alone(?)). I moonwalked out of the conversation nodding and smiling (which I think hypnotized them into thinking I’m signing up for the next workshop).

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