Thursday, September 05, 2002

NLP - for real?

I've had my killer SUV almost long enough to pay it off, and it shows in the way I get into it. In a fluid motion the door is open, I'm in the seat, my key is instantly in the ignition and off we go.

As long as I don't look at the ignition switch that is. It seems odd that looking at the target for my ignition key would make things worse, but it does. I rarely miss. Of all the physical skills to have, this is mine - whoopee.

Alright, I've been in and out of the thing probably a couple of thousand times now, so I have had practice. But how much practice does it take to acquire "muscle memory"? How much should it take? How can we make it faster?

Nowadays I find myself learning American style tango. Slowly. All that attitude, the picture lines, etc - I'm more of a plow horse than a show horse. Maybe my expectations are out of whack, but I seem to be learning it very slowly.

Could the answer lie in phobias?

Some years ago I read a number of books on neuro-linguistic programming. Practitioners study the way people react to external stimuli, and phobias are particularly interesting examples. They can be thought of as the result of effortless, very thorough yet instant visceral learning. Which suggests that learning about how phobias are created and overcome can teach us a lot about learning in general - why can't all learning be done so rapidly and thoroughly? The applications to training, sales, politics and other human interactions are boundless.

Phobias are just one thing that NLP practitioners study. They also study other clues that trigger behaviors, and seek ways to create these triggers and attach reactions to them. I'm not doing it justice by any measure, and its backers have high hopes for it, publishing books with titles like "Using Your Brain - For a Change".

I've never run into anyone who's heard of this, much less who had an opinion about whether it was for real or just so much overpromoted pseudoscience. Any opinions out there?

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