Robert Dilts on Generative NLP
by Kris Hallbom
There is a presupposition in NLP which states that you already have the resources that you need to be successful. NLP developer, author, and trainer Robert Dilts has taken this presupposition one step further on the evolutionary path of NLP, by developing a process called Generative NLP. The concept of Generative NLP is that if you focus on your resources and how you can enrich them, instead of focusing on your problems, you’ll automatically attract the resolutions to your problems at an unconscious level because you’re operating from the resolution space to begin with. Hence, you can prevent and solve problems before they even come into your conscious awareness. Essentially, what Generative NLP does is it gives you the opportunity to unveil, release, and strengthen your latent capabilities and resources by making them more holographic and systemic. The following interview took place in 1994.
Kris: What is Generative NLP and how do you see it fitting into the future of psychotherapy, health and well being?
Robert: One of the ways that I see it is that solutions and problem solving come from having resources, and the purpose of generative NLP is to take something that is a resource and to make more of it, to expand it and to enrich it. So I think minimally, what Generative NLP does is it allows people to “build” resources instead of trying to select or rely upon resources that they had in the past or something that they have in the present. They can actually take something in the present and expand it.
Secondly, I think that there is a possibility of using Generative NLP itself as an approach. The idea of it is if you build a strong enough resource, that resource will attract the problems of the symptoms that are ready to be solved by that resource. So in that sense, by developing resources, problems become solved. But not because you have to go out and seek a problem and then solve it, but because the resource is available. It’s now able to solve the particular symptom or problem.
Kris: How did you begin to develop this process?
Robert: There are several influences. One is that I was thinking about the ways that I use NLP with myself. Because when I think about using NLP, I think in terms of mastery and modeling. I don’t just use NLP and say “OK, where are my problems and how do I solve them?
Whenever I discover a new thing, then I immediately ask, “What can I do with this? If I had it even better than this, what would happen? If I did this, what would happen?” It wasn’t a problem solving approach; it was more like an exploratory approach to see how things would work out.
Some of the other influences have to do with also being more and more involved with integrating systems and systemic ways of operating in NLP ˆ and the particular influence that was bringing it together was the influence of self organization and taking very seriously that systems self organize and self develop. If we really took to heart the belief that NLP purports, that people have the capabilities that they need and the only reason that they are not already using them is that they need to be mobilized, drawn out or activated, then certainly one of the most important things we can do is to have tools and ways of activating and developing those resources.
Kris: The concept of time seems to play an important role in Generative NLP. What is your concept of time in general, taking into account Aristotle’s and Einstein’s view of time, and how does time relate to the generative process?
Robert: Aristotle thought that it was interesting that people were so caught up with time. Aristotle said, “that time is made up of all the things that use to be and aren’t anymore, and the things that aren’t yet and may never be.” So time is made up of things that are not and yet we get all involved in it. I think Einstein basically perceived time as a construct. And certainly I perceive the perception of time as a tool. In the same way that we want to use all of our representational systems, we want to have many ways of approaching time. Not to find the right map order, but to think of time as a tool that can actually lead us to punctuating our perceptions of things differently.
One of the generative NLP processes involves stepping into the future and asking, “How would this resource change?” And when the person can feel the change in their body as their future self, you then say:
“Well of course, the feeling that you’re having in your body really isn’t in the future, that’s really in the present. Take that future resource and realize that this resource should really be the present state, not the future state because it’s really in the present.” And so you’ll begin using the “conceptions” of time to change that person’s future resource experience into their present first position. Speaking of conception, there is another place you can explore, like preconception. A lot of times people limit themselves to their perception of time and to their memories of their own lifeá and of course, time is not only limited to our own personal memories. We can create spaces for perceptions by using time. Like the idea of the preconception place which allows you to view your life not just as perceiving time as a line, but as a landscape of possibilities. Because a lifetime isn’t a line, it’s more like a landscape and a particular life is a pathway through a very broad landscape that has many choices.
Kris: If there is one thing that you would want readers to know or one thing that you would want to emphasize regarding Generative NLP, what would that be?
Robert: The thing that comes to mind is number one, that the basic form of change in NLP is that you bring a resource into some problem space. But the whole crux of change is not which technique you use, but which resource you are able to activate. The focus of change, rather than on the problem or even the goals, needs to be on the kinds of resources that we have and the tools of NLP.
To me, the real value of the tools of NLP is like a lot of my recent books such as Skills for the Future or Tools for Dreamers instead of changing beliefs, fixing health, or whatever. It’s no so much the problems that you solve; it’s the resources that you have that are available. The time that we spend in developing our resources is what is going to really make the difference in the future. In that sense, part of the message of Generative NLP is that past and future are constructs. The whole purpose of change history is to “enrich the present.” The whole purpose of planning the future is to “mobilize resources from the present” so that we can live life from first person presentáand the rest of it is always bringing resources to that ongoing experience because that is the way we move to the future ˆ it is from being as fully ourselves and bringing as many past and future resources as we can into the present.
Originally Published in AnchorPoint Magazine, September, 1994; reprinted with permission
Kris Hallbom is the co-director of the NLP Institute of California. She has been writing professionally for 15 years, working as an editor and staff writer for various newspapers, magazines and journals. She holds a degree in Psychology and Languages and is a long time student of NLP and Systems Theory.