Glossary of NLP terms & jargon


Note: Many of these definitions are standard for NLP. Some have been modified by me or my colleagues as the result of discoveries we made. A few are new inventions.


A — Symbol for the auditory modality, and also for auditory content.

abreaction — A strong, negative emotional response in present time, triggered by remembering or reliving a past event.

age regression — Thinking, perceiving, and acting as if one is younger than one really is. Commonly some of a person’s perceptions and skills age regress, while others remain adult.

A-K dissociation — Separating an auditory representation from associated kinesthetic feelings.

anchor — 1. noun Any stimulus that is associated with a specific response. An anchor can be external (you hear that special song and remember certain wonderful experiences) or internal (you picture a beloved friend and feel happy).

Anchors can occur in any representation system. Smell anchors recall past experiences especially powerfully. Spatial anchors activate the visual, kinesthetic, and sometimes auditory representation systems, making them especially useful in NLP processes.

2. verb Anchoring.

anchoring — The process of linking a stimulus with a specific response. Once an anchor is set, firing the anchor automatically triggers the response. Anchors are especially useful for triggering emotional and resource states at will.

Brains tend to create anchors when distinctive events happen simultaneously, or very close in time. The cat hears a can open, then gets fed. Repeat this a few times, and the sound of the can becomes an anchor for the experience of getting fed. Most anchors get created accidently, and remain below conscious awareness. NLP often involves setting and using anchors deliberately.

Aspie — Someone with Asperger syndrome.

Asperger syndrome — A neurological condition that affects a person’s ability to read body language and facial expressions, respond to social cues, and understand their own emotions. Aspies are typically of normal to above-normal intelligence, and have issues relating to other people. Wikipedia article.

associated — Experiencing an event or memory from the point of view of someone involved in the action, rather than observing the action like it was a movie. If you are associated into your external experience now, you are experiencing it from within your own body: seeing with your own eyes, hearing with your own ears, feeling your own body and emotions. If you associate into someone else’s point of view, you see as if from their eyes, hear as if from their ears, and experience as if from their body. Compare disassociated.

association — Usually understood in NLP as experiencing from the point of view of someone having an experience, and therefore from within their body, rather than from an external constructed (disassociated) point of view. See discussion at disassociation.

auditory — Having to do with hearing, sound, or the sense of hearing.

auditory modality — the sense of hearing.

Away From — A motivation pattern where people tend to move away from what they don’t want, rather than toward what they do want. Example: “I don’t want a boring job.” Compare Toward.

awfulize — To imagine that a situation worse than it really is, especially by taking negative possibilities to extremes. Examples: treating mundane occurrences as horrible events; exaggerating the severity of negative events; anticipating horrible outcomes that have not yet happened yet (and might never happen). Also called catastrophizing.


background K — A kinesthetic modality that produces a slight feeling that fills the body’s volume. It is most easily noticed as faint sensations of vibration, tingling, electricity, or energy in the toes and fingertips. It is probably used for sensing body position.

balance — see sense of balance.

beliefs — Subjective ideas about what is true and not true for ourselves, other people, and the world.

Borderline Personality Disorder (abbreviated BPD) — A severe psychological problem characterized by impulsive behavior; intense mood swings; black-and-white thinking; a tendency to alternately idealize and devaluate self and others; chaotic and unstable relationships, self-image, and behavior; and self-harm. Though only 1-3% of the US population fits the criteria for BPD, they account for 20% of psychiatric hospitalizations. An estimated 8-10% commit suicide.

BPD — abbreviation for Borderline Personality Disorder.

break state — An activity that quickly changes a person’s state, for instance from associated to disassociated, or from past to present. For instance, between steps in an NLP process you might have the explorer stretch or recite their telephone number backwards. Use break states to:

  • Keep one state from blending with another. If an explorer is comparing a problem and resource state, use break states to keep aspects of the problem state from blending with the resource state.
  • Provide a neutral bridge between strong states. An explorer experiencing extreme excitement probably can’t quickly access inner peace. A break state changes their state from excited to neutral. From neutral, they can easily transition to peace.


catastrophize — See awfulize.

congruence — Consistency between various aspects of a person (or group’s) behavior and/or internal processing. Examples:

  • Jill says “I’m happy” in a happy tone of voice while smiling and bouncing on her toes. (Jill’s words, voice tone, facial expression, and body language all communicate a consistent message.)
  • A friend says she loves you, and also acts consistently loving toward you. (Her words and actions match each other.)

Compare incongruence.

congruent — Displaying congruence.

conscious mind — Those aspects of your mind that you are consciously aware of, including your thoughts and conscious sensory awareness. You probably weren’t aware of the feeling of the back of your left knee before you read this (so that feeling wasn’t conscious ), but you’re aware of it now, so the feeling is conscious. Compare subconscious mind, unconscious mind.

contrastive analysis — Comparing the processes and features of two or more situations, representations, or strategies for similarities and differences.

convincer — 1. NLP: Evidence that convinces someone enough that they feel certain or confident.

2. NLP: A convincer strategy.

3. Hypnosis: Evidence used to convince a hypnotic subject that they are in trance. This is useful because many people don’t notice when they enter hypnosis. Without convincers would think they hadn’t been hypnotized, and that hypnosis didn’t work for them.

convincer strategy — 1. A strategy that determines what pattern of evidence convinces a person enough that they feel certain or confident in the validity of an experience, idea, belief, etc. Elicited by asking, “If X was true, how would you know?”

2. A meta-program that determines the pattern in which evidence must be presented for a person to find it convincing. The commonest patterns are Number of Examples (usually 3 or less) and Period of Time. Some people must be newly convinced Every Time. (This pattern is also called Never or Consistent.) Other people Jump to Conclusions based on inadequate evidence. (This pattern is also called Impulsive or Always.)

counter-example — An example that indicates that something is not true.

critical faculty — The part of the mind that accepts or rejects incoming information, beliefs, values, etc. based on internal criteria such as existing beliefs and values, past experience, etc. Also called the critical factor. The term and concept come from hypnosis.

critical faculty bypass — A phenomenon in which the power of the critical faculty is lessened so that the mind willingly accepts information and instructions that the person would normally reject. Critical faculty bypass is a feature of somnambulism, the typical hypnotic trance. Also called critical factor bypass.


D — Symbol for the digital representation system.

digital — 1. Having discrete, separate states that do not shade into each other. An ordinary on-off switch can be on or off, but not a little bit on or slightly off.

2. Having to do with language — see digital representation system.

digital representation system — Language, especially self-talk. Digital is often referred to in NLP as “Auditory Digital” or “AD.” However, digital representations also occur visually (writing) and kinesthetically (Braille). Symbolized D.

disassociated — Experiencing an event or memory from outside the bodies and points of view of anyone involved in the experience (including observers). If you float up above your body and observe yourself now, you are disassociated from your sensory experience. If you remember an event as if you are watching a movie, rather than from within the action as you originally experienced it, you are disassociated from that memory. Since a disassociated point of view is outside everyone experiencing a situation, it typically does not include those people’s emotions. Compare associated; see additional distinctions at disassociation. Often confused with dissociation, which has to do with separating elements of sensory experience.

disassociation — Experiencing from a disassociated point of view. Many NLPers think of disassociation as “not associated,” but that’s inaccurate. Brains only do association — you are always experiencing from some point of view. Thus disassociation consists of associating into a constructed point of view that is outside the body of anyone in the (real, remembered, or imaginary) experience.

dissociation — Separating sensory elements of an experience from each other, as in V-K dissociation. Often confused with disassociation, which has to do with points of view.

double description — A process of comparing two differing representations of the same thing to generate a new level of metadata. For instance, binocular vision compares two 2-D images in order to generate 3-D depth perception. When you handle an object, your visual and kinesthetic senses compare representations to generate data not available to either sense alone. (For instance, you can see a shape, then later recognize it by touch.) The result of double description is always constructed, yet is usually experienced as “realer” than the original data.

double disassociation — A technique in which a person  first disassociates, for instance by stepping outside of their body. From that disassociated position they then disassociate a second time. They can now observe their disassociated self observing their original self.

doyletic Speed Trace — A process for eliminating emotional responses. Article.

driver submodalitiesSubmodalities that, when changed, also change other submodalities. For most people, changing the spatial location of a representation by moving it farther away will also make it visually smaller, decrease its loudness, and reduce kinesthetic intensity.


ecology — In NLP, the effects of a change or changes. These include both immediate effects, and those that are long-term or affect other people.

ecology check — Checking the likely effects of a change, including both costs and benefits. If there are significant costs (or insufficient benefits), adjust the change so it works better, or find a different method to get the result.

elicit — To evoke a response from someone in reaction to your actions or questions. See examples at elicitation.

elicitation — The process of evoking responses from people. In NLP, elicitation is used to access and reactivate problem and resource states; clarify goals, strategies, beliefs, and values; activate internal resources; gain information; and model skills and strategies.

emotion — A sequence of internal representations, usually ending with a visceral kinesthetic (hence the colloquial name “feeling”). An emotion may occur in response to sensory input, internal representations, or any combination of the two, whether or not the person is conscious of them. Emotions are are synesthesias built from representations in more than one sensory modality.

exemplar — 1. A person who is a model of excellence, usually a skill or ability.

2. Anyone used as a model of how to be or do something.

explorer — A person being guided through an NLP process.

externally referenced — Primarily relying on other people’s feedback, directions, and opinions to stay motivated and judge one’s own performance. Useful for jobs that involve pleasing customers. See motivation source meta-program. Compare internally referenced.

eye accessing cues — Eye movements that correlate with accessing internal representations of various types. Most right-handed people look

  • Up and left (to your upper right as you face them) when they access remembered visual representations, such as what their car looks like.
  • Up and right (to your upper left as you face them) when they access constructed visual representations, such as what you would look like in a silly hat.
  • Sideways and left (to your right as you face them) when they access remembered sounds, such as a cat meowing.
  • Sideways and right when they access imagined sounds, such as a snail singing.
  • Down and left when they access internal dialog.
  • Down and right when they access kinesthetic feelings, including emotions, tactile sensations, and body position.
  • straight ahead and down when they access smells and tastes.
  • Straight ahead when accessing synesthesias. (Straight ahead and down often correlates to synesthesias where feelings dominate. Straight ahead and up often correlates to synesthesias where pictures dominate.)


Fast Phobia Cure — An NLP technique for curing phobias by creating V-K dissociation.

feedback — The results that help you know whether or not you are moving towards your desired outcome.

first position — See Self position. (Why I don’t use numbers.)

floor anchor — A spatial anchor with its position marked by a sticky note or piece of paper on the floor.

fourth position — This perceptual position is defined differently by various NLPers. Examples:

  • The perspective of the system (all the people involved). This definition is credited to Robert Dilts.
  • The “we” point of view (Group position)
  • Observing the Observer (Observing the Observer position)

I don’t use numbers for perceptual positions because numbers are not descriptive. This makes them confusing, difficult to learn, and prone to creating communication errors. (When someone says “Fourth Position,” which definition are they using?) The terms Self, Other, Observer, and Group position describe the position.


generalize — To make one experience or set of experiences into the template or generic pattern for a whole class of experience. Example: A person who encounters predominantly kind acts might conclude that “people are kind,” minimizing or deleting counter-example experiences where people behaved neutrally or unkindly.

generalization — A template or pattern for a whole class of experience, such as “people are friendly.” See generalize.

goal — A desired outcome. NLP most commonly employs well-formed outcomes. If you don’t yet know enough about your outcome to define it clearly, you can instead use a thataway.

guide — A person guiding someone else through an NLP process.


hear-feel circuit — A synesthesia in which seeing a stimulus triggers a feeling.

heterarchy — A system or organization in which authority shifts from person to person depending on who is most qualified or best-suited to lead at that time. Compare hierarchy, definition 2.

hierarchy — 1. An organization of things or ideas where each item is ranked relative to the others based on its importance or value.

2. A system or organization in which people or groups are ranked one above the other according to authority or status. Compare heterarchy.

homeostasis — A self-maintaining equilibrium, maintained by feedback and correction.


identity — A person’s self-concept; their internal representations of themselves.

imprint — A formative experience in which a person learns a belief or value.

incongruence — Inconsistency between various aspects of a person (or group’s) behavior and/or internal processing. Examples:

  • Mabel says she loves her dog, but behaves unkindly toward it. (Mabel’s words and actions mismatch each other.)
  • Jakob says “I’m excited” with a bored voice and flat facial expression. (Jakob’s words communicate a different message than his voice tone and expression. Since his words and behaviors occur at the same time, Jakob displays simultaneous incongruity.)
  • Serena alternately diets and overeats. When questioned, she says, “Part of me wants to lose weight, but another part of me just wants to lie around and eat chocolate all day.” (Serena’s strategies are in conflict with each other. Since her dieting and overeating occur at different times, she displays sequential incongruity.)

Compare congruence.

incongruent — Displaying incongruence.

in time — A timeline pattern where the timeline runs through the person’s body. People who are “in time” tend to have an easy time being present in the moment, but may have problems with planning or keeping appointments. Compare observe time.

internally referenced — Primarily relying on one’s own internally generated motivations, and judging one’s performance by one’s own internal standards. See motivation source meta-program. Compare externally referenced.

internal representation — The pictures, sounds, feelings, smells, and tastes that you create and experience mentally; your thoughts. When you remember or imagine a person or experience, you use internal representations to do it.


judgment — 1. The ability to come to a conclusion or decision. Example: “She has good judgment.”

2. The type of evaluation a judge or religious authority makes, distinguishing right from wrong, innocent from guilty, good from evil. A judgment (“Teddy bears are evil!”) is absolute, as contrasted with a preference (“I dislike teddy bears.”).


K — The symbol for the kinesthetic modalities, and for kinesthetic content.

kinesthetic modalities — Any of the “feeling” senses usually lumped together under the term “kinesthetic.” These include:

  • Tactile K — The sense of touch, primarily of the skin and in the mouth. Tactile awareness includes pressure, texture, and temperature.
  • Visceral K — The aspect of emotions experienced as feelings in the body, primarily the chest and belly.
  • Vestibular K — Signals from the inner ear that form part of the sense of balance.
  • Proprioceptive K — The sense of body position, apart from tactile and visual cues. When you put your hand where you can’t see it and it’s not touching your body, you sense where it is using proprioception.
  • Constructed K sensations used for detecting body position (background K) and coding emotional K responses for type and intensity (spin K).
  • K synesthesias such as emotions and the sense of balance, which are constructed from input from several modalities.

kinesthetic — Having to do with any of the kinesthetic (feeling) senses. These include tactile feelings (pressure, texture, temperature), emotions, balance, proprioception, etc. Symbolized K. For details, see kinesthetic modalities.


leading — (pronounced leeding) Changing your own behaviors with enough rapport that the other person imitates you — perhaps in body language, breathing pattern, and/or word choices. Compare pacing.

love languages — A meta-program and convincer strategy that determines what evidence convinces a person that someone else loves them. The 5 common patterns are Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Quality Time, and Gifts. Read article.


M — Symbol for motor output, and also for the motor output kinesthetic modality.

mapping across — An NLP technique in which one representation, strategy, or experience is used as the template for changing another.

For instance, recall a situation that seemed serious at the time, but now seems funny. Elicit its submodalities, and figure out which ones produce the humorous effect. Contrast this with the submodalities of a situation that you presently take seriously, and would like to experience as more humorous. Now change the submodalities of the “serious” situation to those of the humorous situation, and notice how your feelings change. If you’re doing this with a partner, it can be fun to try on their humor submodalities also. (Thanks to the Encyclopedia of NLP for this example.)

metadata — Information about other information. A lot of NLP deals with meaning, which is metadata about experience.

A sensory experience doesn’t have inherent meaning. Instead, people add meaning to it. That’s how the same experience that trigged a phobic reaction at the start of an NLP session may seem neutral or even pleasant by the end of the session. The sensory experience is the same, but its meaning has changed.

The brain uses a number of sensory cues including submodalities, emotions, and spin, to code metadata into sensory representations.

Meta Model — A language tool developed by John Grinder and Richard Bandler. It provides a structured method to question and clarify imprecise verbal and written communication. Use it to elicit information that was distorted, generalized, or deleted.

For instance, if a client’s internal self talk includes the phrase “It’s no use!”, you can use the Meta Model to elicit what is no use, to whom it is no use, and who decides its usefulness. Instead of having a general statement that seems to apply globally, the client now has a specific statement of a particular person’s opinion about a particular situation, which they can question or even reject much more easily.

meta-programs — Habitual strategies for filtering perception. For instance, do you tend to pay more attention to details, or to the “big picture”? Do you learn most easily by seeing, listening, doing, or reading?

meta-position — A perceptual position outside a situation, enabling you to see and hear the situation in a more objective way. Meta-position is disassociated and not involved with the content of the event, person, idea, value, criterion, etc. Very similar to Other position.

mirror neurons — Neurons that activate either when an individual does an action, or when they observe someone else do the same action. These neurons facilitate imitation and rapport. Mirror neurons are present in humans and many other animals.

modalitiessee sensory modalities.

model — 1. verb To use the process of NLP modeling to generate a description (model) of how someone does something that is specific enough that other people using the model can get similar results. The skill can be anything: motivating oneself, communicating effectively, generating loving feelings, hitting a baseball, etc.

2. noun A simplified description or representation of something: Joe’s mental model of Paris.

3. noun In NLP, a description of how to do something (such as motivate yourself) that is specific enough that other people using that strategy can achieve equivalent results (feel and be motivated).

NLP models deal with the structure of how people do things. For example, one effective motivation strategy involves:

  1. saying to oneself in a positive, enthusiastic, pleasant voice “It’ll be great when [name of task or goal] is done!”,
  2. seeing the task or goal already completed, then
  3. feeling good about the picture and words.

Since the structure is what makes the strategy work, the content can be almost anything: doing the dishes, going on a successful date, building a house.

Ineffective strategies also work primarily because of their structure, not their content. Pick something you like to do, and notice how motivated you are to do it. Now order yourself to do it, using a harsh, judgmental voice: “You must do [name of desired activity]!” What happens to your motivation?

Complex skills such as surgery and athletic skill generally involve knowledge and/or practice components that an NLP model can’t include. Nevertheless, by using the strategies of people who do a complex skill exceptionally well, you can still do better at that skill, and learn or improve it more easily.

modeling — In NLP, the process of figuring out the specifics of how someone does something well enough that other people who learn that “recipe” for the skill can achieve similar results. The result of modeling is a “recipe” called a model. See discussion at model.

motivation source — A meta-program that determines whether a person motivates themselves and judges their own performance based primarily on what they think themselves (internally referenced), or on what others think of them (externally referenced).

motivation strategy — A strategy for being motivated. See model for an example. Compare propulsion system.

motor output — 1. Action, either of skeletal (voluntary) muscles, or of smooth (visceral) muscle.

2. Awareness of motor output considered as a kinesthetic sensory modality. Symbolized M.

Many strategies use motor output as their criteria for completion. This can cause problems if the output needs to be action, but the strategy stops in response to visceral K (emotion) — such as feeling upset, but not doing anything to change the upsetting circumstances. The opposite problem is strategies that output action (such as smashing objects, or making sexual contact) when emotion would be more appropriate.


Neuro-Linguistic Programming (abbreviated NLP)  — A field of study and practice that deals with subjective experience — the details of precisely how people do, think, and feel things. NLP is primarily a methodology for making skills easy to teach and learn, a process called modeling. NLP’s founders duplicated the skills of several world-class therapists, creating a rich library of therapy, coaching, and communication models and techniques. NLP has also been applied to sales, dating, sports performance, and many other fields. Also spelled Neurolinguistic Programming.

NLP — Abbreviation for Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

NLPer — Someone who does NLP.


observe time — A timeline pattern where the timeline does not intersect the body. Typically “now” is in front of the person where they can observe it. People who “observe time” tend to be better at long-range planning and keeping appointments than people who are “in time.” How, they may find it difficult to be present in the moment. Also called through time.

Observer position — A constructed perceptual position where you perceive from the point of view of an invisible (and typically neutral) observer. Adopting a disassociated Observer position (where there is no emotional involvement with the situation) is useful for getting an overall perspective and understanding how various people’s behaviors and viewpoints relate to each other. It’s also useful for dealing with emotionally difficult situations.

Any Observer position is a constructed viewpoint. It’s useful, but unreal, so understandings gained from it may contain errors. Also called third position. Compare Self position, Other position.

Other position — A constructed perceptual position where you perceive as if from the point of view of someone else involved in a situation. This is useful for understanding more about a situation, particularly how your own behavior might seem to other people. Good writers, presenters, and trainers switch in and out of Other position to get a better idea of how their communication affects their audience. Since Other position is a construct (you are only approximating what you think the other person thinks, feels, and experiences), your understanding of the other person’s perceptions is likely to be partial at best. Also called second position. Compare Self position, Observer position.


pacing — Matching some part(s) of a person’s behavior, such as their body language and word choice, in order to create and build rapport. Pacing might or might not transition to leading.

part — A metaphorical description of programs and strategies of behavior that may appear to function independently of the person or each other. This uses common modes of thinking revealed by phrases such as “A part of me wants to do X.”

perceptual position — A subjective perspective or point of view. There are three main perceptual positions from which one can perceive an experience:

  1. Self position, where you perceive from your own point of view,
  2. Other position, where you perceive as if from someone else’s point of view, and
  3. Observer position, where you observe as if you were an invisible and disassociated neutral observer.

Some NLPers also include other, less-standard perceptual positions.

personal geography — See social panorama.

phobia — An extreme, problematic synesthesia. A phobic person sees, hears, feels, smells, and/or tastes something which automatically triggers strong negative emotions. Phobia cures work by disrupting problem synesthesias. Also see A-K dissociation, V-K dissociation.

polarity response — A response against or opposing something. For instance, because his roommate asks Ralph to take the trash out, he avoids doing it. Because Amanda’s family expects her to find a steady job and get married, she jumps from job to job and from one short relationship to another. Polarity responses are often internal: “I should get out of bed” vs. “I want to stay in bed and sleep”, or “I am worthless” vs. “I am wonderful!”

polarity responder — Someone who typically polarity responds. With a strong polarity responder, you can often get them to do something by telling them not to do it.

post-traumatic stress disorder — A severe anxiety disorder some people develop after experiencing events that cause psychological trauma.

proprioception — The felt sense of joint and body position, apart from tactile and visual cues. Put your hand behind your back where you can’t see it and it’s not touching anything. You sense where it is using proprioception. Also called proprioceptive K.

propulsion system — A motivation strategy that incorporates both Toward and Away From elements.

PTSD — See post-traumatic stress disorder.


questions — One of the most important ways people interact with the world. Questions both focus and limit attention.


regression — 1. A therapeutic technique of having someone re-experience a past event.

2. Age regression.

Reimprinting — A technique for changing limiting beliefs.

rep system — Same as representation system.

representation system — Any of the sensory modalities, more specifically a sensory modality being used to create internal representations.

resourceful — Having access to your internal resources.


second position — See Other position. (Why I don’t use numbers.)

see-feel circuit — A synesthesia in which seeing a stimulus triggers a feeling.

Self position — The perceptual position where you perceive the world from your own point of view only. Also called first position. Compare Other position, Observer position.

sense of balance — Balance relies on inputs from several sensory modalities, including:

  • Kinesthetics of the inner ear.
  • Kinesthetics of weight and body position. A person who is standing has weight on their feet and joints, and certain muscles are contracted to keep them upright.
  • Visual cues including the horizon.

Any two of these are usually sufficient to maintain a good sense of balance. Effective martial arts techniques for knocking people over disrupt two or more inputs. One requires knocking the head backward to disrupt the inner ear and visual cues, while a foot sweep disrupts weight cues.

sensory modalities — The main senses. In NLP these are usually listed as visual (seeing), auditory (hearing), kinesthetic (feeling), olfactory (smell), gustatory (taste), and digital (language). They are usually abbreviated V, A, K, O, G, and D; or VAKOGD for the group. (The D is sometime omitted.)

The kinesthetic modality is actually several distinct senses, including touch, balance, and emotions.

People can experience each sensory modality as real-time sensory input, by remembering, or by constructing internal representations.

sequential incongruityIncongruence that occurs at different times, such someone who alternately overeats and diets. Compare simultaneous incongruity.

shaping — Changing behavior by using rewards and punishments to encourage even small tendencies to do what is wanted. For instance, if you pay extra attention when someone talks about a particular topic, they will tend to talk about it more. If you act bored, they will tend to talk about it less. Shaping can train people (and animals) to do behaviors that they’re not consciously aware of.

People shape each other’s behavior all the time. But most shaping is done unconsciously, and much of it is counterproductive. For example, many parents give their children extra attention when they are whining and unhappy. Then they wonder why their children whine and cry so much! Children who get the most attention when they are happy learn to be happier.

simultaneous incongruityIncongruence that occurs at the same time, such as someone saying “I want to do it” while shaking their head “no.” Compare sequential incongruity.

social panorama — The way most people conceptualize social relations and authority, by mapping them to spatial cues. The closer the emotional relationship you have with someone, the physically closer you are likely to place their representation. The higher someone’s authority in relation to you, the more likely you are to represent them as big, close, and with their eye level above your eye level. Social panoramas were discovered independently by Lucas Derks, who wrote Social Panoramas, and by Robert Fletcher, who calls them personal geography.

somnambulism — The type of trance state most commonly produced by hypnosis. It is the only trance state taught by most hypnosis trainers.

All of us experience somnambulism as we are falling asleep, when we transition between waking and sleeping. As we wake up, we experience it again between sleeping and waking. But most of the time, people pass through the somnambulistic state too fast to notice it.

Fortunately, there are those other times… times when you are slowly drifting off to sleep, completely relaxed… or perhaps waking in the morning when you know you won’t need to get up for awhile. You’re not really awake, but you’re not really asleep either. And you feel wonderful, drifting in a dreamy state of relaxation. That’s somnambulism.

spatial anchor — An anchor associated with a particular location. Many NLP processes utilize spatial anchors. Compare floor anchor.

spin K — A constructed kinesthetic sensation that affects how emotions are experienced. Changing the spin of an emotion can drastically change its quality and intensity. (See the “Spinning Feelings” section of Nick Kemp’s article “Some Great New Methods”.)

Stargate model of trance — Posits that once you get someone into any hypnotic trance that achieves critical faculty bypass, you can use that trance to transition the person into any other trance state.

state — Your emotional, mental, and physical condition at a particular moment in time, including your level of physical and mental energy and what resources you do and don’t have available. Resources include your beliefs, values, capabilities, and behaviors within that context at that time.

strategy — A mental “recipe” that allows a person to consistently achieve some result. See “model” for an example.

subconscious mind — 1. In two-part models of the mind, all aspects of your mind that you are not consciously aware of. Also called the unconscious mind, the subconscious is distinct from the conscious mind.

2. In three-part models of the mind, those aspects of your mind you are not normally aware of, to which you can gain some conscious access. In these models, the subconscious is distinct from both the conscious mind and the unconscious mind.

submodalities — Types of distinctions within each sensory modality. Important visual submodalities include size, location, color vs. monochrome, moving vs. still, shape, brightness, depth (2D/3D), and framed vs. unframed. Important auditory submodalities include loudness, pitch, tempo, timbre, location, moving vs. still, and stereo vs. mono. Important kinesthetic submodalities include temperature, texture, pressure, location, moving vs. still, and spin.

superstimulus — (plural: superstimuli) An exaggerated version of a sensory input that would trigger some response, which provokes an exaggerated response because of its extreme features. For example, the sight of its eggs triggers a nesting bird to brood them. If you provide the bird with exaggerated “super-eggs” that are bigger and more strongly marked than its own, the bird will brood the fake eggs because they trigger a stronger nesting response.

In order to override sensory inputs, compelling thoughts and beliefs are superstimuli. The brain typically generates superstimuli via exaggeration (size, intensity, speed), repetition (more or repeated examples), and deletion of non-relevant information.

synesthesia — An automatic link from one representation system to one or more others. Examples:

  1. You see the face of a loved one (in real life, a photo, or in memory) and feel good
  2. You hear someone’s voice on the phone and remember their face
  3. Pamela-Ann sees a spider and jumps on a chair

Synesthesias can link any senses or combination of senses. (See see-feel circuit, hear-feel circuit.)

Synesthesias are extremely important in perception. You hear a meow, then look for the cat. You see your colleague Bruce, then translate those visual images into a kinesthetic representation that allows you to shake his hand.

Synesthesias are also crucial for making many strategies work. For instance, you see an opportunity, and an internal voice advises how you can make the best of it.

Phobias and traumas are problematic synesthesias. A phobic person sees, hears, feels, smells, and/or tastes something that automatically triggers strong negative emotions. Phobia and trauma cures work by disrupting the synesthesia. Related: A-K dissociation, V-K dissociation.


tactile K — The kinesthetic sense of touch, primarily of the skin and in the mouth. Tactile awareness includes pressure, texture, and temperature.

thataway — A type of goal used when you don’t yet know the specifics of your outcome, but instead work toward it iteratively. Example:

  • “Be happy” is a an outcome. What constitutes “happy” is defined in some way. (How will you know when you are happy? What will you see, feel, and hear? What will you do?)
  • “Being happier” is a thataway. No matter how happy or unhappy you are now, you can determine whether or not a particular action or attitude helps you be more happy.

To be workable, a thataway only needs to be specific enough that  (a) you can determine whether a next step is likely to take you toward or away from your goal, and (b) you can evaluate your results to determine whether or not you actually made progress. Compare well-formed outcome.

time representation — Any pattern for mapping time to spatial location. People track which real and imagined events are “in” the past, present, and future by their spatial position. The commonest way to do this arranges events in a linear sequence, called a timeline. However, some individuals represent time along multiple spirals, or stand within “time tubes,” or have “time panoramas,” or use other patterns. Several NLP modelers independently discovered time representations. Related: in time, observe time.

timeline — 1. Any time representation that maps time to spatial location, whether it is a linear timeline, “time tube,” spiral, or other structure.

2. An actual “line” of time representations, as contrasted with time tubes and other structures. A timeline can be straight, curved, twisted, knotted, etc.

through time — See observe time.

third position — See Observer position. (Why I don’t use numbers.)

Toward — A motivation pattern where people tend to move toward what they do want, rather than away from what they don’t want. Example: “I want an exciting job.” Compare Away From.

trauma — A persistent strong, negative emotional response to a past event, or reminders of it.


unconscious mind — 1. In two-part models of the mind, all aspects of your mind that you are not consciously aware of; also called the subconscious mind. Compare conscious mind.

2. In three-part models of the mind, those aspects of your mind that you are not consciously aware of and to which you cannot gain conscious access. In these models, the unconscious is distinct from both the subconscious mind and the conscious mind.

unpack — In NLP modeling, to elicit the sequence and details of how something works. For example, a trauma might seem to trigger “instantaneously,” but if you unpack it, you will discover that it has a sequence and structure.

unresourceful — Lacking access to internal resources. A person may feel or act unresourceful because either

  1. they lack the resources to deal with their current situation; or
  2. they have the resources, but can’t access them in their current context; or
  3. they have the resources and could access them, but their subjective experience of feeling unresourcefulness keeps them from trying.


V — Symbol for the visual modality, and for visual content.

vestibular KKinesthetic signals from the inner ear that form part of the sense of balance.

viscera — The internal organs of the body, especially those in the torso. The heart, stomach, and intestines are viscera.

visceral KEmotions as experienced as kinesthetic feelings in the body, primarily the chest and belly.

visual — Having to do with seeing, or the sense of seeing.

visual modality — The sense of seeing. Vision is actually a synesthesia, with precise location and 3D spatial relationships stored kinesthetically, via proprioception.

V-K dissociation — Separating a visual image from associated kinesthetic feelings.


well-formed outcome — A goal or outcome that meets the NLP well-formedness conditions. A well-formed outcome is useful when you know (or think you know) what you want, and can specify it fairly well. Compare thataway.

well-formedness conditions — Conditions for creating an effective and ecological outcome. In NLP an outcome is considered well-formed if it is:

  1. Stated in positive terms. (State what IS wanted, such as “feel happy”, rather than what NOT to do, such as “not feel grumpy.”)
  2. Defined and evaluated according to sensory based evidence. (Define a financial goal as “net US $100,000 per year” rather than “be wealthy.”)
  3. Initiated and maintained by the person who desires the goal. (Most of the time you can’t make someone else change their behaviors, feelings, or attitudes. However, you can change your own behaviors, feelings, and attitudes.)
  4. Ecological, both internally (e.g. it doesn’t increase internal conflict) and externally (it creates better external conditions, ideally for other people as well as the person with the goal).

Compare thataway.




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More NLP terminology online

You can find in-depth references to many NLP techniques and terms in:

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Glossary of NLP terms & jargon — 1 Comment

  1. Pingback: NLP & The Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder « Living with BPD

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