One of the things that struck Richard Bandler at an early age was that people explained away the results of the great therapists like Virginia Satir and Milton Erickson by claiming that they were gifted. This motivated Richard Bandler to show the world that great skills are learnable.

Talent. – In as highly developed a humanity as ours now is everyone acquires from nature access to many talents. Everyone possesses inborn talent, but few possess the degree of inborn and acquired toughness, endurance and energy actually to become a talent, that is to say to become what he is: which means to discharge it in works and actions.

Human, All Too Human part 1, paragraph 263

The serious workman. – Do not talk about giftedness, inborn talents! One can name great men of all kinds who were very little gifted. They acquire greatness, became ‘geniuses’ (as we put it), through qualities the lack of which no one who knew what they were would boast of: they all possessed that seriousness of the efficient workman which first learns to construct the parts properly before it ventures to fashion a great whole; they allowed themselves time for it, because they took more pleasure in making the little, secondary things well than in the effect of a dazzling whole. The recipe for becoming a good novelist, for example, is easy to give, but to carry it out presupposes qualities one is accustomed to overlook when one says ‘I do not have enough talent.’ One has only to make a hundred or so sketches for novels, none longer than two pages but of such distinctness that every word in them is necessary; one should write down anecdotes each day until one has learned how to give them the most pregnant and effective form; one should be tireless in collecting and describing human types and characters; one should above all relate things to others and listen to others relate, keeping one’s eyes and ears open for the effect produced on those present, one should travel like a landscape painter or costume designer; one should excerpt for oneself out of the individual sciences everything that will produce an artistic effect when it is well described, one should, finally, reflect on the motives of human actions, disdain no signpost to instruction about them and be a collector of these things by day and night. One should continue in this many-sided exercise some ten years: what is then created in the workshop, however, will be fit to go out into the world. – What, however, do most people do? They begin, not with the parts, but with the whole. Perhaps they chance to strike a right note, excite attention and from then on strike worse and worse notes, for good, natural reasons. – Sometimes, when the character and intellect needed to formulate such a life-plan are lacking, fate and need take their place and lead the future master step by step through all the stipulations of his trade.

Human, All Too Human part 1, paragraph 163


Often a lot of stuff is being sold as “NLP” whereas in reality it has very little to do with NLP. For that reason it is very important to investigate any NLP trainer quite well before committing to participate in a NLP training programme.

Our teachers. – In our youth we take our teachers and guides from the time in which we happen to live and the circle in which we happen to move: we are thoughtlessly confident that the times we live in are bound to have teachers better suited to us than to anyone else and that we are bound to find them without much trouble. For this childishness we have in later years to pay a heavy price: we have to expiate our teachers in ourself. We then perhaps go in search of our true guides throughout the whole world, the world of the past included ­but perhaps it is too late. And in the worst case we discover that they were living when we were young – and that we missed them.

Daybreak paragraph 495


NLP is often thought of as a form of psychotherapy. Nothing can be further away from the truth. In fact NLP has been developed in the seventies as a criticism of psychotherapy.

Where are the new physicians of the soul? – It has been the means of comfort which have bestowed upon life that fundamental character of suffering it is now believed to possess; the worst sickness of mankind originated in the way in which they have combated their sicknesses, and what seemed to cure has in the long run produced something worse than that which it was supposed to overcome. The means which worked immediately, anesthetizing and intoxicating, the so-called consolations, were ignorantly supposed to be actual cures; the fact was not even noticed, indeed, that these instantaneous alleviations often had to be paid for with a general and profound worsening of the complaint, that the invalid had to suffer from the after-effect of intoxication, later from the withdrawal of intoxication, and later still from an oppressive general feeling of restlessness, nervous agitation and ill-health. Past a certain degree of sickness one never recovered .- the physicians of the soul, those universally believed in and worshipped, saw to that. – It is said of Schopenhauer, and with justice, that after they had been neglected for so long he again took seriously the sufferings of mankind: where is he who, after they have been neglected for so long, will again take seriously the antidotes to these sufferings and put in the pillory the unheard-of quack-doctoring with which, under the most glorious names, mankind has hitherto been accustomed to treat the sicknesses of its soul?

Daybreak paragraph 52


One of Richard Bandler’s more recent ideas about NLP is that NLP is thinking on purpose.

In the form in which it comes, a thought is a sign with many meanings, requiring interpretation or, more precisely, an arbitrary narrowing and restriction before it finally becomes clear. It arises in me – where from? How? I don’t know. It comes, independently of my will, usually circled about and clouded by a crowd of feelings, desires, aversions, and by other thoughts, often enough scarcely distinguishable from a ‘willing’ or ‘feeling’. It is drawn out of this crowd, cleaned, set on its feet, watched as it stands there, moves about, all this at an amazing speed yet without any sense of haste. Who does all this I don’t know, and I am certainly more observer than author of the process. Then its case is tried, the question posed: ‘What does it mean? What is it allowed to mean? Is it right or wrong?’ – the help of other thoughts is called on, it is compared. In this way thinking proves to be almost a kind of exercise and act of justice, where there is a judge, an opposing party, even an examination of the witnesses which I am permitted to observe for a while- only a while, to be sure: most of the process, it seems, escapes me. – That every thought first arrives many-meaninged and floating, really only as the occasion for attempts to interpret or for arbitrarily fixing it, that a multitude of persons seem to participate in all thinking – this is not particularly easy to observe: fundamentally, we are trained the opposite way, not to think about thinking as we think. The origin of the thought remains hidden; in all probability it is only the symptom of a much more comprehensive state; the fact that it, and not another, is the one to come, that it comes with precisely this greater or lesser luminosity, sometimes sure and imperious, sometimes weak and in need of support, as a whole always exciting, questioning – because every thought acts as a stimulus to consciousness – in all of this, something of our total state expresses itself in sign form. – The same is true of every feeling. It does not mean something in itself: when it comes it first has to be interpreted by us, and how strange this interpretation often is! Think of the distress of the entrails, almost ‘unconscious’ to us, of the tensions of blood pressure in the abdomen, of the pathological states of the nervus sympathicus – and how many things there are of which the sensorium commune gives us hardly a gleam of consciousness! – Faced with such uncertain feelings of displeasure, only the expert anatomist can guess the right type and location of their causes, whereas everyone else, in other words almost all men for as long as they have existed, searches not for a physical explanation of this kind of pain but for a psychological and moral one. They misconstrue the body’s actual ill humors by fetching from their store of unpleasant experiences and fears a reason to feel so bad. Under torture, almost anyone confesses himself guilty; under a pain whose physical cause is unknown, the tortured man subjects himself to an interrogation as long and inquisitorial as it takes to find himself or others guilty: – like, for example, the Puritan who, as a matter of habit, made a moral interpretation of the ill humor resulting from an unwise lifestyle: as the pangs of his own conscience.

Notebook 38, June – July 1885 paragraph 1


Time is especially important within NLP. The brain creates something called a time line which is a visual and spatial representation of time.

The logic of our conscious thinking is only a crude and facilitated form of the thinking needed by our organism, indeed by the particular organs of our organism. For example, a thinking-at-the-same-time is needed of which we have hardly an inkling. Or perhaps an artist of language does: reckoning back with the weight and the lightness of syllables, reckoning ahead, and at the same time looking for analogies between the weight of the thought and the phonetic, or physiological, conditions of the larynx: all this happens at the same time – though not consciously. Our feeling of causation is something quite crude and isolated compared to our organism’s real feelings of causality. In particular, ‘before’ and ‘after’ is a great piece of naivety. Finally: we first had to acquire everything for consciousness: a sense of time, a sense of place, a sense of causality; it having long existed, and far more richly, without consciousness. And what we acquired was a certain simplest, plainest, most reduced form: our conscious willing, feeling, thinking is in the service of a much more comprehensive willing feeling thinking. – Really? We are still growing continually, our sense of time and place, etc., is still developing.

Notebook 34, April-June 1885 paragraph 124

Our subjective experience of time can be influenced by NLP and hypnosis.

The length of the day. – When one has a great deal to put into it a day has a hundred pockets.

Human, All Too Human, part 1, paragraph 529


The TOTE model is the basic unit that NLP uses for strategies. TOTE stands for Test Operate Test Exit. It takes any procedure as a black box. The first test is to see whether it makes sense to start the procedure. The final test is to check whether the outcome is correct of faulty. In the latter case the TOTE model uses feedback to let the Operation know that something has gone wrong. For that reason is feedback always negative in NLP. If the outcome is correct control is passed on to a different Operation through the Exit. One can praise such an outcome and give a compliment, but that has nothing to do with feedback. As you can combine a single TOTE unit with another, one can see a person as a single TOTE black box.

What we do. — What we do is never understood, but only praised and blamed.

Gay Science paragraph 264


If you replace in the quote below “philosopher” with “NLP trainer” you get a lot of insight in the two different NLP trainers that are around. One who only cares about holding on to a vast body of knowledge and another who creates new things within NLP.

When I was younger I worried about what a philosopher really was: for I believed I saw contradictory features in the famous philosophers. Finally I realized that there are two different kinds of philosopher: those who have to hold fast some large body of valuations, that is, of previous assignments and creations of value (logical or moral ones), and then those who are themselves the legislators of valuations. The former try to gain power over the present or past world by summarizing and abbreviating it with signs. These inquirers are charged with making all events and all evaluations up to now easy to survey, easy to think through, to grasp, to manage, with subduing the past, abbreviating everything that is long, even time itself a great and wondrous task. However, the real philosophers command and legislate, they say: this is how it shall be! and it is they who determine the Where to and the What for of man, making use of the spadework done by the philosophical laborers, those subduers of the past. This second kind of philosopher rarely turns out well; and indeed their situation and danger is tremendous. How often have they intentionally blindfolded themselves to stop having to see the narrow margin that separates them from the abyss, the headlong fall: for instance Plato when he persuaded himself that the good, as he wanted it, was not the good of Plato but the good in itself, the eternal treasure that just happened to have been found on his path by some man called Plato! In much coarser forms this same will to blindness rules among the founders of religion: their ‘thou shalt’ must on no account sound to their ears like an ‘I want’ – only as the command of a God do they dare to discharge their task, only as ‘divine inspiration’ is their legislation on values a bearable burden which does not crush their conscience. – Once those two means of consolation, Plato’s and Mohammed’s, have fallen away and no thinker can any longer relieve his conscience with the hypothesis of a ‘God’ or ‘eternal values’, the claim of the legislator of new values arises with a new and unprecedented terror. Now those chosen ones, on whom the presentiment of such a duty begins to dawn, will try and see whether they can’t slip out of that duty, as if out of their greatest danger, ‘just in time’, through some trick or other: for example by telling themselves that the task is already solved, or is insoluble, or that they don’t have the shoulders to carry such burdens, or that they are already weighed down with other, more immediate tasks, or even that this new, distant duty is a seduction and a temptation, a diversion from all duties, a sickness, a kind of madness. One or the other of them may in fact succeed in evading it: the trace of such evaders and their bad conscience runs through the whole of history. Mostly, however, such men of fate have been reached by that redeeming hour, that autumn hour of ripeness, where they had to do what they did not even ‘want’ to do – and the deed they had most feared fell easily and undesired from the tree, as a deed without choice, almost as a gift.

Notebook 38, June – July 1885 paragraph 13


Critics of NLP often point that one of the ideas within NLP is that NLP practitioner don’t care about the truth, only about what works. Of course this is a misconception as these critics overlook the philosophical sound theory of pragmatism of which NLP is a part. NLP practitioners want to be practical and actually do something to test whether it works rather then discuss theoretical stuff that makes no difference in practice.

Sense for truth. — Commend me to all skepticism where I am permitted to answer: “Let us put it to the test!” But I don’t wish to hear anything more of things and questions which do not admit of being tested. That is the limit of my “sense for truth”: for bravery has there lost its right.

Gay Science paragraph 52