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Memory and NLP

This article is intended to give the reader a practical way of dealing with memory, rather than an academic version. The academic research and results have paved the way for us to think differently, out of the box when it comes to understanding the human body, or even existence. Whereas conventional thinking would evaluate that memory would work much as an electrical circuitry would, with relays and capacitors all lined up to make connections to a sequential and logical storage in a certain place. Yet this is not how memory works. Memory works in a much more non-localised manner.


One of the mysteries of the modern Psychology era is the understanding of how memory works. We can go back to the early experiments on conditioned reflex by Pavlov and later work by Andrew Salter, but it was the work of Karl Pribram, Karl Lashley, Wilder Penfield, Dennis Gabor and David Bohm which brought us into a quantum way of thinking about memory. Or should I say a holographic way of thinking.

In this theory, a piece of a long-term memory is similarly distributed over a dendritic arbor so that each part of the dendritic network contains all the information stored over the entire network. This model allows for important aspects of human consciousness, including the fast-associative memory that allows for connections between different pieces of stored information and the non-locality of memory storage (a specific memory is not stored in a specific location, i.e. a certain neuron).

Quote from Wiki:
neurons in brain nlp

That’s all very nice, but how does that relate to our own personal memory?
What we need to know, to begin with, is that you and I have millions of ways of storing and recalling memory. Nobody really has a ‘bad memory’ unless there is severe neural damage across the whole brain. What we do have is poor strategies for remembering, or some trauma around the process too. And the third way of having a poor memory, is to put too much pressure on yourself to do it (which may relate to the first way).

Memory and NLP

When I was working with the UK government running a training (previous Labour Government), one of the senior decision makers asked me to work with him personally on his memory. We booked in five sessions, to make sure it would be done. With my knowledge of how these things work, I knew it would be much less than that, but to give me re-assurance we booked those in. We were done in one!

He told me of the issue, which was not remembering things under pressure. I listened and repeated back what he thought was the issue. Then I surprised him. Most clients are thinking I’m now going to put them into a ‘mind gym’, giving them instructions and exercises to do and take away homework. Something like memorising pages of a book and showing them mind strategies to do that. What I did instead was to ask him “what do you think about yourself having a poor memory?” He replied, “I feel stupid”. I said, “let’s work on that then instead!” Saying “let’s work on that instead” was an intentional comment to put aside the pressure (that I knew he was putting on himself to have a perfect memory under pressure) and focus on something else. Of course, the intention is to work on the memory.

brain compartments

When I started to contact his deeper mind (subconscious), he almost immediately came up with a related memory. I can’t say what the memory was for confidentiality reasons, yet it was when he was young and in the presence of a good friend. From that point onwards, he has decided he really ‘had’ to remember under pressure (and that’s way too much pressure for the mind to deal with). We cleaned up that memory using Time Based Techniques. Towards the end of the session, I did give him some what I call “mind management” tools. Like being aware of internal bullying language: Anything with “have to” “must” “should” “need” “everyone else” “better than” and so on. These phrases literally bully the subconscious mind and cause it to shut down.

I also taught him a state of consciousness to enable him to be present more and more, (The Now State) which also can filter out negative language and un-useful patterns. Yet it was the memory which has been mostly impinging on his memory, and when we let that free, we freed up his ability to get his precious commodity back. A free mind.

Brain re-wiring

memory nerve cell

In the NLP family, we deal with the neurology of change rather than the psychology of change. The question of the brain rewiring itself then would be a neurological change rather than a systematic, logical function. That doesn’t mean that we have no philosophical ideas or do not use psychology in any way, yet we tend to go to the hardwiring of a system and work outwards from those places. The belief systems we have may be different from conventional medicine too. From our trainings, I place an idea that change can occur via many different channels and that the nervous system is intelligent and can transform itself given the right conditions and right language to communicate to itself.

The scientific world is catching up to these ideas and recently have some proof for this. An idea (called neuroplasticity) is overthrowing the centuries-old notion that the adult human brain is fixed and unchanging. It is, instead, able to change its own structure and function, even into old age.

unconscious mind

Psychiatrist Norman Doidge, travelled to meet scientists working with neuroplasticity and the people whose lives they have transformed – people whose mental limitations or brain damage were previously seen as unalterable, and whose conditions had long been dismissed as hopeless. A woman born with half a brain that rewired itself to work as a whole; a woman labelled retarded who cured her deficits with brain exercises and now cures those of others; blind people who learn to see; learning disorders cured; IQs raised; ageing brains rejuvenated; entrenched depression and anxiety disappearing and lifelong character traits changed.

As you have seen, the unconscious mind has ways of repairing and maintaining a good, healthy life beyond logic. There are many, many more examples of this from Karl Lashley and Karl Pribram, who looked at how the brain works. There are examples of people who, on autopsy had no brain at all but were living good lives right up until their death!

Can the whole system then be subject to a quantum field of thinking rather than linear, systematic thinking? That’s up to you to ponder, yet my question is this: Which field would you rather live in?

Memory and NLP, written by Terry Elston

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