Why add Narrative to NLP?

Why add Narrative to NLP?

Narrative practice is becoming increasingly popular and I think that part of the reason is that it makes so much sense to most people.

A narrative approach recognises the human tendency to make meaning of our experiences through story. When I ask you what you would like to talk about, or what’s going on for you, you respond by telling me a story.  Often you will add in other stories, stories from the past, to explain your feelings, ideas and responses.

Narrative Inquiry allows us to tell those stories more fully and in a wider context and facilitates new perspectives – we begin to appreciate how the broader context – the discourse – may limit others as well as ourselves.

My experience has been that people not only agree with this notion, but will often offer a story of their own to corroborate:

“Of course that makes perfect sense to me” replied a woman who had just returned to England after 45 years in Australia. “I would never have gone to Oz if there had been more for me here in the 60’s and I wouldn’t have come home now if it wasn’t for the fact that all my family is here. And I can see that was different for other people because their situations were different.  At the time I couldn’t understand why anyone would stay in England when they could go to Australia for £10.”

Try explaining NLP to someone in a couple of paragraphs and see if you get that level of engagement.  And yet the two models have so much in common.

Looking back along a timeline we tell our stories; different perceptual positions give us new perspectives and allow us to –re-author- our stories desired outcomes are stories of possibility.

From both narrative and NLP perspectives, the future is nothing but potential and is ours to create.  For me Narrative NLP is a way of being respectful of our past stories and creative with future possibility.  It’s a win win combination.

Making Choices about Attention and Energy

I’ve been thinking about “Where our attention goes, our energy flows”:

  • If we shift our attention we redirect our energy.
  • How do we select a new  focus for our attention?
  • If we simply ask the question; ‘What do I want instead?’ is there a danger of overlooking possibilities?
  • How can we find a possibility that we have, thus far, not imagined?

I decided to watch my own processes for a couple of weeks and synchronistically read a post on the CoachingLeaders blog in which Andy Smith referred to how, in the psychology of perception, looking at something causes us to see the object and allows the context, or background to fade from view.

Sure enough as I inquired into what I was noticing I became aware that every time I paid attention to one version of my experience, I rarely held onto other possible interpretations.  In fact, unless I made some kind of note of other possibilities, it was difficult, occasionally impossible, to recall them later.

With pencils and two notebooks paper at the ready I began to experiment with noting ‘stray’ thoughts, ideas, notions in a second notebook as I followed a single line of enquiry in the first.

Fascinating!  Sometimes a ‘stray’ thought emerges from the background and becomes the foreground – which has its own background.  A creative spiral of ‘stream of consciousness’ meandering develops which often loops back on itself.

I am now working on developing this in three ways:

  • Finding new insights into the stories behind my own processes
  • Working with clients looking for ways of developing their own creative processes
  • Identifying elements in the background which might previously have been missed, ignored or dismissed as ‘impossible’ and paying attention to them in order that new energy  might render something entirely new, possible.

Where I choose to direct my energy is where my attention is going to go.

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