The NLP Performance Technique of Surveying Cause and Effect

By Jeff Dwarshuis LMSW ACSW

Neuro–linguistic Programming (NLP) is a branch of psychotherapy that is based on the idea that people experience the world through their senses and translate sensory information into both conscious and unconscious thought processes. These thought processes activate the neurological system that affects physiology, emotions and behavior. The linguistic aspect in NLP refers to the idea that language helps us to capture, conceptualize and communicate our experiences. Programming has to do with the idea that we have patterned internal processes that help us learn, act and get results.

Cause and Effect

How we make personal decisions and act behaviorally has a great deal to do with our perception of personal control. We all maintain the assumption that every effect has an underlying cause. Because of internal dialogue and past history, individuals can be programmed to unrealistically view themselves as victims of their circumstances. In NLP the concept of “cause and effect” attempts to create a method of understanding one’s thoughts to recognize if they are thinking as if they are in or out of control of their circumstances. In NLP terms people are said to be “at cause” or “at effect” as follows:

At Cause – When an individual has the thoughts and behavior that reflect the idea of “I am not making excuses.” or “I am in control of my destiny.” or “What lessons do I need to learn from this situation.”

At Effect – When an individual has the thoughts and behavior that reflect the idea of “I am out of control”. The “at effect” person blames others, makes excuses and passively watches his or her experiences pass through time.

Where are you at right now in your perception of cause and effect both at work and in the family? Understanding one’s own patterns can impact mood, productivity and attitude.

Tuning Into Language

NLP maintains that our internal world of conscious and unconscious thinking is reflected in our words and body language. Someone’s perception of their own level of control over their circumstances is reflected in their language. Notice the differences in the examples below –

“At Effect” language –

  1. “He made me do it.”
  2. “I have to stay late and work because my manager makes me feel guilty.”

“At Cause” language –

  1. “I don’t want to talk now. I am giving myself time to respond.”
  2. “I took time off last week and I have enough energy to complete the project.”

Notice the differences. The “at effect” responses represent an unconscious thought of not being in control. The “at cause” responses represent an attitude of self responsibility and taking control of one’s circumstances.

Examining Internal Dialogue

Individuals live in a private world of internal dialogue and have the capacity for what is called the “What if reasoning processes” or the ability to mentally rehearse different scenarios. People have the tendency to repeat the same thought patterns and if this is with the internal dialogue of being “at effect’ self management will take a great deal of unnecessary energy and will limit productivity and natural capacity.

To change this, first recognize internal dialogue that reflects an “at effect” perspective. Then interrupt this unconscious process by adjusting physical sensations through deep breathing or meditation and alter negative thought process by writing affirmations of positive self beliefs. Then list the “at effect” statement and then respond to it with an “at cause” statement.

For example “My colleagues are in my way” would be replaced by “I can create space to work freely when I want.” Another example might be “My boss’s suggestions make me stressed.” This would be replaced by “I have been chosen for this job and I am the best qualified to understand suggestions.”

Interrupting the negative patterns though recognition, altering thoughts and body sensations allows one to change negative unconscious patterns and instead think more creatively about one’s own abilities and accomplishments.

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