The Roots of Marin NLP
by Carl Buchheit
First published in 2008
Part the First
Marin-style NLP has always been something that is difficult to characterize, especially when it comes to explaining how it is different. It has much in common with conventional NLP, yet it is tremendously not-like-that at the same time. So, from time to time I would like to share a little with you about where our forms of this wonderful work come from.
Their foundation is solidly in the amazing work of John Grinder and Richard Bandler in the 1970s. After all, even one of our Holographic NLP-level presuppositions is: “No matter how cosmic it gets, it’s still all V’s, A’s and K’s.” We never get too far away from this awareness, and when we do we return to it pretty quickly.
Although it is based in the NLP of the 1970s (what Robert Dilts calls “1st generation NLP), Marin NLP is not about techniques and procedures for techniques. Marin NLP is greatly filtered through my (Carl’s) experience of Dr. Jonathan Rice. Jonathan was my main teacher. He was the only one of Richard and John’s early students to be a credentialed therapist and Ph.D. psychologist. Jonathan added 1970s NLP into the work he was already doing with his clients in his practice in Carmel, just down the road from Santa Cruz. He studied with and stayed around John and Richard not because of their great charm, but because he watched them get results with people that were beyond what he knew how to do. However, Jonathan did not throw away his training and experience as a psychologist.
“Jonathan-style NLP” is heavy on attention to hypnotic language, elegant use of the outcome frame, and close calibration of physiology—especially!!—physiology. Jonathan was determined to teach himself to use Richard and John’s remarkable discoveries about accessing cues to observe and understand the structure of his own clients’ experience. Jonathan never stopped refining and extending this part of the NLP model. For example, the “what stops you” question is something we owe in great part to Jonathan’s persistence and creativity. In the earliest day’s, “what stops you?” was asked for information about content (as in, “Just ask the question and write down what they say”), not for the representational physiology of unconscious safety patterning. “What are the V’s and A’s that are making the K’s?” is Jonathan’s question also. (He didn’t remember saying it, but he thought it was a great one when I brought it up, years later.)
“Jonathan-style NLP” is also something that is usually done seated, not standing, and it expects the practitioner to improvise and constantly adapt, so that no two sessions are identical, and the techniques, if they can be called that, are generally hidden in the flow of life-revising rapport. Moreover, the practitioner seeks to serve the client, not to impress him or her with the practitioner’s amazing personal power. This should all be instantly and hugely recognizable to our NLP Marin students.
I spent years switched with Jonathan. Anyone who knows Jon can sense this in me, any time I am teaching or working with clients. I am greatly indebted to him.
The Essential Reframe
In the spring of 1979, when I first encountered the very new field of knowledge called NLP, I was immensely relieved to find within it a wonderful “presupposition” about human experience:
“From Intended Positive Outcomes to IPO’s”
“All behavior has an intended positive outcome,”
(which was/is also stated as)
“Behind every behavior is an intended positive outcome.”
From here in 2008, almost thirty years later, I don’t remember if this statement about intended positives was formalized yet, as a presupposition, or even if “The Presuppositions of NLP” existed in codified form. I heard that the idea seemed to come from John and Richard’s exploration of the work of Virginia Satir, and I remember thinking, “Virginia Satir, whoever you are…way to go!”
All by itself, this one line about intended positives was enough to make it worth my while to learn a lot more about NLP. It directly condensed an entire worldview into seven or eight words. Even better, the idea gave all of us human beings credit for knowing what we are doing—even though our lives are so often so weirdly sad and compellingly hopeless. The presupposition resonated persistently with a thought that had appeared in my mind, elastic and sticky, some years before: “Being human is not a fallen condition!”
For years, I had been becoming increasingly cranky with a variety of “growth” methods and “spiritual” movements in which the main order of business was “purification” of some sort. It was as if the short-format version of these schools was, “Welcome to physical reality. Big mistake! Now, here’s how to recover and become worthy of something better.” There was something so intrinsically and intensely disrespectful about this that I really couldn’t help but think, “That has got to be nuts.”
During this time, I was also still voraciously consuming the work of Jane Roberts and her co-conspirator, the channeled entity, Seth. Jane’s writing was about “the eternal validity of the soul,” but what came through equally strongly was the intense “validity” of physical experience. Years before, Seth/Jane had flattened me with the line, “Within your physical atoms, the origins of all consciousness still sing.” Jane often wrote about the amazing creativity that goes into the achievement of being “securely couched” in physical reality. Since that’s pretty much where I happened to be noticing myself securely couched at the time, I thought that was great.
So, we might begin to imagine my dismay as I discovered that much of the NLP world, which I would come to regard as the place where “they” do conventional NLP, didn’t take the frame of intended positives all that seriously. It was more like, “Behind every behavior there is an intended positive outcome, except for…(except for when the person’s life is too awful…except for when they had really cruel parents…except for when they were misdiagnosed in the second grade…except for when, surely, they have nothing to do with what’s gone so wrong…except for, essentially, they are—surely—the victim, not the source, of their experience”) Out of this kind of nonsense have come “change patterns” that are beyond ugly, “techniques” with names like “Belief Crusher” and “Parts Annihilator,” and so on, and on, in the ceaseless, in-bred plague of “techniques” that is what NLP is for most of the world.
I have purposefully made a completely hardball interpretation of Intended Positive Outcomes the foundation of our Marin-style NLP. I have even extended the presupposition just a little: “All behavior, and all experiences, have intended positive outcomes—no exceptions, ever.” For me, this presupposition is the essential reframe that NLP offers the world. It is an important and powerful assertion. It is far more important than telling people about cybernetic this-and-that, for example. It is the idea that sets us apart.
Because it preserves our proper dignity as conscious beings, by requiring respect for the legacy of our personal ecology, the hardball IPO frame (somewhere I began to abbreviate Intended Positive Outcomes into the acronym IPO’s) hugely eases the experience and processes of change. It allows us all to begin from where we are, without having to pour energy into fighting where we’ve already been.
By adhering to the universal validity of IPO’s, we have been able grow the unique expression that is NLP, Marin-style. Our forms of NLP, so fundamentally rooted in the amazing work of Bandler, Grinder, Robert Dilts, Jonathan Rice, and many wonderful others, yet so completely different in tone, are able to further the soul’s fulfillment without dishonoring the life’s intentions. And that is just the beginning of the story.