Dreams and NLP

Or should it be ‘Dreams ARE NLP’? Well, wait and see.


After picking up that book on Neuro Linguistic Programming last weekend I’ve read my way through the first ten chapters. These introduce the reader to NLP and teach various techniques which I have been implementing along the way, these include:

  • Goal setting
  • Knowing how you feel
  • Believing in yourself
  • Visualisation
  • Creating choices
  • Winning with words

Chapter 11 is then a ’21 Day Action Plan’. However, as per my introductory post on this topic/book, I am a little short on days before my trip away so I wanted to work through this plan quicker. I was aware this might be somewhat foolish since I didn’t know what that plan might entail, but I went with it. The initial ten chapters took a little longer for me to blitz through than I had intended, but blitz through them I did and fortunately, as I came to discover when I began the 11th chapter and began the Plan proper, many of the techniques to incorporate into each Day had been covered and tried in those introductory chapters. Now it was just a case of going back over them to refresh myself and carry out anything new and specific.

Since these Day’s “challenges” consist of concise bulleted lists they are easy to work through and even if I’m not at Day 21 by the departure date of my trip I can make a copy of these lists to take with me. I do like lists and this book sure does encourage the use of them!

Part of the process given in the book has been for me to list my goals in life, from daily ones, through to bucket-list-type things. There would be things to achieve and things to work at cutting out. I then had to focus on these things individually, all of them, and consider various points in detail, such as time-frames, whys and wherefores. Author Dr Harry Alder explains that some common themes are likely to develop (some people want things, others want to be doing things, or being things, or knowing things) and sure enough they did – aside from wanting to know “stuff” I’m largely about being, such as being happy or being healthy. From the perspective of what things we might want to cut out of our lives we can use this to replace such things with something positive; such as spending too much time watching people on Youtube to getting out and interacting with ‘real’ people.

However, what I was discovering was that I was trying to do too much – going into all that detail for all of the things I had listed turned into quite an undertaking and half way through I realised I had “too much on my plate” (more on this later!) I had my list of things I wanted to do each day but what the NLP processes required of me was time to focus more clearly on each task so that I could see where I could make improvements and learn. Much of my keenness for learning about NLP was to help me out of the various habits and routines that were by their nature keeping me ensnared and not leading me on a forward path, such as taking on something new only to get bored of it a few months later. I was feeling like an addict that repeatedly failed at kicking a habit.

The phrase “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is not all that helpful when you consider that if you keep doing the same thing then you will keep getting the same outcome. NLP was teaching me ways to break out of the “simple” try-try-again loops I had found myself in; it helps you discover and focus on what you need to change.

One of the habits/routines I wanted to implement was to wake up at sunrise each day. To achieve this I needed to go to bed ‘on time’, which in theory is not so much a big deal for me since I live on my own and I am used to not staying up late – I like to keep a steady routine of going to bed around the same time. The problem I was finding was, mostly due to lapsing into unproductive things like watching people on Youtube, time in the evenings would run away from me and I’d end up rushing to bed with little to no time left on the clock for the reading I had planned or the various visualisation techniques the NLP process required I do.

I’d then turn my light off late, and ultimately get up late the next day, missing that all important sunrise.

This perceived failure point wasn’t helping me with my self-esteem, I realised, and would adversely impact the other things I wanted to achieve throughout the day. I’ve noticed something similar with other things like running; if I fail to go out in the morning as planned I end up kicking myself for the rest of the day. This negativity is something the NLP process addresses, but I needed time to focus on it and find my way out – breaking this loop can be achieved through the awareness NLP techniques provide.

That sunrise was important to me because on one morning I was out of bed just in time to see the orange sky rising above the houses outside my window. I worked to keep that mental image in my mind throughout the day, hoping to use it the next morning to get me out of bed promptly. I’ve used another mental image to great success but more were to follow that I had not expected.

Last night, even though I got into bed later than planned, I allowed time to work through a section of the Action Plan. This involved looking back over a list of ten words I had written with my left hand to describe myself. The idea is that by using your non-dominant hand you access the other side of your brain that you would not normally use for describing yourself; you just have to go with it and write down anything that comes to mind and not consider if anything is right or wrong. I’m not sure this really worked for me and revealed anything new but I had my list of words and then I had to pick a negative expression and explain it in a sentence. My word chosen was “slow”, as I feel I am slow to learn things. I then had to replace this belief with something positive so I considered why I was slow in this regard and of what benefit it might be. Further techniques were applied and then called it a night.

Holy crap did I have a dream!

Yesterday my neighbour had come round for a chat and we had talked about the tree beside my garden which is in full bloom. In my dream I was traveling through an avenue of such trees in full bloom. That was a beautiful sight on its own, but then I was observing the falling blossom sprinkling down as I and others walked beneath the branches. I held a large book or folder above my head to keep the blossom from landing on my hair. With the blossom covering the surface of this I would periodically fling the blossom off. I began to see all of this in beautiful slow-motion, just like a stunning effect in a movie. It was like I had the ability to slow time down at my will and observe all of this in amazing detail; others around me could not do this, they were just walking on in their own time. As I continued on I considered how this would make for a great photo-opportunity, to capture an image of this falling/sprinkling of blossom beneath the trees.

Not actual dream footage!

As I continued on more I was starting to run, and then leap and glide and even somersault through the trees. I was above other people walking below and one was someone I went to high-school with, he was carrying a tall wooden post and I was balancing on top of it. He remarked that I would fall but I was confident I wouldn’t; I twirled round on one foot on the post to demonstrate this as he navigated a bend.

I came to realise that my leaping and bounding movements consisted of ups and downs, like the sine-waves on an oscilloscope; after each leap up there would inevitably be a ‘fall’ down, and then I would bound back up again, up and down, up and down along through these trees, not feeling any tiredness or exerting any perceptible effort; it was like I was free, free to move in this way. Eventually though I considered doing a somersault as I leapt up, the problem was that I was sort of second-guessing myself – could I do this? – was there time to complete the movement before I met with the ground again? All this I was thinking about whilst going through that one leap up and in the end I began the manoeuvre a little to late, such as on the way down, and didn’t quite come out of it soon enough. Instead of landing on my feet I had to gambol when I met with the ground and just like the slow visualisation of the falling blossom I had a slow ‘visualisation’/feeling of each of my vertebrae meeting with the ground in turn, from my neck downwards as I came out of my roll. I was fine, there was nothing in the way of pain, just an awareness of what I had just done and a message to look after my body as I need it in order to travel through this world! The whole ability to see things in slow-motion made me recall my NLP exercise that focused on the benefits of being ‘slow’; who would want to rush through a beautiful scene in a movie and miss out on all the glorious detail?!

There was also that recollection of the ups-and-downs I had been through and I considered the importance of timing. I find myself doing too much one day, perhaps of one thing like cycling, so then be down on energy the next. Over recent months, and perhaps for well over a year, I’ve been trying to keep myself more steady, such as through regular sleeping patterns, but also with diet, not only by cutting down carbohydrates and sugar but considering when I eat too, and limiting my coffee intake, especially later in the day.

After that dream it was time for a recurring one where I’m at a buffet among some familiar faces such as people I went to school with. As usual I’ve perhaps arrived late but there is still some food left and I get myself some. I approach one table to sit down and I see some chips on a plate and I help myself; it turns out it was someone else’s leftovers, oh well. I get chatting to one of my class mates from school and we end up talking in German – something I have been learning to do in recent years, but not for a while. When I was at high-school we all attended French classes but some students who were progressing well enough with their French got to do German also in their final years. I was not one of those students. I was struggling far too much with French – I was a slow learner. In the dream this student was one that got to do German and as I spoke to him in German he got a puzzled look on his face as he recalled that I hadn’t done German in school. I became proud to acknowledge that I had, since high-school, taught myself some of the language. This was a nice happy feeling.

Something revealing then happened, although I’m still trying to understand what it means. On my plate I had some salad which consisted of small cherry tomatoes (they are currently what I have in my fridge!) This student then put on my plate some larger ones. Was this to acknowledge that “he” was impressed with me for learning German on my own, in my own time, and on my own terms?

NLP has techniques for developing positive feedback and some of these are in a chapter in the book titled “Your inner team”. Here Alder provides the fun exercise of imagining a tea party where we need to imagine different people coming to the table who are different aspects of ourselves, including positive and negative ones, such as parts we’re happy with or parts we dislike – imagine yourself as a person who is only this trait and then have them join you at the table. I couldn’t help but not only envisage a mad-hatters tea party, complete with top hats and perhaps a crazy rabbit, but recollect my recurring dreams where I’m at a buffet.

Incidentally, something that I have learned over time, and something that came up in a Youtube video on dreams I watched yesterday, is that the people in our dreams are not necessarily those people, but they are different aspects of ourselves since they are formed by our imagination. I’ve been considering this more and more with the people I meet in my dreams: what do their personality traits tell me about me and mine?

In considering this with last night’s buffet dream I considered that the people were either different forms of myself, or there to provide me with something, such as the answer to why I shouldn’t give up on learning German: because it’s fun to speak a different language from time-to-time and interact with people that speak that language, yes it’s impressive to me when someone can speak another language other than their native one – agreed that’s an ego thing also – and I make myself feel good having learned things outside of school and in my own time.

The amazing thing for me from all of this was that I effectively carried out that lesson on Neuro Linguistic Programming in my sleep! With that ability, which I’m sure we can all develop, I’ll save myself a lot of time. It’s not the first time I’ve pondered something before bed with the hope of the night’s sleep figuring it out for me, but I don’t think there has been a time that it has provided such clear answers. I’ve always believed dreams are important and can teach us something about ourselves and having recently discovered NLP, the links between them are quite remarkable.

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