NLP Change Personal History

Have the past you always wished for!

Should our past be held accountable for our future?

And if so, do we wish our past to be one that will form a desirable present and future?


Very little in life is determinable, yet our beliefs, thoughts, values and consequently actions seem to follow a deterministic path. Though we may rant and rave at the thought of a fatalistic life, little more can be true than the life experiences we have consequently built up that shape who we are, what we hold in high esteem and how we act.

Our self hi-story is precisely that a ‘-story’, one that is currently being played out. As William Shakespeare wrote…

All the World’s a Stage;
And all the Men and Women merely Players;
They have their Exits and their Entrances,
And one Man in his time plays many Parts.

I have a client whom a number of years ago became involved in a car accident. Yes, he managed to recover materially. But this experience drastically changed his life from an outgoing adventurous person who would often travel to different parts of the country as part of his social calendar; to one, where gradually over time he became less and less confident in driving and started to generalise ‘going out’ as being potentially threatening.

His experience has a severity that most of us may not have had, but nonetheless shows that as humans we are susceptible to our past events and how they shape us, regardless of our conscious thought or control.

He knows that he should go out, yet the past experience created a stronger association at an unconscious level that precedes any physical action of going out of the house. He has an over generalised fear and terror of something that does not exist. His fear is based on the irrational response of something that ‘could potentially’ happen to something that will more than likely happen. I.e. ‘it has happened before so it will happen again’.

In the same way, our previous experiences follow a similar vein. Our actions are guided by our past and how we evaluate particular events through them. These evaluations are netted by a number of factors but predominantly they can be categorized simply into two forms. Experiences that are positive and beneficial and experiences that are negative. Those experiences that are positive we will generally seek more of, and those that are negative, seek less of, or avoid.

However the problem arises when we over generalise experience into other areas of our life. This may happen as a result of a traumatic experience, one which will rob us of our ability to function properly in areas where we normally would. People who have phobias suffer similar problems.

To not experience or behave in a way that we wish does not have to be linked to traumatic or severe events. The build up of small but repeatable ‘bad’ experiences can also have similar effects. These usually pile up until we form limiting beliefs about our experience or selves.

Beliefs are just beliefs, they are neither any more real than a map we have to guide us to our destination. They are as Alfred Korzibski stated ‘the map and not the territory’. Yet we act as if our beliefs are true, as if they are the real thing. We act as if our memories and through them, our past experiences are the real thing. To all intents and purposes for each individual they are. But in reality they are filtered descriptions of events, a story of what happened but not what actually happened only and in so far as we remember them. But to believe they are the truth and that their contents represent the reality of the world we live in is to fall prey to the very devices that serve to keep us alive. These devices, as such, our beliefs and values, can both serve and damn us.

They serve us, because we make generalisations about things, truisms that allow us to navigate through the world. I know that if I approach a door that it will open up either towards or away from me. However there are times when I will be fooled by my past and the similar looking door that I know, slides to the left. Here my belief about doors from my past experiences of similar looking things called ‘doors’ did not work in this instance, this is the exception and not the rule.

Our experiences allow us to create generalisations of behaviour that we can use in similar repeatable contexts. It means we do not have to consciously ‘think’ about how to act all the time. We can rely to a degree on our past experience to provide the behaviours we need in our present circumstances; like opening a door, stopping at red lights, turning a tap anti-clockwise to turn it on.

But when our past acts on our present behaviour and does not produce the desirable results we wish, then it is time to try something new.

NLP, (Neuro-Linguistic-Programming) has developed a simple format for changing personal history. For creating a re-edited version of past event/s that provides us with a new way of understanding and viewing that behaviour with the hindsight of time, experience and different points of view.

The difference between this format and trying to change how you act deliberately is in how the process of NLP works. NLP unlike traditional methods of change; works by changing the structure of how we think, how we create our experiences, while leaving the content alone.

In a way it is like changing the colour or contrast of your TV set while still watching your programme. The programme content is still the same but your experience of viewing it is different and thus so to, is your response to it.

Below is the NLP format for changing personal history. Now you too can have the past you always wanted and experience new ways of being in your present and every day of life.

Change Personal History – originally developed by Dr. John Grinder and Dr. Richard Bandler

  1. Think of an unpleasant experience/feeling/state that causes the behaviour you do not wish to occur, that you wish to change. (on a scale of 1-10 [10 being the worst] choose a 3 to practice the technique with first).
  2. Develop an association (anchor) to the unpleasant state by choosing your right hand and pressing your thumb and forefinger together when the feelings associated to the state are at their peak. Then release your thumb and forefinger and shake yourself about to break the state (make sure you give yourself a good shake and wonder about a bit too until you feel totally back to your normal self)
  3. Re-access the unpleasant state by pressing your right hand thumb and forefinger together again and as you do so step onto an imaginary timeline that has your past to your left and your future to your right, with you standing in the present moment.
  4. Now go back to an earlier time when you had that same state before by walking back down your timeline and noticing any increases or decreases in intensity of the state or memories that mark the state as the same. Take a mental note of your experience, then intensify the state again and go back to an even earlier memory.
  5. Repeat step 2 until you have reached your earliest experience of that state/feeling/ that caused the behaviour.
  6. Break your state by shaking yourself about again and come back to the present time.
  7. Now find appropriate resources that would have made a significant difference to the quality of the earliest experience. These resources may be such things as, confidence, happiness, self-worth centeredness, looking from an outside perspective in, new-knowledge and experience as an adult, any skills/behaviours that you have now that you did not have then that you can use etc.
  8. Anchor the resource you have chosen by using your left-hand thumb and forefinger by fully associating into the resourceful state and pressing these two together when it reaches its peak. Do this as many times as you need to achieve a very good resource state.
  9. Now go back to the earliest experience, associate into the memory and fire the resource anchors by pressing your left thumb and forefinger together. And allow this new state to be in place of the old one. If you are not satisfied with the change, break the state and bring come back to the present to find more new resources to add to the experience.
  10. When you are fully satisfied and pleased with your new state from that time come forward through time to the present with the new resources in place. Spread the new resource/state you have created by holding the anchors (left hand thumb and forefinger) throughout each of the memories found in step 2.
  11. Break your state when you have reached the present time and now remember the past experiences and notice if when you remember them you feel resourceful now.
  12. Future pace: Think of a situation where the old state would have occurred before you made the intervention. Step into the future possibility and notice whether the resources have generalised into the future.

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