Parts Work – NLP Internal Conflict Method


NLP has a number of clever techniques, developed over the years out of its own modeling of human inner experience.  Many of the techniques came from seeing people that were good at a task, figuring out the inner “software” that allowed them to do it and then teaching it to others (most famously, the “good spelling” strategy).


While the previous article shows one of the most powerful methods (Six Step Reframing), NLP also has developed a technique that allows for conflicting parts to learn to work together.  This is a common experience for people, with the phrase “one part of me wants to X, while another doesn’t” being the usual way its explained. 


The clever thing that NLP does with this situation is based on two things that have been found out about parts:


1.  Every part has a positive intention, even if the behavior is seen as bad in the short (or long) run, the intent of the part is to the advantage of the person.


2.  Parts that are in conflict often have resources missing, critical abilities that somehow the part doesn’t have access to, but often are found in the part that it’s in conflict with!


So, for positive intentions, let’s take an extreme example: a suicidal part of a person.  One has to remember that the METHOD that is being used is different from the goal or endpoint that is being looked for.  One can easily imagine that a suicidal part has the intention of finding peace from extreme pain.  In that sense, while it has only one thing that it knows how to do, it really is trying for a positive thing for the person.  This is really the same concept as found in Six Step Reframing, described previously.


In working with conflicting parts though, its often useful to see not just the immediate goal or intention but to “go up the chain” to see the final endpoint, which will ultimately be the most powerful.  Let me give an example with a hypothetical part that wants the person to be a millionaire.  That chain might look like:


  • I want to be a millionaire
  • If I were a millionaire I could quit my job and I wouldn’t have to deal with my boss
  • Not dealing with my boss would really reduce my stress
  • If my stress was reduced I could be a lot happier
  • If I was happier, I could enjoy my family more
  • If I enjoy my family more, I’ll be better to them and feel like a good person.


So, if asked, that final statement may be the real endpoint or goal.  One obviously doesn’t need a million dollars to feel like “a good person”, so it opens up more possibilities in reaching that goal.  In the same way, no other part could argue with that final goal, once its really understood.


The same process if explored with the other part.  Amazingly, it’s often the case that the final goal is the same!  The problem comes in that the two parts have each gotten channeled to just one way of getting to that goal, each thinking its the only path.


In our example, the “millionaire part” could be trying to get to its goal through stressful, hard work, ignoring the family, pushing co-workers and spending every bit of extra time on business success courses and books, even ignoring the family.  The other part could be a part that makes the person feel guilty for ignoring friends and family and criticizes the success-oriented part.  It’s the one that notices the disappointment and lack of good will in the people in the environment and may well be very socially sensitive.


How does one make a reduction in conflict then?  First of all, through getting each of the parts to listen to the chain of goals and intentions and then to explore what abilities each of them has.  In our example above, being a good person for the millionaire part has led it to have strengths in focus and discipline, to take on a task and keep with it.  These are certainly admirable qualities.  The problem is, being a good person also requires making sure that the people around you like you, a skill that the OTHER part has!  The socially aware part, however, may have little ability to keep to goals and, aside from focusing on where things are wrong, it may not have the ability to DO much about making itself better, its only criticized throughout the years.  It could use the other parts ability to come up with a self-improvement plan to learn to gain rapport with others and to take other people’s needs into consideration.


In the NLP conflict resolution technique, both sides are then shown that they are missing abilities the other has and, in the spirit of keeping in mind the ultimate goal (or goals) they are encouraged to make contact with each other and merge their abilities together.


The first time that I did this technique; I had two extremely polarized parts.  They were both negative about each other and wouldn’t see any value in the other’s abilities.  Once all the steps had been through, the two sides came together and I experienced a sudden feeling of an almost electrical energy running through my body, lasting about ten minutes, with a lot of feeling attached.  This sensation showed me that the two very polarized parts were making strong connections and my own neurology was being dramatically changed. 


While not all problems come in this format, the idea of resolving inner conflicts this way has application to other forms of negotiation also.  One can easily see that if one is working with people with diametrically different viewpoints, going through the ultimate goals and noting the abilities of each other will help to bring the parties together.



Next: a Tibetan technique for dealing with “inner demons” (and some outer ones!).

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