Starting with the big picture, what are the biggest changes in your own life since you started learning NLP?
The biggest difference is that I’m happy these days. When I look back at that awkward young guy I was when I began signing up to workshops in 2005, I feel such compassion and tenderness towards him. I was so full of judgements at that time and I didn’t like myself very much. In fact, I had a deep sense that I was supposed to be different to how I actually was, and I put a lot of effort into trying to change myself.
What’s changed is that I love being alive now. I have an amazing life and do things I never thought I could do, but more than that I’m deeply happy for no particular reason and I feel really engaged with life. That’s the biggest difference. I didn’t know how to be in my body. I’d been numb for so long that being numb felt normal to me. And now life has a quality I didn’t even know was possible – an indescribable richness, a beauty. Whatever seems to be going on is far less important, subjectively, than the sheer joy of being here.
What did you learn that has been most important in your personal transformation?
The main thing I learnt was to experience life more fully. I was so lost in my thinking that I couldn’t even see what was in front of me. This seems to be quite common and I’ve found the confusion usually comes because we mistake our thinking for reality, rather than realising we’re creating our subjective experience of reality out of the thinking. It seems like we’re lost in a poor reality but really we’re lost in poor thinking.
Learning about NLP was one of the ways I learnt to recognise my thinking and then I started to get curious about it rather than overwhelmed. I saw how simple life can be and how complicated I had been making it. I unwound the patterns until my craziness collapsed.
It’s been a very personal journey for me. I get impressed by people who use NLP to model the best sports players or learn a language in two hours, but my own motivation has been to experience life more deeply and to be with others more honestly. I took my beliefs less seriously once I could see how they were constructed. I became free of patterns I didn’t even know I had. Fear melted away. So learning about my own mind and how it was looping itself into knots was the only thing I really learnt, but it was also the only thing I needed to learn.
You were close to Richard Bandler for a few years so how did you find him personally?
A lot of people say they are close to Richard and he’s cultivated a celebrity status that means people want to talk about him and demonstrate value that way. He and I were not very close actually. I was a regular student for a few years and then I ran a couple of events with him and assisted on maybe half a dozen other events. We ran some retreats in Mexico and that’s where I saw a different side to Richard. I think he has a deep appreciation of life in an unpretentious way, disguised – elegantly – with lots of pretension and personal mythology. Underneath the layers, I think he’s a beautiful and fascinating man.
What would be your advice to someone starting out in NLP now?
Go slow. Don’t rush. It’s easy to get excited when someone dangles the keys to a new life in front of you, but keeping a cool head is important or you’ll probably blow a lot of money. A lot of “NLP trainers” know more about marketing than NLP. Don’t spend money you don’t have. Make friends and explore with peers.
The other thing I’d say is be creative. When I wanted to learn specific things, I organised events and hired the best people to teach those things. A couple of times it was Richard, but I also hired other brilliant teachers like Eric Robbie, Gabriel Guerrero, Owen Fitzpatrick, Dr Ron Perry… by organising the events and holding a space for that training to occur in, I made a profit rather than spending money on my education.
Also, sometimes a training course isn’t the best way to learn the more interesting and advanced material. I found one-to-one mentoring more valuable than most of the training events I attended, and pound for pound I think most people get much more value from coaching than training. Each person learns a bit differently and having regular conversations with your teacher will give you a chance to develop your own thinking more quickly. Ask for what you want rather than picking from the advertised menu.
How did you first hear about NLP?
I was doing a psychology course in 1997 and part of that involved us all going to an NLP training with Paul McKenna. That gave me a foundation but it wasn’t until 2005 that I did a full practitioner program and started learning directly from Richard Bandler. In between, I read a few books. I took it all quite slow.
Who did you learn most from?
I had my deepest insights while working with Eric Robbie. He nudged and guided me, rather than telling me what to see. I’ve said before that Eric has the skill of making everything about everything and nothing about nothing. He is a very clever teacher. Gabriel Guerrero is another excellent teacher with exquisite technical skill. Eric and Gabriel are the most thorough, comprehensive trainers of NLP I know of. I have a lot of respect for Owen Fitzpatrick too. He’s a good example of someone who embodies his teaching and walks his talk. I love seeing how well Owen is doing. Dr Ron Perry, who passed away last year, was another person I learnt a lot from. Ron was unassuming and gentle in his teaching and I remember him very warmly. We used to sit quietly in the corner, watching the room. There was always tremendous integrity in how he taught because each piece reflected a wider principle, but mostly I remember his kindness. And there are many other good people of course. Meeting Frank Pucelik was a highlight for me. Robert Dilts, of course. I found John Grinder’s style challenging but learnt a lot from training with him. John La Valle seemed to enjoy provoking me and that probably helped to toughen me up. Travelling to different places and meeting different kinds of people was really good for me.
Do you remember your first NLP training?
Oh yes! I’d never known anything like it. There were about 40 of us on the first training I did with Richard Bandler but it felt like he was talking direct to me. We were at Centrepoint in London but it felt like the centre of the universe. My mind got blown that week. And I began the process that many of us get into: I signed up for the next training… and the next.
How many trainings did you do in total?
Richard is such a flirt. He can push you away and pull you closer at the same time. So I was intrigued by him and I was learning a lot, and I basically followed him around the world for a few years.
Then I remember waking up on a beach in Mexico while he was talking about the structure of sympathetic magic. The world came back into focus and I knew my time with Richard was up. He’d taught me some of the mysteries behind his work but I’d started to lose myself. I was doing his work, not mine. So that’s when I thanked Richard and moved on.
Did you find yourself?
Yes, I was right back where I’d started. I love that line from TS Elliot: “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”.
How did NLP Connections come about?
My original intention was to crowd-source my education. I knew I couldn’t go on every training course with every trainer so I utilised crowd theory. My idea was to get thousands of people together and model the interactions. I set up the site so anyone could ask questions and anyone could answer. It became a success very quickly and grew into a huge resource. I learnt a lot, not only from the articles but also from the connections I made there. I met Eric Robbie through the site, for instance. Frank Pucelik started teaching programs in England because of the site. For a while it was the hottest meeting place for NLPers and I got a huge amount from us sharing our experiences together. I also made some really good friends. All these years on, several of my best friends are people I met through NLP Connections.
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.TS Elliot
Why did you close it down then?
Sites like Facebook didn’t exist when we first launched NLP Connections and I enjoyed being on the edge of something new and creating a new way for people to connect. Then I kept it going for about five more years after that, even once I’d moved on from NLP myself. But eventually it made sense to close it down. I looked at the site one day and they were all arguing and I couldn’t see the point of it any more. I’m quite ruthless about moving on.
What do you think about NLP now?
I make a distinction between Neuro Linguistic Programming and NLP. For me, Neuro Linguistic Programming is fundamentally about modelling the structure of how the mind/body constructs subjective experience; it’s what the Meta team started to do in Santa Cruz back in the early 1970s, and I think that’s very powerful work with wide-ranging applications. I particularly love the axioms that underpin Richard Bandler’s model of modelling. For me, they turn space-time into a grid that makes it possible for anyone to create any specific experience by applying attention to intention.
What’s commonly taught as NLP these days, at least in England, is fundamentally different. Mostly NLP trainers only teach formulas and techniques. That’s great if you want to be operated on – for someone else to make you more confident, for example – but that’s not what I call Neuro Linguistic Programming. People may learn to think differently, and therefore they’ll feel and behave differently. But in my experience they’re only learning the functional output of models; they’re not learning the structure of magic.
I like James Tsakalos’s way of explaining this. James is a great trainer from Melbourne, Australia. He points out that when you look outside on a windy day and there are trees swaying in the wind, you don’t actually see the wind – you just see trees moving. This is also the case with NLP. What people typically see are the results of the process of modelling, not the modelling itself.
What about unconscious installation and nested loops?
Oh they’ve become the holy grail for some NLPers, particularly men. I find that a bit silly. If you can model realities well, you can change minds very easily. Then you can look back and model what you did, but it’s always going to be a bit different, in my experience. Using generic structures will only work with some people some of the time. It’s too “paint by numbers” for real life.
Some trainers think they’ve done a good job if they’ve done all the steps right. I think they’ve only done a good job if what they did was actually effective.
Share this Post
Do you think NLP training is too expensive now?
It’s only too expensive if you’re not getting good value in return. I once paid Richard Bandler $10,000 to talk to a group for two hours and that was worth it for me. I did that because I’d never seen Richard do a complete session without breaks, and I wanted to see how he’d do that. Usually his trainings are spread over several days and it’s harder to keep track of what he’s doing. So I wanted to see him open and close something in one short session, and I made it work by inviting 250 people to an evening event. I charged enough that Richard could have his $10,000, I made a similar amount myself, and I got to see Richard do the two-hour set.
What are you exploring these days?
My biggest lesson has been to keep it real and be honest and vulnerable in my work. So much of NLP is about excellence and being the best. But why? I can’t even remember why I tried so hard to be the best.
There was a course I did with John Grinder ages ago where one of his senior students was modelling how to use a knife and fork excellently. That’s way too much for me. I eat with my fingers!
So every day I explore new things, and usually it’s simple things. I’m fascinated by trees at the moment. I go for a walk every morning and let ideas pop into my head. Aleister Crowley’s work still intrigues me. He’s often compared to Richard; a forerunner, if you like. I guess we’re all standing on the shoulders of our teachers. Yet what I am exploring most is the unwinding of what I’ve been taught. Who would I be if I let it all go? In New Code NLP they talk about the Know-Nothing state and that’s similar to what Carlos Castaneda called Stopping the World. Eric Robbie showed me some cool ways to do that and when I was in California I also met Carlos Castaneda’s dentist, which always strikes me as funny. It’s like meeting the buddha’s chiropodist. But we climbed a mountain and the world really did stop. I’m fascinated by what’s possible.[fbls]
“Chris has gone beyond what is traditionally taught and trained to a very high standard. I highly recommend him.”Richard Bandler
“Chris Morris is one of the smartest and most perceptive students of human behaviour I’ve ever encountered. He truly understands how to read and influence people.”Gabriel Guerrero
“A good teacher needs courage, commitment and skill – and Chris has all these things in abundance. He believes in people and he has the right mix of level-headedness and unconditional support for your dreams. I highly recommend him.”Eric Robbie
“Chris Morris is a phenomenon! His effortless application of NLP to a wide variety of fields, from education to politics, is consistently impressive, and his writing is some of the strongest and most challenging I’ve ever read.”Michael Neill
Share this Post