What Lies Beneath

“Think of a place or a situation where you feel calm, relaxed and happy. Is it in color? Are you near or far? What do you see, hear, and feel?”

The voice belonged to my classmate Renzo. We were in the middle of the 10-day certification course for New Code NLP or Neurolinguistic Programming under Carelle Mangaliag-Herrera, a master trainer whose company Trainstation Inc. is the only organization certified to give training in NLP New Code in the Philippines. NLP is a modeling technology co-founded by Dr. John Grinder and his then-student Richard Bandler in the 1970s. They studied the “difference that makes the difference”, analyzing what made geniuses different from the average Joe. With a scientific understanding of how the brain perceives and organizes data, they found a way to code their findings and teach these “patterns” to those who wanted to modify behavior. In the 1990s, Grinder decided to revise the “classic code” espoused by Bandler and came up with the “new code” of NLP, which is ethical, intentional, and seeks to bring people into alignment with themselves, a feeling of wholeness.  A greater sense of freedom comes with an expansion of choice—instead of being trapped in the vicious cycle of knee-jerk reactions or spiraling helplessly into rage, fear and other “unresourceful states”, a person is gifted with options of peace, calm, confidence, joy and other “resourceful states”.  

My eyes closed, I flew to Boracay. Though the skies appeared slightly overcast, the sight of white sand beach and waters tinged in a variety of blues and greens instantly calmed my mind. “Go closer,” Renzo said. “What do you see, hear and feel?”

My mind’s eye glided closer, to Diniwid Beach, and into a series of structures called the Monkey House. Once, Kidlat and I stayed there, in a bamboo hut built into the rock, right above the water that we could peer at through the floor’s bamboo slats. The sound of water slapping into the rock’s crevices was our constant companion, lulling us to sleep every night.

“Are you in the picture?”, asked Renzo. And there I was, curled up in bed with Kidlat, cozy and and comfortable under the sheets, and I could see his big brown eyes and his long wavy hair curled around his face like a halo.

“What do you feel?”

Time and space seemed to fold as I felt the surge of emotions rush into my being. I was very much in love, and I felt so close to Kidlat, so content. Love was a warm orange ball of light in my chest, and it kept expanding until it filled my whole being, encapsulated the room, and filled the edges of my consciousness. I basked in this high vibrational feeling, partially surprised as I lived once again this memory that had been buried underneath the detritus of 12 years of experiences, four bouts of general anesthesia and the birthing of two children.

There is still much to be discovered and understood about the human mind. What we know, our “consciousness”, is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. What lies beneath the surface of consciousness is the mysterious depth and breadth of the unconscious or the subconscious. The brain receives two million bits of data per second, and constantly deletes, distorts or generalizes information to help us cope with the barrage of stimuli. But the data is never truly lost, scientists are discovering. This deluge of information finds a home in the subconscious, and, when given the chance, the brain may resurrect a “lost” or “forgotten” memory, such as that beautiful, intimate vacation Kidlat and I had at the Monkey House in Boracay.

What happens when we have unpleasant experiences? Memories are stored in the hippocampus, and the amygdala, the “reptilian” or “emotional brain”, is right next to it.  Based on our memory (pleasant or unpleasant), the amygdala initiates a “fight or flight” response. The hypothalamus then releases enzymes in response to the emotional brain. The enzymes help us verbalize and physicalize a response apropos to the emotional brain’s judgment.

The brain distorts data in order to protect us, because one of our strongest instincts is to avoid being hurt again. We remember only certain aspects of trauma, and it is with this filter that we respond to the world. It becomes an automatic response, such as when one sees a large spider. If our first experience of a spider was pleasant, we will not scream at the sight of it, and we may even approach it without fear. If, however, our initial experience of meeting a spider was unpleasant, we may scream and run away at the sight of one. What is relevant here is the prevalence of the emotional brain’s control over us. We unknowingly, “instinctively” respond to the world from this limbic mechanism.

The founders of NLP understood this vital link between thoughts, feelings, actions and behavior. The patterns they created effect change in this emotional, instinctive part of the brain, the true “driver” behind the wheel (rather than just dealing with the cognitive part of the brain). That’s why many people who undergo NLP coaching can experience quicker and longer lasting positive change in their actions and behavior.

In the span of ten days, my classmates and I learned 20 patterns that can help people with issues ranging from stage fright to phobias, uncontrollable rage to binge eating, dealing with difficult clients (or family members!) to getting over a traumatic experience. The best part—we had to practice on one another. By the end of the ten-day course, we were all feeling lighter and happier. Some of us got over major issues stemming from childhood, some of us discovered more resourceful states with which to deal with stress-inducing incidents or people. We were given tools to purposefully dive into the deep, vast waters of the inner self, and emerge from them all the better.

My partner Renzo “anchored” the feeling of love from that excavated Boracay memory onto a spot on my hand. I tested it over the following days, and one press of that spot would bring me straight back into the memory, the orange glow of love all around me and permeating my entire being.

After a dozen years together, having two kids and a household together, the quotidian demands of our lives dragging a thick veil over our tender, numinous beginnings, this anchor of deep, intimate love is a precious gift to me, to us. It is more than a memory of love. It is the visceral feel of this profound emotion that shall be my resource, carrying me through the rough-hewn, handmade life that we make.

(If you wish to learn more about NLP, you can visit www.nlpworld.co.uk. If you would like to book a session, you may send me an email at lissadeguia@gmail.com.)