Intellectual antecedents

The idea for this occurred to me one evening as I waited for my grand-daughter at soccer practice. I was perusing a book by Carol Harris titled The Elements of NLP and in it she listed and annotated a lot of writers and thinkers that went into the development of Neural Linguistic Programming. Briefly, NLP is an approach developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder to enhance performance in any field. The basis of it is modeling. This appeals to me now b/c I see modeling as the most powerful teaching method and failure to model explains the failure of so many teaching methods.
I was fortunate to attend a 3-day workshop put on by Grinder and Judith DeLozier, a co-founder with Bandler and Grinder of NLP. This workshop took place around 1975 as part of our in-services in the mental health center I worked in as a therapist. The workshop was amazing; I remember the part about the eyes especially: see what direction people look and you can tell if they are remembering something they saw or they heard or if they are engaging in other types of thinking and feeling. They put us through exercises which demonstrated this and that convinced me they were on to something. The other factor was their emphasis on language which reflected the way I conducted therapy sessions; if they agreed with me, they must be right.
So here is what I found in this book which astounded me to see my own intellectual roots recapitualted:
Korzybski, Alfred I remember my buddy Walt poring over Science and Sanity where, in fact, the term “neural-linguistic” was first coined. It seemed to be all about non-Aristotelian logic, an introduction for me to the notion that the dominant paradigm had detractors.
Noam Chomsky not much to say here. Sadly for me, I found out about Chomsky after I had read the major works in linguistics, all pre-Chomsky. To tell the truth, I’m not sure to this day that I fully grasp Chomsky’s take on language but I’ve got enough bits and pieces to struggle on (I’m reading just now Jean Aitchison’s The Articulate Animal where she discusses Chomsky’s ideas).
Gregory Bateson another book I’ve never actually read. Bateson’s ideas were all over the place though in the 60s and later. It seemed to be one of those deep-diving intellectual phenomena like cultural relativity: things are not as they appear e.g. non-verbal behavior offers major clues to what is going on around us.
Carlos Castaneda the highly controversial and mysterious Argentine anthropologist who wrote a series of books about a Yaqui medicine man who introduces a naïve anthropology student to the ways of magic. Highly entertaining and highly weird to this day I’m not sure how much Castaneda made up and how much had an element of genuine field research, but I can’t sit out in the desert without thinking of Don Juan’s world. One of my favorite parts was when the lowly Yaqui Indian in Mexico, uneducated, poor, asked the urbane Argentine intellectual studying at a California university if he thought they were equal as human beings. Castaneda, being acutely aware of the racism and cultural superiority oppressing third world peoples like Don Juan, replied, “Of course.” Don Juan laughed at him: “I am vastly superior to you and don’t ever forget it.” Not an accurate quote but humbling.
Albert Ellis the one therapist whose teachings I most follow despite massive exposure to many others in this list. I read him in h.s. b/c my dad had a copy of his book on rational-emotive therapy: ABC A for what happens that we perceive, C for how we think about and act on it and B for the dumb shit we tell ourselves about what we perceive instead of just being open to the perception and acting rationally on it.
Maxwell Maltz Psycho-Cybernetics guy. Working in a bookstore in the early 60s, I sold tons of that book, mostly to salesmen trying to do the Think and Grow Rich thing. I dismissed it (without reading it) only to find out it did have some gems in it.
Paul Watzlawick another book I have not read completely but did use in parts to develop my own ideas on therapy, abetted by my teachers and colleagues who were doing the same.
Virginia Satir I took a 2 semester course on Satir’s therapeutic methods. So much in therapy, as in teaching, has to do with how you relate to people: the clients, families, classes, etc. with each other and the therapist/teacher with them. It is said she would perform therapeutic sessions on stage all day and deal so gently with hecklers that by the end of the day, they were on her side.
Fritz Perls another eccentric therapist whose methods and techniques were studied by us in school and on the job. The idea that every thought you have about someone else is actually how you see yourself is powerful.
Milton Erickson the most subtle of therapists. He lived, while I was in the counselor education program, just outside the Phoenix area. One of our students cut his lawn for lessons in psychotherapy. In talking about it with my mom, she revealed she had gone to him many years previously but quit b/c he wanted to talk about sex. Smile
Tony Robbins someone often viewed as a huckster and conman in the great American tradition but who uses a lot of NLP techniques. My son liked him and I went through one of his tape programs. Like so much “positive thinking”, it has a lot to recommend it but does have a weak point: reality, personal limitations, context….
Linguistically, I’d cite the following books:
Leave Your Language Alone, later known as Linguistics and Your Language by Robert A. Hall, Jr. A major figure in linguistics, he stooped to write a book for people beset by grammar mavens, those people who use the false grammar rules of yesteryear to assert their own superiority and browbeat the rest of us. It provided the scientific basis for my suspicion that the grammar mavens were wrong.
The Loom of Language by Lancelot Hogben and Frederick Bodmer. Hogben wrote other general works on major topics and Loom is not a great book to introduce someone to language; but as a trove of paradigms and other linguistic artifacts that fascinate kids, it is a great book.
Haiku by Harold Henderson this came out in 1958, shortly after the war with Japan and tied in to the cultural influences from Japan coming back with the Occupation troops. It is the model for me of the link between language and literature, why I still look for books of poetry and prose with linguistic and cultural annotations. I’m not sure a better book has ever been written and it helped a lot that it was about a language and culture still very exotic to Americans back then. Each poem is presented, after an introduction to the culture, the literature, and the language, with a translation and a romanized version of the Japanese and an explanation of how the language achieves its effect plus the cultural associations. Just a couple of weeks ago in my Spanish book club, the question came up of what hitotogisu, a word found in the novel we read, meant and I was able to say that it is the Japanese word for cuckoo and in Japanese culture its associations are very different from those of ours.
Addendum 7-24-13
I just came across notes I made back in 89 about this. I should add then Mario Pei’s book on World Lanagues, sketches of many languages, plus learning the Greek alphabet from the Book of Knowledge and making up sentences in so-called Indian signs from the Book of Knowledge’s Junior Instructor book (I still have that one) and the Volume Library my dad had that had a section on alphabets, the Indo-European languages and sketches of other languages.

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