YouTube video Interview with Anné Linden
The First Lady of NLP
By Judith E. Pearson, Ph.D.
For years, I'd heard NLP practitioners sing the praises of Anné Linden, "The First Lady of NLP." I'd heard about her training institute, her charismatic personality. I wanted to meet her and I decided interviewing her for Anchor Point would give me the ideal opportunity to "touch the hem" of one of the world's best-known NLP Trainers.
Early in 2003, I summoned the audacity to call Anné, introduce myself, and ask for an interview about her life and work. To my delight, she graciously accepted, and in March, we talked for almost two hours by phone. I found her to be charming and generous with her time and knowledge. It was a privilege and an honor to talk with her. For Anchor Point readers, here is an interview with Anné Linden.
Judy: Anné, How did you get started in NLP?
Anné: In 1976, I was in clinical training in Transactional Analysis (TA) in Connecticut. A group of my colleagues went to a regional TA conference in the Midwest. They came back with these stories about the two men who had given the keynote speech -- Grinder and Bandler. I listened to the stories and they wounded fascinating!
And when I heard about The Structure of Magic, I was intrigued, because it meant that maybe there was structure to the magic of communication. I was totally in awe, because in just a few questions or statements, you could get all sorts of responses! I thought, "Wow! How do you do that?" I went to my first training with John Grinder and Richard Bandler in 1976. My next training was in January of 1977 -- Richard and Leslie Cameron Bandler doing a five-day training in Binghamton, New York. I remember that I drove through a blizzard to get there.
Judy: What first impressed you about NLP?
Anné: The same thing that initially drew me to TA -- the underlying principal of "I'm okay, you're okay" which meant no judgment. To me, acceptance is the basis of therapy and evolution. But there was a problem with TA. While I learned a great deal, the deeper I got into it, I kept thinking, "Okay, wonderful, but how do you do, 'I'm okay, you're okay?'" When I took my first training in NLP, that question began to be answered. NLP taught me how to communicate without judgment and that is how change happens.
Judy: Then after your initial exposure to NLP, what happened? How did you and NLP evolve?
Anné: After that Binghamton conference in 1977 I followed Bandler and Grinder around the country. They had no structure to their training. As they developed something new, they would get a "gig" somewhere and they would try it out by teaching it to people. So for the next two years, there was a core group of about 20 of us following them. It was a small community and it was exciting for us, because we were participating in the creation of something new, something extraordinary!
Richard in those days was healthy, together, and absolutely a genius. I felt as though he took my brain and threw it into outer space! Without Richard Bandler, NLP would not exist.
Looking back, I realize it was presumptuous of me, but I really wanted to teach NLP. I brought Richard (Bandler), John (Grinder), Leslie (Cameron Bandler), David Gordon, Robert Dilts, and Judy DeLozier to New York City on a regular basis. I put together a training program where one or two of them would come in every six weeks or so. And in between those trainings, I would teach for a weekend. Boy, did I learn how much I didn't know!
It was about that time that I sat down with Leslie to talk about a structure for NLP training. We laid out a 24-day certification training. I founded the New York Training Institute for NLP in 1977 with Ed and Marianne Reese. We had a good time! In May 1980, we sponsored an NLP conference that featured John and Richard. It was called "Seven Days in May." Four hundred people attended! It was the first time the New York Training Institute for NLP had a class of Certified Practitioners.
About this time, Bandler and Grinder started the first certification program for NLP Master Practitioners and Trainers in Santa Cruz. I went there and came back as a Master Practitioner. That winter, I went back for Trainer certification. I was so nervous! We had to stand up and give a presentation on something Richard picked out of a hat! Richard asked me all these questions! Out of 50 people, they certified 12 and I was one of them. I was surprised and exhilarated!
In 1980, came the unfortunate breakup of Bandler and Grinder and Leslie Cameron-Bandler. After that, the NLP community got self-destructive and it wasn't a very nice sight. A group of us, from all parts of the country were used to getting together at trainings on a regular basis. With the breakup, it got kind of lonely. So, in 1983 I sent invitations to about 30 people, all Master Practitioners and Trainers, to come to my institute in SoHo just to talk about what would come next. We met for three weekends over six months, during which time we put together the National Association of NLP -- the first professional, non-profit organization in NLP. It was hard work and I learned a lot fast. I knew nothing about organizations. We had our first conference in Chicago in 1984. After that, it snowballed. We had another in New York City in 1986. It was three days with 500 people attending. It was wonderful!
We held conferences annually. But the culture of NLP in the US is, unfortunately, one of camps and competition. One faction wanted a professional organization with ethics and standards. The other faction wanted an open organization which anyone could join. I was vice president for a number of years and put on four conferences. Eventually with all the politics, I got very discouraged and became less involved. In the early 90's, the organization died because of backbiting, bad feelings, and nastiness.
Today, Peter Keene, a student of mine, and a Trainer, has put together the International NLP Association and is getting it off the ground. I remain helpful and supportive. In terms of the future of NLP, the profession really needs an organization to promote standards and ethics.
Judy: Let's backtrack -- you studied with Milton Erickson. For everyone who ever met him, it was a memorable experience. I love to hear first-hand impressions of him. Tell me yours.
Anné: (laughs) I had the good fortune to study with him for the two summers before he died. Unbelievable person, unbelievable man! Great depth of wisdom! Incredible strength and intellect! Great sense of humor! I met him when he was almost 80 years old and he was so wise! I think in some ways he was rather rigid, like believing every woman should get married and have babies. But, in terms of his work, nobody was more flexible.
When I first studied with him -- there was this whole thing about making mistakes -- that mistakes were opportunities. I believed that cognitively, but on a personal level, being young and inexperienced, mistakes still didn't feel good to me. Erickson was the embodiment of that philosophy. He embraced mistakes as an opportunity to learn. And you could feel that he meant it. He was extraordinarily kind in terms of a person's weaknesses and very gentle with the unconscious mind. His eyes were unbelievable. He could look at you with those eyes and you would do anything he asked you to do.
I remember once I asked him about a problem I had. Of course, he told me to climb Squaw Peak and I would understand the problem in a new way. This was in the summer and it was hotter than hell in Phoenix. I climbed to the top of Squaw Peak and I was hot and miserable. I stood there and thought, "I still don't understand the problem!" I was rather annoyed. So I started looking around and I could see Phoenix. Up until that time, I had not seen Phoenix from that perspective -- from a distance. Then I began to see my problem in a different way, and I began to understand Erickson's message. I am still benefiting from that training and I didn't understand even one-tenth of what I was learning at that time!
Judy: You were an actress for 19 years before you became an NLP trainer. How did your acting background influence your understanding of NLP?
Anné: I think my background in acting had a lot to do with my eventual success as a trainer. I understood what it meant, as an actress, to communicate. It's about getting responses. Actors can't function unless they are getting responses. You'll never find an actor who just gets on stage and says, "Well, I know my script and that's enough." It's always about the response of the audience -- getting them to smile, be upset, cry, relax -- that's what's important. That background made NLP like coming home.
Judy: I understand you brought NLP to Europe.
Anné: Yes, in 1982, I did the first European NLP training in Holland followed by Practitioner Certification in 1983. The next year I went to Belgium. In 1986, I began certification trainings in Paris and certified Europe's first NLP Trainers. I've done certification programs in Belgium and France since then. I am very proud of the Belgium and French trainers that I have certified.
Judy: What is your current training schedule?
Anné: I have one Practitioner and Master Practitioner training and one Hypnosis Certification program here in New York each year. I moved from SoHo in Manhattan a few years ago, to upstate New York. I have a training room in my home, where I continue to train small groups.
I still work with a number of training institutes in Europe. My classes there are large and exciting. I go to Europe four or five times a year; to Belgium for Practitioner and Master Practitioner trainings and to Paris for Ericksonian Basic and Advanced Certification training. Every other year in the Netherlands, I do a seven-day Trainer's training. On a more or less regular basis, I do a five-day workshop on my Boundaries Modelsm usually in Paris. In Brussels I do a yearly training on the Enneagram and NLP.
Judy: You've written two books, Mindworks and The Enneagram and NLP. Talk about your books.
Anné: I worked for years on Mindworks. Maybe for some people, writing a book is easy, but it wasn't for me. One of the biggest challenges was: I didn't want to write another book for NLP Practitioners. Everybody had done that. I wanted to write a book for the general public.
I wanted to write a book that people who are not trained in NLP could pick up and understand. I wanted it to be accurate and true to NLP, yet the kind of book that would give to people some skills that would make a difference in their lives. I think Mindworks is a good book. I spent a lot of time creating exercises that readers could do that weren't so complicated, but would let them have an experience of NLP and their inner world.
So many people don't have a relationship with their inner world! Even some people who consider themselves spiritual don't have that. Unless you're familiar with your parts, your inner perceptions, dialogs, sensations, and images, you don't have a relationship with your inner world. I wanted to write something where people would get an experience of their inner world and their potential to change it and make a difference. It took a lot of work, but this book accomplished that purpose. Not every day, but maybe every week someone will call me and say, "I read your book," and want to thank me or have a session with me. I'm very pleased and gratified.
Judy: And what about The Enneagram and NLP?
Anné: Combining the Enneagram and NLP has become very interesting and exciting to me, to the point that I am actually revamping my Practitioner and Master Practitioner training here to combine both models. The Enneagram makes NLP much more accessible, more user friendly, and much deeper, because it supplies what NLP has always been missing -- a larger framework, a cosmology of human behavior. NLP brings to the Enneagram the specific skills of how to be non-judgmental and how to change minds.
The Sufis developed the Enneagram in the 15th century, and they were elitists. They kept it an oral tradition until the 1980's, when the first book on it was written. They said this information is so powerful that it is not for everybody, and they would decide who should have it. They were concerned about what would happen if the Enneagram got into the hands of people who would use it destructively as a tool of judgment. I have never liked typologies, because they either put you in a box or they are too vague to be useful. The Enneagram doesn't do that. It is dynamic and flexible.
Judy: How is the Enneagram different from Meta-Programs?
Anné: Meta-Programs are specific patterns, while the Enneagram draws a picture of the potential and challenges of each person. The Sufis say that a person's gifts are also their greatest traps. They talk about where you put your attention, where you place your passion, and how that passion becomes an addiction when you no longer have choice. True evolution is about having choice and harmony. The Enneagram gives a broader, more meaningful understanding of a person, while NLP gives the specific, "how to" of choice and change.
Judy: Please talk about the therapeutic models you have developed.
Anné: I will talk about a few of them. I developed Sort by Othersm, which helps people understand attention and intention. When you "sort by other," your attention is on the other person, and your intention is for the other's benefit. Until people train with me, they don't understand the difference between sorting by self and sorting by other. If your attention is on the other, but your intention is on self, people feel manipulated. Too often, people don't learn this in NLP. Sort by Othersm is a way of developing deep rapport and deep trust. Sorting by Othersm is an ego-less state. It doesn't mean giving up your ego. It means putting your ego aside, and you can't do that unless you have a strong ego.
The Fair Witnesssm is another model I developed that is very important in NLP. It is more than the observer position. It is a position that enables you to be involved, and to be touched by the other person emotionally, but without the need to help, comfort, fix, or judge. It doesn't mean you don't care about the person's humanity, but you can help the person, without needing to have the person change. It goes against the notion that change is the most important thing for people. I think there are two dangers in that. If you are good at it, then your ego begins to depend on your ability to change people. Secondly, you end up sending a message to the person that their symptom is not okay -- that you do not accept it.
I developed the Boundaries Modelsm over a number of years. Now I am writing a book about it. For me, boundaries combine the property of making distinctions (which means being separate) and making connections. It means being separate and connected at the same time -- separation and permeability. I developed this model to define how people create boundaries. As far as I know, no one else has this kind of model. It is surprisingly easy to do.
It is especially useful to recognize when you want boundaries, have some choice about boundaries, and have the skill to establish boundaries. I think of boundaries as the ultimate resource. Most beliefs that are not supportive come from a decision we make when we are young about who we are, what we are capable of, and what the world is about -- these decisions are the result of not having boundaries. Children don't have the developmental, psychological patterns to have boundaries. We aren't aware of it, but we develop the ability to have boundaries as we get older -- a sense of self, a sense of ego, an internal frame of reference, a sense of self as process.
And I must mention the Spatial Reframesm a process for inner parts that are in conflict. I believe we all have an inner family of parts as the basis of our functioning and well-being. This depends on having appropriate boundaries between parts, communication, and hierarchies. I have developed other processes as well such as Identity Processsm, Spiral Belief Processsm, Core Outcomessm, Changing Expectationssm, Evolved Selfsm, and the Senoi Processsm.
Judy: What is the secret of your success and longevity as an NLP Trainer?
Anné: I found something in NLP that is somehow congruent with who I am and what's important to me. That congruency contributed to my abilities. I guess I'm a natural storyteller and a natural actress. Combining those skills with teaching brings me joy. I love what I do. Making a difference in people's lives is so satisfying. When you find something that is congruent with who you are, what you are good at, and that you can make a living from -- that is a real blessing.
Judy: What are your hopes for the future of NLP?
Anné: Somehow, at least in the U.S., NLP hasn't had the visibility it deserves. NLP is used everywhere -- in business and sales, training, and mental health. But people who use it in the U.S. often call it something else. It's not like this in Europe. In Belgium, Netherlands, and France, every company has some kind of NLP training. In Europe it is more accepted in therapeutic circles. In Britain, to be certified as a therapist, you must have NLP training. The European Union is putting together a certification for therapists in all the member countries and part of the qualifications will be NLP. NLP has more credibility in Europe than in the U.S., unfortunately. To change this, I think we need to place more emphasis on standards, avoid short, fast, three-day, ten-day certification programs, eliminate the hype in our advertising, and "sort by other" -- our students.
Judy: NLP is not a household word. It seems we could do a better job of promoting this profession.
Anné: I agree. No one has ever developed a research protocol for NLP. Maybe if someone had, NLP would have a wider reputation today. NLP is hard to research, because you can't just ask a question. The answer you get depends on your rapport, tonality, and many variables. But that doesn't mean it's impossible.
In the early days, most of the people who attended NLP trainings were therapists. Back then, Bandler had such a sense of humor! He was outrageous, but charmingly so! He would criticize traditional therapy in a way that was funny and challenging. His attitude was, "I'm not interested in this academic stuff. Just try it and you'll see it works!" For such a powerful model, NLP should have more recognition.
I hope that NLP will become much more prevalent in schools, as part of the curriculum. It would be wonderful if people just take for granted that we have to learn to use our minds. Not just learn what to think, but how to think. If NLP could be brought into the schools, it would benefit people in so many ways.
Judy: What advice do you give to people who want to use NLP for personal growth, and for those who want to be successful Practitioners and Trainers?
Anné: For people who want to use NLP for their own evolution: first be patient with yourself; learn to accept yourself. For Practitioners, it is important to be comfortable with who you are, and to really get the NLP presuppositions into your behavior. If you have any beliefs that run contrary to the presuppositions, begin to loosen those beliefs so that you create space for growth.
If you want to be a Trainer, I would recommend acting and improvising classes to learn body movement and voice work. Your body and your voice are your vehicle -- your medium of expression. You want to have choice about how you move and how you use your voice. As a Trainer, be very careful that your sense of identity is not wrapped up in being a Trainer. If your sense of self depends on being a Trainer, that is an incredible limitation! Be open to being wrong and unattached to being right. It doesn't make you less smart or less effective to say, "I didn't know that." Be true to yourself and to what you believe in.
Judy: What do you want people to know about you as a person?
Anné: On a personal note, I have three grown children. I was born in Manhattan and lived in SoHo until five years ago. I live in the mountains north of the city now. I have a wonderful, incredible grandson. I have three Irish Wolfhounds and I show them. I hope to breed one in the next year. I love to garden. In my 25 years of training, people have often said, "Anné, you are very spiritual." I had a negative reaction to that. To me, spirituality described people who didn't know the first thing about sorting by other. As I got older, I realized that I am spiritual, but my spirituality comes from animals, plants, and trees. These are the core of who I am -- every day I'm thankful for the companionship of my animals and my standing people, the trees!