Posted by: Edward | August 10, 2006

NLP Parts as Desiring-Machines or Metaprograms

In Neuro-Linguistic Programming they talk of parts, which are sub-selves with a semi-separate nature and their own volitional program. In general these programs are contextually activated but some, with different areas of responsibility are always active These parts are related to coex systems in that they bundle experiences of a related nature but they have a program of action attached that is triggered by the familiar context. In this way they are similar to engrams but they are not strictly negative. In fact it is a ground assumption of NLP that people and parts always have positive intentions. Problems arise with errors in scope that can lead to programs that conflict each other.

Desiring-machines exist by splitting off some portion of the available “energy” to move in the direction of the desire or purpose that they exist for. The word energy is necessarily vague as it is used to refer to a variety of separate features of the human organism. It refers to both the physical energy to move the body and the mental energy to move the body and the mental energy to motivate action and even the amount of attention that is available. Energy refers to all these resources that are available for the organism to get its work done. It also refers to a common pattern of directional flow that these things share. What we perceive as a person is an assemblage of these parts of desiring machines and only a relatively small percentage participate in the process we label consciousness. Each part is interconnected with other parts and each part has its own vector and percentage of the available force. The vectors and can be in a direction that no part is aiming at and at speeds much slower than if all vectors pointed in the same direction. When there is conflict and incongruence in the assemblage the desires that are reached are random, inefficient and stunted.

The person, the self, is a story a narratization created by the part called “I” describing the movements of the whole assemblage in terms of the volitions and actions of the “I” or factors acting on the part called “Me” any desiring-machines or parts other than the subject “I” and the object “Me” are unconscious drives and programs, or at least they start unconscious. A coex system is a collection of associated experiences but when dealing with one consciously we don’t experience the whole bundle, that would take as much time as it did to experience each part of the bundle originally, instead we experience or relate to an excerption that stands in for the rest.

Works Cited

Bandler, Richard and Grinder, John. (1979). Frogs into Princes. Moab, Utah: Real People Press.

Grof, Stanislav and Bennet, Hal Zina. (1993). The Holotropic Mind. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.

Jaynes, Julian. (1976). The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Lilly, John C. (1967, 1968). Programming and Metaprogramming the Human Biocomputer. New York: Julian Press.



  1. In NLP the idea of parts is a metaphor that allows a therapist to interact with subsystems which may or may not have reality in and of itself. Parts are established in an “as if” frame in order to work with a specific problem. While useful, parts work has often been criticized for creating relatively artificial distinctions and reifying them in a way that can be less than useful to the individual. Grinder and Bandler suggest that some cases of dissociative Identity disordy are iatrogenic, caused by the creation and consolidation of parts as minor personaloities.

    In Jungian theory, the idea of a part is much more clearly established in terms of the autonomous complexes. This seems to be the real deal and it parallels the NLP concept well. It may be the ultimate root of the NLP ocnept wich, as I recall, comes from the work of Virginia Satir. Jung sees the compexes as accretions of experiential data about archetypal cores. Contrary to the conventional view, the archetypes are b iological-level potentials for action and perception that become the center of parts devoted to certain kinds of affective experience.

    Each such complex is capable of becoming the center of the entire system and the whole operates in accordance with the pronciples of general systems theory.

  2. To me NLP is more a psychological martial art because it deals largely in bio-chemical mechanics as related to thought and emotion. When we become conscious of this biological effects of thought and emotion we can tweak them as desired. NLP is basically a tool to hack your bio-mechanical programming.

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