Emotions and different faces

Our Mind-Body Connection and Neuro-Linguistic Programming

4 minutes to read
Christine Walter

Christine Walter

Hypnotherapist, Life Coach, mBit Master Coach and NLP Master Practitioner

Beginner Evidence Based

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I don’t want to know what your problem is, I just want to know how you do your problem.
                                                     —Richard Bandler 

This quote is credited to Richard Bandler, one of the developers of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). 

Whether it is accurate or not, I cannot fully say – it is the content that is important because it is referring to some important knowledge of how we operate, specifically:

  • People run patterns within themselves unconsciously. In the context of the statement, the problem is when we behave in a way that we do not want to or is not resourceful for the situation.
  • These unconscious patterns can often be triggered by a thought, event, feeling or state.
  • These patterns create internal states and thoughts that impact behaviour. 

Implicitly, there is the suggestion that when we understand how the “problem” is performed, the “problem” can be defused or resolved and new ways of being created.

This is the essence of many NLP techniques, which is what we’ll cover in this article. 

How do our unconscious responses occur?

An NLP Practitioner understands that the body and the mind are not separate entities

For example, thinking of a happy memory creates a nice feeling in the body. 

If we think of a disagreement we had with someone, we will probably start to feel agitation or annoyance or even anger again at the very recollection. 

In these examples thinking and imagining have created feelings and even physical responses. 

Thinking is an internal process utilising knowledge from the brain. This knowledge is generated from memories, experiences or expectations of how we perceive things.  

Feelings are internal states often connected to emotions

Physiological states are our external behaviours that others can use to interpret how we might be feeling or responding. Each of these are connected intricately and impact the others. 

Understanding our autonomic nervous system

Connecting thinking, feeling and physiology is the role of our Autonomic Nervous System. The autonomic nervous system regulates our internal processes, such as: 

  • heart rate
  • digestion
  • blood pressure
  • sexual arousal

The autonomic nervous system includes a large network of nerves within the brain and the body. It is made of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems

The sympathetic nervous system mobilises the body. It is utilised in physical activity and in motivation. In times of stress or perceived risk it will direct the body into “fight or flight” mode.

The parasympathetic nervous system when heightened reduces mobility of the body, such as relaxation. In times of prolonged stress and perceived risk, it can disconnect us and immobilise us. This is often referred to as “freeze”. 

The autonomic nervous system notes and responds to information received, distinguishing between safety and danger. 

The need for safety is an innate part of survival – it is a part of our DNA. 

Feeling safe, or unsafe, affects our mental and physical health, our ability to make decisions, our behaviour as well as our relationships. It impacts our ability to trust and work cooperatively. 

This is known as neuroception and occurs without conscious thought. Stephen Porges notes that this is how babies can identify between parents and strangers and respond accordingly.[1]

The NLP Presupposition — The Mind and Body are interlinked

Brain and body communication is dual directional. This means that our brain communicates with our body, and our body communicates with our brain, using our nervous system. 

By understanding how we respond unconsciously to triggers and the patterns that we run once triggered, we can change and/or retrain the response for better outcomes. 

It is also important for the person to believe they are capable of change and desire it. 

To explain this mind-body connection better, we only need to look at the drug trials. 

One group of participants is given the drug being trialled while the other group is provided with an inactive solution or pill. However, both groups are told that they are given the actual drug.

What the researchers often record is that the group taking an inactive drug also shows positive effects. This is known as the placebo effect

These individuals believed they were taking the medication and so the change has occurred. This isdue to the power of the thought and its connection to the human body.[2]

It’s interesting to note here, that the power of thought, feeling and physiological state interacting with the autonomic nervous system to create a desired change is hypnosis. Hypnosis and NLP cross over in use and facility for change. 

RELATED — How does hypnotherapy work: Rewire your Subconscious Mind

Affecting our body through thought

Our body is programmed in making specific types of cells for specific tissues. For instance, the cells in our hair are programmed to create keratin, instead of muscle cells. Or can they do both? 

Stem cell researcher, Dr Bruce Lipton, has experimented in a lab environment and has managed to change a cell to be a muscle cell or a skin cell simply by changing the medium.[3]

In other words, Dr Lipton changed the regeneration of specific cells by changing the chemicals in the blood supply. 

Our emotions, thoughts and memories stimulate the same chemical responses. 

Feeling happy or doing things that bring joy releases chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine and endorphins into the blood system. Remembering happy events can release these too. 

Being angry or recalling a time when we were angry stimulates the amygdala, and the prefrontal cortex releases chemicals into the bloodstream that prepares the body for danger. 

If we are in a constant state of panic, fear or anxiety, this will lead to high amounts of adrenaline and cortisol in our body.

No organism can live in a constant state of fight-or-flight

Doing so, leads people towards illness — mental, physical or both. 

If our negative thoughts can “create” and lead to disease, it would mean that positive thoughts can lead to health and greater wellbeing

In other words, human consciousness can transform the change within us. 

Meditation and mindfulness

HeartMath Institute has been researching the psychophysiology of stress, emotions and interactions between heart and brain since 1995. 

This research has discovered that we emit our emotions external to ourselves through our heart.[4] The electromagnetic energy can be detected up to almost a metre away. 

Emotions such as: 

  • gratitude
  • appreciation
  • joy
  • compassion

extend from the body in greater frequency than the likes of anger and sadness and can physically impact those around us. 

Therefore, practices such as: 

  • mindfulness
  • meditation
  • gratitude
  • joy
  • compassion
  • acceptance

can help us in many different ways.

RELATED — Introduction to: Meditation – ancient medicine for mind and body healing

These are age-old practices from holistic and esoteric teachings such as Buddhism and Yoga, that can create powerful connections between our mind and body, within and via our autonomic nervous system.

RELATED — Physical and psychological benefits of yoga

Our mind and body are interlinked and affect us before conscious thought can occur. 

Changing how you ‘do’ the problem

Your NLP Coach while listening will be discerning the context of your story from the content of your story

Since our behavioural responses are in context to something, this will help identify the triggers that create your response. 

The NLP coach will ask you to note how you: 

  • enter
  • perform
  • exit the problem 

This way of being and will help you to change this programming. 

TOTE model - NLP

Also, your NLP Coach understands the power of beliefs, language and internal dialoguing in relation to how it impacts the body. 

They will assist in helping you to use more resourceful and transformational language and assist in creating or reframing beliefs. 

They may even use some techniques to literally change the internal responses you have, scrambling it in such a way that it becomes difficult to repeat the problem state in the same way. 

Bandler, Grinder and the many contributors to NLP fully understood that by recognising the collaboration between the body and the mind, and by changing one or more aspects of the responses, transformation is possible.

We hope you liked the article, and if you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments section. For more content on neuro-linguistic programming, please see our Mental Health page.

Hypnotherapist, Life Coach, mBit Master Coach and NLP Master Practitioner

Christine Walter is a Hypnotherapist, Life Coach, mBit Master Coach and NLP Master Practitioner and a trainer of these modalities. She has her own practise moving between Auckland and Waihi area. 

Christine is a founding director of ANZCAL, NZ’s coaching accreditation organisation. You can learn more about Christine at Lodestone.


(1) Porges, S. Polyvagal Theory: A Science of Safety. Front. Integr. Neurosci.,10 May 2022 Volume 16 – 2022. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3389/fnint.2022.871227

(2) The power of the placebo effect. Harvard Health Publishing. December 2021. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mental-health/the-power-of-the-placebo-effect

(3) Lipton, Bruce. Biology or Belief. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIC3AwJZiuM

(4) McCraty, Rollin Ph.D. (2015) Chapter 6 Energetic Communication Science of the Heart Exploring the Role of the Heart in Human Performance. HeartMath Institute. Retrieved from  https://www.heartmath.org/research/science-of-the-heart/energetic-communication/

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