The Sourcebook of Magic – Book Review

The Sourcebook of Magic
A Comprehensive Guide to the Technology of NLP
Reviewed By
Judith Pearson, Ph.D.

Once more I stand in awe of the genius of L. Michael Hall, whose brilliance has produced yet another landmark achievement in NLP literature. With co-author Barbara Belnap, he has created, in The Sourcebook of Magic, an encyclopedic resource for all NLP practitioners, from the novice to the expert. I promise you that this is a book you will refer to again and again and it will become a mainstay in your library of NLP reference sources. I expect to have my copy dog-eared in about a month!

The Sourcebook of Magic is a cookbook-like compendium of 77 NLP patterns for transforming habits, managing emotions, discarding disempowering beliefs, and enhancing coping skills. It combines, for the first time, all the central NLP patterns in one volume. For some readers, it will replace stacks of notebooks and tablets full of scribblings from various NLP trainings. It is one of the best books to compile NLP patterns in a succinct, efficient manner since Heart of the Mind (Andreas and Andreas, 1989).

Content

The Sourcebook of Magic consists of three parts. Part 1 is an introduction to NLP, its roots, and underlying model. Part 2, the bulk of the book, contains 77 NLP change patterns, divided into seven categories. Part 3 discusses applications of the patterns. This book will make an excellent supplement to any NLP training program, and a good review for seasoned practitioners. Even though the authors say the book is for anyone who wants to learn more about NLP, it is hardly a book for the uninitiated. It is a work best understood by those having a grasp of cognitive psychology and a facility with a highly academic, often abstract, text.

Part 1: NLP–The Model of Magic, covers background and theory. It explains how NLP is based on “the structure of subjectivity,” and the patterns are sets of instructions for directing subjective processes in a way that seems like magic. Hall provides an illuminating history of Bandler and Grinder’s early work, pointing out that NLP sparked a major paradigm shift in psychology. Instead of asking why human problems occur, NLP asked “How do solutions come about?”

Part 2: NLP Patterns—The Incantations for Transformation and Growth, sorts 77 NLP patterns into categories based on various types of problems. Here again, we can see Hall’s brilliance at work in his ability to chunk down large domains of knowledge into smaller, logical units, for easier learning. The categories are:

Basic Patterns: How to get started
Parts: Problems about internal conflict
Identity: Distress concerning sense of self
States: Unresourceful states of consciousness
Language: Cognitive errors in self-talk
Thinking Style: Cognitive and perceptual distortions and inappropriate meta-programs
Meanings: Limiting beliefs and diminished meanings
Strategies: Lack of knowing how

Each pattern is explained in a step-by-step instructional format. Occasionally the authors include a short script to demonstrate the languaging of the pattern. The basic patterns include pacing and matching, calibrating, checking ecology, state elicitation, state induction, state interrupt, anchoring, and accessing positive intentions.

In the remaining collection of patterns the reader will find many familiar patterns, most of them attributed to their creators and originators. The references to NLP practitioners throughout the book read like a Who’s Who of NLP. Many of the patterns have come from other books, and some made their debut in the pages of Anchor Point.

In this collection you will find NLP patterns dealing with submodalities, guided imagery, parts, strategies, meta-programs, and reframing. The chapter on Thinking Styles gives a scholarly treatment of cognitive psychology, with a good comparison between cognitive distortions and empowering thinking patterns. The chapter on Language contains a highly practical summary of the meta-model. The chapter on meta-programs summarizes all the 51 meta-programs found in Figuring Out People (Hall and Bodenhamer, 1997) and provides a superb, yet lengthy, questionnaire for eliciting each meta-program.

I particularly liked the chapter on Strategies, which has several coping-skill patterns, such as New Behavior Generator, Allergy Cure, Forgiveness Pattern, Grief Resolution, Assertive Speaking, and Responding to Criticism. These types of patterns are the bread-and-butter of a therapist’s NLP practice, so it is nice to have them all in one place. Here and there I saw some patterns that were entirely new to me such as the Aligned Self pattern, the Self-Sufficiency Pattern, and the Making Peace with Your Parents Pattern.

“Is there anything missing?” you might ask. Well, yes. Timeline patterns are not treated thoroughly in this book, and the authors point out that the subject of timelines has been covered comprehensively in Time Lining (Bodenhamer and Hall, 1997). Sleight of Mouth Patterns also are not covered, and those have been treated quite nicely in Mind-Lines (Bodenhamer and Hall, 1997). Meta-states are not presented in any detail, and that subject can be found in Meta States (Hall, 1995). So the reader could consider these last three books as companion volumes to The Sourcebook of Magic (or perhaps Michael Hall is saving these missing topics for a book on advanced patterns).

Part 3: Pattern Applications—Thinking Like a Magician, tells readers how to think in a way that focuses on process and distinguishes process from content. Chapter 12 in this section provides some general guidelines for choosing NLP patterns and for figuring out what to do when. The authors suggest that practitioners select NLP patterns based on criteria applied to the problem: stability, complexity, emotional intensity, and habituation over time. These are good criteria, but readers are still left to their own devices here. The authors still don’t really say what pattern to choose for any particular problem. This chapter seems somewhat underdeveloped, and could have been helped by some sort of decision tree or matrix. The final chapter, Chapter 13 provides valuable instruction on the applications of NLP, particularly in psychotherapy. Here readers will find a thought-provoking discussion on NLP in the context of cognitive-behavioral psychology, with emphasis on specifying problems and well-formed outcomes. This chapter also notes that NLP can be applied to business, education, sports, health, and relationships.

The Sourcebook of Magic offers many “extras” such as a glossary of NLP terms, a list of NLP centers in the U.S. and U.K., and a bibliography of over 90 recent books on NLP and psychotherapy. Appendix D dispenses guidelines for NLP as brief therapy for practitioners working with HMOs (health management organizations) and EAPs (employee assistance programs). This appendix includes a useful checklist for therapist self-evaluation and an EAP audit reporting form.

The book does not have an index. An index would prove useful in locating certain patterns, because the categories of patterns seem somewhat arbitrary at times. Additionally, some patterns are difficult to find because (let’s face it) they go by more than one name. What I have always called the Walking Belief Change Pattern (Robert MacDonald, 1994) turned up as the Thought Virus Innoculation Pattern! So if you don’t find your favorite pattern right away, look for a name that seems similar.

The Authors

L. Micheal Hall, Ph.D. is well known in NLP circles because of his many ground-breaking works on communication, neuro-linguistics, emotions, and motivation. He is one of the brightest authors on the NLP scene today and certainly the most prolific. He is renowned for his integrity, humor, and compassion. To sit in one of his trainings is a joy! He consistently takes NLP to new realms of knowledge in therapy and personal development. He is a psychotherapist and trainer living in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Barbara Belnap, M.S.W. is a psychotherapist in private practice. She is a professional speaker and conducts trainings and seminars on human performance. She also works with companies and organizations to improve their effectiveness. She holds graduate degrees in communication, human resource management, and social work.

Conclusion

The Sourcebook of Magic is difficult to put down because each page is a delightful discovery. I found myself saying things such as “Oh yes! I use this pattern often,” or “Oh! Here is a new pattern I’ve never heard of!” or “Finally! Now I can understand that pattern that was so confusing to me!” If you are stuck in terms of what to do next in the conduct of NLP, this book will get your creative juices flowing again. It is an absolute treasure for an NLP practitioner!

References

Andreas, C. and Andreas, S. (1989) Heart of the mind. Moab, Utah: Real People Press.

Bodenhamer, B. G. and Hall, L. M. (1997) Mind-lines: Lines for changing minds. Grand Junction, Colorado: E.T. Publications.

Bodenhamer, B. G. and Hall, L. M. (1997) Time lining: Patterns for adventuring in time. Wales, UK: The Anglo-American Book Company Ltd.

Hall, L. M. (1995) Meta States: A domain of logical levels. Grand Junction, Colorado: E.T. Publications.

Bodenhamer, B. G. and Hall, L. M. (1997) Figuring Out People: Design engineering with meta-programs. Wales, UK: The Anglo-American Book Company Ltd.

McDonald, R. (1994) The walking belief change pattern. Boulder, Colorado: NLP Comprehensive (audio tape).

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Reviewed by Judith E. Pearson, Ph.D., Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Trainer of NLP.
Judith E. Pearson is a Master Practitioner and Certified Trainer of NLP. She practices psychotherapy in Springfield, Virginia.

To contact Judith:

703-764-0753
E-mail: judy @ engagethepower.com
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