Siouxland Observer

Master of Science

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Stuck In a Cup

In San Francisco, in 1983, two people sat at a small table in a walk-up flat on Post Street. The friends were having tea; he coffee, when suddenly the woman looked into her cup. Something was going on, and she began to talk as if a crowd had gathered there.  It was odd.  The man looked on with sympathy, when suddenly the tea leaves began dancing (or so she said).  And then they spoke to her.  They called out, and from across the table they found voice in a strange woman staring at a cup:  “Help us,” they were shouting, she said, “Help Us!”

Suspended high in the air above Union Square images of the holiday dance in the sky next to the likes of Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. Visitors marveled as they walk to the stores of downtown San Francisco. The holograms were festive; the streets filled with excitement.

It could be any year since holograms have filled the sky at Christmas, but during this year the crowds harbored missionaries armed with a new psychology called Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming, or NPL, is a registered trademark today, but in 1983 it was routinely taught in psychology classes, and perhaps is royalty free still.

Just a few miles north in Sonoma County, for example, “Frogs into Princes: Neuro-Linguistic Programming” had been required reading in the counseling department of Sonoma State University.

“Frogs into Princes” is believed to have started the Neuro-Linguistic Programming revolution. Joseph Riggio, a customer of, reviewed his copy of the book and said that “Frogs into Princes” was a “10,” and a hoot to read. “Even though it's now over 20 years old,” he wrote, “this is the first (and best-IMHO) book introducing the still cutting edge technology of human communication and cognition—Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP™).”

The book, according to Riggio, is an example of “doing” NLP™ as opposed to “describing” it. “You'll want to read it with your eyes open,” he cautioned, ”—sometimes more easily said then done—since what the authors are doing is often presented in hypnotically engaging language. … The material is written in such a way as to resolve itself as you read. This is an example of ‘nested loops’ a teaching technique Bandler and Grinder use extensively” (Riggio, 2000).

In San Francisco the holographic images and crowds hid the dispossessed, the hungry and underemployed who became easy marks for those seeking converts. Even the street-smart residents walking to get the newspaper, or resting in the park, could be fooled.

But this is not a story against NLP™, or missionaries. Helping psychologies have nothing to do with converts. And those offering a hot meal can have a good heart. The difference is between a Church and a cult, as both heed the call to converts.

At a banquet in San Francisco, hungry visitors ate salads, vegetables, bread and meat. Most had been approached by members of the Unification Church. All who had listened were invited to a meal and a lecture.

Competition for converts at this lecture was keen, and some assigned to work in San Francisco for the church deceitful. In a citation on the website, Wikipedia, the church is explained in far greater detail than would have been possible at the lectures that day. In fact, talk of the Heavenly Father did nothing to reveal what members truly believed about God.

“Unification Church beliefs,” the citation reports, “are summarized in the textbook ‘Divine Principle’ and include belief in a universal God…and that a man born in Korea in the early 20th century received from Jesus the mission to be the second coming of Christ. Members of the Unification Church believe this Messiah to be Sun Myung Moon.”

Regular folks in San Francisco could meet members of the Unification Church anywhere in the community, especially during those years of heavy recruitment. And in 1983, at least one recruiter in the church knew about “hypnotically engaging language.”

The details of NLP™ cannot be explored in any depth here, but the idea on one level is simple: nested loops explore communication and cognition—it is a teaching tool to help others learn new behaviors.

After an invitation to a meal, hungry guests heard about a retreat. They were offered more food, along with the opportunity to learn about the church.

O’ Connor and Seymour (1994) who wrote about NLP™, said that metaphors, cover stories, parables, similes and jokes “are more memorable than just information, for you can make a point much more deeply and effectively with a story than just relating facts” (O’Connor & Seymour, p. 75).

Although it can be argued that someone who sees dancing tea leaves is in serious need of help, for those who went to the retreat, and heard the lectures that followed, all would have experienced what O’Connor and Seymour called “training by nesting metaphors one inside another.”

Thus, O’ Connor and Seymour, advised “start with a story that you leave unfinished as you move into the course of the material. You can start another metaphor at any stage which you also leave unfinished…as it leads you to another part of the training material. You can do this a number of times: this sets up what are called ‘nested loops.’ Nested loops require unnesting in reverse order. So the structure is as follows:

“Start training

Story A . . . material A. . .
Story B . . . material B. . .
Story C . . . material C. . .
Story D . . . material D. . .

“Now come out by completing the loop by finishing story D. . .

(then) Finish story C. . .
Finish story B. . .
Finish story A. . .
End of training” (O’Connor & Seymour, p.75).

At the Unification Church in 1983, the lectures were looped in such a way that the stories were never finished. Many people who attended never got the answers to the stories presented during the first meal, the first weekend retreat and presumably the entirety of the week-long retreat.

In fact, in 1983, the Church’s loops went on and on, until perhaps someone joined, when the stories might gradually be finished.

How guests learned the Revered Sun Myung Moon was the messiah is still unknown. A reporter left in frustration. But no doubt somewhere in NLP™ training there is a cautionary tale against the rejection of  too many nested loops.  For even after a chilling cry for help, the posthypnotic command of a “medium” voicing dire need in dancing tea leaves, a visitor could not overcome the nested loops of frustration.  Simply, the “aha” moment never came, and a would-be disciple left a cry for help to dishwashers in the church. 


O'Connor, J., & Seymour, J. (1994). Training with nlp. Hammersmith, London. Thorsons.

Riggio, J. (2000, August 2). Customer review. An nlp trainer’s review of the book that began nlp. Retrieved July 27, 2010, from

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Between The Lines

One of the nation's most iconic nonprofit organizations, founded 166 years ago in England as the Young Men's Christian Association, is undergoing a major rebranding, adopting as its name the nickname everyone has used for generations —The New York Times, July 12, 2010

Stephanie Strom, in an article for the New York Times, advised the Village People to change the words to their popular song because “the lyrics in your biggest hit need an update. The organization previously known as the Y.M.C.A. is henceforth to be called ‘the Y.’''

      Neat. Of course, the writing itself is  a reporter’s lead advising us that    things change (and to keep reading),  but it also offers insight into how  news is reported. Anyone who has ever  read a local story in  the  newspaper knows mistakes happen, and especially for those close  to the  event. Even the New York Times can make a mistake, or slant facts  that  often highlight a point unrelated to the story. This can be  unintentional or  deliberate, as many detractors to the New York Times will  attest.

But this is not about the New York Times; rather a look at what reporters are trying to tell us. The article in the New York Times uses a source, unmentioned, that reads like a public relations press release. This article is not a serious piece of investigative reporting, but illustrates a weakness in all journalism.

Strom reports that the Y's new name coincides with its efforts to emphasize the impact its programs have on youth, healthy living and communities.

“Its affiliate in Sioux City, Iowa, for instance,” she reports, “is working to change zoning regulations to promote sidewalks, which it hopes will encourage more people to walk.”

This is great. Walking is important. Unfortunately, the affiliate in Sioux City, Iowa, at one time, was surrounded by sidewalks. In fact, in the past those who visited the affiliate were right downtown, where walking around was what people did.

Sidewalks work great, and Sioux City boasted an exceptional system. In fact, even someone a good distance away in the city could easily get to the downtown transit hub and walk to the Siouxland Y (or could have).

The women's Y, a few blocks away, had similar walk-up service.

It is interesting that the Y in Sioux City is doing its part to help people walk more. Perhaps this is because the location of the new affiliate in South Sioux City is built beside a park in a suburban-like area.

A few years ago the Siouxland Y decided to move from its urban center in downtown. Not far really, but more sensible perhaps. The Y.W.C.A. building had been abandoned, and the Y.M.C.A. building, which had become the Siouxland Y had closed its residential facility.

Although once a clean and inexpensive place to room, the men's housing did not age well, and it was reported to house vermin. In fact, a man living in a room upstairs in the 1980s said hot takeout brought cockroaches streaming out of a hole in the wall.

There is no question the Siouxland Y needed a new home, but many believed leaders should have rebuilt in the downtown location. In fact, some members left the affiliate because it was moving across the river.

Ironically, the downtown boasts four major parking ramps, as well as its huge transit hub. A parking ramp is only four blocks away from the old building.

The original article, written by Strom, has appeared in many publications.  The new Siouxland Y is in an area where there is little need for sidewalks (as of yet), although it too can be reached by walking from a South Sioux City bus stop. There are also many new parking lots close to the building.

One reason for the move, according to employees working the front desk before the Y left downtown, was better parking. The old area had limited downtown parking (the ramps were blocks away and cost money), and for those in a hurry after a busy day, it was impossible to park close to the building. The real story here is that the Siouxland Y moved into the suburbs.

Kids in the Sioux City, Iowa, public school system use to say “believe nothing of what you hear, and only half of what you see,” or at least a kid named John said it a lot.

"Believe only half of what you see?”

The park-like setting of the new "Y" needs sidewalks so members can get out and walk around in the park more, or from where the bus stops, or from their cars apparently. The people over there need to walk more—just not downtown where there are too many sidewalks.

And the new building?

It is a wonderful facility; but still, true understanding is a process of actively thinking. Sometimes the New York Times and all good reporting get it right. Sometimes not. It’s up to us to figure out the difference.