Did You Know That Charles Dickens Was The First To Use NLP?

Did You Know That Charles Dickens Was The First To Use NLP?


One of my favourite Christmas stories is Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol.” With only a week to go to Christmas, the Christmas Carol story has been shown in various formats on television. After watching my forth version of the Christmas Carol this week, I realised how Scrooge makes life changing decisions through NLP.


Creating Christmas Change

One of the opening scenes shows Ebenezer Scrooge heading home from work as usual, Dickens uses a Visual Pattern Interrupt  in the form of Ebenezers  dead co-workers face appearing in place of the door knocker on scrooges house, to break Scrooges pattern. This alone doesn’t change Scrooges hardwired behaviour, but is the first step in the change process.

The pattern interrupt changes Scrooges usual behaviour, and scrooge is forced to light a candle to check the house. Scrooges doesn’t like to spend money, but will do when he feels compelled to, in this case he checks for danger by walking around the darkened house with a lit candle. This re-frame “I won’t waste expensive candles by burning them” changes to “I will use candles if I need to” starts chipping away at Scrooges limiting beliefs.

The ghost of Jacob Marley covered in chains haunts Scrooge and warns him of the forthcoming ghostly visitors. Marley cleverly uses several metaphors with scrooge  describing the chains that are wrapped around him as “..long, and wound about him like a tail; made of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgersdeeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel.” The ghost goes on to explain that “these are  the chain he unknowingly forged himself in life, as a result of his greed and selfishness.”

Scrooge is still sceptic at this stage, doubting his own senses, looking for evidence to back up his belief, he tells the ghost “…a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheat. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!” but Jacob who was much like Scrooge in life, is using his own experience as a metaphor for Ebenezer to see his own life from a new perspective.

Re-living Past Experiences

The first ghost arrives as the bell strikes one. The ghost of Christmas past takes Scrooge back down his timeline, to relive his past experiences, successes and loves, stacking various anchors along the way. We see Scrooge watch himself through his school years in the third perceptual position, lonely but with the potential for happiness, to becoming a young man in his first apprentice where the first traces of greed (hierarchies of criteria and  values) start to show, when he informs his friendly boss of the cost of the Christmas party.

Scrooge is shown the first meeting of the love of his life, Belle, which later ends badly as Ebenezer lets her go, as he is to tight to spend his hard earned money on the wedding, even though he is now a partner in his own firm. Wanting to Change his Own Personal History, the present day Scrooge shouts at his past self not to let Belle go – his own experience changes his values and criteria.

Consciously or unconsciously the ghost of Christmas past anchors these strong emotions when he pats Scrooge on the shoulder.

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Perceptible Position

Scrooge is awakened again as the bells strike two. A giant with a life span of just one day, tells scrooge how he is the ghost of Christmas Present.

Scrooge is shown several current scenes of Christmas joy and charity, and is then taken to the happy Cratchit household, where he sees his employee Bob Cratchit spending Christmas with his poor family, including his ill son Tiny Tim. This scene changeling Scrooges limiting beliefs that you need to be rich to enjoy life.

Tiny Tim is full of joy even though he is likely to die at a very young age, especially as Bob on his meagre wage can barley support the family. Scrooge is also surprised when Bob toast Scrooge as “the founder of the feast” showings Scrooge how behaviours arise from states.

As the ghost takes scrooge away to a new household, Ebenezer can’t take his eyes from tiny Tim’s weak and fragile body. Scrooge ask if Tiny Tim will die, he is reminded of his own unkind remark that poor people should die and “reduce the surplus population” this clever use of “clean language” challenges scrooges view of the world.

Scrooge arrives at his nephews Fred’s house, who he only just realises looks a lot like his dead sister – he is starting to see things different by this stage. The ghost cleverly uses perceptible positions to get Scrooge to see himself from a new perceptive, in the form of them watching Fred play a game to find the identity of a horrid thing, in which questions can be answered only with Yes and No. Everyone is amused when Fred’s wife guesses that the mystery object is Scrooge. Fred explains that Scrooge is to be pitied, not despised. “He is rich but his money does him no good (model of the word SOM), and his offences carry their own punishment”.

The scene ends with the spirit aging as midnight draws near, showing Scrooge that life does end. The ghost opens his robe, beneath two horribly dirty children stand . The ghost tells him that they are not his but “man’s” and that “This boy is Ignorance this girl is Want”. Scrooge is told to beware of them both especially Ignorance.

Future Pace

The final ghost is the ghost of Christmas yet to come. The ghost uses a future pace to show Scrooge how his life will potentially span out if he doesn’t change. He is shown a group of wealthy men, discussing an unpopular man who has died and a pawn broker, Joe who is buying stolen property, stolen from a dead man.

Scrooge returns with the ghost to the Cratchits’ house, where the family are upset at the death of Tiny Tim. Finally he is shown to a churchyard and a gravestone with his own name and he realizes that he is the man that only brings happiness to others in death. Scrooge ask “whether what he has seen will be or what may be only.” His desired outcome has changed.

Desired Outcome

As Scrooge awakes on Christmas day, wondering how long he has been away? He realises that time has been distorted, just as when in trance. Scrooge has made a rapid change, and takes action straight away, by doing what he can to be kind to mankind, giving money to charity, buying the prise turkey for the Cratchit family and living Christmas everyday of his life – his new well formed outcome is set in positive terms, and he has the resources to achieve them. Some people laugh at him, but with his new perspective on life, he lets them laugh and is happy with his new outlook on life.


Chris Delaney NLP Life Coach, Hypnotherapist and Career Advisor is available for booking for One to One Private Sessions, Group Training Sessions  and Public Speaking Events

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Chris Delaney NLP Life Coach, Hypnotherapist and Career Advisor is available for booking for One to One Private Sessions, Group Training Sessions  and Public Speaking Events

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