The Soul of NLP

by Martyn Carruthers

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Soul Centred Changework (Soulwork) refers to a methodology for effective personal development and changework, based on the subjective experience of integrated identity, and the re-evaluation of life's experiences from this integrated perspective. Soulwork translates and integrates some of the psychotherapeutic techniques used by native Hawaiian healers, and incorporates modified techniques from other methodologies, particularly from neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and systemic family therapy.

Soulwork has four distinct phases. The first helps a person to find, and then stabilize, an experience of integration. All subsequent changework is made with reference to that integrated experience, referred to as "Soul". The second phase helps a person to use the experience of integration as a basis for re-evaluating relationships, and the third phase re-evaluates memories. Finally Soulwork helps a person define important goals and choose role models that inspire the achievement of those goals.

Soulwork also helps a person to find solutions for neurotic and addictive behaviour, e.g.: for compulsions, unhealthy relationship patterns, and for emotional problems. Soulwork also helps a person alleviate many psychosomatic1 symptoms, and seems to accelerate the healing of somatic disease.

In summary, Soulwork offers an effective way to accelerate personal integration, improve relationships, increase self-acceptance and inspire the achievement of life-goals.

Soul Centred Changework is based on the interwoven concepts that: Soul is an experience of identity. Soul is an experience of connectedness. Soul is an experience of integration. Soul organises life experiences. Soul can guide a meaningful life.

Soul is an experience of identity

Soul refers to an experience, not to a theoretical construct or a philosophical postulate. Soul experience is described as a deep core of human identity, an essence of self. This experience is neither egotistical, nor logical, and is often called "the true me". Soulwork allows a person to stabilise and express this "identity experience".

Soul is an experience of connectedness

Soul is usually described as an experience of "connectedness", perhaps to other people, perhaps to all living things, perhaps to the planet, or perhaps to the universe. Many paths to this experience of connectedness have been described. The key elements seem to be resolving inner conflicts, by-passing limiting beliefs (i.e. focus on values to avoid activating beliefs such as "I am unworthy" or "I can't do this") and accepting oneself.

Soul is an experience of integration

People often talk and act as if they are fragmented. Comments like "Part of me wants this, but another part of me wants that" or "I don't like the part of me that..." are commonplace. Such "parts" often seem to be in conflict with each other. Soul may be the basic identity that exists before fragmentation. Soulwork allows a person to resolve inner conflict by acknowledging the wisdom with which the conflict was created.

Soul organises life experiences

Soul seems to organise the ongoing multi-level relationships between a person and that person's environment. During a Soul experience, people often say that every life experience, no matter how unpleasant, has an essential purpose. From this experience, a person can re-evaluate and benefit from any relationship or memory.

Soul can guide a meaningful life

During Soulwork, people often describe Soul as "the real me" or "my highest potential". Most people visualise "perfected" images of their future selves. This visualised self seems to act as a bridge between the abstract experience of connectedness and the concrete details of everyday life. A person may choose to refer to Soul for insight, guidance and evaluation in any part of life.

Soul can guide the re-evaluation of relationship bonds.

A relationship bond refers to a feeling of connection to another person that motivates beliefs and behaviours. Such bonds are conditions for relationships. E.g, "I am lazy. With this belief I feel connected to a relative who I perceive as lazy". Each bond can be evaluated from Soul State, and changed if desired. Evaluating and adjusting bonds changes relationships. A person can choose more appropriate ways to relate.

Soul can guide the re-evaluation of experiences.

Any experience, pleasant or unpleasant, may motivate beliefs and behaviours. E.g, "I was abandoned by my first love and I am still angry. I will never love another person again". As each experience is re-evaluated from Soul State, it becomes a valuable learning resource. A person can choose to accept and use the lessons of each experience in alignment with their goals.

Soul can guide the re-evaluation of a fulfilling life.

Any goal may motivate beliefs and behaviours. E.g. "I want to control my partner. To do that I must believe that my partner is mistaken. Then I can find ways to make my partner do what I want". Goals, and the consequences of achieving them, can be re-evaluated from Soul State. A person may choose to make congruent goals (congruent means that all parts of a person agree), so that each step to a goal increases the sense of fulfillment associated with that goal.

In Soul Centred Changework, Soul is an experience of integration and connection that can guide the experience of life. However, the word "Soul" has many meanings. In Soul Centred Changework, there are many things that Soul is not.

What is Soul not?

Soul is not a counter for a religion to collect. Soulwork has little in common with philosophical or religious discussions. Yet a philosophy or religion that encourages integration, quality relationships, self-acceptance and finding life goals, encourages a person to experience Soul.

Soul is not a personality part. However, accepting any "part" is a step to experiencing Soul. A part that is lazy, a part that likes chocolate, a part that loves beauty - accepting all or any of these is a step to Soul. A personality part can be likened to a facet of a diamond - the rainbow reflections of light within a diamond express the relationship between a person, their facets and the world.

Soul is not a relationship, although Soul may be expressed in a relationship. Soul is closer to that which exists between people who accept each other, to that which is neither one nor the other. Soul is closer to a sense of "resonance" that is described when a person unconditionally accepts another.

Soul is not an emotion. During Soulwork, emotions are considered to be useful communications of personality parts. Accepting emotions as communication is a step towards experiencing Soul.

Soul is not inner dialogue, which seems to be hallucinated communications between "parts". The function of inner dialogue seems to be to learn from the past, to analyse the present and to plan for the future. Following Soulwork integration, people often say, "It's quiet inside me!"

Soul is not a desire, although a desire may be a way to experience Soul. Goal questions can help a person find an "ultimate" desire, which is usually some form of "I want to fulfill my life!" Such a desire may motivate a person to find the Soul experience.

Soul is not a value, yet values may be a way to experience Soul. "What is important to you?" "What is important about what is important?" A person's answers typically become increasingly abstract (e.g. "that's important so that I can spread beauty into the world"), then metaphoric (e.g. "that's so important that it's like an endless sea") and finally describe an experience of connection.

Soul is not ego, yet a full experience of ego may lead to Soul experience. Soul can be described as the ego of the ego. A person's "ego" can be likened to an adolescent personality "part", dissociated from "identity" and often disliked!

Soul is not a body, nor contained by the body, although a body sensation (or symptom) may lead to Soul experience. Soulwork assumes that bodies communicate, and that every communication has a positive benefit. Finding the benefit is a step towards Soul.

Soul is not art, although music, a picture, a statue or a poem may help a person experience Soul. Similarily, Soul is not the world, although many places may help a person experience Soul. E.g. a ruin, a mountain scene, a country garden or a home may be places where one feels open to that which is neither internal nor external. Places where one can look at the world with a sense of magic, with a sense of mystery, and with a sense of life.

Recognising Soul State

A person experiencing Soul can be recognised posturely and from that person's descriptions. Questions can help determine whether the experience is similar to that defined as Soul, and not a temporary feeling of resourcefulness. Later, Soul State can be stabilised so that it may be quickly re-experienced.

A person experiencing Soul will spontaneously sit or stand erect, with a symmetric body and face, and with the head tilted up. Eyes may be open or closed, with soft facial muscles. Breathing is deep and regular, and structural muscles are relaxed, without being flaccid. A seated person will usually put their hands on their knees, palms facing up, and a standing person will normally put their hands away from their body, palms facing forwards.

A person's descriptions of Soul experience are often paradoxical. A person may say that he or she can examine their own life, and their relationships with others, with intense passion and with utter neutrality at the same moment. A person may say that he or she is experiencing normal awareness at a "higher" or "more profound" level. A person may simply say, "I am awake".

A person in Soul State may say that he or she can clearly experience all emotions and inner sensations, while simultaneously being fully aware of all external senses.

Soul experiences are often described using abstract metaphors. A person may say, "I am a drop of water in an infinite ocean", "I am a spark of eternal fire", or "I am a child of the universe". People who have experienced Soul State will quickly agree, while others may try to interpret such metaphors literally or analytically. Soul State is often described as being "fully human", as people attempt to describe the mystery, magic and enchantment of connectedness.

Overview of Soul Centred Changework

This following diagram represents a person's life. The two sloping lines to the left represent the lives of the two parents, and the vertical line represents NOW. The horizontal line to the left of the vertical line represents a person's past, and the right represents a person's future. The circle on the extreme right represents Soul State. (This figure is a Hawaiian petroglyph called Kanaka. Kanaka translates as "human being" and also as "the balanced connection between two suns".)

PAST Birth NOW _______ FUTURE \ 3 | 1 / \ \_________________| _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ / Soul \ / | \ State / / 4 | 2 \________/

An infinity symbol (like a figure 8 on its side) can be superimposed over this diagram, so that the loops of the 8 cross at the centre of the figure, and the tips go to the two ends of the long horizontal line. The upper and lower arcs of the infinity symbol can then be labelled from 1 to 4, as shown. These four arcs represent the four phases of Soulwork, which are made sequentially from 1 to 4. All phases are future oriented, while re-evaluating the present experience of past events.

Sequence for Soul Centred Changework

Phase 1: Re-evaluate Self

1a: Build trust, respond to objections, dissolve transferences and define goals The first phase of Soulwork is to build trust by responding to the client's unconscious objections. Such objections (e.g, a person says, "I'm very pleased to be here", while simultaneously shaking the head from side to side, signalling "Maybe I'm not that pleased") are recognized and the underlying objection is resolved. During this phase, unconscious transferences (e.g. a consultant behaves as if a client were the consultant's friend, or a client behaves as if a consultant were a parent) are recognised and dissolved.

A consultant can resourcefully respond to a client's unspoken objections and dissolve transferences to build a basis for a trusting relationship. A client must trust the consultant before defining personal goals. (Resolving unconscious objections, dissolving transferences and defining goals are essential skills for all subsequent Soulwork.)

1b: Reconciliation work - resolve conflicts and recover identity As people define what they want, conflicts arise. (E.g. "I want a commited relationship AND I want to have affairs" (mutually exclusive goals), or "I want <someone> to give me <something>" (I want to control this person AND I want something). Each resolved conflict is a step towards integration, a step to experiencing Soul. Occasionally, a person has dissociated their core identity while under stress (e.g. during abuse or trauma) or has identified with another person. Recovering identity and dissolving identifications is based on modified Hawaiian healing techniques, ho'oponopono (healing family systems) and moe uhane (healing using interactive hypnosis, called "dreaming together").

1c: Soulwork - remember: "I am Soul" After integration (inner conflicts are reconciled and identity is recovered), a spontaneous Soul experience seems to be normal and natural. A person is encouraged to find symbols for this experience in each sensory system, so that Soul State can be associated with those symbols and easily be re-experienced later.

Phase 2: Re-evaluate Relationships

2a: Evaluate Significant Relationships Although each person has met many people, each person usually has less than ten "significant" relationships, relationships with strong feelings of connection or bonding. These "bonded" relationships are identified and re-evaluated from Soul State. Any dependency and co-dependency bonds are recognised, and the person evaluaters the consequences of ignoring or changing these bonds.

2b: Create healthy bonds. Re-identify with Self Each unwanted bond is changed or released. (E.g. "I feel connected to my ex-partner, although we have been separated for a long time. This bond prevents me from finding another partner"). Such bonds include limiting beliefs that act as conditions for unhealthy relationships, and prevent a person from defining life goals. (E.g. "I must believe that I am stupid to relate to this important person, who believes that he or she is stupid. Because I am stupid, I cannot have what I want"). On completion, a person can maintain a sense of self during these significant relationships.

2c: Soulwork - "I and Others are Souls" At the end of this re-evaluation, a person can consider how he or she wishes to fulfill life. (E.g. "I learned much from my ex-partner that I can use to help me find a totally appropriate partner"). Other people can be seen as "Souls" following their own paths. A person gains choice in how and with whom to build relationships. (E.g. "I had to pretend I was stupid in that relationship. I can now choose other ways to relate to that person, which include saying goodbye!"

Phase 3: Re-evaluate Experiences

3a: Identify Significant Emotional Experiences Of the thousands of events that a person has experienced, a person usually has less than ten significant experiences, which are associated with strong emotions of anger, sadness and/or fear. These emotions can overwhelm a person and prevent the attainment of important goals. (E.g. "I am overcome with sadness when I think about how I wasted my life. My sadness stops me from achieving my goals"). The source experiences of these emotions can be identified from Soul State. These experiences often include abuse and/or trauma.

3b: Reimprinting - reliving the past with Soul guidance Abusive or traumatic memories and their associated emotions can be re-evaluated. A person can re-live the memories in Soul State, and may choose to accept whatever lessons can be found. This acceptance is a basis for transforming associated emotions. On completion, a person may find all emotions motivating. (E.g. "Any sadness about my past reminds me to make the most of whatever life I have left").

3c: Soulwork - "I always have been Soul" After accepting significant emotions, a person can learn from every memory. People in this phase often comment with surprise that their emotions were appropriate for the source experience. Many people say that they can remember traumatic childhood events with clarity, and feel immense love and pride for the younger self who survived such difficult times. A person can feel good while pondering the details of these memories. Emotions, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant, are motivating. A person can plan to achieve their goals.

Phase 4: Re-evaluate Role Models

4a: Identify Significant Life Models A person usually has less than ten significant role models, people from whom the person has consciously or unconsciously imitated behaviours and attitudes. (E.g. A person might say, "I wanted to be like <that person>, so I followed <that person's> example"). A person can identify and re-evaluate any role models from Soul State, and choose whether or not to replace the role models and the imitated beliefs and behaviours.

4b: Re-model Life - relive memories with Soul-chosen role models New role models may be chosen from Soul State, and important memories can be selected and "re-lived", as if with the guidance of the new role models. (E.g. a person may say, "If this person is my role model, I can learn beautiful ways of living my life!"). A person can choose which new behaviours to actualise.

4c: Soulwork IV - "Each person is my teacher" A person can now decide exactly how, and with whom, he or she wishes to fulfill life. A person can assess other people as to what lessons are likely to be learned (and a person can decide whether those lessons are wanted). A person can choose which influences, past and present, are desireable, and resolve any unwanted behaviour not already resolved, in alignment with that person's desire for living a meaningful life.

Summary of Soulwork Techniques

Each Soulwork technique is a step towards health, building on the last, to a person's overall goal, which is usually for a person to design and realise a meaningful life. From Soul State, a person can find their key relationships, key emotional experiences and key role models (all of which usually differ from a person's conscious assessment). Dealing with the key elements avoids trying to resolve every relationship, memory and model in the person's life, which might take a lifetime of therapy! (I.e. A person may still dislike certain things, have an unpleasant relationship with a neighbour and have a sad memory concerning a pet. But if these and similar events do not intrude on that person's "sense of life" nor prevent the fulfillment of important goals - why waste time changing them?).

There are some people that Soulwork may not be useful for. Examples are: People who cannot communicate (E.g. brain damage, brain disease) People in extreme realities (E.g. psychotic behaviour, using psychoactive drugs), People who do not want adult responsibilities (E.g. prefer childish behaviour), People who are totally content with their relationships, history and future.

People in the first two of these categories can be referred to an appropriate professional. People in the third category may benefit from the integration work that precedes Soul State, but this person is unlikely to find Soul State. People in the fourth category may be willing to teach us something...

Soul Centred Changework and Psychosomatic Disease

As the roots of Soulwork are from a "healing" tradition, it may not be surprising that during and after Soulwork, many clients report spontaneous "healings" of various body symptoms. Blood chemistry suddenly stabilises, arthritis vanishes, or migraines cease. Similarily for mental symptoms, people find that panic attacks fade away, addictions become unimportant or compulsive behaviours seemingly evaporate.

If a person's goals include replacing symptoms of mental or physical disease, Soulwork techniques can be used with such symptoms directly. Symptoms are assumed to result from an unconscious desire for certain benefits. Techniques include "conversation" with body parts and/or with the personality parts associated with the symptoms.

Sometimes a person may find that the benefits of a symptom outweigh the discomfort of having that symptom, and decide to keep the symptom. (E.g. A 32-year-old man, who had been diagnosed with diabetes, realised that changing his childish behaviours would probably "cure" his diabetes symptoms. However, he enjoyed being the "child" of his family, and was concerned that becoming healthy would imperil the health of his older brother. He chose to stay childish and to stay diabetic).

During Soulwork, symptoms are not sorted by medical diagnosis, or by severity, but are sorted by the type of benefit that the symptoms bring to a person's life. There appear to be four types of symptoms related to psychosomatic disease.

Symptoms that express conflicts may vanish during Phase 1 Reconciliation changework and integration helps alleviate the symptoms of mental and physical diseases that are based on or caused by inner conflicts, self-hatred, etc. (E.g. A person may say, "I don't like myself when I do this but I can't stop!") A person trying to avoid being seen as "lazy" may become "workaholic" and experience stress-related disease, such as digestion and heart problems.

Symptoms that express relationship problems may vanish during Phase 2 Relationship changework helps alleviate mental or physical symptoms, which are needed to maintain unhealthy relationships. (E.g. A person may say, "I am only cared for when I am ill") Or a person may have the same disease as another family member as a way of bonding to that person. (Some clients with symptoms similar to those of a parent, diagnosed as having a genetic "prediposition" to those sympstoms, spontaneously recover from those symptoms during phase 2).

Symptoms that express emotions may vanish during Phase 3 Emotional changework helps alleviate mental and physical symptoms that seem to be based on overwhelming emotions resulting from past experiences. For example, a person may have had a traumatic experience, and have withheld expressing the emotion(s) related to that experience. Some diseases form in the same part of the body as a withheld emotion is felt, which is usually close to the centreline of the trunk and head2. (E.g., many people do not express anger, sadness or fear, and say, "I keep it inside me, bottled up"). Often, these people say they feel their anger in their bowel, stomach, heart or throat. These people frequently report medical symptoms in the same locations.

Symptoms needed to imitate role models may vanish during Phase 4 Role Model changework helps to alleviate the symptoms of mental and physical symptoms that are usually based on modelling "unhealthy" people. For example, a person may have a similar symptom to a favored teacher. (E.g. Some students of Milton Erickson, M.D, a famous psychiatrist who had suffered from poliomyelitis since his childhood, are reported to have had problems with stiff limb joints. Also, some actors role play unhealthy people - (e.g. actor Dustin Hoffman role-played an autistic man in the film "Rain Man"). I am told that they may require deep psychotherapy afterwards.)

Training in Soul Centred Changework

Each person wishing to learn Soulwork is tested, usually during a introductory seminar, to ascertain whether that person is likely to be a benefit or a burden during this intensive training. The test: can a person recognise and resolve another person's unconscious objections conversationally, while assisted by the trainer. A critical part of this test is whether a person can dissolve a "Yes, but..." objection, in a conversational format which requires that the person know their high values, and can find the high values of the other person, and can use those values to build a "bridge" between the two perspectives.

During Soulwork training, each skill is extensively demonstrated, and then practised in student triads. Students observe, use and experience all Soulwork techniques, and learns how to learn from each Soulwork interaction. Soulwork students become intimately involved with their own personal development - and the development of each other.


Since a person's inner experience cannot be "wrong", Soulwork methodology is forever incomplete. Theories take second place to the subjective experience of each person client, and each person may provide new insights and understanding to this methodology.

A Soulworker does not offer advice, nor "do things" to people. Instead, a Soulworker helps each person to explore their choices, and to choose each "next step". A Soulworker does not lead, nor follow, but engages in a strange dance that may be called "Soul-to-Soul" relationship. This starts even before a person knows that they are a Soul. A Soulworker's task is to help each person find their choices, and explore the consequences of those choices, so that a person may find ways to get whatever is wanted.

Soulwork is the skills used and time taken to coach a person become congruent, to encourage a person to choose life goals, to help a person to define and build appropriate relationships, to facilitate the identification and resolution of emotional experiences, and to help a person find the motivation to plan and achieve their own goals. Soulwork begins and ends with an experience of integration. An integrated person can become his or her own teacher, guide, witness, mentor and therapist. Soulwork nourishes a person's inmost core. Soulwork is a re-evaluation of relationships - with oneself, with family and friends and with the world. Soulwork is Love.


The roots of Soul Centered Changework originated with Hawaiian healers, particularly Papa Henry Hawi of Hilo and Aunty Margaret Machado of Kealakekua. Janelle Doan (Professional angel, Canada) taught me about Soul-to-Soul relationships, and Annegret Hallanzy (Family therapist, Germany) taught me about Soul Purpose.

Although I have used and taught Soulwork in many countries, many important breakthroughs occurred in Poland. While many people have contributed, I am grateful beyond words to Kasia Jaskiewicz (Health Consultant, Warsaw) and Marylla Biernacik (Business Consultant, Warsaw) for their endless wisdom, encouragement and assistance.

Finally, I thank my most demanding and least patient teachers, my clients, who continue to help me to further develop Soulwork philosophy and to fine-tune the techniques.

Author's Note

I come from a background of physics and I am surprised to find myself immersed in this strange world of subjective reality. I want to correspond with therapists and counsellors wishing to explore this Soulwork concept. I can email my few articles and some unpublished work to interested people, in return for feedback. However, Soul Centred Changework has resulted from many personal communications with healers, therapists, clients and students. There is little "in the literature" that I can refer you to.


For more articles: Website:


Brae, David K. "The Kahuna Religion of Hawaii" Carruthers, M. (1995) "Thoughtforms", NLP World, Volume 1, No.3 1994 (Switzerland) Carruthers, M. (1996) "Hawaiian Healing Techniques" (Article in Polish) Carruthers, M. (1997) "Human Consciousness & Decision Making", Forum Three, 1997 (University of Hull, UK, ISBN 0 85958 9560) Hallanzy, A (1997) "NLP Ekologie Redefiniert" (Published in German)

Footnotes 1 Somatic and psychosomatic disease may be distinguished by whether the symptoms of a chronic disease disappear following a "non-medical" change in lifestyle (a change in work, relationships etc). Some physicians estimate that patients with "psychosomatic" symptoms outnumber those with "somatic" disease. 2 Unexpressed emotions are commonly and spontaneously associated with the body parts equivalent to the "chakras" of many Asian philosophies, even when the client reports no knowledge of, or interest in, these philosophies.

Soul Centred Changework, Page 10 of 10

(c) Martyn Carruthers, March 1998

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