(things are still very busy here! This is an article originally printed in the November Newsletter of the The Birmingham NLP Training Academy. I hope to write more regularly very soon, but until then I will keep up with the weekly instalments!)

In Greek mythology, Procrustes (“the stretcher”) was a bandit from Attica killed by Theseus. In the hills outside Eleusis he had his stronghold, in which was a bed, which he invited every passersby to lie down in. If they proved too tall, he would then have his men cut off the excess length (hands, feet, or even parts of arms and legs) – but if the victim was found wanting in height, they were then stretched out on the rack until they gained the required inches. For obvious reasons, it was almost always men who suffered amputation, and women who were racked. He continued this reign of terror until he encountered Theseus and ended up in his own bed, losing his head and feet to the hero as he was too tall to fit it. Killing Procrustes was the last adventure of Theseus.

The name Procrustes and Procrustean Bed have become terms used to describe a variety of different situations.

But generally any attempt to reduce people or reality to one standard, one way of thinking, or one way of acting, is called placing them on Procrustes’ bed, and the person who makes the attempt is called Procrustes.

Psychometric tests are the ideal example of Procrustean Beds. They attempt to make people fit into their predefined categories, that is why I don’t believe in the use of psychometric testing.

But are you being Procrustes with your NLP? One of the biggest criticisms of NLP I have today is that most people expect the world to fit into their technique. If they follow the prescribed method the technique from step 1 through to n and it doesn’t work there is something wrong with the person they were using the technique on not the technique! Many NLP trainings prescribe specific techniques for specific problems, how ridiculous does that sound to you?? Remember behavioural flexibility? One of the major principles of NLP – If what you are doing doesn’t work do something, anything, differently…

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  1. […] is a perfect example of a Procrustean Bed and a fundamental inverse of what was meant by the term […]

  2. […] is that you end up with a fundamental inverse of what you should really be doing. You create a Procrustean bed; you expect the world to fit your technique and not the technique to fit the world. You use the […]

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