NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), also known as brain-learning programming, is a very common field of self-improvement. Self-improvement activities have become more widespread in recent years, and have resulted in an explosion of courses, seminars, and certificate programs for those who are interested. However, the whole arena of self-improvement contains information that only confuses and misinforms some people.
NLP, which was developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, and based upon the principles of psychotherapy and rhetoric, has been developed further by experts in psychotherapy, psychology, anthropology, and the like.
Joseph Connor and Ian McDermott, both NLP experts, provide the following information in their The Principles of NLP: "The word neuro is related to the mind and how we regulate our mental life. The word linguistic is about how we use language and how language affects us, and programming explains repeated patterns of behavior and the motives of our actions. In this respect, NLP studies relations; in other words, it is about our thoughts, conversations, and behavior, which connect us to other people, the world, and the spiritual dimension."
According to the principles of NLP, human behavior is target-oriented. A person's body moves in accordance with his or her mind. NLP experts emphasize the importance of belief in our behavior and seek answers to various questions, most of which can be answered directly by religion. Even in NLP books that contain successful and positive suggestions, the sources of information seem to be limited to philosophical and personal interpretations. Many subjects, such as anxiety, suspicion, success, attitudes to problem solving and behavior are interpreted subjectively and people's needs, demands, and aims are exploited. The basic principles that NLP books designate and the suggestions they give for achieving success sometimes conflict with religious dogmas. They do not only clash with religious dogma, they can also be deceptive. Among such deceptive statements are "Your mind is an endless source of power" and "You have boundless energy inside you."
In addition, these books give advice on such subjects as "the power of praying" or "the benefits of belief in health" without any religious content or reference. Actual religious belief or prayer is not part of these activities, for NLP is only a path to partial self-improvement. Self-improvement covers a wide range of activities, from the art of meeting people to living healthily, from nutrition to studying, and from happiness to the effective use of time. In self-improvement books, authors tell us about how they used to be failures, lacking talent or success, and then how they obtained happiness with the help of these books. They quote those who attended the seminars. Such books as The Legend of Kentucky Fried Chicken, which traces Colonel Harlan Sanders' story, and those about Abraham Lincoln and other famous people, analyze their life stories. In self-improvement books, experts make up their own numerical or symbolical theories, such as the rule of the 7As, the rule of the 5Ds, the rule of the 3 principles, the rule of the 8 abilities, the 5 keys to success, and so on.
We do not claim that all of these books are completely futile, harmful, or devoid of any scientific value. A few good points can be found in any book. Like everything else, what really matters is the nature of these books as a whole. Furthermore, we also should mention that such practices as narrating fictional processes as if they were real, correlating these processes with irrelevant issues, personalizing and nationalizing problems that emerged in different arenas and different circumstances, is in no way correct. Such books may also shift and direct the reader to another domain, which is an important issue to be underlined.
Some self-improvement books that are based on completely personal, philosophical, or subjective sources of information present a new danger as well. There are people who try to manipulate such books to their best advantage, as well as publishers, whose names recall Indian, Chinese, or other Eastern cultures and who have used belief systems associated with Taoism, Buddhism, or Hinduism to do just that. In many western countries, especially in America, meditation sessions are held in luxurious hotels. Proclamations are made that exercise relieves not only the body, but also the soul, and therefore the seminar leaders recommend such sitting positions known in Buddhist teachings as sukhasana, siddhasana, or padmasaya. Buddhist-based views are scattered throughout the presentation or disguised so as not to alert anybody, and then are offered as novel ideas and concepts to be heard for the first time. For instance, some books refer to common sense as buddhi and introduce suffering within the meaning of dukka. Even in an innocent-looking book which discusses "the power of now," a Buddhist doctrine correlating happiness to suffering is imposed.
Another important point to be made here is that Islamic sufism, which offers the true secret of humanity's real peace and happiness, is associated with mystical traditions like Buddhism and Hinduism and thus aiming to be presented as prescriptions with Buddhist or Hindu attitudes and philosophies. Some groups introduce the Dalai Lama of Tibet as the world's greatest spiritual leader and claim that Buddhist meditation is the only path to happiness. Many self-improvement books, which are widespread in this society, approach such basic concepts as soul, self, love, beauty, and eternity from Buddhist, Manichaean, Hindu, Taoist, and even Shamanist points of view. It is worth considering, in what way Islamic sects and orders are undermined in this regard, whereas some mystical traditions have been uncritically uplifted, creating a situation that confuses people who do not have a solid religious background as to how they should react.
Let's now take a look at the titles of some of these books that have been on the market in their hundreds: The Laws of the Soul, Conversation with God, Three-Minute Meditation, Listening to Silence, The Messengers of Light, Kahuna Healing, Hypnosis and Meditation, the Art of Happiness (The Views of Dalai Lama), Sadhana: Gripping Life,...
When a society that has experienced centuries of "knowing oneself" through Sufi training loses contact with the sources that have fed its soul, it heads toward other sources; this is a socio-psychological phenomenon. Some people have lost contact with the nourishing sources of classical works and started to search for new experiences out of their helplessness. Some others are on a quest for fantasy. Unfortunately, the books that belong to Far Eastern mysticism and that have been translated from Western languages entail the exportation of Western quests.
The books may implant in people's hearts and minds suspicion and indecision about the elements of faith, such as the existence of God, the prophets, the angels, the Hereafter, and death, such works are read extensively.
Some even view these books like films, the contents of which are based on medieval Christian mysticism, sorcery, and legends, that are shot for similar purposes, and that intersect far Eastern mystical movements. Some people think that such books include and emphasize spiritualism in a world of physical domination. Although their number is small for now, there have been instances of large numbers of people attending meditation classes in the halls of great hotels, prostrating themselves before a man whom they regard like God, entranced by false beliefs like reincarnation.
First, people are deprived of their spiritual needs, and then they are deceived into believing that science and scientific concepts can satisfy all of their wants in an attempt to replace these needs.
When all of this turns out to be a delusion, they are offered other delusions in the name of satisfying their souls and spiritual feelings. At all costs, they are kept away from Islam, which stands before all humanity as the sole alternative. The underlying purposes of such publications and activities, along with their desires and plans, is an attempt to take advantage of the deficiencies brought about by spiritual isolation. However, those beliefs or ideas that separate people from their Creator or deny the reality of their absolute dependence upon Him directly contradict human nature. Worldviews that burden people with loads that they are not meant to bear and cannot bear, by assuming that they can achieve everything, only deepen their unhappiness. By placing more demands and requirements upon them, they can never become truly happy. As in the past, such a function was given to science and people were deceived into believing that science would solve every problem. We face a similar phenomenon, one with the same purpose, today.
The dissatisfied people of today, while questing for something that will fulfill their needs, will pursue anything that is presented as a solution. On the other hand, some groups take advantage of the individual's ignorance of the subject and expose those people who are looking for true information to a flood of misinformation. Those who impose superstitious views and rituals, which claim to have everything that a person needs, reject all religious beliefs and presumptions. They keep on confusing "the lonely person" with ever-increasing greed.
Above all, it is vitally important to supply people with those moral and spiritual values that they so desperately need within the basic Islamic framework. Developing such studies and presenting them as an alternative search which takes its logic and schematic structure from the true basics, will reinforce people's self-confidence. Spending time searching for false and misleading spiritual "treasures" abroad, while the real treasure is contained in the foundations of our own house, gains us nothing.
 Joseph O'Connor and Ian McDermott, NLP'nin Ilkeleri, Istanbul, Sistem Yay., 2001, xiii. Translated by Demet Uyar Ezerler. Originally published as Principles of NLP, Thorsons Pub, 1996.
 Peale, Norman Vincent, Olumlu Dusunmenin Gucu, Sistem Yay., Istanbul, 1998. Translated by Şahin Cüceloğlu. Originally published as The Power of Positive Thinking, Wings Press, 1992.
 Brunel, Henry, Kedi Metodu, Çiviyazıları Yay., Istanbul, 2001, 105. Translated by Birsel Uzam. Originally published as La méthode du chat, Seuil.
 Tolle, Eckhart, Simdinin Gucu, Akasa Yay., 2001. Translated by Semra Ayanba. Originally published as The Power of Now, New World Library, 1999.
Dr. Ahmet Ertuğrul, an expert on self-improvement books, explains how some ancient far-eastern beliefs are presented under the name of "self-improvement"; movements which are becoming more and more popular all over the world. He uses specific examples taken from different publications in this field to state his case.