Tag Archive for reality

Presupposition #6: Language is a tertiary representation of experience

This presupposition I go back to time and time again. You know the old adage: A picture is worth a thousand words? Well, an experience is worth 1000’s more. In fact most of the time we can’t get the words to explain the experience to someone.

When we experience something, anything our senses are bombarded with 2 billion bits of information but our conscious mind can only deal with 5-9 pieces of information at a given moment. So, there is so much more information that gets filtered out of our conscious awareness.

When we experience an event, our conscious brain sorts from the information it gets the meaning associated with how our brain reacts to this information… so if we get painful feelings our conscious mind says something like “don’t like that, don’t want that to happen again.” Then it goes back and checks the experience and reinforces the meaning associated with it. This is the experience of the experience – A secondary event.

When we put language to the event, we are not putting language to the primary event, we are putting language to the experience of the experience.

These are levels of modeling and have a direct effect on our experience of the world. These levels of modeling could be depicted as layers, which separate us from the world at large. (picture) The three layers are: 1.) our sensory experience, 2.) our experience of experience and 3.) our language. 

Each level of modeling is meta to the level below it. (Meta means moving up to a higher level or awareness of our awareness.) The higher the level at which the modeling occurs, the greater the distance between the model and the world at large. Language is a useful representation of experience, but it is a representation, not the real thing. Which means language is a model of our internally constructed model of reality. The problem comes in when we assume ours or other’s language is reality.

I remember a time when I was asked to take part in an introductory seminar of an organization that used a modified version of NLP to have people sign up and take their course and eventually become zealots for their company. This example was once part of their introductory seminars:  

They called this process “un-collapsing the vicious circle.” They asked participants to find an area of their life when they had experienced being trapped with their job or family. They then drew a diagram of a circle to the left on the board and labeled it “what happened” instead of the “experience.” Then they drew another circle to the right of the first circle and call it the “concept” or the “story” about what happened – which is really the “experience of the experience”.

And then they would explain, “So what human beings do is have an experience, then make up a story about the experience. They then review the experience and then go back again to their story and then back to the experience, over and over and over again until they aren’t living in the experience or what happened. They are living very far away from the reality as a result of the vicious circle.” Then the spokesperson for this organization would say if you sign up for their seminar you will have the experience of un-collapsing this vicious circle so you can always be present to what happened in your life.

Never in their introduction or any where else in their training did they say, this is an entirely human concept – so everyone experiences this. And that there is no way to get out of this process ever because it is the way your brain processes information – by continuously updating our maps of reality!

But there is a way to change the negative feelings associated with experiencing your experiences. And, it is called NLP. The only thing available from these seminars is the illusion of elation or emotional release from going from and environment where you are sitting practically on top of the people next to you to having space around you. Due to their inability to be specific enough in a seminar setting, this company can only at best make a behavior change. But without creating a change in the corresponding belief that supports the behavior, the new behavior doesn’t last. Usually it lasts only for about a week tops…which is precisely how much time they have to get you enrolled in the next seminar.


Tracy Joy is an NLP practitioner, author, and speaker in Vancouver, Canada. She is an international business expert in the area of human systems analysis and thinking change. If you have brain questions, send them Tracy and she’ll answer them on this blog. She can be reached through www.TherapeuticNLP.com

Presupposition #1: The map is not the territory

A map is not the territory it represents, but if correct it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for it usefulness.

– A. Korzybski, Science and Sanity

We are map makers constructing representations or depictions of our experiences. The mental maps we create of the world are not true or reality – they are based on reality. As human beings we do not respond directly to the outside world but we do to our mental maps, representations or depictions. We make our maps and models by using our sensory representations–pictures, sounds, feelings, smells and tastes. The models that we create to guide us in the world are based on our conditioning and experience. Each of our models, or maps, of the world are unique. We experience our own personal reality, and then we respond to and deal with that reality accordingly.

A representation is not what it represents; one is a symbol for the other. This distinction may been insignificant on the surface. However, as we explore the process by which maps, models, and representations are built, it will become clear that the relations ship which exists between map and territory, when examine din detail, has an effect on the very structure of reality as we may know it.

 – A. Korzybski, Science and Sanity

No two people have exactly the same experiences. So our representations of the world determine which experiences and responses we will have. Some aspects of our maps may are out of our conscious awareness. Still, they determine how we will perceive the world and what choices we will have available-or not-as we interact with and within that world.

This is key. This what is available out of learning and being able to do NLP – having the ability to change your experience in any area of your life. If you are aware of your map of reality, you can change it and have exactly what you want.

To change our experience we must change our maps!

When interacting with others it is very important to remember that we operate from within our own maps of reality. Our personal maps form “bubbles of belief” around us. These bubbles filter our experience. They organize the meaning of our experience in relation to what we already know. Our bubbles of beliefs separate us from and connect us to the reality of others (Connect if our beliefs are similar, separate us if our beliefs are different.). Frequently, when we look out from inside our personal bubbles, we only see our own reflections. 

A model is a symbolic representation that depicts structure of our reality. Each of us builds models or representations of the world. And, it is through these models that we organize and communicate our personal experiences. The process of modeling allows us the ability to have an infinite variety of experiences. And if we are using a model for our personal realities then those realities can be interpreted, understood, and utilized. Modeling is way we transform the chaotic into the structured and make sense of our worlds.

A model is neither good nor bad, right nor wrong, but can be evaluated only as to its usefulness in making available specific outcomes. Models inherently provide both limitations and resources. 

– Kostere and Malatesta, Maps, Models and the Structure of Reality

The magic lies in the very structure and syntax of our words, pictures, sounds, sensations, smells, etc. Because our maps govern all our experiences, if we change the map, our experience changes. This means our personality, awareness, emotion and abilities to do a new skill come from our maps. These maps also drive our ability to influence, persuade and transform.

Fritz Perls, Virginia Satir and Milton Erickson did not work on the everyday life experiences of people. Instead they worked on changing these people’s internal models of the world. As a NLP practitioner this is the charge. This is why it is so difficult to quantify what can be accomplished through NLP because the change is so deeply personal. 

Our maps occur inside our mind-body systems. So to create influence, persuasion and transformation in others we must be able to change the receiver’s neuro-linguistic maps.

It is Korzybski that we can thank for his observations of our internalized maps realty. He analyzed how our nervous system interacts with our worlds at various different levels. He figured out our sense receptors are designed to leave out many characteristics and generalize about the information missing. He even showed how different levels of the brain made different kinds of mental maps about things.

But Gregory Bateson in 1972 asked if we create internalized maps, what gets mapped on these maps? He later answered the difference. So that our mental world is just maps of maps of maps for infinity… the map is not the territory because the territory never gets in to our minds because the process of representation will always filter out the territory.

Tracy Joy is an NLP practitioner, author, and speaker in Vancouver, Canada. She is an international business expert in the area of human systems analysis and thinking change. If you have brain questions, send them Tracy and she’ll answer them on this blog. She can be reached through www.TherapeuticNLP.com

What is NLP? Definition #5

NLP is… An attitude of curiosity and respect for ourselves and for each other – for what we have been and who we are becoming.

Human lives are creative wholes. To be understood properly and changed respectfully, our lives need to be appreciated holistically. We need to understand and appreciate that no part of our life experience really exists separate from the wholeness of our life. We hold each person’s life and the full human experience with respect and appreciation.

By appreciating the present state we can help the person that is suffering to complete the experience.  Appreciation of the present state helps return an individual to a place of resourceful learning – to a place of curiosity and amazement. Too much understanding blocks full appreciation and allowing a person to move forward. Think about this way, when you are grilled for another person’s understanding does it help you move through the issue you were originally discussing with them?

Bringing your attention to fully appreciate and be aware of another includes consenting to or respecting the experience without seeking to add or subtract energy or attention or value.  Being fully appreciating and attentive with someone is always about their good not yours. Reality continues until it is fully experienced. Until we can approach ourselves and others with full appreciation and attention, we will invariably exclude part of ourselves, others and reality.

Unless we fully accept it and allow the appreciation, we will not be able to change our experience and we will continue to experience it. The same goes with the people around us. We can’t help others change unless we are fully appreciating without excluding anything either in them or ourselves. Fully accepting and appreciating another is like saying ‘OK’ to it is, how it is without using approval and providing your blessings. What happens is that the emptiness and nothingness in us cannot threaten each other. This creates safety and rapport and has a potential effect that could result in change.

When we are in pain we want others to disapprove of our pain. But, if we disapprove of our pain, we are withholding approval of our experience resulting us to continuously hold our pain. It is as if we held our pain long enough, it would stop. Again, reality continues until it is fully experienced.

Usually we are furious at our pain. We are looking for the reason or cause of our pain in the past to make it go away. We try to be in pain now so it won’t have happened in the past or we will try to have it in the future so the past is different. And it is almost impossible to fully appreciate and be aware of our experience when we are in pain. This is where the practice of NLP comes in with its techniques and tools. NLP teaches an attitude of curiosity and respect for ourselves and for each other – for what we have been and who we are becoming. And that allows others and ourselves to safely experience our experiences fully so that we may complete them and move forward.

Tracy Joy is an NLP practitioner, author, and speaker in Vancouver, Canada. She is an international business expert in the area of human systems analysis and thinking change. If you have brain questions, send them Tracy and she’ll answer them on this blog. She can be reached through www.TherapeuticNLP.com