Presupposition #5: Experience has structure.

All maps/models have a syntax and structural elements. The structural elements are the building blocks of a model. For experience, the structural elements are made up of our words and spoken vocabularies. The syntax is the set of rules or directives that describe how the building blocks can be put together. For us, this is the set of grammar rules that dictate how we fit together words.

The structure of experience consists of sensory impressions – pictures, sounds, feelings, smells, and tastes – some are internally generated and others come from the outside. It is through these sensory impressions that we compare to what is already logged into our memory (our current internal map of reality) and create meaning and subsequently update our internal map of reality.

What was originally logged in that internal map of reality was information or impressions from two months before we were born and our physical brain, sometimes referred to as our critter or reptilian brain started functioning. It was during this time, we gathered our impressions from our mother’s feelings and experiences. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the experience that went along with those feelings to make proper meaning so we made it mean things about ourselves like, we are worthless, helpless, invisible, unlovable, etc…

If our thoughts and memories have a pattern to them, and we know that pattern, we can change them. When we change that pattern or structure, our experience will automatically change no matter what the original experience was like or how long it existed. We can neutralize unpleasant memories and enrich memories that will serve us.

When I was just learning NLP, I was the class demo for our anchoring class. My NLP mentor asked me to think about an experience that was fun and interesting. So I did, and as the feeling loaded up in my mind I looked around at the class and realized they were watching me, and I got self conscious and blushed. Just as I blushed he squeezed my arm. He then asked me who I considered a mentor – which I had none so I replied “the Dali Lama.” Carl had me think about the Dali Lama and then squeezed my other arm. Then he did the unthinkable… He squeeze the first arm and said “ now, when you load up this I want you to load up this too,” and squeeze the second arm. He continued talking to the class while periodically squeezing the first arm which, would immediately bring up my face blushing and then the Dali Lama would appear in my thoughts. This to me seems so wrong… so I begged him to do some thing. He asked if I knew who the woman was that sang the song Hello Dolly. I said “Carol Channing” and as soon as I said it he created another button on my back and he connect it the pattern.  So now, he could squeeze one arm and get me to blush, think about the Dali Lama and hear Carol Channing sing me hello dolly! Forever my memory of that initial fun and interesting experience was changed. 

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