‘The symbol A is not the counterpart of anything in familiar life. To the child the letter A would seem horribly abstract; so we give him a familiar conception along with it. “A was an Archer who shot at a frog”. This tides over his immediate difficulty; but he cannot make serious progress with word-building so long as Archers, Butchers, Captains, dance round the letters. The letters are abstract, and sooner or later he has to realise it. In physics we have outgrown archer and apple-pie definitions of the fundamental symbols. To a request to explain what an electron really is supposed to be we can only answer, “It is part of the A B C of physics”.
(A S Eddington)
In this part of my series on re-modelling NLP I will explore what we could call “ABC’s of NLP”
I will outline some of my Re-Modelling of the basic components and structures at the core of NLP. I have already covered the NLP language in part two so I will be concentrating on some of the core components of NLP. These ABC’s of NLP all begin with S including Senses, Subjective Modelling Processes (how we build our subjective models), States, Sub-modalities and Strategies.
As these are the building blocks of any model, skill or technique, they are the key enablers or disablers in all areas of application of NLP. It is first and foremost good practise that interests me in my re-modelling, not merely an academic interest. Most of my developments have arisen through my need to be ever more effective with my clients and students. A constant challenge to our development is the static dogma that creeps into any system, body of knowledge or field of study. Once again please do the exercises. They will add greatly to your understanding of the descriptions.
The world is constantly changing and yet we can have a sense of stability, solidity and permanence. We need to make sense of the world in order to have a basis for meeting our needs. This ‘sense’ is our model of the world. The sense, or model, that we make can be inaccurate in a number of ways. We can also be clumsy or inaccurate in the application of our models. The cost of these inaccuracies is additional difficulties and problems for us.
An accurate understanding of how we build our models and use them will be the basis for more effective life skills including effective therapy, education, change work, personal and professional development. In any science three components are required,a technology, a methodology and an epistemology. Traditionally NLP was a technology. My model of DBM added a methodology and an epistemology and re-modelled the technology. That is what these articles are about, improving the technology of NLP.
Accuracy is the traditional goal of science. Science in our western culture has done much to shape and define our agreed reality and what is permissible or ‘sensible ‘ to think and say. Even this does not stop people having a variety of conflicting beliefs many of which seem to be contradictory to the evidence. Many people continued to think the world was flat long after it was scientifically verified that it was round.
Simplicity And Precision
When we measure things we interact with them. Our sensing of the world is through electro-chemical input, not directly on what is out there but how electro-chemical processes change in relationship with it. We only have our sensory processing.
The Hiesenberg Uncertainty principle in quantum physics states that if we want information on the position of a particle we increase the uncertainty of its movement. If we want more certainty of its movement we increase uncertainty on its position.
The physicist Bohr noted another trade off in scientific modelling that is directly relevant to subjective modelling as well.
The more we make our models SIMPLE we lose PRECISION. If a model becomes too simple it usually becomes useless.
The more PRECISION we require the more we lose SIMPLICITY. The more we want the model to cover the territory effectively the more we have to add and therefore the more we may have to increase the complexity. The ongoing processing of a model will most efficiently be a dialectic interaction between these two.
Verifiability is a central component in the “objective’ scientific pursuit. It is also one of the corner stones of NLP and DBM. The pursuit being easier than the attainment, harder than the easy acceptance of dogma. Through the pursuit we are practising the skills in modelling and being open minded.
On the mountains of truth you can never climb in vain; either you will reach a point higher today, or you will be training your powers so that you will be able to climb higher tomorrow.
The Five Senses
The basic building blocks of traditional NLP are comprised of five senses plus auditory digital (language). In my creation of Developmental Behavioural Modelling I extended this to include the digital component of each sense. I also added concepts. This greatly extends the distinctions available for modelling, change work, education, etc. These distinctions were then used as part of my re-modelling of NLP. After working with these it is surprising how we ever got by with the impoverished traditional distinctions!
The analogue distinctions are pretty straight forward. They are the direct sensory experience, what we see, hear, feel, taste and smell
The digital distinctions are a structuring of this analogue continuum into discrete distinctions that give us tools for organising the complexity of our analogue experience.
In our visual system we have a variety of tools. We create symbols and icons and even more sophisticated, written language. In simple form these are the pictures or pictograms in many stone age caves. These become the gateway to storage of information and the basis of concepts and science.
In our auditory system the digital components are well established in NLP – the spoken word.
In our kinesthetic system obvious examples are the fingering for musical instruments, chords; the dance steps or steps in martial arts that are coded as complete ‘bits’. Also for the blind and deaf, Braille and sign language. For all of us certain hand signals literally use digits for communication!
In our olfactory system the ‘noses’ that work for perfume houses make distinctions such as musk, floral, citrus, spice, etc. These can then be expressed in analogue as to how much floral etc.
In our gustatory system the obvious examples are wine tasters who seem to find every other type of fruit, flower and spice (seldom grape!) in the wine. All of us make distinctions such as good / bad, salt, sweet / bitter, etc. As with the other senses we use these to make further analogue distinctions.
|Fingering for Musical Notes, Chords etc||Musk,|
|Good – Bad.|
In addition we, as humans, also have a major tool in our use of concepts. Concepts are a fascinating structure. Concepts make use of difference. When we bring together different experiences, make comparisons or contrasts the product is a result of difference. Difference does not reduce to sensory experience. As I highlighted in part two of these articles the meta model is not designed to deal with difference.
Difference is the result of processing NOT in terms of quantity but in RATIO’s. This was discovered by Weber in the 1830’s and its significance for subjective processing realised by Fechner, the formulation is known as the Weber-Fechner Law. Gregory Bateson made great use of his insights in this area and in a Korzybski memorial lecture in 1973 explained that what gets from the world to our maps is difference.
States and Sequences
States are another of the main components in NLP. What is a state? I suspect that there are a number of answers to this. One answer is that a state is how something is in the moment or while an identified thing’s continues over a specific time scale. For example “I feel tired” – I am in a state of tiredness. “Look at the state of this room”. In NLP a state is checked through calibration. We do this at the cost of ‘freezing’ the ongoing sequence of behaviour and processing together with a selection of part of the world and the ignoring of the rest. So in the I am tired example I need to ignore what else is happening and what else I am feeling.
If we were to photograph a room or a person we might find it impossible to tell from the photograph whether the room was in the PROCESS of getting tidied or getting messy, whether the person was waking up or falling asleep.
The application of state work is to replicate and optimise our states so that we can enjoy being in them or to use them. Being able to replicate getting into them and staying in them and leaving them when ready are key skills. I have found it much more useful to work with sequences rather than states as the state is contained within the sequences, just as it is easier to understand what is happening with a video film than with a photograph (although why it is happening may still be unclear, see article 2)
Exercises: Static and Dynamic States
Contrast the following exercises
1. Circle of Excellence
2. Sequence of Excelling
Circle of Excellence
- Stand and imagine a circle on the floor in front of you.
- Identify a state of personal excellence, an example of excelling, giving it a name for ease of access.
- Relive this state. Fully connect with the feeling and as the feeling is nearing its peak, step into the circle and connect the feelings with the circle.
- Step back out before the feelings fully peak to avoid the risk of associating a reduction of feelings (over the peak) with the circle.
- Test this state by repeating the name and stepping into the circle.
Sequence of Excelling
- Use the example from the circle of excellence.
- Place the state on a time line and step onto the line fully connecting with it.
- Start from the feeling of excelling and walk backwards back through the sequence of events, feeling, behaviours that led to the state of excellence until you reach a point where the sequence began.
- Now walk forward fully reliving the sequence all the way through to the peak and beyond. You now have a sequence of excelling.
- Test by imagining walking along the line to relive the sequence of excelling.
A comparison of these two will demonstrate the difference between static states and dynamic sequences, the difference between process and product. Participants in training almost unanimously report that the sequence is more empowering. They experience the difference between product and process.
How our senses are sequenced and processed to create our models and different states is a process of subjective modelling. I will now outline the basic model.
The Construction Of Subjective Models
Based on the work of Korzybski, Bateson realised that all that got from the territory onto the map of subjective experience was DIFFERENCE.
Our Senses operate in an organised way. Even before each sense is processed centrally it will have been influenced by what takes place in the other senses.
NOTE: This is not just five integrated senses but an integration of sensing.
Our models are constructed from sensory experience through the three universal modelling processes, processing Detail, Scope and Connections. Keep in mind what we have said about the co-ordination of the senses as you read the simplified diagram below
These patterns are connected systematically into an overall model or ‘models’:
The importance of the ‘model ‘is to predict what is likely to happen in the world, to guide us to meet our needs. The more accurate the prediction the more effective the resulting behaviour can be. The prediction is not usually a conscious, explicit phenomena, but rather an implicit hypothesis setting – a FEEDFORWARD from the model in relation to the world:
The contrast of the FEEDFORWARD with the actual events results in new information becoming available through the five senses – a process of FEEDBACK
Our subjective processing then builds models from our senses and we then ‘think’ and behave based on our models.
This model summarises the flow of subjective processing of information. We receive our input from the world, make sense of it, do things with it to plan how best to proceed and then output, do things, which in turn brings new input.
For each of the four stages in IRCO there are corresponding mistakes that can be made. Our input could be fictions or illusionary. Our relating could result in false facts. Our computation, thinking in the widest sense, could be fallacial or inaccurate. Our output could be clumsy or faulty. Although these are limiting the four F’s can also be enhancing. Fictions include illusions and distortions of art; false facts are the basis of drama and older models of science (I believe that for the Apollo space missions the calculations used were based on the physics of Newton and not Einstein’s more accurate model as it was simpler to calculate and the false facts were not too false!); many fallacies are the basis of poetry and metaphor, such as Bateson’s favourite fallacy type that was the pattern for much of his creative thinking , “grass dies, men die therefore men are grass”; faults as in the laboratory of Alexander Fleming where poor hygiene allowed the growth of penicillin in a petri dish.
See, Hear, Feel, Taste, Smell
Notice, Make sense
Think, plan, problem solve
Look, listen, touch, etc.
In NLP sensory acuity is often taught as an input skill. We talk of ‘open and clean’ sensory channels. Most people though receive much the same in terms of sight, sounds and touch. Where they differ is in what they notice. Noticing is a process of ‘relating’ to what is perceived. This is where the filters myth operates (see part one). We select what to relate to, we do not filter out. Our selecting will result in some things being left out by default. We can also select to ignore. Ignoring is different from not noticing in the first place.
So sensory acuity is more about building relational skills rather than input skills. However if you don’t look, listen or touch then you wouldn’t get the input to relate to. So sensory acuity requires output. What we output will be based on what is important to us and what we are trying to achieve. So thinking, wanting, needing in terms of experience and information will effect our output, what we are looking, listening or feeling for.
Sensory acuity is then a skill that requires computing, outputting and relating to what we get as input. No wonder some people find it difficult if they passively wait for their input to improve!
IC-IS-EB and Thinking-Feeling-Doing
In NLP the distinctions of thinking feeling and doing were reduced to three sub-groups. These are internal computation (IC) for thinking, Internal state (IS) for feeling and external behaviour (EB) for behaviour. I found this to be another example where the new model although simple is of less practical use for anything other than simple content. This shows clearly when we apply Fractal Modelling (I will say more about this in a later article). Fractal modelling clearly shows the inter-related nature of these three. Again if we want to model accurately then the simple version is not precise enough.
|Think||Think: When we are thinking|
|Feel: We need to use feelings in thinking|
|Do: Thinking is something we need to do|
|Feel||Feel: When we are feeling|
|Think: Our feelings require thinking (article 3)|
|Do: We need to do the feeling|
|Do||Do: When we are doing something|
|Think: We are attending and tracking and maybe using higher thinking processes|
|Feel: We are feeling our way an tracking the feel of our body position and comfort, etc.|
Matter, Space, And Time Accessing
We are always processing our senses to make sense of the world. In NLP when we fully ‘attend’ to our immediate experience we call it being “associated.”
There are a number of possibilities for altering HOW we attend to our experience. We can imagine we are somewhere else in time, a memory or a construction of the past. We can also construct a different present or future. Wherever we imagine we can construct a notion emphasising self, other or context. Whatever we do is based on our own experience and the inter-related configurations of matter, space and time.
- a. Ourselves but different (bigger, smaller, stronger, etc.)
- b. Someone else
- c. An animal
- d. A machine
- e. An object
2. SPACE: Associated in some other space using memory or construction.
- a. Use same perspective, standing, sitting, etc.
- b. Use ‘unusual’ perspective, e.g. from below, from above, etc.
- c. Change the distance, size, etc.
3. TIME: Associated in some other time using memory or construction.
- a. In time
- b. Between time
- c. Through time
Association and Disassociation
We traditionally use two terms to refer to two main types of organising our sensory experience. These are association and disassociation. They are used extensively in NLP. There are a few possibilities. The first is to be fully here and now associated completely in our ongoing experience. The second is to be dissociated. Disassociation is any configuration different from associated including disconnected from our ongoing experience, 2nd order association. The third possibility is to have a mixed configuration: for example, associated with here and now feeling with additional dissociated experiences such as visual dissociated pictures with some associated kinesthetic. This third possibility is more common than the first two and explains why getting ‘pure’ states (necessary for example for effective anchoring) is more difficult than is generally appreciated.
Satir and Perceptual Position
Virginia Satir made some useful distinctions, many of which were modelled along with the work of Perls and Erickson. Bandler and Grinder outlined some of her many patterns in the early book ‘Changing with Families’. I got a lot from this book twenty years ago as I was exploring Ericksonian hypnosis, Gestalt therapy and family therapy approaches and had just come across the work of Bandler and Grinder and the fledgling NLP.
Satir made distinctions between self, other and context. In our attending to the world we could be associated in our selves, in others or the context. I found these to be very useful. They also related to the sensory systems used and to responses under stress, blaming, placating and over reasonableness that were very helpful in accurately understanding what people were doing in difficult situations.
Later in some sections of the NLP community these were reduced to the more abstract perceptual positions model. Instead of associated in self there was the 1st perceptual position, associated in other the 2nd position, associated to the context the 3rd position.
I found these to be a gross simplification and a backward step away from the more precise and useful earlier model. They guide you where to go but not how to be there. The whole point of being somewhere is to be and do things not just to have a ‘position’. While they are useful, simple to learn and easy to use they miss much of the richness and precision of the earlier model.
Mind – Body Split Associated with NLP!
After using association and disassociation for many years I finally spent some time exploring what exactly they were referring to, and ended up remodelling them and creating a major new model for this area.
What actually is it to be associated and disassociated? To be associated two things are required. One thing that associates and a second that is associated with. To be disassociated you also require two things only this time they should be separate in some way. It became clear to me that association requires the maintenance of a mind body split and is inconsistent with the major NLP presupposition of integration and that there is no mind body split. When we instruct someone to associate into their body, or with an experience, they will be maintaining a separation even though they are now in the same space. No wonder some of the anchoring and state work doesn’t get ‘clean’ states. If we guide people to associate rather than ‘be’ the result may well be a close but separate experience.
This inaccuracy and potential difficulty cried out for a more accurate model. Over a number of years I re-modelled this area again building and extending the earlier work of Satir, Bandler and Grinder that I had found useful.
DBM Subjective-Objective-Contextual Model
We can avoid these difficulties with association and the simplicity of the numbered positions while also making the main distinctions easier. We can take these distinctions and develop them further.
We are always operating FROM some position.
We are attending TO something
We are IN some context
Traditional NLP has concentrated on representational systems. These are the objective representations of our subjective experience. This is only one of three main components of our whole subjective experience. The re-modelling and further extensions in this area have been a major contribution to the development of DBM.
The three are:
1. Subjective present experience. We are always thinking, feeling and doing things FROM some point of view.
2. Objective attending TO something. This can be ourselves for example when we are reflecting or thinking about ourselves. We can re-present our subjective experience, for example making a picture of an experience.
3. Contextual. We are always IN a context of some kind. Context is also a way of presenting things differently. The same behaviour will mean something different in different contexts, for example giving orders at work and at home. This is used as part of reframing in NLP without an accurate model of how it works. It is interesting to note that there are no actual frames used in reframing! The one thing that is not done with reframing is reframing. That doesn’t stop it being useful, its just that its useful in a different way.
In NLP the emphasis is on representational systems. These are used to construct representations of the world. They are objective structures and only one of three that we use in DBM. The other two being, firstly, our subjective experience or how the world is present to us, which we call our” present systems” and, secondly, our contextual experience, how the world is presenting itself, which we call our “presenting system”. Establishing these three distinctions adds another area of increased precision, creating possibilities of many new change processes and for some people much easier alternatives to the traditional objective sub-modality exercises and techniques.
Sub-modalities are the finer distinctions that we make in our five senses.
Picture something that makes you feel bad. Change the sub-modalities to explore what makes a difference. For example make the picture bigger, smaller, darker, lighter, closer, further away, etc. Notice the differences in feeling.
Notice that many of these changes are impossible if you are IN an experience. You have to make a photographic type picture to do them. Many people already do have a representation of some situation already in pictures but not all people. These are objective representations of a subjective experience. A subjective experience is ‘re-presented’ objectively, manipulated and in turn the subjective feeling changes. If the connection between the subjective experience and the representation of it is poor then the changes don’t work very well.
This is also why some people find these sub-modality changes difficult. They do not create the ‘re-presentation’ to begin with. They wait for it rather than creating it! To help anyone in this position simply ask them to make up a picture like a photograph that represents the feeling. When they make a representation of their subjective experience they can then change the representation and the feelings they are representing will change.
Subjective – Objective – Contextual Sub-Modalities
In re-modelling sub-modalities I firstly organised them into different levels of operation. I later greatly extended the range of their application by identifying three areas where they could be usefully identified and changed. The traditional model developed by Richard Bandler concentrated mainly on what I call ‘objective’ sub-modalities, for example the pictures we look at ‘in our heads’. ‘In our heads’ is inaccurate as we see them in the space around us but we still use it to distinguish the real world from our reflective subjective world.
The following exercise is designed to highlight the difference in the three types of sub-modality changes. There are many other changes possible.
a. Objective: As in the traditional exercise above.
b. Subjective: Continue with the objective exercise but shift your attention from the picture to the feeling that you get from it. Where does this feeling connect with you, change the location, what happens? How are you orientated in relation to the picture, change this, also change muscle tensions, what happens?
c. Contextual: With this one we can use the content from either of the previous two as both will be in a context of sorts. The objective will be in a sensory context and the subjective more of a meaning context. For the objective picture you can play with the physical aspects of the context, for example changing the background illumination, what about shining a spotlight on it? One thing to pay particular attention to is that you can keep the picture as it is and only change contextual things, knowing that the picture is the same although it will look different in different lights.
In doing these exercises some people find that the subjective and contextual changes are more powerful for them than the objective ones. Playing with all three is a very useful life skill and again offers more tools for the modeller and change agent alike.
In b, the subjective, it is easier to use kinesthetic sub-modalities rather than visual. I have found that this is a greatly underused sense for organising change. Too much emphasis is placed on visual and objective change procedures. Great benefits come from using feelings to change, although I find some people reluctant in principle, they seem to prefer that feelings are left to change by themselves. Sadly this means that they often fail to check what kind of feelings they are getting (see last article) and the rich possibilities and potential empowerment in developing their ability to sensitively and accurately feel.
TOTE Strategies to TOTAL Strategies
The strategies model was based on the work of Miller, Pribram and Gallanter (1960) and was formulated and detailed by Robert Dilts. This is one of the more precise areas of NLP and an excellent piece of early NLP work. The key piece is the TOTE, Test, Operate, Test, Exit sequence. Robert has since then extended his work with strategies and goes beyond this level but it remains a core component in NLP. It is often used in place of a full modelling approach which has added to a general confusion over modelling and models.
The TOTE model concentrates on the repeating patterns of senses in a specific behavioural strategy. While it is very useful it is only a part of the full strategic approach for an individual. The sensory strategy doesn’t determine what content goes into the senses nor the quality of sensory processing.
In c (the contextual) the sub-modality changes can be more difficult. The easiest sense to use is auditory digital as words and meaning are an easy way to change contexts. Changing meaning will easily change the context.
The T.O.T.E. Model is also limited in being a linear approach. Strategies do not exist in isolation, but in relation to all other aspects of the person’s processing and in relationship to the world. If we want to work with more precision, and want to check the ecology of our work then we need to pay attention to the full range of levels of processing including values, beliefs, convictions, identity, reason and purpose.
In addition the TOTE model emphasises a single channel sequence instead of the multiple processing that is evident in most complex skills or complete life strategies. This is not a limitation in the TOTE model but a fact that the model was not designed to deal with higher functions or complex behaviours.
I was lucky enough to be involved in numerous school projects between 1984 and 1989. I had many opportunities to use the TOTE and to make many refinements. Many of the children we worked with would learn to spell, to memorise addition tables, to use a new maths problem solving strategy we developed but then not use the skill because it didn’t fit with higher functions. For example they would be criticised by pals, they didn’t want to be a swot, being academically successful didn’t interest them or their family, or even because of a lower level difficulty like being tired because they were up all night.
In my re-modelling of NLP I was able to take this extensive experience into account and to place the TOTE model within a larger model that included higher functions and lower ones of physiology.
The result I called the T.O.T.A.L. Strategy model. TOTAL standing for Test, Operate, Test, Align Levels. This model was aimed at the full range of subjective processing. It was a good addition to modelling but only a small part of Developmental Behavioural Modelling as a whole.
Some of the additions in the TOTAL model include:
1. SEQUENCES: How strategies operate in sequences. For example:
2. LEVELS: These sequences will operate in relation to multiple levels of processing and will be a relationship of alignment or mis-alignment at any given time. For example a man’s motivation to get up in the morning may be part of the following levels:
3. Multiple levels and Sequences
Some specific sensory sequence strategies (TOTES) will operate within a longer sequence of multiple levels.
If they are to fulfil their potential models and modelling have to go beyond over simplified ideas, cute mnemonics and generalised classifications and connect more accurately with how the world is. If we are to fulfil our potential as modellers and change agents then we too must go beyond and keep developing.
The re-modelling and further developments of the basic components of NLP can contribute greatly to the effectiveness of all our modelling and change work. Using them has further developed my modelling ability and effectiveness as a trainer and therapist, as well as deepening my appreciation of life as a whole.
Once again I hope that you use these articles to explore your own understanding and develop your NLP attitude of curiosity and wonder. In the next articles I will include developments with outcomes, problem solving, models and patterns of change, a model for varieties of hypnosis (explaining why therapeutic and stage hypnosis are diametrically opposed) and later the methodology of Developmental Behavioural Modelling
Summary of re-modelling of basic components
|Main Component||Traditional NLP||DBM Re-Modelled NLP|
V, A, K, O, G,
V, A, K, O, G
Vd, Ad, Kd, Od, Gd
Circle of Excellence
Sequence of Excelling
|Subjective Modelling Processes||IS: Internal State,|
IC: Internal Computation, EB: External Behaviour.
Separate and linear
|Thinking, Feeling, Doing.|
Fractal and Systemic
|Sensory Acuity||Input skill;|
|Compute, Output, Input and Relate skill;|
|Sub-Modalities||Objective||Subjective, Objective, Contextual|
DBM is a registered trademark
References and further reading:
Bandler and Grinder THE STRUCTURE OF MAGIC VOL. 1,Science and Behaviour Books 1975)
Bandler and Grinder FROGS INTO PRINCES, Real People Press 1979
Bandler USING YOUR BRAIN FOR A CHANGE, Real People Press 1985
Bandler and MacDonald AN INSIDERS GUIDE TO SUB-MODALITIES, Meta Publications 1988
Bateson, Gregory, MIND AND NATURE, Bantam 1988
Bateson, Gregory, ANGELS FEAR, Rider 1988
Bateson, Gregory and Ruesch, Jurgen, COMMUNICATION, THE SOCIAL MATRIX OF PSYCHIATRY, Norton & Co. 1951
Bateson, Gregory, SACRED UNITY, FURTHER STEPS TO AN ECOLOGY OF MIND, Harper Collins 1991
Cameron-Bandler, SOLUTIONS, FuturePace 1985
Dilts et al, NLP VOL. 1, Meta Publications 1980
Dilts, ROOTS OF NLP, Meta Publications 1983
Miller, Gallanter and Pribram, Plans and the Structure of Behaviour, , Henry Holt & co., 1960