This week I am starting a new series of blogs. It is my intention to explore some of the
underlying philosophy of NLP contained within the NLP Pre-suppositions. This philosophy provides a useful framework for personal development.
For the next few weeks I will write a series of blogs starting with a look at their origins and
background. I will follow on from this with a closer look at the specific NLP Pre-suppositions.
Each NLP school develops an adaptation on the original NLP pre-suppositions and I will
introduce some examples with some thoughts on how to apply them to your life.
What is an NLP Pre-supposition?
Each NLP pre-supposition is a statement that could be described as a belief. This belief
is not necessarily true however acting as if it is true is empowering and sets a positive perception of the world.
Students of NLP are encouraged to adopt the NLP pre-suppositions as a way to approach life. For many people this provides a framework for change and results in a boost in
self-esteem and well-being.
NB: for new students of NLP let me make a quick sideways distinction. As part of the language patterns we look at linguistic pre-suppositions. Although the NLP
Pre-suppositions are examples of linguistic pre-suppositions they are not the same thing specifically.
Let us start with Korzybski (1933) who coined the term “the map is not the territory“. Erickson applied this idea to his work and it was later adopted as one of the first NLP pre-suppositions.
In Korzbski’s own words from the book Science and Sanity; “A map is not the territory it
represents, but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for it’s usefulness.”
This metaphor refers to the fact that when we look at a map of a region we are looking at a
representation of that area of land. We have been taught how to read and understand a map but the land it represents does not really look like the markings on the paper. We also understand a range of different maps from geological through to street maps.
This metaphor mirrors the way our internal mental representations differ from the external reality we live in.
Each person has their own unique maps that create a model of the world. “Model of the
world” is an allied NLP Pres-supposition. We often discuss these two NLP Pre-suppositions together because maps make up our model of the world.
Robert Dilts defines NLP as the ‘study of the structure of subjective experience’. We each live in our own subjective experience and this is known as our model of the world.
Erickson had an approach to therapy that was often at odds with the psychiatric professionals view point. He accept that his client’s all had a unique model of the world and in order to help them he would step into their model. This is a form of advanced rapport, it allowed him to connect with his patients and help them gain new perspectives or maps where appropriate.
You’ll note that Korzybski states that a map of a region or country is useful if correct. When we consider the metaphor of our mental maps this also holds true.
How do we know if our mental maps are accurate?
The simple answer is we don’t know and we also run the risk of judging other people’s maps. When the maps of others appears to differ from our own we often assume the other person is incorrect.
To reality check that assumption for a moment consider this, our maps are created based on our personal experiences and subjective interpretation of those experiences. We make the best maps we can from the information we have available and then live our lives based on the model of the world this creates.
As an example consider the person who experiences a troubled childhood where their parents are often absent or unreliable. This person will create a mental map or representation about relationships based on this that they then generalise. In this instance they may have internal representations based on other people being unreliable and that trusting them to be there for you is painful.
This map will influence how they relate to the world and paradoxically, on an unconscious
level, they may seek out relationships that confirm the map. They will relate to people with an expectation of distrust and may even invite others to let them down!
A person with a more loving and supportive childhood will develop a completely different set of maps. They will naturally seek out people who support their maps thus re-creating these relationship models.
The important point to make here is that maps can be supportive, positive and helpful to living a good life or they can be less than positive. Most people will have a mixture of
helpful and unhelpful maps.
There is a really important news flash attached to this information. If we identify an unhelpful map we can change it! Remember, self-awareness is always the first step toward
In conclusion, so far we have looked briefly at two NLP Pre-suppositions:
- The map is not the territory.
- Everyone lives in their own unique model of the world.
Over the next few weeks it is my intention to explore more NLP Pre-suppositions including some more recent additions. Let me know you thoughts on this topic. I’d also love to hear from those of you who have applied them successfully to your own life.