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NLP Gems – [8] The maps in our head and territory

Everything we see, hear, feel, smell and taste are our “mental” interpretations of reality – they are not reality in itself. We make sense of the world, by re-presenting the information we take in (experience) through our sense of see, hear, feel, smell and taste. We then store (remember) an internal representation of the information, sort of like meeting minutes or an internal map.

Most of us possess organs to receive our experience through frequencies and stimuli, these organs detect and read incoming data from our experience and feed this information to our brain and neurology which in turn decodes this information into an experience, something we can make sense of, recognize, and respond to.

Reality does exist out there – it’s just that you and I never experience it first hand – we create our own reality based on the way our minds and neurology translate what our sensory systems detect. In a sense we convert reality into something that we are able to understand – by providing maps and options and choices. Consider a map of the world or a country – the map is in no way the country itself – however it allows you to visualize and understand where you are compared with where you imagine everything else to be.

As with all maps we leave things out – even an up to date detailed satellite image of the earth leaves things out (the picture is physically smaller than the area it re-presents), we make generalizations (roads are black lines, the sea is blue) and we distort perspectives – if on a map we identify an orchard with an apple symbol – we think of an apple orchard, however, we do not all have the same picture in our head. You might imagine red apples and someone else green apples. Some of us will not even notice the colour but just a black and white outline. Some of us will think of apples hanging off rows of trees moving in a breeze, others will see a snapshot of a crate of apples ready to go to market. To some people the mental image will be seemingly close, while others may see it as distant.

Maps are very useful, however they have a few shortcomings. Consider the following: any problem in your life has nothing whatsoever to do with what is happening in the world, the problem is created by you as a direct result of the boundaries of your mental maps.

Anais Nin penned these famous words “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” That is the key; simply by changing the perspective in your mind (the map you created) you can undoubtedly change your life. This facility provides us with the immense range of options in human creativity. It gives an explanation as to how individuals identify themselves with different characteristics of their life experiences.

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