Martin Messier

July 25, 2023

The hunt for deep structure

"Don Juan then described the technique, which he said took years to perfect, and which consisted of gradually forcing the eyes to see separately the same image. The lack of image conversion entailed a double perception of the world; this double perception allowed one the opportunity of judging changes in the surroundings, which the eyes were ordinarily incapable of perceiving... You must focus your attention in the area between the two images. Any change worthy of notice would take place there, in that area.

To be a hunter means that one knows a great deal. It means that one can see the world in different ways. In order to be a hunter one must be in perfect balance with everything else, otherwise hunting would become a meaningless chore."

Carlos Castañeda — Journey to Ixtlan

In a previous article, I explained in detail the distinction between surface structures and deep structures.

In this one, I want to bring you into the incredible practice of hunting.

No, I'm not talking about killing moose and putting their heads on crests above your fireplace.

I'm talking about hunting deep structures. Ultimately, the NLP Modeler's success or failure in a modeling project revolves around his or her ability to track the deep structure that gives rise to the surface structure of genius.

Fortunately, we all possess the innate gift that allows us to detect deep structure. It's precisely that talent we want to sharpen, stimulate and hone so that we can go from passively detecting deep structure as a common human being to proactively hunting it as modelers.

I'll share with you in a second what that talent is, but first...

Stop for a second.

Can you imagine yourself on the prowl, relentless, determined, utterly unstoppable, tracking genius? Hours, days, weeks, perhaps months... riveted on a piece of excellence you wish to claim, grab, make your own...

Can you feel yourself completely surrendered to the pursuit of elegance — that state of total mastery in which genius expresses itself in the simplest and most economical way?

Can you experience the passion and drive running through your veins every day, 100% engaged in life, vibrating, thriving as you track genius?

No, it has nothing to do with the careless, adolescent thrills we all have experienced in youth. It goes much deeper than that. It's a vitality born in wisdom, in the astute realization that the whole of existence can be captured in the moment when your awareness pierces the veil that separates you from that secret. It's the anticipation of the intense joy that comes when the treasure chest breaks open into your consciousness, exploding into a shower of insights that bring you an inch closer to the infinite...

Can you feel that?

It's the reward of the hunter.

The hunter is the one who has honed...

Pattern recognition

Let's take a closer look at these two words. We'll start with "recognition".

To recognize means to identify something from having encountered it before.

Recognition is not analysis. There's no conscious process taking place. There's just an intuition, a feeling, a sense of familiarity. "I've seen/heard/felt/smelled this before..."

We all do this. It's not even a matter of KNOWING how to do it, because we've all been recognizing since our most tender age as babies. It's an innate trait of human beings — and animals, might I add.

What about "pattern"?

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines a pattern as "a reliable sample of traits, acts, tendencies, or other observable characteristics of a person, group, or institution," or "a frequent or widespread incidence.”

For our purposes, we'll choose the second definition: "a frequent or widespread incidence."

In simple words, something that keeps happening over and over and over.

When you connect the notion of patterns to the concepts of surface structure and deep structure, it becomes clear that the pattern is the deep structure. Out of that pattern, all the surface expressions emerge.

When you put the two together, you get the very clear property that all human beings possess: recognizing the deep structure.

This means that we all have a sense of familiarity when we sense the deep structure. We know it's there. We can feel it. But most people just can't put their finger on it.

The NLP Modeler can't accept that. (S)He has to put his or her finger on it. That's why the NLP Modeler becomes a pattern hunter.

Hunting patterns

In NLP Modeling, pattern hunting has to do with the methods used to tease out the particular processes and distinctions most relevant in the outstanding exemplar's performance.

The most fundamental way to do this is to get a large enough sample of the exemplar's performance, and begin to unconsciously uptake those performances in order to absorb the deep structure. The point of modeling is not to identify the average of all these performances, but to find the pattern that connects all of them from the perspective of the performer, not the observer.

This last part bears repeating — from the perspective of the performer, not the observer.

There is a MASSIVE distinction between the two, and I hope you can appreciate it. 

(If this is not clear, be sure to ask in the comments.)

Pattern hunting is different than just identifying characteristics. Being able to perceive and categorize particular gestures or facial expressions is not the same as figuring out which of those gestures are actually crucial to the performance of the outstanding skill.

Pattern hunting consists in identifying consistent characteristics or behaviors in various performances that are critical in enabling the skill or ability to produce a specific result.

The strainer of the pattern hunter

In his book A System of Logic, John Stuart Mill offered five sorting mechanisms to recognize patterns. We NLP Modelers owe him quite a debt of gratitude. They are:

1. Agreement — Notice which characteristics are always present in a number of performance samples that deliver the desired result.

2. Difference — Notice a specific characteristic that is generally absent but is evidently present in the performances that deliver the desired result.

3. Contrast (combining Agreement and Difference) — Notice which characteristics are always present in the performances that deliver the desired result, and always absent when performances do not yield the desired result. 

4. Concomitant Variation — Notice characteristics that increase or lower in intensity and their impact on the degree to which a performance yields the desired result.

5. Residues (Process of Elimination) — If you notice a specific characteristic of a performance in association with a specific piece of the result, then you can presume that the remaining characteristics of the performance will be responsible for the remaining pieces of the result.

Once again, as I mentioned above, these methods must be applied from the perspective of the performer, not the observer.

These approaches all require having access to several samples of the performance you want to model. At the very least, you should have three instances. Ideally, many more than that.

A characteristic that shows up in one instance of performance may suggest the presence of a pattern. A characteristic that shows up in two instances of performance validates the hypothesis that a pattern is at play. A characteristic that is present in three or more samples offers strong evidence of a pattern.

Ultimately, though, you know you have found a pattern when you apply the characteristic and you're able to produce the result. The only way to test a pattern is to use it.

So keep this in mind as you advance in your exploration of modeling:

:: The deep structure consists of patterns.

:: All human beings possess the ability to recognize patterns.

:: NLP Modelers are pattern hunters.

:: Patterns must be teased out from the perspective of the performer.

  • So please share more on the thought, “from the perspective of the performer, not the observer.”

    if i am observing a master And have several performances to compare, How do i do this?

    Do you mean from second position and standing in their shoes during the performance?


    • Great question, Frank.

      You asked: “Do you mean from second position and standing in their shoes during the performance?”

      You’re spot on. You go into second position performance by performance and experience it from that vantage point.

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