Martin Messier

September 25, 2023

Questioning a key tenet of NLP

Here's one of the key tenets of NLP you'll hear when participating in Practitioner Training...

It goes something like this: "Human beings cannot be in direct contact with reality. Instead, they create models or maps of reality that they then use to make decisions about how to behave in the world. They create these models using the three processes of generalization, distortion and deletion."

This is gospel in the NLP world.

But do you know where that actually comes from?

Hear it straight from the Grinder and Bandler Brothers Band's mouth, taken from the Structure of Magic, page 14:

So the processes which allow us to accomplish the most extraordinary and unique human activities are the same processes which block our further growth if we commit the error of mistaking the model for the reality. We can identify three general mechanisms by which we do this8: Generalization, Deletion, and Distortion.

Here's the kicker: you see the little "8" right after "[...] which we do this:[...]"? That's a a reference to an endnote.

Why don't we flip to it and see what it says... and I quote:

Again, we wish to point out that our categories do not impose any necessity on the structure of reality — we have found these categories useful in organizing our own thinking and actions, both in presenting this material and in therapy; that is, in developing our model for therapy. We suspect that most readers will, if they think about the usual meanings of the terms, come to see Generalization and Deletion as special cases of Distortion.

AKA, they made the whole thing up!!!!!!

Generalization, distortion and deletion are not universally accepted operations in modeling.

G&B just made up these categories because they found them useful!

Now, I'm not bringing this up to poo-poo them. Quite the opposite. I just want to prove to you that NLP is a creative field, and has been from the onset of the adventure.

So don't try to subscribe to the perfect and universally accepted way of doing NLP. Instead, create. Expand and improve on the code. Make it better. Experiment. Share your learnings.

Use the code you learn simply as a springboard to your own understanding and approach to modeling.

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