Seven Key Structural Elements Involved in Personal Change
Bobby G. Bodenhamer, D.Min.
this article I will provide the groundwork by defining some basic beliefs we
have in Neuro-Semantics about just “how” your brain works. Note the word “how.”
That word is important. In Neuro-Semantics we place prime importance on
the mental processes that determine behavior.
What do you do inside your head in order to have a problem and what do
you have to do inside your head in order to “fix” your problem? What kind of pictures, feelings, sounds and word meanings do
you need inside your head in order to do the problem? What kind of pictures, feelings, sounds and word meanings do
you need to activate in your head in order to not to have the problem?
By the way, we believe that brains aren’t broken; they just run sick
thought patterns really well. Indeed, the brain doesn’t care whether or not
you think yourself sick or whether you think yourself well. Your brain just does
what you tell it to do. This is what this article is about. Those who change
their thinking understand and accept these beliefs:
1. The brain primarily
processes information from the outside world through the five senses. You
experience your world through what you see, hear, feel, smell and taste. Now,
importantly to Neuro-Semantics, we believe that when you re-present your world
on the screen of your consciousness, you utilize the same programs involved in
the event of recall. When you recall something you have seen before, you will
recall it with a picture (Visual). When you recall something you have
heard before, you will recall it with remembered sounds (Auditory). The
same is true for feelings (Kinesthetic), smells (Olfactory) and
tastes (Gustatory). We call these the Representational Systems or VAKOG for
brain not only does this with remembered experiences, it does the same with
constructed experiences. I can ask you to imagine seeing yourself where you want
to be one year from now. Your brain
knows how to construct a picture of the desired you one year from now.
these experiences we re-present on the screen of our minds (images) often
contain more than just one system. We
can recall a picture and also have sounds with it as well as feelings.
Furthermore, these images have finer qualities.
Usually images that we hold as very important to us will be very close to
our eyes visually. They will often
be very bright and colorful to let us know this image is important.
2. The brain gives meaning to these images with words. So, I have
pictures, feelings, sounds, smells and tastes in my mind, so what?
Your brain doesn’t stop there, as a thinking class of life; the human
brain has the marvelous ability of giving meaning to these images with words.
These words are “about” the images composed of pictures, sounds, feelings,
smells and/or taste.
3. The brain doesn’t stop at just the first level of word meaning you gave
to the image. Your brain keeps having thoughts (primarily with words) about
thoughts. The brain does not
stop at one thought, it continues having thoughts about thoughts and there is
where the “magic” lies. In Neuro-Semantics we realize that as important as
Representation is, there is yet something more powerful and more magical¾ Reference. That's how the
brain works. It starts with a referent experience, the event. Something
happens. Then we re-present it on the screen of our mind with the
Representational System (VAKOG). But by reflexive awareness, we develop a
thought and a feeling ABOUT it, now we have our first frame of reference.
Repeating thoughts will create unconscious frames-of-mind that will
direct our consciousness to the five to nine items we can focus on. These frames
of mind operate inside our head totally outside of consciousness. Our
brains do not stop at just one thought. It will keep on thinking thoughts
about thoughts. These thoughts about thoughts when habituated (drop into the
unconscious) become our Frames of Mind¾our
perceptual filters through which we view our world. These frames become like
eyeglasses through which we view and experience our world. And that
doesn't end it. We develop frames-within-frames, each frame embedded in
These higher frames determine our neuro-semantic states that governs the
way we think, feel, our health, skills, everything. All the while we are having
thoughts about thoughts, these thoughts are interacting with our physiology
through our central nervous system and out of that interaction comes what we
call “states” of being. And,
out of our “states” of being comes our behavior. Thus, “as a man thinketh,
so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).
“repeated” unconscious frames of mind become our blessing or our curse. In
problem framing, we can have frames of mind that say, “I am worthless.” “I
can’t ever do anything right.” “In order for me to have personal worth, I have to do for
other people; I am not an OK person in myself.”
Etc. Such frames inevitably
come from our earlier years and for that reason become quite unconscious and
difficult to change on our own. However, they are changeable and they do change
for they are just thoughts no matter how much they operate outside of
consciousness. In “fixing”
ourselves, metaphorically we delete those old frames of mind and install new
frames of mind that serve us. This
is what Neuro-Semantics is all about.
individuals who make personal changes accept that they have constructed these
frames themselves with their internal representations and with the levels,
however many, of the meanings that they have given these internal
representations. In therapy, I
constantly discover old memories of the person hearing dad or mom tell them that
they are worthless or that dad or mom was absent in their lives and from that
they developed a word meaning frame that “I must be worthless because dad
and/or mom was not here for me.” Etc. Important to personal change is to accept the reality that
these frames are constructed and therefore can be de-constructed.
5. People that change believe and are aware that “The Map Is Not The
Territory” or “The Menu Is Not The Meal” and they believe it is their map
and their map alone that they operate out of.
This is another way of saying that our perception is not reality. It is
only our perception of it. However, because it is our perception (our Internal
Representation and conceptual meanings) it is what we operate from.
It doesn’t matter how accurately it maps (perceive) our present
reality. We will operate from our perceptions as governed by our higher-level
frames of mind. This means:
Those who change recognize the value of creating a map
(perception) that accurately, as far as symbolically possible, maps the
present moment. We are a “symbolic class of life.” We do that with the
VAKOG and Word meanings acting as “symbols” from our experience of our world
through our five senses. But, these are just symbols about our world. They are
not the world. We get into trouble when we confuse the two and label our “symbols”
as being “real” in the sense that they accurately map out our world. When we
consciously or unconsciously operate from frames of mind that we learned in
childhood, we certainly are not operating from a map that even comes close to
accurately mapping out the adult world we now live in. This is the root of most
problems if not all of them.
b. Those who change their thinking by recognizing that their map is not
the territory will eliminate the problem of cause-effect in their lives. What
do I mean? I mean that the
individual who understands and accepts that our internal map/perception is not
and cannot be the territory (the external world) will stop the foolishness of
believing other people control his or her mind without his or her permission.
No one can make you believe or feel anything you choose not to believe or
Just because we may have grown up in a dysfunctional family does not mean
that we are or have to remain a dysfunctional person even if we learned some
poor ways to think and behave. We can “own” our own brain, take control of
it and learn new ways of thinking. Brains are very flexible. As an example, think of something unpleasant. Now think of
something pleasant. Note how rapidly you can change your thinking.
Old unwanted patterns of thinking are just habituated thought patterns
that “seem real” because they have become unconscious and “feel” real.
But, guess what? They can change.
Now, many have an “invested” interest in getting you to believe that
these thought patterns are “real” and that you can do nothing about them.
DON’T BUY THAT LIMITING FRAME. You can change these thought patterns. You can
“renew your mind.” You can think on things that are pure, just, right,
lovely, etc. Indeed, you can think on anything you choose to think on. Just give
c. They recognize that the words and images inside our heads are not “real”
in the sense that they are set in concrete - they are changeable. They are
just “symbols” of the external world. We
have instruments that will detect the nerve cells and the neuro-transmitters
that allow one nerve cell to communicate with another nerve cell. However, can
neuro-scientist go inside the brain and find/measure a picture, a sound, a
feeling or a word? No, they are “abstractions”
of the mind hence our conceptual states that are generated at the moment of
thought and then they disappear until we think the thought again.
Because the images and word meanings inside our head are not “real”
in the sense that they are set in concrete, they only have the reality we give
Consider this, think of a mildly unpleasant memory and note what pops
into your mind and how you feel. Now, think of a pleasant memory and notice what
pops into your mind and how you feel. Which
type thinking best serves you? Why would you want to “create” an image and a
thought inside your head that makes you feel bad?
Have you ever thought about just not doing that anymore?
After all, these thoughts aren’t real unless you generate them.
How can we use this knowledge? Simple.
Since the thoughts including the decisions inside our heads are just thoughts,
we can change them as we will. In other words, if you don’t like a decision
you have made, say “no” to it. Apply “no” to the unwanted decision. When
you do this you are meta-stating (applying one thought to another. See #7
below.) the unwanted decision with a higher level “no.”
What happens when you say “no” to that unwanted decision? Now, create a decision that will serve you and say “yes”
to it. Again, you are meta-stating your desired decision with a “yes.”
Have you ever thought of this ¾
the only difference between a thought and a belief is that a belief is a thought
to which you have said, “yes.” A belief is a thought that you have affirmed
by saying, “I believe this. This thought is for me.” Now, utilize the same
processes of the mind in changing original thoughts by thinking other thoughts
about them by saying “no” to the decision/thought you don’t want and “yes”
to the decision or thought you do want.
How many times do I need to do this?
Good question. The brain learns through repetition. Remember how you
learned to ride a bicycle or to drive a car?
You rehearsed until the knowledge dropped into your unconscious and it
became habitual. Do the same thing with saying “no” to what you don’t want
and “yes” to what you do want. Every time the decision/thought pops up you
don’t want, say “no” to it and then immediately say, “yes” to the one
you do want. By doing this you are
“breaking” the old unwanted habitual pattern and installing a new direction
for your mind to go towards¾
a direction that will best serve you.
After all, they are just thoughts so think thoughts that serve you.
6. The awesome power of knowing the difference between associating and
dissociating. Before I explain this difference, consider this simple
exercise. Imagine yourself walking
up to your refrigerator. You open the refrigerator door. Once inside the
refrigerator you open the vegetable drawer. Inside the vegetable drawer you see
a lemon. You take out the lemon, close the vegetable drawer and then the
refrigerator door. Lemon in hand, you walk over to your kitchen cabinet; take
out a cutting board and a knife. You proceed to slice the lemon in half then you
take one of the halves and slice the half in half and you have two-quarter
slices of lemon. You then pick up one of the quarter slices of lemon and put it
in your mouth and squeeze the lemon as you feel the lemon juice pouring into
your mouth. Is your mouth watering “as if” you actually had a slice of lemon
in your mouth? Most people’s
mouth will water. This little
exercise illustrates that the brain doesn’t know the difference between what
you imagine and what you are actually experiencing in the present.
suppose we consciously or unconsciously imagine ourselves as a little boy or
little girl back in our dysfunctional family. Suppose we recall hearing and
seeing a parent screaming at us. We hear them telling us how stupid they believe
we are. How do you think you would feel even though you are now a grown adult
and not a child? You would feel
bad, wouldn’t you? That is what I mean by associating.
Almost universally, I discover clients are having problems in adulthood
due to their imagining themselves still children. They continue using their
childhood experiences as their present frame of reference.
call this “associating.” You know if you are associating into a memory if
when you recall it you do not see yourself in the picture.
Let’s experiment. Recall a
mildly painful memory. Get a
picture of it. Now, in the picture
note whether or not you see yourself or you just see the other people and
environment in that picture. If you
do not see yourself, mentally, you have associated back into that memory and you
will tend to experience the same negative feelings you had when you experienced
because the brain does not know the difference between what you represent by
imagination or by current input, when you mentally place yourself back into some
painful memory, you will have negative feelings very similar to what you
experienced during that event. If
you see yourself in that picture as the younger you, we call that dissociating.
When people say something like, “That
doesn’t bother me anymore, I have distanced myself from it.” They have in
fact dissociated from the memory by seeing themselves in the picture and by
pushing the picture away from their eyes so it is at a distance. This diminishes
the feelings whereas associating into a memory tends to increase the feelings.
we consciously or unconsciously associate back into our past hurtful memories
and operate from the mental frames (conceptual meanings) that we gave them, we
are confusing the map with the territory. When we do this we are living our
adult lives inside the painful experiences of childhood.
The thinking we developed then served us then but it doesn’t serve us
in adulthood. If you find yourself:
to Conclusions) generalization
Narrow Minded) centration
the “blame game”) transductive reasoning
mountains out of molehills.) inductive logic or castraphizing
and white thinking) thinking in absolutes and
out past positive examples.) irreversability
you are operating from childhood frames. John Burton, Ed.D. has an article on
the Neuro-Semantics’ web site that defines the thinking styles of children.
The title of the article is “Hypnotic
Language: Solutions in a Word.” If I were to
list one common element of the problems that I have confronted during these ten
years as a therapist, I would list associating into past painful memories.
The problem of unconsciously associating into childhood problem states
and bringing that forward into the adult world lies at the root of many problems
that I see therapeutically.
may have tried through years of reading and/or attending trainings to “fix”
your thinking without it working. Experience
has taught me that often times a person will need assistance in activating these
associated frames in order to bring them to conscious level. From there it
becomes fairly easy to meta-state and reframe them. But
know this, you can change your thinking no matter how unconscious the problem
state. If you do not know whether
or not you are associating into some past memory, you can bet you are doing just
that unconsciously if you are having problems with unwanted behaviors and
who change know how to apply higher meta-level states to lower level problems.
As we have learned, our brains do not
stop at just one thought. It will keep on thinking thoughts about thoughts.
we have a “thought about a thought” the second thought will change the first
thought and that is where the magic lies. In thinking and behaving the
ability of the brain to have thoughts about thoughts is crucial.
Here is the secret. When you have one thought (thoughts are composed of
images and conceptual meanings) and then entertain another thought “about”
the original thought the original thought will change.
What in the world does that mean? It
is simple. If you have an
experience that scares you and from that experience you become afraid of your
fear, what will happen? In this case the fear will intensify. Indeed, applying
fear to fear leads to paranoia. What
if instead of becoming fearful of your fear, you welcomed your fear?
You applied the thought that this fear has value to me and I will welcome
it? What will happen to the fear?
It will modulate the fear where you can step outside of it and learn from it.
Then, once you learn what you need to learn from the fear, you apply the thought
of faith to your fear, what would happen? What happens to fear when faith is applied to it?
Fear disappears in the face of strong faith.
Play with your brain. Get a thought of anger. Now, apply to your anger
the thought of forgiveness. Take
the same anger and apply the thought of love.
What about taking your anger and applying the thought of calmness to it,
what happens? Would you have ever guessed how easy you could change your
states of mind by applying one thought to another thought?
time we take a thought and apply another thought to it, the original thought
will modulate or change in some way. We
call this Meta-Stating¾
applying one thought to another thought. And, herein lies the magic.
Herein lies your ability to re-format and re-program your thinking.
Those whom I have seen who have changed their thinking, inevitably have
meta-stated their problem state with higher-level resource states.
Instead of meta-stating themselves sick, they learned to meta-state
themselves well. They left re-building a new set of higher-level mental frames
that served them.
encourage the reader to “process” the materials found in this article.
Access some personal problem and take that problem through all seven of the
steps explained in this article. You
may experience utter amazement at how that “problem” becomes a lesser
Gregory. Steps to An Ecology of Mind. (1972). New York: Ballantine.
Bobby G., and Hall, L. Michael. (1999). The User’s Manual for the Brain:
The Complete Manual for Neuro-Linguistic Programming Practitioner Certification.
Wales, UK: Crown House Publishing.
John, Ed.D. and Bodenhamer, Bobby G., D. Min. (2000) Hypnotic Language: Its
Structure and Use. Wales, UK: Crown House Publishing.
L. Michael. Secrets of Personal Mastery: Advanced Techniques for Accessing
Your Higher Levels of Consciousness. (2000). Wales, UK: Crown House
Alfred. Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and
General Semantics (1933/1994). (5th.
Ed.), Lakeville, CN: International Non-Aristotelian Library Publishing Co.
the past ten years I have poured my life into learning NLP and applying it in
the therapeutic, teaching and writing world.
Over the past ten years I have had the honor of working with
approximately 600 therapy clients involving approximately 3000 hours of therapy.
I have also had the unique privilege of teaching NLP at Gaston College for the
past seven and one-half years. In addition I have taught seven Practitioner
Certification Courses and four Master Practitioner Courses. The numbers of
one-session seminars I have led are too numerous to count.
to say, the past ten years have been quite eventful. What a joy and privilege
life has afforded me with all the above experiences.
Well, so what? That is a
question I have been asking myself. So what?
If I were to take all the above and summarize it down to its essence
(according to Bob of course), how would I summarize what I have learned into one
since the major thrust of the work I do involves assisting therapy clients and
class participants toward positive change, I will direct the following remarks
to what I believe is the essence of personal change from the structural
viewpoint of NLP and Meta-States as developed my L. Michael Hall, Ph.D. We call
the merged fields of NLP and Meta States, Neuro-Semantics. What were the key
elements in the lives of those countless hundreds whom it has been my privilege
to work with that brought about positive changes in their lives?
G. Bodenhamer, D.Min.
The Institute of Neuro-Semantics
1516 Cecelia Dr
Gastonia, NC 28054
article was reproduced with permission from the site of Neuro-Semantics