17 Identity Framing

When it comes to beliefs and the magical neuro-linguistic realities that our beliefs create, and which we then live in—we seem so easily, naturally, and unthinkingly to use our formulas about reality to define ourselves.

Korzybski (193311994) especially warned against this. He described identification on all levels as a form of primitive Aristotelian thinking that does not do us well in the modern world. Arguing from the General Semantic principle that "The map is not the territory," Korzybski said that "sameness" between any two things, or even "sameness" between the same thing at different times, does not exist. In fact, it can not exist.

Why not?

Because we live in a process world where everything changes and does so continually. Nothing, not even the mountains or rocks, remain the same. When we look at the world at the microscopic level and at the sub-microscopic level, we discover that reality exists as "a dance of electrons."

Whatever we describe as static, or as the same on the primarly level, therefore represents a false-to-fact mapping. "Sameness" may exist at a meta-level as a high level abstraction, but even then, when we access the "same" thought, we have changed, the context Cf our thinking has changed, so has the contexts of our applications, etc. (Okay, enough ozone, now let's get practical).

When we talk about our beliefs we already have one level of identification because we have equated some EB with some IS. Or we have treated some EB as "always the same," or some internal state as "always the same." Then, too, we might go and engage in another level of identification by identifying ourselves with the belief, emotion, behavior, context, etc.

By making a meta-move up to the concept and idea of identification, we test the belief's reality and validity in terms of whether it really serves us well to create such an identification.

(A) "Saying mean things makes you a bad person."

"Ah, so whatever kind of language comes out of my mouth, that makes me, or transforms, me into a certain kind of person? So if I now say a nice thing, I suddenly become a nice person? If I say something about physics, that makes me a physicist?"

(B) "Cancer causes death."

"I really didn't know that death and cancer were one and the same thing. Let's tell the Cancer Research People so that they can close up shop and use their money for something more productive."

(C) "Coming in late means that you don't care about me!"

"So how I handle time and schedules turns me into a caring or an uncaring person? So truly caring people have got time-management down to an art? Truly caring people always use Day Timers!"

(D) "Stress causes me to eat chocolate."

"Wow. Stress makes me into an eating-chocolate kind of person?"

(E) "I can't really make a difference because management doesn't walk their talk."

"So your identity as someone who can get things done, make a difference, and contribute significantly in the world depends entirely on the inner congruity of management? Their integrity or lack of it forces you into this kind of person?"

(F) "I can't buy your product because it costs too much."

"A cheapskate, huh? Does that belief endow you with a cheapskate identity? Or has it lead others to think of you in that way? And do you really want your purchasing habits to so label you?"

If identity does not exist in the world, but only at best in human minds, and if identification represents a form of unsanity bordering on insanity, then it becomes useful to learn to dis-identify ourselves from limiting self-definitions. Here again we find it most useful to E-prime our language of the "to be" verbs.

I (MH) have found it useful for years to ask people to describe themselves without using the "to be" verbs. "Tell me about yourself, what you like, value, feel, think, experience, etc., but don't use any of the 'is' verbs—'is, am, are,' etc." General Semanticists have used this technique for years. Journalism classes have had students write a biography without using the "to be" verbs. Most people find this very challenging. In the end, it helps us to overcome the limitations of identification and over-identification. (See the Dis-ldentification pattern in NLP World, Sept. 1997 or in A Sourcebook of Magic, 1998).

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