Eb Is

External Behavior = Internal State

This structure of meaning (hence, neuro-semantic reality) exists because we do not operate on the world directly, but only indirectly. We can only operate upon "reality" via our models of the world. This describes our neurological constitution. We don't see all of the electromagneticwavelengths. We only see via the transforms that our sense receptors (rods, cones, neuro-pathways, visual cortex, etc.) allows us to see. Creatures with different internal constructions to their eyes create different models for seeing and so see differently—ultraviolet light, zooming-in on great distances (hawks), seeing through the surface of the ocean (sea gulls), etc. So ultimately, we all construct models of the world—understandings which we call beliefs, learnings, ideas, values, etc. We operate from these models or paradigms; they become our internal organization.

Meaning arises from, and operates according to, the frame that we put around any event or situation. Here the contexts (frames) that we bring to bear on the information controls our derived and attributed meanings. Here too, our meanings change with every shift of our frames (hence, re-frame). Whenever we change a frame-of-reference, we change the meaning. This establishes the theoretical basis of reframing. It also explains human plasticity regarding meaning. Ultimately, whatever we think/believe about something (our applied paradigm)—so it "is" to us.

Think of the earth as flat, as the center of the universe, as the sun circling the planet, etc. and that Ptolemaicparadigm can take into account many facts and seem to "make sense," and so one experiences and lives on a flat earth.

Think of a voodoo priest stabbing a voodoo pin into a representative doll of yourself as a true and inescapable curse that hexes you and guarantees your death—and so it becomes. "Voodoo" deaths in Haiti occur and autopsies consistently reveal no "natural" cause of death. Somehow, in some way, the person's autonomic nervous system just shuts down. Their belief in voodoo sends commands to their autonomic nervous system that they die

If, therefore, the frame controls or governs the meaning (which then controls the emotions, states, experiences, behaviors, etc.), then framing things in ways that make solutions possible provida^. a very powerful intervention at the paradigmatic level whicmis outside the consciousness of most people. Lj^

What does a Thing/Event Mean?

Bandlerand Grinder introduced their book on Reframing (1985) with this story.

A very old Chinese Taoist story describes a farmer in a poor country village. His neighbors considered him very well-to-do. He owned a horse which he used for plowing and for transportation. One day his horse ran away. All his neighbors exclaimed how terrible this was, but the farmer simply said "Maybe."

A few days later the horse returned and brought two wild horses with it. The neighbors all rejoiced at his good fortune, but the farmer just said "Maybe."

The next day the farmer's son tried to ride one of the wild horses. The horse threw him and the son broke his leg. The neighbors all offered their sympathy for his misfortune, but the farmer again said "Maybe."

The next week conscription officers came to the village to take young men for the army. They rejected the farmer's son because of his broken leg. When the neighbors told him how lucky he was, the farmer replied "Maybe." (p. I).

Let's explore this. When the farmer's horse ran away, the neighbors grieved for the farmer's loss. However, when the horse returned with two wild horses, their grief changed into joy. But, then, when a wild horse threw his son so that he broke his leg, theirjoy turned into sorrow. What they felt as good news had turned into bad news. When, the nextweek, the conscription officers came to draft young men, they rejected the boy because of his broken leg, again, sadness turned into joy.

The arrival of the conscription officers changed the context of the broken leg so that what they had viewed as a handicap, they now viewed as a blessing. The change of context changed the meaning. And all the while, the old farmer held back from making such quick

(and inadequate) judgments—so his emotions didn't bounce all over the place as did those of his neighbors!

Different Meanings Lead To Different Responses Which Lead To Different Emotions

This story enables us to appreciate the importance of context, or frames. By it we understand that meaning truly does not lie in words, actions, stimuli, etc., but in the evaluative understanding of a meaning-maker.

Meaning operates as a function of context. The villagers seemed too ready to jump into a frame and let it determine their meanings and emotions. The wise old man didn't behave in such a semantically reactive way.

Figure 4:5


Awareness/ Representation of

In the story, we experienced a continual rapid shifting between frames—so that "the meaning" of the events also quickly kept changing. When the frame of the son's broken leg changed, the meaning changed. When we change a frame, we transform meaning. Since "meaning" does not exist as a thing—it does not exist externally in the see-hear-feel world, only in the mind-body of a meaning-maker. All meaning depends upon context—the internal context of the thoughts, ideas, beliefs, values, etc. that we bring to things, and the social contexts within which we live.

Context determines, to a large extent, the meaning of everything we say, think, or hear. In this example, the content didn't change— the events remained the same. Yet, the meaning changed as different contexts came into play. In fact, because the contexts changed so quickly it helps most people realize that "nothing inherently means anything." Meaning arises from the conceptual and belief constructions that we bring to the events.

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