Language As Magic

"You don't need to take drugs to hallucinate; improper language can fill your world with problems and spooks of many kinds."

Chapter 1


"Magic is hidden in the language we speak. The webs that you can tie and untie are at your command if only you pay attention to what you already have (language) and the structure of the incantations for growth." (Bandler and Grinder. 1975)

The field of NLP (Neuro-LinguisticProgramming) began, In 1975, with the appearance of the book, The Structure of Magic. The subtitle that Richard Bandler and John Grinder gave it simply describes its heart and emphasis, simply, "A Book about Language and Therapy," In this academic work, they made explicit and thereby underscored something that people have known for a long, long time, namely the power of language to effect mind and emotion. They described the underlying structure behind the process of how words and symbols can have such seemingly magical effects upon people—upon minds, bodies, relationships, skills, understandings, health, etc.

But wait a minute. How could mere words have that pervasive of an effect?

What forces, powers, principles, processes, mechanisms, etc. operate in the human mind-body system, and in our neurology, that explains such a powerful effect?

Bandler and Grinder found and experienced the magic of words in three diverse fields: Family Systems Therapy, Gestalt Therapy, and Ericksonian Hypnosis. But they explained the structure of the magic using the insights of other fields: General Semantics,

Transformational Grammar, Cybernetics, and Cognitive Behavioral Psychology Subsequently, they gave birth to a new movement that took up the term Alfred Korzybski introduced in 1936—"neuro-

linguistics" This term holistically summarizes the mind-body connection between language (words, symbols, etc.) and neurology. It specified how our neurology (i.e., nervous system and brain) processes language and thereby responds to our languaging.

And this begins to explain the seemingly magical effects that can occur within our "mind," "emotions," "body," etc. via the use of words. Words, while totally powerless to effect and change external reality, conversely has almost complete power to create, alter, change, destroy, and invent internal reality. We can say "Abracadabra"to sides of mountains, doors, stalled cars, bank teller machines, soda machines, etc. until we turn blue in the face... and nothing will happen (except raising our blood pressure). Rats!

But watch the explosion that can occur when you utter the tiniest little idea to a "mind!" Förthen, lo and behold, you can start a war, invent a new way of living, change your blood pressure, induce a deep state of depression, totally motivate yourself for higher levels of excellence, suffer psychosis, come to your "right mind," or create a million other magical effects in human existence.

Ifyou have heard of NLP—Neuro-Linguistic Programming, then you have probably heard about, or perhaps even seen, some of the wonderful and marvelous NLP Techniques. When most people think of NLP—those who know of it, think about the techniques of NLP that seem to work their "magic" rapidly and with ease. Perhaps they have seen or heard about the ten-minute phobia cure.

As a psychotherapist, I (MH) simply could not (or would not!) believe that a person could "cure" (come on, get realistic!) a phobia in ten-minutes. No way.

Even after I read the instructions for re-structuring a person's neuro-linguistic coding (or internal program) for a phobia, I still couldn't see how it could work. "No way."

But then, I ran that Visual-KinestheticDissociation process (the technical name for curing phobias) with several people and, lo and behold, one minute prior to the process they could make their neurology go into an absolutely freaked-out state of total panic and autonomic nervous system arousal by just thinking about some aversive stimuli. And then, a few minutes later, they could think about the same object and remain calm and cool. I would even invite them to really try as hard as they could to freak out all over the floor. But they couldn't.

Hey, what gives?

How can we explain this amazing transformation in human personality except by calling upon the gods? What processes drive these neurological responses? How do people get programmed, so to speak, inside their heads-bodies so that they can freak-out without a moment's notice, automatically, regularly, systematically, and without even "thinking"about it consciously? What a skill! So what internal program drives or runs this kind of thing? Even that seems like a "piece of magic" when you think about it, doesn't it?

But then how does the same person alter his or her internal program so that it subsequently operates in a completely new and different way? What languaging and symbolization would a person have to mentally entertain in order to pull off a different kind of behavior",

The field of neuro-linguistic programming addresses these very questions. It also offers insights, models, and technologies for "running your own brain" more efficiently, effectively, and "magically."

When Bob and I began our journey into the field of NLP, we first put the emphasis on learning the techniques and applying them effectively. In doing that, we became technicians first. Only later did we transmute into neuro-linguisticphilosophers to the charin of our loved ones! When the latter happened, we became increasingly conscious of the poweranduse of language in creating change. Not a surprising turn of events. After all, the NLP model began with an in-depth understanding of how language works in the human personality in the first place, and how our languaging in a variety of modes creates our human "programs" for thinking, feeling, Speaking, behaving, and relating.

Consequently, my (BB) NLP study eventually took me to focusing on increasingly developing more competence in language use. This included learning thoroughly the Meta-Model, the Milton Model, the use and structure of metaphor, playing with verb tenses, reframing, Presuppositions, Satir Categories and "Sleight-of-Mouth" patterns. And I thoroughly loved these facets of language.

By the way, when we use "linguistics" in this work, we refer not only to the symbolic system of propositional language, but also to the sensory-based languages made up of what we see, hear, feel, smell, and taste (the VAK of NLP). We also refer to metaphorical language (i.e., stories, narratives, metaphors, etc.), and even the "language" systems of mathematics, music, icons, etc.

Further, though we may separate "linguistics"from neuro-linguistics when we talk about it here, as we do so, it only represents a verbal manipulation. Further, we can only do this at the conceptual level, and not the level of reality. In the reality of how our mind-body processes work, we always and inevitably function as holistic neuro-linguistic creatures.

Neuro-linguistic creatures?

Ah, a new term! By this term we mean that when we signal in our "mind," via various symbol systems (linguistics), it always and inevitably affects in our "body." It can do none other. Thus our use of the hyphen. The hyphen helps us to mentally and linguistically map a set of representations that structurally corresponds to the territory. We got that from Alfred Korzybski (1933/1994), who in his classic work, Science and Sanity, introduced the hyphen as a way to prevent the elementalism of "mind" and "body" from misdirecting us. Then in 1936, he introduced the term neuro-linguistic. It arose from his Neuro-Linguistic Trainings that he conducted as he presented various General Semantic processes and techniques.

Ourpoint? What we do "mentally" and "linguistically" cannot but activate neurological processes in our bodies. Hence, we inescapably exist as mind-body creatures.

(Have you noticed our use of quotes around certain words, "mind" "body," etc.? This represents another Korzybskian device for cuing us that while we use a particular word, as a linguistic map, it does not adequately represent the territory. Recognizing this enables us to then take special care and caution with it.)

In this book we present many of the language patterns that you will find in the Neuro-Linguistic Model and offer them as a way that we can increase our understanding in communication and competence in communicatingwith more elegance and skill. As you read and learn about how various lines for the mind (mind-lines) operate, we hope that you will enjoy discovering all of the magic these powerful language patterns offer.

In the process, we trust that you will develop a more intuitive understanding about how language works, how it works in neurology, how it constructs our internal "realities," and how it can serve us as either a resource or a limitation. The language patterns that you find here, however, only represent "the hem of the garment" regarding the possibilities and opportunities of creating neuro-linguistic magic. As you go out to perform magic with the language you use with yourself and others, you can therefore maintain a wonderfully curious attitude about all of the yet-to-be-discovered patterns, can you not?

Life, Communication, Language

Life involves relationships. It also involves relationships of relationships. Sometimes we use another big, fat, vague word other than "relationship" to describe this phenomenon. We use "communication." What do we mean by these words?

In NLP, we de-nominalize such big, fat words because underlying, and hidden within such terms, verbs lurk. And verbs point to actions (movements, processes, things relating to one another). Thus in the word "relationship," we have something in relation to another. But what? Who or what relates to what? When does this relating occur? In what way? How? For what purpose?

So with the term "communication." Hidden within this noun, a hidden verb lurks. Imagine that. Undoubtedly, some magician has waved a magic wand and presto—a set of movements and actions have solidified, become static, stopped moving, and have become a statue-like thing—frozen in time and space. Wow! What word magic.

Now sometimes this works in powerful and wonderful ways to bless us as it encodes in a little tiny word a rich and extensive concept. Look at the first line in this section, "Life involves relationships." Here we have two nominalizations (verbs turned into nouns) with a little unspecified verb ("involves"). This symbolization, "Life involves relationships,"representsa very high level abstraction of thought about a great many things. It summarizes so much and implies so much. Hypnotic language pre-eminently works this way (but we'll get to that later in Chapter 9 about Metaphor, let us first work on understanding this one abstract thought).

What specifically relates back and forth, and how and when, etc. that summarizes "life?" "Relationship" only describes the unspecific process of one or more things relating (or interacting). "Communication" informs us that we commune some message (information, meaning) back and forth ("co"mmunication). Ah, that sheds a little more light! As information moves from one thing to another, and/or passes back and forth between organisms or within facets (parts) of organisms—this describes "life."

Consider this abstract principle ("life involves relationships") within the "life" of the human body. Our sense receptors (eyes, ears, skin, taste buds, etc.) receive input of information from "the dance of electrons" out there in the process world of energy manifestations (here I have described the world using modern physics). From there, the neurology of our body transforms that information into nerve impulses and chemical "messages" that move along neuro-pathways. From there that information experiences more transfonriations as it activates cells and cells assemblages in the cortex, which then pass that information on to appropriate "parts,"whetherthe central nervous system, the autonomic nervous system, the immune system, etc.

Ah, "lifeu—the living, moving, information processing, sentient experience of "responding to the environment1—something that non-living, non-sentient things can't do—exists, functions, and operates by the relating and communing of messages. Okay, enough neuro-physiology,back to language.

Language Coding of Information

"Language"describeshowwe code, in various symbol formats, information. In NLP, we talk about various modes of awareness. These modalities enable us to "communicate" to ourselves and others. Thus we communicate and relate using pictures, sounds, sensations (movements, touch), smells and tastes. We call these "the sensory representational systems."

Within these modes of awareness we have a hundred more specific qualities—the qualities or distinctions that make up our pictures, sounds, sensations, smells, and tastes. We call these qualities, submodalities. (See Appendix A).

Above and beyond the sensory level of representation we have sensory-based words. (See Figure 1:1) These empirically based terms code or represent' (as a symbol of a symbol) the information that we want to pass on about sights, sounds, sensations, smells, and tastes. We use sensory-based language to say such things as the following.

"Would you turn around (K) and look (V) at the dirt on the carpet? Do you see (V) the dirt that forms the shape of your footprints? Now what do you have to say (A) about that?"

Any question about the movie-like scenario which those words mentally evoke or the "emotions" that come along with them? Sensory-based symbols in the basic representational systems: Visual Auditory

Kinesthetic (sensations) Olfactory (smell) and Gustatory

These comprise our most basic modalities. In NLP, we refer to this representational systems as our VAK coding.

In this way, we can use words to evoke sights (V), sounds (A), sensations (K), etc. Now, of course, we don't literally have a movie screen in our "mind." Up there in the head we only have neurons, neural pathways, neuro-transmitters, chemicals, assemblages, etc. Yet we experience the phenomenon of sights, sounds, and sensations. This phenomenological experience illustrates how our VAK representations operate as a language code for consciousness, information, messages, thinking, etc. So we language ourselves with sights, sounds, and sensations.

(Here I have introduced "language" as a verb. I did that because in "language"we have another nominalization. So this de-nominalizes it so we can engage in even more accurate mapping. Our "language behavior," or languaging, using various symbol systems, uniquely defines how we create or construct our internal "realities." We'll also talk more about that later.)

Let us now move up another level. Beyond the first languaging System of sense receptors transducing external stimuli (information) into our bodies (creating before language awareness), we have our neurological languaging (the VAK signaling on that "screen" in our mind of sights and sounds). Then we have sensory-based words (first level of linguistic languaging). Next we have non-sensory based language.

Non-sensory based language refers to all language that becomes even more abstract as we delete more of the specific sensory information and generalize to a higher level. Thus we create a model of reality via these symbolic processes.


Language & Symbols about Lower level Modalities

(Working systemically and self-reflexivelyso that it feeds back new data into the mind-body system)

Basic Level

The Sensed Representational Screen of

(Not Actual, just'Sensed")

Visual— Auditory— Kinesthetic—Olfactory —Gustatory

Location of images Distance Snapshot-movie (Still — moving) Number of images Borderedl Panoramic Color I Black-and-white

Location of sounds Distance

# of Sound sources Music, Noise, Voice Whose Voice Tone

Volume (low to high)

Shape, form CI a r i i —Intelligibility

Sire Pitch (lowto high)

Horiiontal&Vertical Melody Associatedl Dissociated 3D or Flat (2D) Brightness (from dull to bright) Foreground/ background contrast

Location of sensations What

Still or Moving










Figure 1:1

Levels of Abstracting Meta-Levels

Even More Abstract Language Abstract Language

Sensory-Based Language

Primary Level

Sensory-Based Representations The VAK Representations The Qualities/ Distinctions within the VAK

Unconscious Sensory Reception of "Information"

With more and more abstract language, we can now say or write things like this:

"Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account."

Did you like that? Thank George Orwell for that one (1950, Shooting an Elephant and OtherEssays). Pretty abstract, right? Sounds "intellectual," right? But did you go, "What in the world does he mean with all of that?" Ah, the danger of abstractions! Too much nominalization (as in that sentence) and the deletions, generalizations, and distortions (the three modeling processes, which we will describe more fully later) leaves us so high up the scale of abstraction that we can get lost in the ozone. (Of course, some people live there most of the time!)

Would you like to see the original piece from which Orwell made that "intellectual" abstraction? Notice how much more sensory-based this original text.

"I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all." (Ecclesiastes9:11).

While we have some nominalizations in that one (especially "time"), it basically presents a sensoy-based description of events that a person could see, hear, and feel. It offers us the kind of symbols that we can more easily use in signaling our brain about what to represent. We can make a movie out of those words without much trouble.

The point? When we "go meta" to a higher logical level of symbolizationand use more abstract words (nominalizations, class words, etc.), we use a different kind of representational system, a non-sensory based modality. We call this higher-level abstraction auditory-digital (f\) in NLP. And because we can continue the process of saying more words about words, we can create ever more abstract words and language forms.

[We will use the term meta frequently in this book. Meta (Greek) refers to anything "above," "beyond," or "about" something else. To go meta refers to moving up to a higher level and thinking about the lower level.]

Language Patterns—

Using Them to Make a Difference

With this introduction about the various forms and logical levels of language (the levels of abstracting), we can easily see how language patterns play a relevant and inescapable role in all areas of life. Whether in the structure or system of families, businesses, churches, schools, political parties, or any social environment, we have to use language. And language can create or destroy, can enhance or limit the "life" of a system.

Therefore, the NLP language patterns truly offer a gold mine of opportunity for us to enrich our lives. These language patterns provide us more understanding about how we effect the "life" of such systems by the way we talk, the symbols we use, and how we language ourselves and others. These language patterns empower us with more flexibility of behavior necessary to more effectively manage or control a given interaction.

When we know the outcome for our communication, we can utilize various language patterns to move the conversation in the direction we desire as we relate to another person. This increases our powers of "persuasion," influence, clarity, etc.

In addition, our language both reflects and describes our model of the world. It arises through the modeling processes of deletion, generalization, and distortion from our deep structure of neurological representations of the thing we have seen, heard, felt, etc.

What importance does this play in our everyday talk? Much. Ultimately, the secret in moving a person (ourselves or another) in the direction we desire (which we all do, do we not?) involves languaging the person so that he or she will signal his or her own mind-body to represent the kind of sights, sounds, sensations (VAK coding) and words about such.

How do we do that? How can we tell that we have succeeded in doing this? And, should we do such? To answer such questions, in the next chapter we will jump right into exploring ...

Bandler & Grinder Describe the Magic—

"While the techniques of these wizards are different, they share one thing: they introduce changes in their clients' models which allow their clients more options in their behavior. What we see is that each of these wizards has a map or model for changing their clients' model of the world, i.e. a meta-model which allows them to effectively expand and enrich their clients' model in some way that makes the clients' lives richer and more worth living."

(The Structure of Magic, 1975, p. 18)

Chapter 2

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