In this final conversational reframing shift, we move to tell a story that uses a different content and/or context. And yet we use one which stands structurally isomorphic in the sense that it has the same form (hence "iso-morphic") as a vehicle for embedding another meaning. Accordingly, we can use this format of a story or metaphor in order to communicate any of the previous reframing or mind-line patterns.
In so creating and designing a story, we again directionalize the brain of the listener to an entirely different subject. And yet, at a deeper and more unconscious level, we speak to the formula of the old belief.
(A) "Saying mean things makes you a bad person."
When the fire broke out in the apartment building, Sam worked fast and furiously to get everybody out in time. But one kid thought he would act unselfishily if he waited and became the last one out. When Sam saw him holding back, he yelled at him with a harsh tone of voice, "Kid, don't be stupid, give me your hand, come on, get out of there!"
The word "metaphor" comes from ancient Greek (meta and pherein) and literally means "to carry over." When we use a metaphor, we "carry over" (or transfer) a message to another person's mind in terms of something else (i.e, a story, other referent, myth, etc.). The listener then takes the framework or structure of the metaphor and interprets them in the framework of his or her own experience/s. In this way, the listener also uses other terms to think about something.
Accordingly, Dilts (1976) has defined a metaphor as "a figure of speech in which something is spoken of as if it were another." (p. 74).
A metaphor therefore involves anything (story, narrative, joke, drama, movie, personal referent, mythology, quote, etc.) whereby we think about one thing i n terms of another thing. Metaphoring thus represents a meta-stating process. We frame one thing in terms of another. We "carry" up and above, and then apply to the Previous thought, idea, representation, etc. some other idea, concept, representation, etc. (the basic meta-stating process).
Yet because we put the message in the frame of an unrelated story, that unrelated story (or terms) typically bypasses the conscious mind. And in doing it, it thereby allows the unconscious mind to receive it.
Now a well-designed metaphor, as a set of mind-lines that conversationally changes beliefs, must have a similarstructureto the person's experience. This similarity at the structural level, in fact, works to invite the unconscious mind to interpret it in relation to one's own needs. The term isomorphic describes this.
As a communication device, story, metaphor, and narratives also present a far less threatening style than does direct instruction, statement, and advice. What explains this? It occurs, in part, because we veil our intended message in the metaphor.
Further, as a multi-level device, we can use story to communicate on numerous levels at the same time. Milton Erickson's genius reveled in this very thing. Via metaphors he would communicate with both the conscious and unconscious facets of mind simultaneously. In this way, he provided the conscious mind a fun and entertaining message [he distracted them with content] while simultaneously he would address deeper concerns via the structure of the story. The surface story primarily keeps the conscious mind occupied. The deeper (or higher) structural message then "carries over" to the unconscious mind through the story's similarities. Accordingly, we primarily use stories and metaphors in hypnosis.
The Meta-Model theoretically explains that metaphor works by presenting a surface structure of meaning using the surface statements that comprise the story's content. At this level we just heara story. Yet at the same time, the deep structure of meaning activates ourtransderivational searches (TDS) to find references in our own library of references which then connects us to the story at deeper unconscious levels. Yet this primarily occurs outside of conscious awareness. We unconsciously make connections.
Sometimes this process can bring about deep healing at these out-of-consciousnesslevels. When that happens, we say that the story has operated isomorphorically for us. Further, when healing on this order occurs, we will typically do "submodality mapping across" in our thinking (representing) even though we don't do it consciously, and even though we may not have any awareness of this shift. The story operates as a meta-level to our lower level autonomic nervous system processing.
As the other mind-line reframing patterns function directly on our mental internal representations, so do metaphors. Metaphorical mind-lines can introduce new strategies, meanings, states, ideas, etc. Metaphorical mind-lines can outframe beliefs with all kinds of new resources. The primary difference simply lies in this. The metaphoricalmind-lines operates apart from conscious awareness. Further, we can use story and narrative as "as if" formats to try on new meanings.
Did you have any idea that story, metaphor, narrative, poetry, etc. could have involved such depth or complexity? On the surface, stories seem so simple. Yet the transformative power of a story does not lie o n the surface, but under the surface or more accurately, above the surface. The three major mechanisms that empower a story to operate as a mind-line include: the activation of transderivational searches, the shifting of referential indices, and the structuring of isomorphic similarities.
Activating Transderivational Searches
Or Traveling Down Inside (TDS)
We threwthis mouthful of a term at you earlier. Remember? The oleTDS (or transderivational search), refers to the neuro-linguistic process whereby we make meaning of symbols (words, language, etc.). We make meaning of symbols by going in and accessing our memory banks (i.e., our library of references or internal references). We search inside. I like thinking about TDS as Traveling Down inside!
Wheneverwe describe an experience, we move from the actual experience to a description of the experience. This moves us from the territory to our map of the territory. Now our language, as a description or symbolic verbal representation of the experience, moves us into neuro-semantic reality. At this level, the experience only exists as an internal mental representation. It does not involve external reality and so does not have that kind of "reality." It only exists as an internal paradigm or model of the world.
What does this mean? It shows how language always and inevitably exists in a meta relationship to experience. Language operates at a higher level of abstraction then the internal representation to which it refers. So for language to "work" it must elicit and evoke sensory-based representations in us. We experience the "meaningfulness"of language when the words (as symbols) trigger us to see, hear, feel, smell, taste, touch, etc. the referents on the "screen of our mind."
What does the word "car" evoke in terms of sensory-based representations for you? Does it evoke a black Pontiac as it does for me (BB)? Probably not. That reference arose from my TDS. Where did your TDS take you? A blue Toyota, of course (MH)!
What does the word "dog" evoke? Where does your TDS take you? I (BB) have an internal representation of a black Cocker Spaniel. What kind of dog did you find in your library of references?
In this way we all make sense of language. We understand things by searching through our internalized and stored experiences for visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory and/or gustatory sensations that correspond to the language symbols we use and hear. This explains how language (all language) operates metaphorically.
Now we call this process of associating the language we hear with our own internal representation(s) a "transderivational search" (TDS). When we go from the surface structure language of a metaphor to the deep structure, we make our internal search. We go to our personal "library of references." So when we listen to a story or metaphor, our brain and nervous system makes an unconscious TDS to connect the metaphor with our model of the world. Count on metaphors doing this. Count on stories activating listeners to search their "memory banks" to make sense of things via their model of the world.
So working with story, narrative, and metaphor involves symbolism. A symbol refers to any object, situation, or character that becomes an anchor for certain responses. Many everyday metaphors take the form of, "I once knew a person who..." The symbolic link here? The word "person." Further links will arise from the similarities within the story. Such symbolic links exemplify the concept of "displacement of referential indices."
This means that whenever someone talks about his or her experience, but does so with enough vagueness (when they speak in an artfully vague way), then as listeners we hear the story in terms of our own experiences. Come on, you know you do this! And when we do, we have shifted or displaced the referential index. (No worry. The mind police won't arrest you for this!) When we do this we begin to listen sympathetically and experientially to the story. Doing this empowers the story to effect us and "speak to us."
Making these referential index shifts occurs all the time. We all do it many times everyday. And it also occurs at both conscious and unconscious levels. We distort our sensory representations, we switch the referential index, we enter into the story, and the story casts its spell. This activates its magic. No wonder that in olden days, they talked about stories as "spells!"
Storying, narrating, metaphoring, etc. encourages the switching of referential indices. This invites the "as if" quality of stories which then begins to work in our minds and bodies. And when it does— suddenly we feel transported to another time, another place, in another body, etc. The spell has entranced us. We lose track of time, place, self, environment, etc. as we go zooming off into new and different worlds and realities.
Then, once inside the story, an animal, another person, even inanimate objects transform and take on special meanings. They frequently take on powerful symbolic representations for us. And in the story, we become storied. Themes, plots, sub-plots, dramas, comedies, tragedies, victories, heroic journey, etc. define, describe, limit, and/or free us.
In the field of psychotherapy, White and Epston (1990) have recently developed an entirely new therapy model based upon this marvelous phenomenon. Two people trained in NLP, Freedman and Combs (1990, 1996) have further contributed to Narrative Therapy using NLP distinctions. In the field of Linguistics, Mark Johnson and George Lakoff (1980, 1987) have individually and together also contributed to the pervasive nature of metaphors.
Now the component that drives the power of story or metaphor to transform meaning and to change our magic formulas arises from the story sharing a similar structure to our life and experiences. We call this "similarity of structure," an isomorphic structure. Characters, events, emotions, dramas, etc. in the story relate and correspond to similar formats in our lives. This explains the mechanism that makes the story meaningful to us.
Isomorphism, as the similarity in structure, also explains how and Wy we can so easily, even unconsciously, use the story to shift our referential index. Dilts offered this explanation:
"Isomorphism involves the formal similarities between representations of different responses... Individuals can learn much about the possibilities of their om behavior by considering the operation of other systems. Imagining that you are a bird in a certain situation, as opposed to a lion, will open up and abolish many different avenues of response... In general, symbols will identify the structural aspects of the metaphor, while isomorphisms will deal with the relational or syntactic components.
The neural networks of the brain constantly generalizes information making learning possible. Isomorphisms describes the brain's ability to incorporate information about behavior from one class to another similar class. This is cross class learning."
Using the language forms of metaphor, analogy, story, etc. enables us to conversationally reframe, hence a mind-line pattern that operates as a "Sleight of Mouth" pattern. Because this language format reframes laterally (on the side), instead of in the up and down directions that we have explored, we can use story and narrative to package any of the other reframing patterns. Consider the following one-line stories.
1. "A river runs to the ocean as fast as it can."
2. 'The water held captive behind a dam still yearns for the sea."
3. "A friend of mine always complained about her husband being late. But then after he died, she often thought about him and wished that he would just be late..."
4. "t once had a friend who always complained about the high cost of clothes for his teenage daughter. He complained and complained. Then, one day his daughter died in an auto accident. Now when he thinks about spending money on clothes for her— he wishes he had that opportunity.
5. "If a surgeon is late for dinner because he's saving someone's life, does that mean he doesn't care?"
6. "it's like spitting in the wind."
(D) "Stress causes me to eat chocolate."
"I have a really uptight friend, John, who really enjoys eating carrots because he said, and i know this sounds really crazy, but whenever he feels stressed, he pulls out a carrot and takes a break so that he can think... and the sound of the crunching makes him feel like Bugs Bunny coming up with some zanny way to elude Elmer Fudd or that Daffy Duck."
"Have you ever noticed that a wound up rubber band gets loose in hot water?"
(E) "I can't really make a difference because management doesn't walk their talk."
"And the water held captive behind a dam yearns for the sea, not really caring about the dam, but only about feeling true to itself to flow... ever flow, graciously, gently, yet inevitably down, down, down... toward the sea... And it does so, regardless of what the dam wants."
(F) "I can't buy your product because it costs too much." "Then, when Mary poured the expensive ointment on Jesus' head and feet, Judas got all upset and said that she had wasted things, and spent far too much."
To story someone with a narrative or metaphor, think about what a particular problem, issue, concern reminds you of. "What is this like?"
More frequently than not, we do our best lateral thinking when we stop thinking about a problem and think about something else (especially when relaxing, kicking back, and enjoying ourselves) and then all of a sudden, presto, an idea pops into consciousness that we can then relate to the problem.
In Narrative Therapy, we use externalization as a central eliciting process. This refers to externalizing a problem, situation, theme, idea, emotion, etc. By separating person from behavior (and all other functions and productions—especially thoughts and emotions) we underscore another central theme in Narrative, namely,
"The person is not the problem; The problem is the problem."
Thus, as we externalize, we change our thinking and emoting about our life story, our thoughts and emotions, etc. This invites another story—a Preferred Story that we can build out of "unique Outcomes" and "sparkling moments."
"How has Anger sabotaged your success this week?" "When did the Rages invite you to enter back into that story?"
"So Sneaky Pee pulled one on you when you went to stay at your best friends house, huh? And I bet you'd really like to get back at Sneaky Pee so he doesn't embarrass you like that again."
"What tactics have you found that Wimping-Out uses to trick you into giving up? How have you stood up to Wimping-Out?"
We have now covered twenty mind-lines, twenty ways to shift a frame-of-reference, twenty ways to reframe a limiting belief. Sometimes a reframe moves us to directly address the meaning that we give to something. Those reframing shifts occur within the belief box. Such describe content reframing.
At other times we move outside of the formula of meaning and send "mind" before or after, above or below, or counter to the belief. These moves and the mind-lines that result comprise what we call context reframing. All in all these moves inform us that we can bring other thoughts-and-feelings, other frames-of-references and other states to bear upon our ideas (our conceptual reality) and that when we do—we can expect the reality itself to change.
Of course, we here speak about neuro-semantic reality—the internal dimension of meaning and significance that results when we bring "mind" to events (IS=EB). When we do, this puts our very body and neurology into "state"—a neuro-semantic state.
These mind-lines then not only offer us improved ways to speak more elegantly and professionally, they offer us ways to manage our states, enhance our mental-emotional experiences in life, and improve our health. Neuro-linguistically all of these things work together as an interactive system which explains the "magic" of ideas in human consciousness and neurology.
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