by Steve Andreas
This is a first draft of some ideas and principles of modelling, with expectation of a need for future clarification, development, and revision.
A model is only a more-or-less-sophisticated metaphor for understanding some part of the world. When physicists describe the behavior of an electron as a “particle,” it leads naturally to some kinds of understanding and predictions, and tends to exclude others. When physicists describe an electron as a “wave,” they discover understandings that are not available to them when thinking of an electron as a particle. What is an electron really? Probably neither a “wave” nor a “particle;” hopefully someday someone will come up with a new metaphor that comes closer to describing what an electron “really” is, and yields deeper and more extensive understandings. Some physicists are now using the metaphor of a “string,” which has both particle and wave qualities; I am not sufficiently educated about contemporary physics to know how useful this new description has been.
Freud’s thinking about feelings and emotions was based on a hydraulic or “plumbing” metaphor. His thought of feelings as being fluids that were stored, and if they were pushed down in one area of life they would squirt out somewhere else. Primal therapy, an offshoot, spoke of a “primal pool of pain” that could be “drained” by screaming.
In contrast, the NLP metaphor is that of an information system that stores information as memories in one or more rep. systems. It is only when these memories are activated that feelings result from them when they are meaningful. If the memory is never activated no feelings are stimulated. A CD player has lots of records of music, but it is only when the laser beam reads these records that there is music. Using the Freudian metaphor, we’d say that the CD is full of music struggling for expression (catharsis).
Thinking of a person as an information system makes it clear why catharsis not only doesn’t work but can make many problems worse, or even create new ones. Although the information system metaphor has been much more useful than the Freudian plumbing metaphor, yet another one (not yet discovered) may prove to be even better.
Descriptive and Injunctive Language
Some models are purely descriptive, and do not tell you what to do. Transactional analysis (TA) was an elaborate description that basically recast Freud’s id, ego, and superego into contemporary English: child, adult, and parent; but this description did not provide any methodology or technology for making use of the description. In practice, TA borrowed methods and techniques from other forms of psychotherapy and adapted them to their framework.
In contrast, injunctive language tells you what to do to make use of the description. A cookbook is injunctive, because each recipe tells you exactly what to do to get a particular result. A recipe specifies:
1. an outcome (chocolate cake or a well-done roast)
2. a list of required ingredients (flour, sugar, chocolate, etc., or a particular cut of meat)
3. a sequential process for mixing and processing those ingredients and how to cook them to get the desired result.
A cookbook is essentially a list of techniques, and someone can follow the instructions and get the result without any understanding of the processes involved.
A couple of years ago I listened to an audio tape of someone teaching and demonstrating the Forgiveness Pattern that Connirae and I developed with the participants in a modelling seminar in 1990. His theory about how it worked was very complex, but had nothing to do with the pattern as we understand it. Nevertheless, he led the demonstration subject successfully through the steps of the technique and into forgiveness.
In one sense, what he did is the highest compliment one can pay to a technique –that it is sufficiently developed and precise that someone can use it without any understanding (or even with an inappropriate understanding) and it will still work.
All of us are surrounded by technology that we use, but do not understand, and no human being lives long enough to understand even a small fraction of it even if s/he spend a lifetime studying it. When most of us use a microwave, an automatic transmission, or a hair dryer, we don’t have the slightest idea of the physics involved, or how to fix it if it doesn’t work.
Technology is a specific application of a methodology (whether the methodology is known or understood or not). Bronze-age people discovered that when arsenic or tin was added to copper, it made it much harder, but they had no inkling of why that was so; the methodology came five thousand years later with the understanding of how small amounts of impurities “lock up” layers of atoms so that they don’t slip and deform when shearing force is applied to them.
A methodology is a more general understanding of how things work, in contrast to a specific recipe or product. Richard Bandler has often said that NLP is a methodology that leaves behind it a trail of techniques (or technology). Most trainings include a mixture of methodology and technology. Specific techniques (e.g. phobia procedure, change personal history) are taught, along with at least part of the methodology (e.g. rep. systems, submodalities, anchoring) that underlie the specific techniques.
Knowledge of methodology allows the user of technology to adopt it to unique situations in which knowledge of the technique alone would fail. Methodology also makes possible new applications and discoveries, and new ways of accomplishing outcomes that we already have techniques for.
For example, an engineer who understands the methodology of materials and structures can build a specified building out of a wide variety of materials, and utilizing a range of structural elements -and predict with mathematical models exactly what size to make everything to achieve a certain strength to resist hazards such as snow load, flood, earthquakes, etc. In contrast, if the same engineer only knew about how to build brick walls, he would only be able to design a narrow range of buildings for a few environments.
Methodology and Technology
Typically a field develops by a kind of “leap-frog” alternation of technology and methodology. Usually some primitive technology, discovered by accident or intuition, starts the process. Then someone looks at several techniques and begins to generalize about them, describing some elements of similarity. If this generalization is a useful one, typically it indicates other technologies that could be developed using different processes, materials, or outcomes. These new techniques, and the knowledge that is learned as they are applied, in turn suggest other methodologies -other ways of thinking about the technology. Methodology is at a higher, more general (logical) level of generalization than technology.
Typically an evolving methodology/technology has very useful pieces that do not yet appear to fit together. It was a long time before physicists realized how light (and optics) was a part of the electromagnetic radiation spectrum, and they are still seeking an understanding of how gravity and electromagnetics are related.
In NLP there are a number of different models: rep. systems, strategies, submodalities, “parts,” perceptual positions; and it is seldom clear for instance exactly what submodalities make up a part, or where a “part” appears in a strategy sequence. As we make progress in refining understandings, these relations will become clearer.
Every model (at both the level of technology and methodology) also has an implicit epistemology. Epistemology is the study of how we know things. Webster’s unabridged dictionary defines epistemology as “The theory or science that investigates the origin, nature, methods and limits of knowledge.”
Some epistemologies are very simple; they rely on some authority -a person, book or other original source -from which the model originates. Most such epistemologies do not have an independent way to test the validity of the model, and typically such methodologies do not develop or change significantly over long periods of time. Astrology, for instance, has not changed much in several thousand years.
The scientific method, in contrast, includes a rigorous way of testing and revising methodology, and an explicit recognition of the inherent uncertainty in all knowledge, and the testing of this knowledge. As Hans Vaihinger said in The Philosophy of “As If,” “Truth is only the most expedient error.” This was echoed by Richard Bandler who said, “Everything we tell you is lies; but they are very useful lies.” One aspect of the epistemology of science essentially says “I don’t care if it’s ‘true;’ I only care if it’s true enough to yield predictions about the world that can be used. The following poem says it even better:
Not truth, nor certainty. These I foreswore
In my novitiate, as young men called
To holy orders must abjure the world.
“If . . ., then . . .,” this only I assert;
And my successes are but pretty chains
Linking twin doubts, for it is vain to ask
If what I postulate be justified,
Or what I prove possess the stamp of fact.
Yet bridges stand, and men no longer crawl
In two dimensions. And such triumphs stem
In no small measure from the power this game,
Played with the thrice-attenuated shades
Of things, has over their originals.
How frail the wand, but how profound the spell!
–Clarence R. Wylie Jr.
From “The Imperfections of Science” by Warren Weaver. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 104, No. 5, October, 1960.
In this epistemology “truth” is a relative (analog) function (not an absolute) and measured by how useful an understanding is.
To summarize, any model has three levels:
1. Epistemology, a set of methods for discovering and testing understandings.
2. Methodology, a description of the understanding itself.
3. Technology, specific applications of the methodology to accomplish a particular outcome in a particular context.
The more general a model is, the more it can be applied to a wide range of situations. However, the more general it is, the less information it supplies about specific situations. E=mc2 is understood to apply to the entire universe, but it doesn’t tell you how to make a match or how to build a pump. More limited and specific models can provide more detailed information. One important element is to know the scope of the domain described by a model. For example, NLP is a wonderful model, but it is not useful in designing an automobile engine.
A new model is created when one realm of experience (e.g. “particle”) is used to describe another (e.g. electron) metaphorically, and then further developed through testing, descriptions of how to apply and refine this metaphor through mathematics, etc. The initial creative leap is followed by a lot of work to develop the detailed descriptions.
Once a model has been created it can then be applied to other events within the domain described by the model. In NLP, Richard Bandler and John Grinder and others developed various models, while most of the “modelling” done by others has actually been applications of them. We assume that most of the modelling tasks undertaken in the Summer Residential will also be of this nature: applications of NLP models to a specific domain and outcome, rather than creating a new model. (However, if someone is able to create a new one, that will be wonderful.)
Of course there are plenty of other models available for understanding human functioning, healing, and development. Some, like crystal healing or aura balancing, do not share the epistemology of NLP -the requirement of rigorous testing, etc. Others, like allopathic medicine, share the NLP epistemology (at least theoretically), but their methodology is quite different. Those who might want to explore how to adapt or describe another model to include it within NLP practice would be wise to examine the other model at all three levels (epistemology, methodology, and technology) to determine whether there is (or could be) a basic compatibility between it and NLP.
THE MODELLING PROJECT
Why model something anyway? Centuries ago, people used to build barns and bridges any way they could think of. Some collapsed, others lasted until the first big wind or heavy snow, while others endured for centuries. Modelling simply enables us to do things predictably, efficiently, and effectively.
For instance, “solution-oriented” brief therapists (Steve DeShazer, Bill O’Hanlon, Michele Wiener-Davis, Scott Miller) persistently refocus the client’s attention from problem events to exceptions: times and places when the problem doesn’t exist (or at least when the problem wasn’t as severe).
However, since they don’t model the structure and process of these exceptions, they have to begin the search anew with each client -and some clients don’t seem to have exceptions, or they are very hard to find. By modeling the structure and process of exceptions, NLP is gradually developing a set of “off-the-shelf” software to teach to a client. Besides being more efficient, this process can study an exception in one person and offer it to others who (apparently) don’t have exceptions.
For instance, once you know the NLP phobia cure, and how to test to be sure the person’s phobic response is very rapid (and therefore appropriate for the phobia cure), you don’t have to find out the exquisite detail of how the person does their phobia, something which varies enormously from person to person. Some do it by stretching time into an eternity or an endless loop, some by making the threat huge, others by making themselves very small, etc.
The NLP model also enables us to examine other treatments for phobias to figure how (or if) they work. For example Jerilyn Ross treats phobias by asking people to relive their phobias, and as they do this she keeps them moving through the experience by asking, “And then what happened?” “And then?” “And then?” By doing this repeatedly, she teaches people to speed up the process and go through the phobic response very quickly. She doesn’t actually cure the phobia, but she does teach people how to go through it very rapidly and not get stuck in it. After treatment you can see that the phobic response is still there, but it’s very short.
Another man “cures” phobias using past-lives regression. Again, his clients don’t actually lose their phobias, but they become less important to them because they learn to experience them against a very long time frame of many past lives and many future lives to come. Against this background the phobic response becomes much less important. After treatment his clients say, “I still hate water, but it doesn’t bother me, it doesn’t matter.” This is an example of what John McWhirter calls a “perspective” pattern. In the larger perspective of a series of lives, the phobic response seems small and insignificant.
Your Modelling Project
A. How to Start
There isn’t “a” way to model something. A modelling process has been successful when you have a description that enables you to:
1. Gain the skill, or transform the limitation modelled, and
2. Teach someone else to gain the same benefits.
An even better test of your modelling is when you can teach someone else your model and they can teach someone else to gain the same benefits.
When you can do this, you have succeeded, and how you get there is not important.
B. What to Model
The first step is to define the skill, ability or limitation that you want to model, and the context in which it occurs.
Chunking this down to a reasonable size is very important, particularly when you have limited time. Even when you have more time it is usually much more useful to chunk down to components, model each one separately, and then integrate these components into a larger model. One important distinction is between modelling a process that is mostly internal, such as shame or feeling bad about being criticized, in contrast to processes that are interactional, such as negotiation. Negotiation is inherently more complex, because you have two individual worlds and their interaction to deal with. It can be useful to chunk down to a particular kind of interaction, or even to one person’s process/response to the particular interaction. A precise model of a small process is generally much more useful than an imprecise model of a larger process –and you can build a precise model of a larger process by modelling small pieces of it and then integrating them.
There are many possibilities for how to choose a starting point. Following are a few of the possibilities that have been useful:
- Think of a particular difficulty and its resolution (for which there is not yet an NLP pattern). Usually these will be nominalizations (“difficulty,” “resolution”), and your modelling task will be to denominalize it into the processing that the person goes through. If you model a nominalized experience, it will typically be at a sufficiently general level that your model will be applicable to a wider range of people than if you model a simpler and more specific skill. However, as the level of generalization increases, so does the complexity of the process you will need to model.You can model the problem and its resolution separately -or alternately for contrast -and then model a process that will make the transition from one to the other (more on this later). This is how Connirae and I modelled the Criticism, Grief, Guilt, Shame, and Forgiveness patterns.
Remember that your model can only be as good as the experiences that you choose to model. When modelling grief, for example, we passed over people who said (often with a sigh, and shallow breathing) that they now felt “OK” about the lost person. Instead we chose people who felt (and behaved) joyously when thinking of the lost person. If we had modelled the former, we would have modelled a less-than-optimum solution. However, for practice in learning how to model, modelling a less-than-supreme example can be just as useful.
- Think of a particular skill that you, or your clients, want, or need. Find a particularly good example of someone who has that skill behaviorally, and model what they do.In selecting a model, be cautious about people’s self-reports. For example, some people say they are good at motivating themselves because they are so aware of the half-hour process they use to get out of bed! Others will say they are not good at motivating themselves because they can’t continue to motivate themselves at the end of a highly-active 18-hour day! Find someone who exhibits or can demonstrate to you the skill or quality that you want to model. It may be difficult to find an exquisite model of a particular skill in the limited context of the Summer Residential.
- Explore the structure of anything. This is how Connirae and I modelled how people represent time and values, and how I modelled the structure of self-concept. This is potentially much more generative, but it may also be more complex, and the applications, uses and benefits are not usually clear in advance. Think about problems or limitations for which there are no dependable NLP patterns.
- Look and listen around you for someone who is noticeably good at something or consistently exhibits a pleasant or useful attitude and model that. This may be a particularly useful option at the Summer Residential. Although consistent attitudes typically generalize widely, they can be fairly simple in structure/process. There are plenty of attitudes the world could use more of (gratitude, appreciation, friendliness, tolerance, love, respect, connection, equality) and plenty of attitudes the world could use less of (scorn, hatred, meanness, superiority, inferiority, coercion/manipulation, imposition, distance, grouchiness, etc.). You can think of people in your life whose attitude you particularly like or disliked, and model that.
- Notice the universal form to an individual solution: When a client presents you with a difficulty and you find a solution process that works for them, chunk up to a more generalized form, and apply the solution to others. This is how Connirae modelled a number of processes: Self-healing, Core Transformation, Parental Timeline Reimprinting, Timeline Recoding Process, and Naturally Slender Eating.
- Model a change that someone made spontaneously. Find out the characteristics of before and after, and how the transition was made. I have rediscovered the Swish Pattern, Content Reframing and Change History a number of times doing this. If nothing else, it’s a wonderful way to gain experience and flex your modelling muscles.
- Model a skill of your own that other people have commented on, but you don’t know clearly how you do. Ask someone who doesn’t have this skill, and wants it, to gather information about it as their project. Since it is so natural to you there will be many aspects that will be totally unconscious and presupposed, and only someone else asking questions from a perspective of not being able to do it will tease them out and make them obvious.
C. How to Proceed
Some kind of contrast will be extremely useful in helping you zero in on the crucial distinctions operating. Whenever possible make everything the same except the presence or absence of what you are modelling.
a. You can compare the “same” person before and after they made a change–whether spontaneous or deliberate.
b. You can compare two recent experiences in the same person when they did or didn’t have the skill or quality you are modelling.
c. You can compare two people, one of whom has it and the other doesn’t.
- Selecting a counterexample.
If you are modelling a problem state, for example, you don’t want to select any counterexample. You need a counterexample that has all the features described for the problem state except that the person’s response is useful and life-affirming. This will be an immense help in disregarding all the elements in the two experiences that are the same, and irrelevant to success/failure.
However, later you may need to go back and identify other supporting elements that are necessary but not sufficient, and since they were present in both experiences you disregarded them.
- Characterizing the Experience and its counterexample
What are the essential features of the states you are modeling? What overall strategy sequence does the person go through? Then chunk down to the smaller steps, and characterize them using any and all NLP distinctions and methodologies you are familiar with. As you go through the Residential you will be learning more distinctions and methodology to apply. Among the ones that are usually useful are:
T.O.T.E. (Test, Operate, Test, Exit), or
G.E.O. (Goal, Evidence, Operation)
Attentional Shifts: Self/Other Content/Context
- Content: Knowledge/Skills
Most of the distinctions above are pure process differences and do not contain specific content. However, most real-world skills require knowledge of content. A geologist needs to know about rocks, chemistry, physics, etc., and a negotiator may need to know about corporate structure, contracts, interest rates, time to develop a product, etc. These content-area skills are essential for the good judgement required in carrying out the process distinctions in your modelling. These are easily overlooked in the focus on process, and need to be included as a part of your modelling. For instance, an editor needs to know the letters of the alphabet, and how to read and speak the language involved. Even if it seems obvious, include required content areas in your modelling description.
- Designing a Transition
When you have characterized the differences between the problem state and the desired state, this will usually suggest how to get from the problem state to the desired state. How can you design a sequence of changes to make the transition smooth, efficient, and effective? A given set of changes may be very difficult when made in one sequence, and very easy when done in a different order. If there are a number of shifts to be made, decide which will probably be easier or more comfortable to make first, and then experiment to find out the best sequence of these shifts. (It can be very helpful to model someone who went through this transition successfully, and identify his/her sequence.)
At this point you should have an outline of a model of how to achieve the desired outcome. It is probably missing some distinctions and there will be certain contexts where it won’t work, but it will work in at least some cases.
- Testing and Refining Your Model
Some refining can be done conceptually, but trying out the model with yourself and others is the best way to learn how it can be improved. By comparing additional examples with your model outline you can discover additional useful features.
a. Congruency. Try out your model with yourself. What problems could occur? How can you modify it so these problems are excluded? Are all the positive functions of the problem state preserved? For example, if someone feels comfortable while public speaking by negatively hallucinating the audience, this will interfere with a lively, connected presentation. An alternative way of feeling comfortable will be more useful. Are there any supporting elements or processes that you can add that would make this process even more positive and beneficial to the person?
b. Streamlining. The process you modeled from the counterexample or exceptional model may have steps or aspects that are redundant or superfluous. Is there anything you can leave out, yet still get the desired results? Perhaps someone repeats a question inside, and this only delays the response and is not necessary for understanding it.
c. Amplifying. How can you add to the process to make it more robust and enduring? This is best discovered by noticing exactly where the process fails with specific clients, and what you have to add to make it work. By building this into the process you can extend the range of successful applications. For instance, the phobia cure will not work well with some people because of perceptual position misalignment. Adding this in makes the phobia cure work successfully with a much wider range of people. Sometimes the process can be amplified by changing the sequence, or by speeding up the sequence.
At this point it can be extremely useful to compare your model of an exceptional skill with:
- Someone who is only moderately skilled, to gain more understanding of the relative contribution of individual components to the overall ability, and to highlight aspects that may not have been obvious in your previous comparison.
- Someone else who is also exceptionally skilled, to learn different ways to do a particular component of a process, and/or to learn additional supporting elements that your first model never learned -and that you can teach them to improve their performance even more. (This potential improvement can be a useful incentive to offer a highly-skilled person to get them to participate in your modelling project. Another incentive is that when you are successful, they will have an explicit model that they can teach to clients or associates, to their benefit.)
- Special cases. Some clients will need more than a small adjustment to deal with objections, concerns, problems, or unique aspects. Often you can simply add a “standard” step that checks for ecology or reframes common objections, so that the model can be successfully applied to a wider range of clients without further modification.
Refining could theoretically go on forever.Typically when you have experiences with 20 or 30 clients, you will have encountered most of the variations that you will encounter. One way to speed up this refining process is to meet with a group of people and run them all through the process at once, with explicit directions to please report any and all concerns, hesitations, objections, or difficulties to you so that you can learn about them and build solutions into your model. (A tape recorder will help you get all this information quickly, and you can review it all later.)
Steve Andreas is an NLP Trainer and developer of new patterns with his wife Connirae. Steve and Connirae are the authors of Heart of the Mind and Change Your Mind–and Keep the Change, and co-founders of NLP Comprehensive in Colorado. Steve has produced over twenty-five videotaped and audiotaped demonstrations of NLP methods. Published with permission Copyright 1995, 1999 All Rights Reserved Steve Andreas