The Structural Patterns of Change: A reorganization of reframing patterns
Posted by: Steve Andreas in: Articles
The Structural Patterns of Change:
(A reorganization of reframing patterns)
Note: I have revised this presentation repeatedly since I first offered it several years ago, trying to make it clearer and more “user-friendly.” It is an attempt to summarize what I presented in my two-volume book, Six Blind Elephants (578 pp.) but which I failed to provide in those books. So it inevitably leaves out a lot of detail—and almost all of the examples. Please consider this a “work in progress” to be further refined in the future.
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The Structural Patterns of Change
Reframing is usually thought of as a relatively small part of NLP, originally divided into content reframing and context reframing, and later further divided into the 14 “sleight of mouth” patterns. However, I think that all change can be usefully described using one or more patterns of reframing, and all of these different patterns derive from only three variables. Every change of experience changes one or more of the following:
- A scope of experience in space or time,
- The categorization of a scope,
- The logical level of categorization.
NLP is often defined as “The study of the structure of subjective experience.” The main difficulty in describing the structure of an experience of scope is that usually a scope is immediately categorized, and that nearly all the words we have to use to describe a scope indicate categories (except for proper nouns such as “John Smith” or “New York City”). Scope is what is experienced (seen, heard, felt, smelled, or tasted) before it is categorized or identified.
An example of this is hearing someone speaking a language you don’t understand; you can hear the sounds perfectly well, but you don’t know how to punctuate the stream of sounds into separate scopes of sounds, or what those scopes indicate. Or think of a time when you didn’t know what you were seeing or hearing; you could see it or hear it, but you couldn’t immediately categorize it. Usually an experience of this kind is immediately followed by a vigorous effort to identify what it is, because that is so useful in responding appropriately.
For simplicity, let’s first explore scope in a moment in time, as if the flow of time were stopped:
- Modality. Each of the five sensory modalities is a process that is sensitive to certain aspects of our experience, providing a scope of raw data or information of a certain kind. A useful metaphor for a sensory process is a pipeline or conduit that transports some content, such as water or electricity. Awareness is a process that is always aware of something, before it is categorized as a particular something. A modality is not a scope, but it is a conduit for a scope. For instance, the auditory modality is not a scope, but a particular sound or set of sounds is a scope.
Each modality provides information that is different from the other modalities—though there is some overlap, such as location. (If there were no overlap, we wouldn’t be able to integrate the scopes from the different senses into the unitary experience we usually enjoy.)
- Submodality. Each submodality is a subdivision of each modality, a smaller conduit that is sensitive to a narrower aspect of a modality and offers a certain scope of raw data or information. A large image carries more information than a small image, and a color image carries more information than a black/white image. A submodality is not a scope, but it is a conduit for a scope. For instance the submodality “color” is not a scope, but a particular color or set of colors is a scope.
- Submodality Part/Whole. A submodality may only apply to a part of an experience, rather than the whole. Part of an image may be larger, closer, clearer, more colorful, more in focus, etc. “Figure/Ground” is the simplest example, in which the “figure” is seen as somewhat closer than the rest of what is seen, emphasizing the “figure.”
Every still image will have submodalities, but only some will have partial enhancement that “highlights” one (or more) aspects of an image, drawing attention to it. This effect is often a factor in internal representations of importance or values, which are motivating (toward or away from) and if out of balance, may result in compulsions or addictions.
- Time. All the factors described above presuppose an unchanging scope in space, as if time did not exist. However, a still image is an artificial (though often useful) representation of the flow of events, whether external or internal, or both. In reality, the flow of events is a changing movie, not a static momentary snapshot, even when changes are very small, as in “boredom.”
Even the shortest movie changes the scope of time, and this usually changes the scope of space. We typically punctuate our experience of time into segments of different length, with somewhat arbitrary beginnings and endings. The span of an “event” can vary from a “split-second” to days or months, or even a lifetime, before categorizing it, as in “That was a tough interview,” or “He had a good life.” A longer scope in time provides a larger context, similar to that provided by a larger context in space, the “bigger picture.” However, a larger context in either space or time usually makes it harder to notice the smaller details, unless you “zoom in” to magnify a part of the image.