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Рефрейминг (54) A reorganization of reframing patterns
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The Structural Patterns of Change: A reorganization of reframing patterns

08 Aug

Posted by: Steve Andreas in: Articles

The Structural Patterns of Change:

(A reorganization of reframing patterns)

Steve Andreas

Revised 5/28/18

     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.


You can download this article as a PDF here:
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:


  1. A scope of experience in space or time,

  2. The categorization of a scope,

  3. The logical level of categorization.

What is a Scope?

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:


  1. 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.)


  1. 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.

  2. 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.


  1. 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.



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What is a Logical Level? 2

A major disadvantage of working at a more abstract level is that the prototype for a behavior like “honesty” is much less detailed and sensory-specific than “speaking in a loud voice,” which is much less ambiguous. That makes it hard to know what specific behavior constitutes “honesty” in a given situation—intellectual honesty, emotional honesty, financial self-disclosure, etc.? The highly abstract category indicated by the words “collateral damage” doesn’t include vivid images of screaming, bleeding, burning flesh.

Knowing this trade-off between wide generalization and specificity can sensitize us to the likely consequences of working at different logical levels, and makes it possible to choose the logical level at which to make an intervention. A general principle is to work at the most specific logical level that will get the desired outcome. For instance, if a client is distressed because they can’t spell well, teaching the successful spelling strategy will be more useful than teaching them “how to feel comfortable about making mistakes.”

 

Each of these is a pure process intervention that changes what a client attends to, and that elicits a different (and hopefully a more useful) experience and response. The different reframing patterns provide a familiar window for understanding how these three fundamental processes underlie all change work. This greatly simplifies the task of characterizing a client’s experience, and also indicates what kind of intervention will be most useful.

Most of the reframing patterns below are content-free processes, meaning that the therapist doesn’t introduce content into the client’s experience. However, as the client shifts attention in response to an intervention, they will attend to different content out of their own experience, and this will often change their response.

This reorganization helps you understand how all the different reframing patterns are related, what kind of change of experience will result from using each, and points out ambiguities in earlier presentations of reframing patterns.

Whenever a pattern has previously been named (for instance in Robert Dilts’ “sleight of mouth” descriptions) that name is used. Dilts lists 14 different patterns; the list below contains 24, but some are different names for the same kind of scope/category/logical level distinction, and some differ only in content. The number of fundamental patterns is not written in stone; that depends on how specific you make distinctions in creating categories.

A simple sentence stem is used to exemplify each intervention, to make it easy to distinguish the different patterns listed (sometimes this restriction


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