Our maps of the world can be contrasted with our experience of the world. "Experience" refers to the process of sensing, feeling and perceiving the world around us and our inner reactions to that world. Our "experience" of a sunset, an argument, or a vacation relates to our personal perception of and participation in such events. According to NLP, our experiences are made up of information from the external environment that we take in through our sense organs, as well as the associated memories, fantasies, sensations and emotions that emerge from inside of us.
The term "experience" is also used to refer to the accumulated knowledge of our lives. Information that is taken in through our senses becomes constantly encoded, or folded into our previous knowledge. Thus, our experience is the raw material out of which we each create our maps or models of the world.
Sensory experience refers to information received through one's sense organs (eyes, ears, skin, nose and tongue), and to the knowledge of the external world that is derived from that information. The sense organs are the faculties by which humans and other animals perceive the world around them. Each sensory channel acts as a type of filter that responds to a range of stimuli (light waves, sound waves, physical contact, etc.), and which varies for different species.
As our primary interface with the world around us, our senses are our "windows on the world." All of the information that we have about our physical existence comes to us through these sensory windows. It is for this reason that sensory experience is highly valued in NLP. NLP considers sensory experience the primary source of all of our knowledge about our external environment, and the fundamental building material out of which we construct our models of the world. Effective learning, communication and modeling are all rooted in sensory experience.
Sensory experience may be contrasted with other forms of experience, such as fantasy and hallucination, which are generated from within a person's brain rather than received through the senses. In addition to experience taken in from the senses, humans also have an internal web of knowledge and information constructed from internally generated experiences, such as "thoughts," "beliefs," "values," and "sense of self." Our internal web of knowledge creates another set of 'internal' filters which focus and direct our senses (and also operate to delete, distort and generalize data received from the senses).
Our sensory experience is the primary way we get new information about reality and add to our maps of the world. Often our preexisting internal knowledge filters out new and potentially valuable sensory experience. One of the missions of NLP is to help people to enrich the amount of sensory experience they are able to receive by widening what Aldous Huxley referred to as the "reducing valve" of consciousness. NLP co-founders John Grinder and Richard Bandler constantly urged their students to "use sensory experience" rather than to project or hallucinate.
Most NLP techniques, in fact, are based on observational skills which attempt to maximize our direct sensory experience of a situation. According to the model of NLP, effective change comes from the ability to "come to our senses." To do this, we must learn to drop our internal filters and have direct sensory experience of the world around us. In fact, one of the most important basic skills of NLP is that ability to achieve the state of "uptime." Uptime is a state in which all ones sensory awareness is focused on the external environment in the Tiere and now'. Uptime, and the increased amount of sensory experience which comes from uptime, helps us to more fully perceive and enjoy life and the many Possibilities for learning that surround us.
Thus, our "experience" of something may be contrasted Wlth the "maps," "theories," or "descriptions" made about that experience. In NLP, a distinction is made between primary and secondary experience. 'Primary' experience relates to the information we actually receive and perceive through our senses. 'Secondary' experience relates to the verbal and symbolic maps that we create to represent and organize our primary experiences. Primary experience is a function of our direct perceptions of the territory around us. Secondary experience is derived from our mental maps, descriptions and interpretations about those perceptions - and are subject to significant deletion, distortion and generalization. When we experience something directly, we have no self-consciousness or dissociative thoughts about what we are sensing and feeling.
Theories Descriptions Interpretations
Our Experience is the Raw Material Out of Which we Create our Models of the World.
It is our primary experience that brings vibrancy, creativity and the sense of our own uniqueness to our lives. Our primary experience is necessarily much richer and more complete than any maps or descriptions we are able to make of it. People who are successful and enjoy life have the ability to experience more of the world directly, rather than dilute it through the filters of what they "should" experience or expect to experience.
From the NLP perspective, our subjective experience is our "reality," and takes precedence over any theories or interpretations we have relating to that experience. If a person has an 'out of the ordinary' experience, such as a "spiritual" or "past life" experience, NLP does not question its subjective validity. Theories and interpretations relating to the causes or the social implications of the experiences may be questioned and argued, but the experience itself is part of the essential data of our lives.
NLP processes and exercises place a heavy emphasis on experience. NLP based activities (especially discovery activities) tend to "lead with experience." Once we can directly experience something without the contamination of judgment or evaluation, our reflections on that experience are much richer and more meaningful.
Like other NLP distinctions and models, Sleight of Mouth helps us to become more aware of the filters and maps that can block and distort our experience of the world and its potential. By becoming more aware of them, we can also become free of them. The purpose of the Sleight of Mouth patterns is to help people enrich their perspectives, expand their maps of the world and reconnect with their experience.
Generally, Sleight of Mouth patterns can be characterized as "verbal reframes" which influence beliefs, and the mental maps from which beliefs have been formed. Sleight of Mouth patterns operate by getting people to frame or reframe their perceptions of some situation or experience. Sleight of Mouth Patterns lead people to 'punctuate' their experiences in new ways and take different perspectives.
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