Sleight of Mouth and the Law of Requisite Variety

These initial experiences with Sleight of Mouth, made it clear to me that the ability to either maintain or outframe a particular belief is essentially an application of the Law of Requisite Variety to belief systems. According to the Law of Requisite Variety, if you want to consistently get to a particular goal state, you have to increase the number of options available for reaching that goal in proportion to the degree of potential variability (including possible resistances) in the system. That is, it is important to have variations in operations used to accomplish goals—even if those operations have produced successful results in the past—because systems are prone to change and variation.

It is often claimed that "if you always do what you've always done, you will always get what you've always got." But it is not necessarily true that you will even "get what you have always got." Doing the same thing does not always produce the same result if the surrounding system changes. It is obvious that if there is a traffic jam or road work blocking your typical route to work, you will not get there on time if you 'do what you've always done'. Instead you must find alternative routes. Taxi drivers in big cities often know a variety of ways to get to the airport or to a particular street in case there is some type of obstruction on the usual route.

The necessity of 'requisite variety' is probably nowhere more evident than in the basic biology of our bodies. The biological killers that plague us today are not dangerous because of their strength, but because of their 'requisite variety*; and our lack of requisite variety to regulate them. What makes cancer dangerous is its degree of variation and adaptability. Cancer cells are quickly changing cells that are able to adapt rapidly to different environments. Cancer becomes life threatening when our immune systems are unable to produce the regulatory variety necessary to identify and effectively 'absorb' proliferating cancer cells. The field of oncology has been stymied in its attempt to treat cancer because cancer cells have more requisite variety than the powerful chemical poisons and radiation treatments being used in the attempt to destroy them. At the beginning, these treatments are able to effectively kill many cancer cells (along with many healthy cells as well, unfortunately). Variations of the cancer cells, however, are eventually produced that are resistant to that treatment; leading to a reoccurrence of the cancer symptoms. Stronger and more deadly chemicals are tried, until a point is reached in which the therapy becomes life threatening to the patient, and no more can be done to help medically.

The AIDS virus produces similar problems. Like cancer, the AIDS virus is extremely flexible and adaptable, making it difficult to treat with chemotherapy. The virus itself effects the immune system reducing its flexibility. It should be noted that the AIDS virus does not destroy a person's entire immune system. It only influences parts of it. People with AIDS still fend off many infections and diseases every day. What AIDS influences is the immune system's adaptability. Recent studies have shown that in a healthy person's body, roughly half of the immune system cells are 'preprogrammed' to respond to specific illnesses. The other half are not yet programmed to respond to anything in particular, leaving them available to adapt to new challenges. In the bodies of people who have AIDS, that ratio changes such that approximately 80% of the immune cells are preprogrammed and only 20% are non-specific and free to learn and adapt to new situations. The cells that are effected by the AIDS virus are the ones that give the immune system its 'requisite variety'.

An implication of the Law of Requisite Variety is that these illnesses would be most effectively treated by increasing the regulatory variety of the immune system. A healthy immune system is essentially an effective learning organiza tion. In fact, people who have natural immunity to AIDS appear to already possess an immune system that has the 'requisite variety to address the virus. Thus, the issue is not so much the 'strength' of the immune system, but rather its degree of flexibility to respond.

If we extend this analogy to the notion of 'thought viruses', we begin to recognize that the person with the most flexibility will be the one who directs the interaction. Thus, Sleight of Mouth patterns are a way to increase the 'requisite variety' of those who wish to help transform or heal limiting beliefs and thought viruses, and to strengthen and promote empowering beliefs. Sleight of Mouth patterns provide a means to increase the flexibility of our psychological "immune systems." They help us to better understand the structure of the belief system that is holding a 'thought virus' in place, and to more creatively generate the responses and 'reframes' that will help to 'absorb' and transform those limiting beliefs.

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