one world … each


He offered her the world.  She said she had her own.

Monique Duval

There is no reality. There is your reality, my reality, his reality, her reality. The simple fact is that what we see, what we hear, what we pay attention to, what we interpret, what we delete, what we distort, what we generalise, what makes sense for us… is all uniquely us, even when we seemingly experience exactly the same thing.

His world, her world, my world, your world.


reality blind?

We have seen this road sign many times – it is familiar as an image.

We don’t need to read the sign. We are conditioned to know red means stop. The words are somehow irrelevant.

We have seen this context too. Roadworks, queues, lights, single file traffic…

So, if this sign said, “WHEN GREEN LIGHT SHOWS WAIT HERE”, would we stop? Probably not.

I wonder how often in life do we ignore what we are being told, verbally or visually, because we have been programmed to create our understanding, our awareness, by what we have experienced before?

How often might we delete, distort or generalise the information, because our programming  tells us what we need to know?

In reality, how blind are we to reality?

the distortion of reality

distort, generalise, delete
Earlier this week, I wrote here about wasps and my propensity to engage them in an imaginary karate-like self defence of mime. Our creation of our reality through the process of deletion, distortion and generalisation.

In my example I am deleting, distorting and generalising the experience as well as the possible outcomes.  My language can reveal which process I am using.  For example I might say “I’m scared of wasps”, but what specifically am I scared about? What is deleted in that sentence? The buzz? The pain of the sting? The swelling and itching?… I’m behaving as if all buzzing equals a wasp threat; but that is a generalisation, revealed by the ‘all’.  Equally I’m generalising that all wasps are out to get me; generalising a wasp’s presence will always lead to a sting.  I’m distorting the risk; creating a perceived significant risk of a sting, despite lack of evidence as I haven’t been stung for decades.

Yet it’s my version of reality in that moment, so I thrash, I dance in an embarrassing battle with my aggressor, miming attack, defence, bravery, fear, victory, defeat.

Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) refers to this human truth through its presupposition ‘the map is not the territory’. Essentially what we believe to be true, our interpretations of events past, present and future. These are only OUR truth. Not THE truth. Everyone creates their own truth, their own map. We do this in these three interconnected ways, and in one sense this process of individualised deletion, generalisation and distortion creates our own unique interpretation, our version of truth. Just as with the colleague passing us without saying hello. All of which might suggest there isn’t one version, one truth, one territory; no reality in fact, just our reality.

Our deepest memories are coloured by this process. Twisted. Enhanced and also reduced. Yet those memories shape our behaviours, our way of being, our beliefs about what matters, what is true, today and going forward. We recall experiences and hold great store by them, but the very memory is only a partial truth, an incomplete reality.

A strange way to base current and future behaviour, don’t you think?  Human, but not always helpful perhaps?

pretending there is a reality

mime reality map territory NLP
I’m not a fan of wasps. A wasp buzzing near me will cause me to flap like a crazed Indiana Jones extra, chopping my way through an invisible mist of cobwebs in a deep, dark cavern. If that doesn’t work, I will duck, sway, even run away.

I don’t specifically recall being stung as a child and I have no evidence that wasps are seeking me out, just to sting me. Sometimes this frantic dance happens before I even know it’s a wasp. Just a buzzing insect can invoke this manic mime artist routine.

In a sense I am creating a false wasp / imagined wasp implication ‘reality’.

We all do this – not with wasps I suspect – but, act as if a ‘reality’ is true. Have you ever seen something shiny on the ground and paused to check, believing it to be of value? Have you ever mislaid something and convinced yourself someone else has moved it, because you ‘know’ you haven’t?

These are somewhat frivolous, innocuous examples. Something to giggle about. But we do the same thing in all our day to day experiences and interactions. Given as human beings we experience things constantly, this is something to pay attention to. Neither frivolous nor innocuous.

Often experiences are shared. We will be in the same situation as a friend, partner, colleague or stranger. It would be easy to assume therefore that we all have the same experience of the same situation. There must be facts? Truths? Reality? Things said, things meant? Actions and words we can all agree on? They happened, right?

Think again.

Let’s say someone you know walks past you at work without saying hello – what’s your reaction, your interpretation? You might think they are ignoring you, that you have upset them? You might think they have more important things to attend to, because after all you’re not important enough? You might think you’ve got it wrong, they don’t like you after all, even though you thought you had a relationship? You might just think you don’t have an interesting contribution to make, nothing to say that your colleague wants to hear?

Of course you can’t know their truth, so you create yours, by deleting, distorting and generalising your experience. Noticing some things, ignoring others; interpreting and distorting the experience to make it ‘fit’ with your map of the world. Then relating this experience to others and unconsciously grouping it with other ‘similar’ ones to create generalised groupings of meaning – eg people never notice me.

This creation of our own reality is the product of our brains pattern matching and making meaning quickly But we are miming.

Miming reality.