I suppose that from time to time we all wish we could be like some admired person. I’d like to be like Humphrey Bogart as he appears in, say, The Big Sleep, and as, according to Lauren Bacall, he was in real life. Wanting to be like another person whom you admire is a fairly empty desire unless you have a systematic way of analysing and applying their behaviour to yourself in all its intricacies.
Neuro-Linguistic-Programming came into being when its initiators determined to find out how somebody who had the knack of achieving excellent results in a counselling role managed to do it. “What did the knack consist of precisely?” they asked. The object of the exercise was to model what the person did and choose what elements of their characteristics might work for other people. What might you take on board to make what you already do even better, for instance? To find out how somebody who achieved excellent results managed to do it, NLP initiators might have processed things thus:-
The enquiry might have proceeded like this:-
• what are you thinking as you do x ?
• what do you need to feel as you do x ?
• how do you feel as you do x ?
• how do you see yourself as you do x ?
• what might you say to yourself as you do x ?
• when/where/with whom/how long as you do x ?
• how do you know when to do x ?
• what lets you know when to do x ?
• what might stop you from doing x ?
• how would doing x satisfy you ?
• doing x what are you fulfilling for yourself ?
• what’s important for you as you do x ?
When you do this you’re building up a mental picture of how somebody does something; you get hold of their ideas of how they operate. Then it’ll all go through your own filters so you’ll be making sense of it all for yourself which means that you’ll more or less automatically be comparing their answers with how you imagine you operate; in many ways you’ll be modelling on something you do yourself anyway – you can only affirm what somebody else tells you they do by recognising the same/similar thing in yourself. Noticing something in another person that you’d like to have for yourself will, as if by magic, help to modify what you already do.
Anyway, you might ask the question, “Where do I start on a modelling project?” And the answer would come, quick as a flash, “If you don’t know where to start you’re in a great position because it means you can start anywhere you care to choose!”
We look at other people – we have done since we were born – some of whom we look up to and seek to imitate, others we just let go – you wouldn’t want to model on May/Trump/Hitler/Gove/Johnson/Mogg, for example. Presumably.
The people we look up to impress us in all sorts of ways; when young we unthinkingly imitate their behaviour. But modelling proper is not imitation; it is about making a detailed study of the looked-up-to person’s behaviour, thinking processes and artefacts and deciding what it might be useful to take into one’s own possession: how might their various manifestations work for you?
Early on, we do not know in what ways we are being influenced by others; we’re just busy getting on with life as it is lived. We are, however, constantly choosing to be influenced, whether we know it or not.
Pre-supposing that we take all this on board – the being influenced and choosing to allow those who influence us to affect our behaviour, internal and external, somehow – what will it be like now when we have some advanced meta-program that would enable us to be a bit more aware of the process, which is, of course, systemic, so that we cease being merely imitative and become more precise in acquiring characteristics of others that might well work for us?
There are several models one can use for doing a modelling project. The TOTE model as depicted by Miller, Galanter & Pribram (1963 – a Good Year) is a very useful one. It’s a cybernetic model – the construction & modification of all behaviour depends on feedback. A simple example will provide the general idea:-
Gregory Bateson’s ‘Logical Levels’ model is another good one to use, though I regard it as neither ‘logical’ nor ‘hierarchical’. I depict it thus:-
And these are the questions you could ask to make sure you covered the whole range of a person’s life-grasp:-
x might, of course, be yourself! How would you know why something somebody else said resonated with you unless you had some inkling of what they were talking about?
The ‘Logical Levels’ model could be written out as a system from inside out:-
One can think of this system as applying to oneself. Running round the system in relation to oneself breeds familiarity. One can easily make the provisional assumption that others run the same system for themselves though they may not be aware of it. Your task is to figure out how it might work for others.
The question remains whether it is necessary to ask the model how they do whatever they do. Tricky, especially if the person concerned is dead. But there will be writings, film, artefacts – you may be able to figure out how they do things by studying any or all of those things. You might just try doing whatever it is for yourself; if it works for you that may be sufficient: you can then ask the question of yourself, “Am I such an expert at modelling on others? How do I do it?” and off you go again.
1946/47 I modelled completely other-than-consciously on this painting. We went to Mr Bullivant’s classroom on Friday afternoon for a year to listen to a story; I never did listen to it because I was too busy being entranced by a large copy of Lenbach’s The Shepherd Boy on Mr Bullivant’s classroom wall (thank you, Mr Bullivant!). I have often asked myself how I came to model on the shepherd boy – though I lacked the word for the process, it’s what I did… I had only to lay myself out on a grassy bank on Wimbledon Common to get into the long dream.
How did I feel? Totally at home with myself. What was I doing? Emptying my mind. How did I do that? By breathing and joining myself with the blue of the sky. I could sense the planet moving under me. As I look at the painting now what does it remind me of? Ah, Richard Jefferies: ‘…I thought of the earth’s firmness – felt it bear me up; through the grassy couch there came an influence as if I could feel the great earth speaking to me… I tuned to the blue heaven over, gazing into its depth, inhaling its exquisite colour and sweetness. The rich blue of the unattainable flower of the sky drew my soul towards it and there it rested, for pure colour is rest of heart. By the blue heaven, by the rolling sun bursting through untrodden space, a new ocean of ether every day unveiled... And that’s the spiritual something-or-other? Which I can take into my self so that it exists in the here & now of the systemic circuit which is why ‘Logical Levels’ is not a hierarchy but a circuit, for me. What does it do for you? It’s an anchor that has lasted me seventy long years.
You might notice that my main way of accessing the detail of this painting was through feeling – it’s true that for something to make sense to me I have to feel the sense of it before I go into analysing it intellectually. Then I start seeing the detail before putting it into words. In the unlikely event that you decided to model on me (being far from excellent), you’d have to ask me how feeling – seeing – thinking worked for me and then try the process for yourself. You might do things in a different order.
Other modelling projects would take a bit longer to work on!