Pat Mason: The enduring and free nature of what is communicated on these pages is something that appeals to me. This open interaction has drawn me back in over the years; I prefer it as my place for expressing what I think from time to time. I value that there are others here who seem to be of similar mind.
I wonder how we seem to be able to identify ‘kindred spirits’ just through words on a page – without meeting face to face. I think ‘clicking’ with another is a multifarious process that can take place in nano-seconds being run mostly by our other-than-conscious parts.
Colin Blundell: What kinds of things would we have to explore in order to propose some answers to your question, do you suppose?
P: Just responding positively to similar things must be part of it; the attitudes we might display as a result of our experiences and reading; what kinds of filters we have working in us. Perception being projection and all that, perhaps we just seize on things we recognise in others to strengthen what we already think – a kind of self-justification mechanism?
‘Clicking’ platonically with like-minded persons seems to me to come from having similar ‘I’s somewhere in the mix. Being-curious-I, Being-thoughtful-I and so on. How are ‘I’s arrived at? ‒ a question worth exploring.
C: If it all boils down to a matter of the Multiple-I’s we inhabit then that’s an important question! Tolerating-ambiguity-I, Being-able-to-shout-STOP-at-oneself-I… Then maybe we’d have to think about how the ‘I’s we have in common might have developed, as you say.
I’ve often heard you refer to ‘filters’ without really thinking properly about the meaning – the practical outcomes… This time I Googled ‘Cognitive Filters’, I got the feeling that at least some commentators were talking about meta-programs – the NLP model that suggests that we don’t just think out of thin air but that as individuals we have developed different, temporary/permanent, strategies for sorting (or filtering) how we imagine the world which in turn determine the way we think. For example, when my Googling had me thinking ‘filters – they’re the same as meta-programs’ the nature of the thought came from my running at that moment a meta-program that goes that’s-the-same-as (full-stop, dismissive gesture) when I could have chosen to run a that’s-different-from meta-program which would have had me asking more productive questions, viz: how are Pat’s ‘filters’ different from ‘meta-programs’? Is there anything else to them?
When I did NLP Practitioner (1992) it was suggested that there were eight fundamental meta-programs which, being a memorialising acronym-freak, I chose to remember as MN3SITP
MN3SITP expands to
MAF – MT = Moving Away From/Moving Towards
NEC – POSS = Necessary/Possible
SEL – OTH = Self/Other focussed
SAME – DIFF = Same as/Different From
SMCH – LCH = Small chunk/Large chunk
INT – EXT = Internal/External Focus
T-IN – T-TH = In-time/Through-time
PRO – REF = Proactive (quick fix)/Reflective
Do you think these standard Meta-programs (amongst others [see later]) might be an example of filters? (Or even of ‘I’s – an ‘I’ that moves away from an idea (say) as opposed to one that moves towards it; an ‘I’ that thinks you ‘have to’ do something as opposed to one that thinks ‘anything’s possible’; and so on…)
P: Maybe there are many types of mental/cognitive filters that both hinder us and facilitate us in constructing the story of our lives. Meta-programs being one such filter.
What I mean by referring to lenses is that the ones we have through which we perceive our lives are never as clear as we like to think they are. Our interpretation of what we experience is always arrived at after passing through various filters whose nature depends on the type of experiences we have encountered previously. That’s why getting to Meta-I is a step in the right direction: it will help us to challenge what we imagine to be the case. But I wonder if what comes to us when we try to move beyond conscious thought, can ever truly be uncontaminated.
C: From what you say here, it sounds like lenses are the same as filters then. You’ve got me pondering the difference (if there is any) between ‘lenses’ and ‘filters’. A quick scribble indicates how I visualise the way the lens metaphor works:-
– our mental lenses function in the same way? While this is my visual metaphor for filtering:-
Some people (narrow-minded?) maybe have skinny funnel outlets that only let a few small things through while others (more open-minded?) have larger outlets that let all manner of things into their thinking repertoire. Perhaps our education, upbringing, past experience – all those things determine the nature of our filters, the kinds of things we choose to allow ourselves to entertain; getting our lenses correctly adjusted will determine relative clarity/opacity.
Perhaps we have a filtering system from year dot and the lens situation (which can be more and more conscious down the years) can get it into focus if we hold the magnifying glass in the right place.
P: Yes, to a point… When we hold the lens neither to close nor too far away it provides a clarity that doesn’t otherwise exist.
C: Is that the sequence then? We filter according to what kind of chances we’re willing to take and then adjust the lens to study what we’ve done and maybe change our filtering system one way or the other? We can learn to do this and then it happens so often as we mature that when we’re awake we can eventually use a lens to prevent the operation of an inappropriate/unresourceful (stupid) bit of filtering. It’s systemic – I can feel a diagram coming on.
P: YES! Precisely. Except it’s never ‘stupid’ filtering because there is positive intention behind even ineffective strategies.
C: Ah, yes! There’s always some definite purpose in what we do if only we can find out what it is and then perhaps think of other ways of getting an outcome – more resourceful ones, maybe. Do we filter because there’s just so much incoming data to deal with? We are such feebles that we can’t deal with it all.
P: Maybe that’s not the only reason… I think we also filter because some of the stuff that comes in challenges what we already believe and value and we are driven to sustain our own position or even fit with another’s with the intention of keeping ourselves comfortable or safe with them. And, of course, we also filter depending on our favourite (habitual) way of accessing information. People who are not in the habit of processing things visually will not warm to, or even understand, the lens metaphor but anybody who processes predominantly through feeling will understand the funnel metaphor. Holding too fast to our own particular lens may cause us to be too inflexible in what we see/understand.
Thinking about the metaphor of spectacles – if I have both long distance and short distance vision problems, I might have two pairs of glasses, one for driving one for reading – if I have a preference for the frame surrounding the long distance correction lenses I might be tempted to use the long distance lenses too often and mistakenly use them for reading – I will find that I can no longer see the page clearly. The glasses are comfortable and I feel good in them, but they no longer do a good job in helping me to see clearly.
Do you think we might identify like minds from the page through style of writing and response (words themselves revealing compatible lenses)?
C: Perhaps like-minded friends who come to the ‘CB Globspot’ can switch comfortably & smoothly between meta-programs, filter less restrictedly, are able to adjust lenses more quickly. I think all this comes through the words on the page; all our correspondents are not so stuck in one side of alternative ways of seeing – able to switch from being self-focussed to being other-focussed very quickly. It’s never possible to be free from meta-programs but by stepping deliberately into Meta-I, uncontaminated by all the little ‘I’s of everyday life, lenses properly focussed, we can begin to recognise what programs we are running and make appropriate choices…
P: By Wyatt Woodsmall’s reckoning, Meta Programmes are similar to Jung’s personality types. He believes Meta-Programmes to be the basis of personality. These are the four basic Meta-Programmes that chime with Jung’s basic personality types.
- Introvert vs Extrovert: This covers how we express our external behaviour
- Intuitor vs Sensor: This is about how we perceive what is possible, either considering what might be possible and considering the meaning behind something or preferring as the Sensor does, to look at the immediate, identifiable and practical facts of life.
- Thinker vs Feeler – related to our internal state – the Thinker preferring to consider the facts and come to a decision or judgement considering principles, policies and laws, pros and cons, impersonal. Whereas the Feeler, makes decision personally and subjectively based on past experience, making connections with the present.
- Judger vs Perceiver ‒ This is how a person adapts to their environment. A Judger wants to run her own life in a decisive, planned and orderly way, whereas the Perceiver prefers just letting life happen to live it in a spontaneous and flexible way.
C: I think I fall into the second category with this last one! I’ve always thought of meta-programs as being simply to do with how we variously learn to polarise elements of what we perceive as ‘reality’, how we sort things. I can see how becoming used to sorting things by habit would result in particular kinds of ‘personalities’ – one or two worthwhile experiences of MAF might very well encourage habitual MAF-ing so that one turned into possessing a MAF Personality! But the very idea of having a Personality might suggest permanence whereas an NLP pre-supposition is that since we’ve been programmed one way we can always choose to develop an alternative.
Is the ‘clicking’ process in the ‘CB Globspot’ simply the result of our possessing similar personalities? Still the question arises – How are our personalities constituted to make for our being similar? And then – can we change them?
P: Maybe it’s something to do with the facility we have for the REF side of the meta-program rather than the PRO side – here we’re deeply into reflection rather than making a snap reaction to what’s said. We use our lenses more skillfully.
C: It’s always worth trying these things on for size!
P: What I mean by ‘lens’ is probably best explained by example: I ask you a question – in order to construct an answer, you bring to bear (for example, and amongst other things) your life experience, what you’ve read, what you have trained in, the attitudes you have developed as a consequence. All that serves to create your lens. The answer passes through and is coloured by your filters before coming out of your mouth or pen, so to speak. I think we are, by and large, mostly unaware of all these layers of filters, unless we choose to look in and rout them out.
You ask me a question and I go through much the same process, and my answer is coloured differently. It’s all a question of perspex!
I think the lens happens as a consequence of the influence of our most dominant fascinations – for example, I know I have been strongly influenced by my trainings and I cannot not know what I know now – I have sometimes tried to discard the shackles of training, but I cannot go back to who I was before they took place. I am permanently changed as a consequence of them. I found something that switched me on and am forever fascinated by it – it’s the fascination that tints the lens through which we look. Does that make sense?
C: I get what you’re saying, but can’t be absolutely sure since my own lens, in part, at least, the result of my training focusses me clearly on thinking that the NEC-POSS continuum is relevant here. Do we have-to-be (NEC) under the spell of our trainings or could we run a POSS program: we could possibly see things in a number of other ways?
It’s perhaps the case that kindred spiritedness contains, amongst other things, the habit of sorting things via a POSS program – “I haven’t noticed that before but I find it interesting & wonder how it applies…”
P: Yes, I try to step away from the NEC program I used to run before I saw things through the lens provided by my trainings which were literally life-changing. I cannot unknow what I learned; I don’t want to go back to a level of ignorance. I can of course see things from another person’s perspective otherwise the training would have been a complete waste of time & money but I still think the lens I now look through affects all my responses.
C: Stepping aside & changing tack, I decided to fiddle with things by indulging myself in one of my favourite pastimes – concocting what I imagine to be a useful explanatory diagram:-
There is all this incoming data but nobody seems to understand how we put it all together to make coordinated sense of it all (the Binding Problem). But it’s obvious (if/when we think about it) that we habitually construct ‘binaries’ – things are either long or short, high or low, hot or cold etc. We are mentally set to see things as either-or – it’s much more of a challenge to run a both/and Gurdjieff calls this being ‘third force blind’: we deal in opposites or blacks & whites but we are blind to a third possibility.
P: Yes, when we come from the Western tradition, (and therefore have western-biased filters) if we come from the East, we employ a both/and Eg, there is no possible perception of Ying unless there is also Yang, Yang cannot exist without Ying, each being part of the other [ – just a thought.
C: Hmmm… Being conned by the content of my diagrammatic procedure, I notice I’ve left out the crucial thing we’re talking about – LENSES! From what you say, for myself I imagine they might go between attitudes & beliefs?
I think of meta-programs as being the result of an Other-Than-Conscious-Mind (OTCM) acceptance of what we see as natural binaries which are a sort of original matrix by which, though when alerted we can make choices, we are more or less forced to understand the world. Meta-programs would encompass Jung’s personality types and other typologies such as Gregorc’s Learning Styles and the Enneagram with both of which I’m pretty familiar.
In normal circumstances, we’re certainly not aware of how either meta-programs or filters affect behaviour – fishing around is what it’s all about!
I was once challenged to find other meta-programs – binaries preceding thinking, determining how ‘fishing around’ might be limited by choice of rod & fly. Here’s a very down to earth list of brain-stormed possibilities:-
- black – white
- have to be right – could be wrong
- negative – positive
- tough-minded – tender-minded
- past-focussed – future-focussed
- adventurous – playing safe
- introvert – extravert
- of the world – other worldly
- committed – floating
- open – closed
- lone worker – team player
- fair – not fair
- being poetical – prosaic
- wanting clarity – happy with ambiguity
- next step focus – being problem-focussed
- separating – connecting
- expanding – contracting
- zigzagging – going straight
- things as they are – happy with mystery –
- minimising – maximising
- absurdity – purposive
- random – organised
- haphazard – planned
- theoretical – practical/hands on
- nominalist – realist
- fixity – flexibility
If one thought about it a bit more one would probably find that these are probably just variants on MN3SITP!
Going back to your original question (how do we identify ‘kindred spirits’ just through words on a page?) I’d reckon that what gets us to this ‘clicking’ business has to do with the words we hear others using which can help us recognise an enthusiasm for fishing around – that others have developed a willingness to arrive at ‘action 3’ in my diagram…
P: Yes, I think that’s right! You asked if the lenses come between attitudes and beliefs? – Intriguing! Perhaps they do. Here’s a personal example.
There was a time I became aware that I still carried some attitudes that were not helpful to what I was trying to do – the road was quite twisty-turny and lengthy – however – once I was able to answer the call to bring them to awareness and look at them through a properly adjusted lens – I could just release them. Then, without further hesitation, I could complete a piece of writing I was held up on.
By using a lens to view things differently – new awareness & learning – we can begin to see things differently. Where does the lens slot in? I think that when the lens offers greater awareness it provides us with a tool to focus more clearly & see beyond our original filters to develop something more supportive of growth. But a lens can become a filter if we rely on it unthinkingly. It’s about fixity or flexibility. It all depends…
C: …It all depends on what we mean by ‘filters’, ‘meta-programs’, ‘self’ and so on… Like ‘attitudes’ & ‘beliefs’ these things are invented human categories which we toss around. I think ‘it all depends…’ may be one of my major filters in the sense that when I’m quick enough to say it to myself it prevents me from making too quick a response.
P: Well, Here’s my diagram (after various revisions):-
Your original diagram was so useful to describe the shift in conscious awareness that facilitates change – the OTCM shift in awareness also has the same if not greater effect. Both diagrams work in different ways. My diagram visually represents the pathway toward development of authentic self.
Stage 1 is what all children bring into the world with them
Stage 2 represents what how we relate to masses of incoming data
Stage 3 represents how you can transform your current experience and how other people experience you.
C: I think we might need to define ‘Magnetic Centre’! It’s a Gurdjieff metaphor which seems to me to capture quite nicely the idea of things sticking to us. I think that the potential is in us early on (just as the potential for walking is…) but the specific process the metaphor attempts to deal with doesn’t begin till later. Different things stick to different people; it’s pretty clear that friends who feel at home here are stuck to more or less the same things so it’s fairly easy to be in rapport with one another. Gurdjieff relates the beginning of Magnetic Centre to coming under the spell of B Influences (the ideas contained in important texts by ‘Masters’) as opposed to being guided by A Influences (football, various ‘fun’ things, the fairground, making money, Enid Blyton etc). The Core self contains the potential for this but some (most?) never develop their potential, being content with A Influences all their life – the kinds of things they seem desperate to get back to as the Plague Lockdown is declared finished with.
All this makes me think about my own self concept. What’s my driver? I think it comes from the fairly vivid early idea that everything happened to me in a totally haphazard manner; I was just a spectator, having to make up my own lone (but not lonely) mind; I seemed to have very little to do with what was going on around me; the DIY attitude (still firmly in place) had me adjusting my lens to focus quite clearly on what seemed to be important. Sometime ago in our conversation I said I felt a diagram coming to depict the systemic nature of the process – here it is at last:-
Gurdjieff talks about First & Second Education meaning that the first time we learn things is from mother to schooling and beyond; the second is when we verify things according to ourselves with more objectivity: we don’t do that when the lenses are blurred or borrowed from others. A DIY lens might be useful. How is that for you?
P: When I think about my own beginnings, I had, for whatever reason, absent parents, and it too left me with a DIY attitude. I’m not sure when I realised it though. It seems always to have been present part way though secondary school. Those beginnings were definitely the route of my perpetual ‘seeking to understand’. Knowing that Stage 2 was not serving me well, and the desire to move to the learnings, self reflection and awakenings of stage 3 came out of that. The Seeking to Understand was the common thread.
C: So we both run a DIY meta-program! As opposed to one that, say, programs us to ‘read the instructions carefully’ – something I never do! I’d also hypothesise that we who come to this Globspot would be pretty flexible in relation to our meta-programming when we know we run such a thing – we’d be more than willing to permutate between one and another.
P: Ha! A DIY Meta-Programme Yes, I learned how to re-upholster a sofa by re-upholstering a sofa! Dismantled it, found out how it had been put together and then repeated the process in reverse. It could have been a costly mistake or experiment! It was the confidence I had in being able to find out how to do it, and the willingness to just do it, coupled with the refusal to pay even more money for a new sofa that made me do it!
C: When I taught Problem Solving to Vauxhall car-building team leaders in Luton I used to advocate Just Fiddling as a strategy – nobody ever told me it resulted in costly mistakes! And then in my daze as a wacky NLP trainer, after a relatively sane intro to the meta-program concept, I used to run an exercise I called The Meta-program Ballet. The standard meta-programs were depicted large one each to A4 sheets and laid out in parallel columns about 6 feet apart on the floor (MAF opposite MT and so on). The slaves were instructed to have in mind an issue they were currently concerned with. The CD player began to play Sugar Plum Fairy and the slaves became ballet dancers moving between meta-programs. They lingered over those which they felt comfortable with and then tried the opposite for size. (“I’m currently MOVING AWAY FROM the issue – avoiding it; what if I MOVED TOWARDS it? and so on). When I thought they’d been doing this long enough I changed the choreography and they had to hover midway between each meta-program alternative and make decisions about the resourceful place to be.
P: I used to run a similar spatial sorting exercise with persons physically moving in between the extremes… no sugar plum music though, what a pity. Great for group work though.
Here are some notes on my diagram:-
Stage 1 At the moment of conception, a baby’s genetic make-up is complete, with a set of innate tendencies, needs and resources already built into its system in the same way as the many other systems within the body, the difference being that they are less easily observed. Add to this what we absorb whilst in our Mother’s womb and we can begin to appreciate how complex human foetal development is. Nutrients the obvious thing of course, but if our mother is stressed we will also absorb stress hormones, if she smokes we will absorb nicotine, if she is alcohol or drug dependent we will absorb these substances too, and become dependent ourselves – examples of what becomes absorbed by the foetus through the umbilical cord. Also absorbed by the baby’s brain from about 6 months gestation, are the sounds from inside the Mother, including her voice, and music & tastes that the mother does or does not like. The sensory system develops early and by 8 weeks the foetus responds to touch around the lips and cheeks, by 11 weeks they begin to explore their own body.
Stage 2 is where the roads might begin to diverge between a child who is influenced positively by their environment and upbringing and one who is not.
The modern study of Epigenetics provides the physical evidence for what psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, and counsellors have been grappling with for centuries. Epigenetics literally means ‘above’ or ‘on top of’ genetics. It refers to external modifications to DNA that turn genes ‘on’ or ‘off’. These modifications do not change the DNA sequence, but instead, they affect how cells ‘read’ genes. What is the difference that makes the difference? Why does this person from that background think, believe, behave this way?
What makes us us is the potential for the expression of various genetic pre-dispositions, which are affected by external environment, whereby our capacity to express our inborn genetic capabilities becomes altered. For example, we all have the ability to use reason rather than emotion when challenged, whether we can do that depends on whether the mechanism that produces rational thought is ‘live’ or has been altered by its early interactions in childhood.
We develop a set of values that are designed to help us to meet the needs that remain unmet as developing people. Values and beliefs skew our view of the world to protect us from degradation and humiliation. But they can also be viewed as limiting to our life experience.
The Meta Programmes we develop, the internal guidance system, also serve to protect, and affirm what we already believe and value. Meta-programmes are what we use to determine what we are interested in, what we pay attention to and what we do.
Internal belief, value and meta-programme systems are all mechanisms that help make sense of the trillions of incoming stimuli that our sensory system is bombarded with day to day. They act as filters to either accept or reject, embrace, or deflect. They might also support warped beliefs and misplaced values. When inadequate quality nurturing is consistently dominant, the beliefs values and meta-programmes we develop are by nature limiting at the very least and outright destructive at their most dangerous.
For example, if I hold a filtering belief that the world is a dangerous place, I will view it in a negative light, imagining that I need to be on the look-out for danger at all times. My thoughts and language are shaped by this belief. I will expect my life to be fraught with danger which, for most of us, will not be the case. On the other hand, if I value safety over everything else, I will be prevented from living life to the full because I will stop myself from having any experience that could possibly be interpreted as dangerous.
C: I’ve just finished reading JBPriestley’s brilliant novel (1931) Angel Pavement. There’s a character there whose life is just as you describe:-
…to listen to [his wife], you might think life was a fairy tale. To Mr. Smeeth – though he did not say so – life was a journey, unarmed and without guide or compass, through a jungle where poisonous snakes were lurking and man-eating tigers might spring out of every thicket. Only when he saw a little clear space in front of him could he be easy in mind…
P: That sounds about right! He perhaps had a rather uncertain childhood! When we get to Stage 3 if a person is from a nurturing background, the process of maturation is what normally changes that person’s frame of reference from external to internal.
Stage 3 then… Coming from a nurturing background, a person will have developed a strong self-concept, have high self-esteem, and self-assuredness and be much more willing to be self-reliant, flexible and open to change, responding thoughtfully rather than just reacting when it comes to learning and decision-making; they will also take on board new information and adjust accordingly. This process is called individuation – and takes place ideally as a young adult passes from adolescence to full maturity, being both independent and interdependent in relationships, capable of creative behaviours in language and action, often, later, looking to facilitate others in making the transition from stage 2 to stage 3.
Important though these things are, it would be a mistake to hold too fast to them so that they too simply become a different form of rigidity. Your JENMONOL principle suggests that we ought to give to any incoming data just enough of our attention to give it what it might deserve – Just Enough Neither MOre NOre L This is the JENMONOL model you shared with me compiled of things that deserve our attention, but not warranting our becoming so fixated by them that we get lost in them.
C: I learned to think like this from the great NLP teacher, Robert Dilts: everything is worthy of attention to the degree that might be appropriate for its consideration, just enough neither more than is appropriate, nor less… I worked out this non-exclusive list over twenty years ago during a course of his I attended; it’s been very important to me ever since!
P: Whenever we identify with organisations, people, thoughts, ideas we run the risk of losing touch with self; we get lost in whatever dominates our persona – the mask we wear – as opposed to its becoming a part of our authentic self: authenticity depends on our living out our values in truth to ourselves without shutting off review and revision. Whenever we hold too fast to anything we become trapped by it.
C: Going back to your original question (how do we identify ‘kindred spirits’ just through words on a page?) it strikes me that it’s from some kind of awareness that another person has developed a willingness to arrive at ‘action 3’ in my diagram that gets us to this ‘clicking’ business…
P: I think Action 3 in your diagram becomes more possible in Stage 3 in the development of an authentic person. I think that anybody who comes here is concerned to seek to understand self and others.
On the whole, we know little about each other’s history, yet I sense through what we write there is some similarity of experience. How does that come off the page? The writing of a person and the willingness to ask questions and have a pot shot at a provisional answer and a willingness to revise an answer and the freedom to add a train of thought that might or might not contribute. All seemingly lives in this Globspot.