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Model of the World

In The Structure of Magic, Vol. 1, the first book of NLP pre-history (before they'd come up with that audacious name, Neuro Linguistic Programming), Richard Bandler and John Grinder founded their approach on the basis of an explicit distinction between the world and our experience of it. They said there was an "irreducible difference" between the two.

We as human beings do not operate directly on the world. Each of us creates a representation of the world in which we live - that is, we create a map or model which we use to generate our behavior. Our representation of the world determines to a large degree what our experience of the world will be, how we will perceive the world, what choices we will see available to use as we live in the world.

This was a radical flag under which to sail at the time. They were riding the waves of the Zeitgeist, though. In the Sixties, drugs such as LSD had blown holes in the fabric of reality and thrown their users right through it. The world would never look the same again. By the Seventies, the ripples from that big splash of unauthorized experience were lapping at the shores of the academic disciplines. One of the consequences was that those who wished to signal their allegiance to the idea that our experience is mediated by neurology or, as Dr Timothy Leary put it, that "the brain is our observation platform," tended to plop down a "neuro" prefix before anything they were talking about, just to let us all know they were hip to what was going down.

Today, the idea that we operate in terms of internal maps and models, made up of sets of ideas about ourselves, others and the world is commonplace. Today it's "Reality, what a concept!" as George Carlin put it. Back then, though, those who hadn't poked their heads through reality believed that they were in direct, unmediated contact with it. Reality wasn't a problem, and the only thing that could get in the way of its objective apprehension was if subjectivity was screwing around with it. But the objective world was a great big thing, while the subjective world was puny, although pesky. Nowadays, the relative sizes of the two have flipped. We operate in a great big bubble of subjectivity and aren't at all sure what an objective reality could be, never mind what it is.