Eyes Wide Shut
How do you know if something is hot or sweet?
Cold or wet?
We rely on the nervous systems to send messages to our brain which uses that information to help us take appropriate action.
The human nervous system is remarkable.
You've got billions of nerve cells sending you data about what is going on in environment and what you sense in the world.
Taste something really hot.
Boom, as fast as 100MPH, your brain gets a message from your mouth's nerve receptors, which it then interprets as something really HOT has entered your mouth.
Quickly your brain, looking to protect itself, sends back the instruction "spit it out!"
And immediately you do.
However what most people don't realise is that our nervous system is a closed system.
Meaning nothing from the outside ever gets in… ever. It's all transcodes and transliterations.
This might sound confusing at first. You pick up a hot cup of coffee and feel the heat in your hand.
It's a hot coffee. You can feel it.
So the 'heat' must of got in.
But what we don't realise is that our nervous system sent the data of "news of difference" to our brain which interpreted the signal and concluded "hot".
Those conclusions are based on own internal configuration.
Our brain can be tricked (e.g drinking a glass of whiskey and the burning sensation it makes even though it's not hot), or indeed trick us, into believing there are things "out there", but which are not.
For example have you ever found yourself walking down a country path late at night.
It's very dark.
Up ahead there is a curve in the road and a canopy of trees reducing whatever moonlight there is.
You walk on somewhat timidly.
The canopy of trees becomes more dense.
The light diminishes, with each step you take.
You are all alone.
Your heart starts to beat faster.
It's almost pitch black now.
You feel a lump in your throat. Your mouth dries up.
It's so dark now, you can barely see you hands in front of your face.
Your breathing becomes shallow and faster. You can hear everything.
You are sure you see something following you along the edge of your eye. Over there among the trees.
Every sound, movement, breeze intensifies the feelings… your brain begins to make a series of conclusions, which your body responds to as real.
Your body tightens, preparing for an attack!
You shine a light from your phone - it's only a squirrel!
If you have only ever grown up in a city, you've probably just terrified yourself.
And if you've never had a scary walk in the countryside, chances are you've had the experience of being scared walking on a street late at night, when you hear footsteps rushing fast toward you.
There are numerous ways our mind can scare and deceive us.
One of the biggest anyone can make…thinking that their eyes are wide open; when in reality we are all eyes wide shut, from a neurological perspective.
Perception isn't reality.
Perception is inference.
And in that inference, our stories about what is going on and what we make things mean - can be way off!
But our brain's seek validation for what it already thinks is true.
And as soon as it decides "I've seen enough." It creates our sense of reality.
We have this famous drawing of this woman.Is she old or is she young?
Depending on how your brain interpreted the data, and how your own internal configuration made sense of the data, will dictate what you see.
She may be young or old, or you may notice the woman oscillate back and forth between the two.
How many F's are there in the following sentence?
Finished files are the result of years of scientific study combined with the experience of many years.
Did you see 3?
In fact there are 6! Yet most people only see 3 (they omit the f's in the three "of" words).
How'd you do?
In NLP we have 3 major patterns for tracking how we deceive ourselves.
Deletion: We can't consciously process all the data that our nervous system is exposed to so we delete huge chunks. What gets deleted can have huge ramifications on the conclusions we draw.
Distortion: We apply filters to the information that we 'perceive' - and forget we did so. So instead of "she said…" our brains interpret it through a specific set of filters, and for example "She said" gets coded as "She attacked…" and a new story is born.
Generalisations: We take a number of instances of something and treat it as 'fact' and ascribe it to the whole class or group. Think of Donald Trump, and his huge sweeping generalisations made about Mexicans and Muslims.
Our brains are so skilled at doing these 3, that unless you've trained yourself well you won't ever notice it's happening - all the time.
So events become stories - and we forget the author and often many aspects of the events themselves.
The story become 'fact.' And fixed as reality.
This is what often causes people to become stuck.
When someone feels stuck for a long time, and they've told themselves that same old story over and over again; or replayed it in their mind time and again. With great intensity.
Their reality they've woven becomes hard-coded and typically leads to a very improvised perspective on the world.
Even though in actuality the real reality is much richer and full of choice.
Yet the person can't see any of this.
Because as Daniel Goleman points out:
"Self-deception covers it's own tracks."
[It's really good at it.]
So the person becomes the actor and the often unwitting author of their own suffering.
Where they would swear on their life, that the suffering is being generated "out there."
Their eyes are not just closed shut.
But over time, and with repetition, they are now tightly squeezed shut. (And often don't want anyone to open them.)
They've gone into a self-induced trance, tricked by their nervous system and blinded by the illusion that their "perception" is reality rather than inference.
As students of NLP, part of our role as people helpers, is to guide people out of the Matrix like trance they are already in… so they have more choice, freedom and possibility.
But as students, we must remind ourselves on a daily basis to re-open our eyes… if we are ever to guide ourselves or others to richer experiences of life.
Give up the idea that you have any idea of what reality really is.
And be open to a new idea, that reality may be far more fluid, much greater and far more unknown that you've previously imagined.
You're life will get better.
Things will be easier.
And you'll catch your mind in the act of inventing impoverished views of reality, so you can make it better.
As Morpheus, told Neo in the Matrix:
"The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth".
Neo: "What truth?"
Morpheus: "That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind."
[If the idea of 'prison' doesn't sit well with you, change it to construct.]
Our conscious perceptions deceive us, they are not free from filters.
They are presented to us as reality - complete with deletions, distortions and generalisations baked in.
When we forget this, and how the 'machine' works we keep our eyes wide shut.
This raises an interesting question… over to Morpheus:
Morpheus: "Have you ever had a dream, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?"
How many of the things you believe to be true about you - the stories why your life is the way it is, and not something else… have you questioned today?
Have you questioned ever?
Reality is inference.
Through skillful use with the tools of NLP we can direct that inference making process to construct new more compelling realities.
We all do it in different ways.
No one is immune.
Because to quote, best-selling author Tony Schwartz, of "The Way We're Working Isn't Working:"
"Humans have an infinite capacity for self-deception"
To live happier, prosperous and healthier lives I encourage you to practice everyday, opening your eyes wide, to the best of your abilities.
There are many ways to do this, here are 6 useful questions you can ask yourself daily, about any situation that causes you or others pain or less than desirable?
By asking yourself these kind of questions you begin to loosen the frames-of-reality we have packed around our situation, story or label and fixed as unmovable.
We open up the possibility to discover something new, different and much better.
Life at a much richer level.
Remember: Reality is inference.
There is always a better thought that can liberate you from suffering.
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