Monday, January 20, 2014

Enhancing your life with Exquisite Superlatives

Superlative – an adjective or adverb expressing the highest order, quality, or degree”

[Please note, this was originally an article I wrote, entitled 'Exquisite Superlatives', that was published in Anchor Point: The International Journal of NLP, September 1994]

As you are aware, the words you use and your semantic response to those words – the meaning you make from the words – inherently determines the quality of your life and your experiences. And the most exquisite thing about being human is that you get to choose! You get to choose the qualities with which you relive and represent your memories to yourself and others, and how you future-pace your ongoing actions and immediate experience.

For example, at some stage you could choose to enjoy some pleasure, or you can ferociously decide to be completely enveloped with intense and exquisite pleasure NOW!! Which would you prefer? It’s your choice! Like playing a musical instrument though, the secret to mastery is both in practice and in having a superb repertoire to choose from. Having only a few notes or chords won’t allow you to play full and melodious songs  – Won’t allow you to play those beautiful songs and music that magically lift you up and take you to the most incredible places.

Developing a magnificent repertoire

So the key is in developing a working repertoire of fantastically descriptive words – evolving and refining a list of distinctions about life and living – a set of exquisite superlatives. By producing this list of exquisite words – words that have a deep, intense, visceral and profound meaning to you, words that are juicy, ferocious and unsurpassable – you get to alert your conscious and other-than-conscious attention to these qualities of ‘being’. You get to practice them and to elegantly facilitate the submodalities of superb, ongoing experiencing.

And you know, Richard Bandler is an excellent example of someone who uses words superbly to add juice to his life and to those around him. Richard doesn’t have “curiosity” in his life, he does “wanton curiosity,” he doesn’t expect his seminar participants to have “resolve” about their learnings, he demands that they have “ferocious resolve.” And words are intensely powerful.

Create a List NOW!

I know that much of this is obvious, and yet how often is it that consistently putting the simple and obvious into practice gets over-looked? As Moshe Feldenkrais might call it: ‘The elusive obvious’.

So create a list of superlatives to enhance your languaging. Through the action of creating and using your list, you will have developed an immense repertoire of descriptive qualities you are using to directionalize your living. And to gracefully assist you in this fantastic process, I share with you the following list. Use it to form the basis of your own ultimate transformational dictionary.

The Super-duper Hyperflockulated Exquisite Word List

elegant              glorious             priceless          magnificent
keen                  amazing            tremendous     scrumptious
intense              fragrant              prime              pure
brilliant             splendiferous      sensational      fabulous
ferocious           magic                superfine         absolute
profound           exquisite            fantastic           immense
succulent           total                  utter                 gorgeous
unsurpassable    keen                 fierce               extreme
ultimate             ultra                  spectacular      captivating
consummate      wanton             delicious          thrilling
awesome           immense           transcendent    radical
tatalizing           luxuriant            sublime           wondrous
voluptuous        outrageous         splendorous    entrancing
vivacious           delightful            beautiful          stupendous

Own this list, flesh it out, add to it and enhance it. Play with categorizing it into V,A,K,O,G,Ad (Visual, Auditory, Kinaesthetic, Olfactory, Gustatory, Auditory Digital – Language) sections to gain even more distinctions. And tomorrow, don’t just get out of bed and have a shower, instead, ferociously launch yourself up and have a delicious and delight-filled shower; don’t just have breakfast, do a fabulous and incredible breakfasting; and don’t just have a nice day, do a sensational and unsurpassable day! The choice is yours.

Using your Superlatives

Let’s play with this a little to gain a deeper understanding of its usefulness. Think of something you like and notice the submodalities of the experience. Now, think if something you are absolutely ecstatic about – what are the submodality differences?

Ok, now think of some part of your day that was just average, just alright, nothing special, and as you picture it in your mind, repeat the words: “spectacular, superb, exquisite” out loud, 3 or 4 times. And say them with meaning. Notice the changes that occur in the submodalities of the experience. Powerful, wasn’t it now?

This is an example of the entrancing effect that exquisite superlatives can have on your neurology. And by the way, you also get to choose the submodality effects that the words produce. For example, you might anchor sparkle and glitter to the word “awesome,” an intense surround-sound lion’s roar to the word “ferocious,” or even a full-body, lustful flush to the word “outrageous”. Then when someone asks you how you’re feeling, tell them “outrageously, ferociously awesome” and then STAND BACK!

Just imagine what you can do with this. What amazing submodality effects would be sublime to link to the word “immense”? What about “profound”? It’s a difference that truly can make a total difference.

Congruence - Becoming a Master of the Non-verbal Superlative

As you probably realize, the way you say the words is as important as the words themselves. And as a friend of mine, who is outrageously successful in getting what he wants from life said, “You know, it’s not only the exquisite words you say, it’s also the exquisite way you say them. When you express them with all of your body, all your mind, with total glorious abandon – when all your non-verbals completely and congruently match your words – then things really start happening.”

So now practice putting “oooowwwssshhhh” into the expression of your life. Explore the quality and intensity of both your repertoire of non-verbal superlatives and the non-verbal expression of your verbal superlatives. Get that orchestra hopping, turn up the volume, and make congruence a totally happening thing!

Using your NLP Skills

Some of the other ways you may want to use your powerful NLP skills to ensure that you get more and more vivacious delight from your life are:
  • New Behavior Generator

Create a powerful part to use exquisite superlatives with unconscious competence.

  • Timeline Installation

Create a compelling future by placing captivating reference experiences of using superlatives to make an intense difference along your timeline.

  • Submodality Facilitation

Don’t just design the submodality experiences of each superlative, go further than that and amplify and intensify the submodalities of how you are valuing these ideas. Map across to the submodalities of utter fascination or magnificent obsession.

Other Ideas

You may also wish to place your list in a position where you will read it again and again – especially in a place that is unconsciously linked to important values in your life or living. For example, eating is an important and deeply salient (to the gut and heart brains) life function, so paste your list brightly and boldly next to the kitchen table, and peruse it as you eat breakfast each day. Preparing your mind for the delicious day that lies ahead.

Try watching some Bandler videos to note how Richard uses words exquisitely and to such great effect. Or gather some friends and have a superlative word party.

Use your words to profoundly enhance the music of your life.

And finally, play with these words, explore them, make them your magnificent obsession. They truly are superlatively exquisite.

life enhancing thoughts,

Friday, January 10, 2014

Meaning and Meaningfulness

Meaning and Meaningfulness - the Structure of Human Understanding

[Note: this post was originally written as an article I had published in 'Anchor Point: The International Journal of NLP', August 2004]

In NLP we know that wisdom is supported by multiple distinctions. One useful technique for generating new distinctions is to distill our knowledge and understanding back to the simplest underlying processes possible. This can provide powerful abstractions we can use as tools to explore, filter and understand our world and our selves.

 "Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler."
Albert Einstein
There are two fundamental processes that we as humans do to make sense of the world, indeed there are two fundamental processes that any neural network utilises in order to build a semantic network that models the world:

The mind/brain is involved in mapping and tracking:
  • Meaning
  • Meaningfulness


Meaning is created through metaphor. According to the Cognitive Linguist, George Lakoff, the essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another. Metaphor constructs meaning by linking experiences and objects together. All new experience is made sense of by linking it to something else that is already understood. X is like Y. Thus to make sense of the world, we as patterning systems, build a semantic network where cognitive concepts and deep structure experiences are linked together in a web of interconnected meaning. Metaphor is primary (and as we have found in the new field of mBIT, it is also largely embodied). It is the fundamental tool by which we construct our maps of the world. And language, one of our key mapping tools, is primarily metaphorical in nature.

According to Piaget, a famous developmental psychologist who explicated a powerful theory of cognitive epistemology, our cognitive structures change through the two processes of adaptation: assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation involves the interpretation of events in terms of existing cognitive structure whereas accommodation refers to changing the cognitive structure to make sense of the environment. Cognitive development consists of a constant effort to adapt to the environment in terms of assimilation and accommodation. Another term for accommodation is metaphorical extension. We build new metaphorical links that relate new experiences to existing understanding. Assimilation involves interpretation and understanding within the existing cognitive/semantic network.

A great example of these processes at work in life is when a child first learns about 'dogs' and then goes for a drive in the country with his or her parents. "Look mummy," says the small child spying a cow in a field, "a big doggy!" "No," says the parent, "that's not a doggy, it's like a doggy only bigger and instead of saying woof, it says moo." A short while later, the child spys a horse, "Oh mummy, there's a funny shaped cow!" "No darling, that's a horse, it's like a cow only you don't get milk from it and it is used for riding. It says neigh." The child thus learns by assimilating and then extending and accomodating the new experiences and meaning and by linking them metaphorically. X is like Y only different. This is how we construct meaning in our maps of the world.

To summarise: Metaphor is Meaning.


The neural network of the brain is a values driven patterning system. It tracks for and maps what is important, salient and of value. As new experience occurs, the strength of the synaptic connections that are firing during that experience, get strengthened in proportion to the biological (and eventually semantic) salience of the experience.

Gerald Edelman, in his research on the mind and brain has shown in his theory of Neuronal Group Selection, that values are at the heart of how we construct our maps of the world. Meaningfulness drives and determines what gets stored in the neural network of the brain. Metaphors are built through shared links of shared salience. Values sort and prioritise which metaphors, which cognitive structures, will eventually come to live in our maps of the world. Meaning and meaningfulness interconnect to determine how we make sense of the world, how we make decisions and ultimately how we come to live our lives. Lives of meaning and meaningfulness.

Values also are at the heart of what information comes through our nervous systems to impinge on our frontal lobe processes and higher brain functions. The Reticular Activating System (RAS), a core component of our central nervous system, acts as a filter or way-station to information coming from almost all our sensory processes. And the key to the RAS is salience or values. The RAS only allows information through that it deems to be meaningful.

The RAS for example, is responsible for the 'cocktail party effect', this is where you are at a party or restaurant, surrounded by a sea of noise, of music, of people talking loudly and yet you can choose to ignore or switch off the surrounding noise and totally concentrate on the sound coming from the person you are talking with. Yet when someone three tables or groups away mentions your name, or even something that you are keenly interested in, you suddenly hear their voices. Its like your name leaps out of the blur of noise to grab your attention. And yet, up until then you were totally oblivious (consciously) to their conversation. Your RAS has been unconsciously tracking all of the information impinging on your sensory channels and deleting that which is not salient and amplifying that which is of value to you.

Values filter and prioritise the information your nervous system attends to and therefore learns from and builds new maps and metaphors from. Values filter and directionalise learning. The map becomes the territory. Meaningfulness guides the construction of meaning.

To summarise: Unless meaning is meaningful it will be meaningless.

Submodalities - The Structure of Meaningfulness

As we have seen above, metaphor codes meaning. But what codes meaningfulness? When you picture a belief in your mind's eye, the content of the picture carries and codes the meaning. What is 'in' the picture forms the meaning. And the submodalities (brightness, size, position, colour etc.) code the meaningfulness. Meaningfulness is structured through submodalities.

Submodalities are a discovery from the field of NLP. They’re the building blocks of the senses and as such they structure the meaningfulness of our experiences. For each of our sensory modalities (sights, sounds, feelings, tastes and smells) the sub-components of each modality are its ‘submodalities’. So for sight for example, the pictures in your mind have submodalities like size, focus, distance, position, color/black-and-white etc. 

For example, picture something in your mind's eye that you strongly believe, something you feel very strongly about and that is very important to you. Something you value highly. Now notice how bright and close the picture is to you. Push the picture way, way off into the distance and dim it right down. Notice that subjectively it no longer seems so important, so salient, so meaningful. Now zoom it back in to where it was originally and brighten it up. Your subjective experience of the belief is intrinsically linked to the submodalities you code the image with.

Notice also that those things that are important to you, that you value highly, tend to have pictures that are physically located high in the visual field. They are 'highly valued'. And notice also that this extends into other patterns of how we value our world. Where are the most valued and expensive 'top shelf' drinks stored? - On the highest shelf. Where do we physically place the most important people in an organisation? - The office of the CEO is usually on the top floor, and similarly on an Organisation chart, the most highly valued (in importance and in remuneration terms) people are placed on the top of the chart. Have you ever seen a short Super Model? - Research indicates that tall people are more highly valued, they get better jobs, more opportunities and their median income is higher. Society is replete with examples of the vertical sorting of values.

So the submodality of vertical dimension codes for move towards and move away from values. Up is move towards, down is move away. The higher or lower, the more the towards or away salience.
Distance and brightness combine together, as a means of increasing or decreasing the flux density of photons impinging on the retina, to code for intensity of salience. By brightening an image or moving it closer, you increase the intensity of the meaningfulness. You make it much more meaning-full.
Central and Peripheral physical location also code for meaningfulness. We value those things that are central to us much more than those that are peripheral. (Note however that change in the peripheral view has high salience from the perspective of danger and fear.) Left and right also code for meaningfulness.

These are just some of the many ways we use submodalities to code how meaningful things and experiences are to us. There are numerous others related to time coding, colour coding, patterns of change etc.

To Summarise: Submodalities code meaningfulness and values.

Putting it all together

As we have seen, we make sense of our world, our lives and our selves through an interplay of meaning and meaningfulness. Meaning is coded through metaphor and meaningfulness is coded through values and submodalities. This means that if you want to live a life designed for success, you need to become aware of and a master of the metaphors you are using to make meaning of your life.

You need to become a Metasmyth - a Meta-phor Smyth, a designer and creator of the metaphors of identity and meaning that organise your reality. You need to become an expert on the process of metaphor’ing and how each word is both a metaphor and a literal descriptor of the deep-structure experience it is encoding. (You need to become 'meta' to your own sense of self-ing and how you construct your reality through metaphor.)

You also need to become a Values master. Tracking, designing and flexibly operating from very clear and well-defined and well-formed values. Become a master of how you are value-ing your life. Values aren't something you have, they're processes that you do. How are you valuing your life? Are your values well-formed and clearly focussed? Prioritised in hierarchies that support your life purpose?

By deeply and clearly understanding the importance of these two processes - metaphor and values - and developing skills in tracking and utilising them, you can amplify the excellence of your results, the excellence of your relatings and the meaning you make of your time on this planet.

Meaning and meaningfulness are the keys to the patterns you unfold in your life.

life enhancing wishes

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Stories can change your life!

"The cool thing about reading is that when you read a short story or you read something that takes your mind and expands where your thoughts can go, that's powerful."
Taylor Swift
I’ve written before about the power of words and the importance of learning and reading for enhancing your life (Words are life enhancing, Loving your mind, Think about this, We are what we know). And now new research shows that even reading a fiction story changes the neural structures of the brain and leaves traces that last for days…

The following was reported in today’s Science News:
Many people can recall reading at least one cherished story that they say changed their life. Now researchers at Emory University have detected what may be biological traces related to this feeling: Actual changes in the brain that linger, at least for a few days, after reading a novel. Their findings, that reading a novel may cause changes in resting-state connectivity of the brain that persist, were published by the journal Brain Connectivity.
"Stories shape our lives and in some cases help define a person," says neuroscientist Gregory Berns, lead author of the study and the director of Emory's Center for Neuropolicy. "We want to understand how stories get into your brain, and what they do to it."

The Emory study focused on the lingering neural effects of reading a narrative. Twenty-one Emory undergraduates participated in the experiment, which was conducted over 19 consecutive days.

The results showed heightened connectivity in the left temporal cortex, an area of the brain associated with receptivity for language, on the mornings following the reading assignments. "Even though the participants were not actually reading the novel while they were in the scanner, they retained this heightened connectivity," Berns says. "We call that a 'shadow activity,' almost like a muscle memory."

Heightened connectivity was also seen in the central sulcus of the brain, the primary sensory motor region of the brain. Neurons of this region have been associated with making representations of sensation for the body, a phenomenon known as grounded cognition. Just thinking about running, for instance, can activate the neurons associated with the physical act of running.

"The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist," Berns says. "We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else's shoes in a figurative sense. Now we're seeing that something may also be happening biologically."

The neural changes were not just immediate reactions, Berns says, since they persisted the morning after the readings, and for the five days after the participants completed the novel.
Given that research (for e.g. see here, here, here and images here) shows that new dendritic growth and neuronal connections can occur with less than a day in the brain(s) (yes, importantly neural plasticity has also been found in both the heart and gut brains as well as the head brain), this means that when you read a book that viscerally moves you, that grips your heart and stirs your mind, that you are literally growing new neural connections and changing the structure of your multiple brains (head, heart and gut).

So books and stories are powerful! They have the ability to alter your mind and your life. Question is…
What books and stories are you reading? 
 And what books have been life changing for you? 
Many people from around the world have told me that mBraining has been profoundly life changing for them. Now we know in part why, reading it will have altered the neural structures of their multiple brains in wise and generative ways.

Great wishes,