Thursday, August 14, 2008

Advanced NLP: Perceptual Positions & the Matrix of Positions

Matrix of Positions

I am going to write a new series of articles on some advanced topics in NLP. Some will be written in Chinese and some in English. I write in English because I wish to present some of my original ideas in NLP to more people in the world. In the future, I might translate these articles back to Chinese. My first article is about a very confusing concept of NLP, the Perceptual Positions.

Perceptual Positions is one of the most useful skills of NLP. It teaches us how to adopt multiple points of view in an organized manner. There are originally 3 Perceptual Positions in NLP. Then some developers added the 4th and 5th Position.

The 1st & 2nd Position

The 1st Position is your own position. We perceive the world from our own "Self" position. This is the usual perceiving position of most of us. The 2nd Position is the position of others. The 2nd Position gives us the ability of seeing things from other people's position. 2nd Position can be whoever or even whatever. You can be in the position of your wife, your child, your boss, or any fictional character. You can even in the position of a dog, a computer or a flower, anyone or anything apart from yourself.

Both the 1st and 2nd Positions are easy to understand. The trouble starts from the 3rd Position, the Meta-Position.

The 3rd Position

The Meta-Position is seeing things from an imaginative position, a totally outsider's position. You are outside the other 2 positions and you suspend all your own assumptions and beliefs so that you can perceive objectively.

It is more than just an "Observer" Position. If you are an observer, you are still in the 2nd Position, but you are just someone other than yourself. In order to be in the 3rd Position, you should be nobody and nothing!

But how can one be a nobody and nothing? And how can one suspend his/her assumptions and beliefs? It is quite impossible to do so. If we can do it so easily, we are gods, but not human beings. One can't perceive anything without any assumption and belief. Perception is the result of the interaction between the outside data and one's beliefs and assumptions. So, most of the people saying that they are in the 3rd Position are simply in another 2nd Position only.

Meta-Position are just "Perceptual" position only. You do not need to be nobody or nothing in order to be in the 3rd Position. It is about what we perceive rather than who we are. You are still you, but you see yourself as someone else and that someone else is NOT you.

For example, when I go into 3rd Position, I am still Keith To and I am watching someone else who looks like Keith To acting, thinking, talking, etc. It is different from being dissociated. Being dissociated, you are still you. You watch yourself acting, thinking, talking, etc.

The meaning of "Meta" is being above and beyond. So, in the 3rd Meta Position, we go above and out of ourselves, plus we go beyond of being our own selves.

The 4th Position

The 4th Position is created by Robert Dilts. The 4th Position is in the position of the whole system, which transcends individual identities, parts and relationships. "I" becomes "We". There is no more "I" of the 1st Position, and "He/She/It" of the 2nd Position. Everything becomes one whole system. I see from the eyes/position of all of us.

As you can see from the above diagram, I put the 1st Position and 4th Position on the left 2 quadrants of the Matrix, as both of them are in the "Mid" of someone or something. The 1st Position in the Mid of "I", while the 4th Position in the Mid of "We". That is, we perceive inside the Frame of "I" and "We" respectively. So the left quadrants are the Mid-Quadrants.

If the 4th Position is seeing things inside the Frame of "We", then there will be another position that sees "We" from above and beyond, that is, Meta-We or Meta-4th Position. I named it as 4.5th Position (Since someone had already created the 5th Position). In this 4.5 Position, one can see the thinking and operation of the whole system.

The right quadrants of the Matrix are the Meta-Quadrants. The 3rd Position is Meta to the 1st, while the 4.5th Position is Meta to the 4th. Since both positions are Meta-Positions, it is better to stop calling the 3rd Position as Meta-Position to reduce confusion. Furthermore, to make things even confusing is that the 5th Position is also another Meta-Position! I will talk about the 5th & 6th Positions in my next article.

But Where is the 2nd Position?

But where is the 2nd Position in the above Matrix?

There is NO 2nd Position at all! The 2nd Position is just another 1st Position of another person or thing. They have their own Matrix of Positions. When you go into the "2nd Position", you are going into another matrix of others!

So, you can imagine there are lots of matrixes interacting with each others in the world. One can go into different quadrants of his/her own matrix. One can also go into positions inside the matrix of another person/things. This creates flexibility and thus Choices!

If there is Systemic NLP, this matrix system should be part of it!

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