There are two categories of presuppositions of NLP that are significant for NLP: linguistic presuppositions and epistemological presuppositions.

Every discipline is based on a set of underlying thoughts or affirmations that constitute its basic philosophy. In a way, these are the foundations of the building, the roots of action and the style of reasoning. It is important to understand them in order to understand the spirit of NLP and its ethics.

In NLP, usage names these underlying assertions, presuppositions or predicates that are in some ways postulates or axioms. These presuppositions are therefore not to be demonstrable and do not have to be demonstrable.The Presuppositions of NLP

Presuppositions refer to unconscious beliefs or postulates embedded in the structure of a speech, action, or other belief; and the presence of these presuppositions is required for these words, actions or beliefs to be understood. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, presupposing means “presupposing” or “what is required as prior to logic or fact. The term “suppose” comes from Latin, and literally means “put under” from sub (“under”) and ponere (“put”).

I – The 2 Categories of Significant Presuppositions of NLP

1 – Linguistic Presuppositions of NLP

Linguistic presuppositions occur when certain information or relationships must be accepted as true for a particular statement to be understandable. For example, to understand the following statement – “as soon as you stop trying to sabotage our therapeutic efforts, we will be able to make more progress,” – we must assume that the person to whom the purpose is intended has already tried to sabotage therapeutic efforts. The statement also assumes that some type of therapeutic effort has been attempted and that at least some progress has been made.

Linguistic presuppositions are typically explored or challenged, with NLP, asking, “How, specifically, do you know that? ”

Genuine linguistic presuppositions should be distinguished from assumptions (assumptions) and inferences. A linguistic presupposition is something that is stated in the body of the utterance and must be “assumed” or accepted for the phrase or phrase to be understood.

For example, in the question, “Have you stopped exercising regularly? The use of the verb stop implies that the listener has already exercised regularly. The question, “Do you practice regularly? Does not contain such a presupposition.

Findings such as “the speaker think the exercise is important,” or “the speaker is unfamiliar with the exercise habits of the audience,” are not presupposed in the questions. These are hypotheses and inferences that we could make about the question, but that is not presupposed in the question itself. Consider the following two statements:

* Authorities prevented protestors from walking because they feared violence

* Authorities prevented protestors from walking because they advocated violence

Both words have exactly the same structure, except the words “feared” and “advocated. According to the word used, we assume that the term “they” refers to either “authorities” or “protesters”. We are more inclined to think that it is the authorities who fear violence, and the protesters who advocate violence, but this is not presupposed by the purpose itself. This is what is assumed by us as a listener. The two sentences presuppose that there were demonstrators who planned to walk, and that’s all.

An inference related to the two statements above would be that “the protesters and the authorities were not an identical group of individuals. The inferences refer to the logical conclusions that are made, based on the information provided by the statement. Presuppositions, assumptions, and inferences all reflect beliefs and values, but in a different way.

In the structure of magic volume, I (1975) of the founders of NLP, Bandler, and Grinder identify 29 different forms of linguistic presuppositions.

2 – The Epistemological Presuppositions of NLP

Epistemological presuppositions of NLP are deep, and often not expressed, beliefs are the foundations of a particular system of knowledge. Like the foundations of an epistemology, they must be “presupposed,” and can not be proven. In fact, they are the fundamental postulates on which all the other concepts and ideas contained in epistemology are “proven.” Euclid, for example, has built his entire geometry on the concept of “point.” One point is defined as “Entity that has a position but no other property”, it has no size, mass, color or shapes It is naturally impossible to show that a point really has no size, mass, color, etc. However, if you accept this assumption, along with a few others, you can establish the whole system of geometry (ie, “one line is the shortest distance between two points,” A “rectangle” is consisting of four lines connected together with equal angles, etc. The conclusions of this system can then be “proven” with reference to the acceptance of fundamental but unproven concepts. must not accept the postulate of Euclid concerning a point to create geometry. There are other geometries based on different presuppositions. For example, mathematician Seymour Pappert (1980) of MIT established his fascinating “turtle geometry” for children by substituting the notion of point for that of the “turtle”; a “turtle” is an entity that has a position and a direction.

The basic assumptions of NLP are the basic epistemology upon which NLP methodology and technology is built. They are like the fundamental concepts of Euclidean geometry. And, as Euclid’s notion of “point,” the basic assumptions of NLP cannot be “proven” in any objective way. For example, you can not objectively “prove” that there is really “a positive intention” behind a particular behavior; therefore, this positive intention is considered a “presupposition”. Similarly, we can not “prove” that the “map is not the territory” and “that there is not one good map of the world”. These presuppositions are part of the basic “epistemology” of NLP – they represent the basic beliefs on which the rest of the model is built.

Thus, by accepting the presuppositions that “the map is not the territory” or “a positive intention is behind every behavior” we ultimately make an act of faith. If we accept these presuppositions, then they will be present in our experience, or we will create them, rather than waiting for proof of their “veracity”

As with many other aspects of NLP, the basic assumptions of NLP are syntheses of many different fields of thought: general semantics, transformational grammar, systems theory, cybernetics, pragmatism, phenomenology, and logical positivism.

II – The Presuppositions of NLP

Indeed, it is not a question of knowing if these presuppositions are right or wrong, but of putting them to the test of the practice to judge their effectiveness. The basic presuppositions of NLP come from different domains, including: general semantics (Alfred Korzybski), transformational grammar (Noam Chomsky), systems theory (Gregory Bateson), cybernetics (W. Ross Ashby), pragmatism (William James), phenomenology (Edmund Husserl), and logical positivism (Bertrand Russel and Alfred North Whitehead). They mainly concern the fields of communication, language, behavior, and change.

1. The Map Is Not the Territory

Our representation of reality is not reality. Our perception is subjective, it is a representation (map or model) of reality and not reality itself. It exists (perhaps) a reality. There are as many representations of this reality as there are human beings. Therefore it implies not to match its representation of the world with that of others.

This notion, due to Korzybski, corresponds to the fact that we perceive the world (the territory) through our senses (sight, touch, hearing, smell, taste). We make it an internal representation (the map), but this representation is not exactly the reality.

In other words, as human beings, we can never know the reality. We can only know our perceptions of reality. We experience and respond to the world around us, mainly through our sensory systems of representation. It is our “neuro-linguistic” maps of reality that determine how we behave and give meaning to these behaviors, but not the reality itself. What limits us or allows us to do is not usually a reality, but rather our map of this reality.

That said then: Each of us, therefore, has his own map of the world and there is not one map better than another. Or again, each of us sees things differently.

2. You Cannot – Don’t Communicate

Communicating is not only spoken. Communication is both verbal (words, words) and nonverbal (gestures, intonations, looks, postures …). Refusing to communicate with someone is a communication. This can be verbal or nonverbal.

Choosing everything or not choosing is already making a choice. Similarly, “ to communicate or not to communicate is already a communication.” (Thomson Dablemond).

As if to say, even if one does not speak, one communicates, whether by his attitude, his gestures or even his physiology (redness, skin color, breathing, …).

NLP practitioners are skilled at detecting minute variations in physiology. Their senses are awake because these changes represent a large part of the communication (the verb only represents 7%).

For example, in the morning, you are lost in your thoughts and you meet a colleague without saying hello. You did not have an intention towards him but he receives a message.

Indeed, the words (verbal) only represent 7% of the message, the way of saying (the para-verbal) and the nonverbal represent the remaining 92%! In the presence of the other even if we do not have an intention to communicate, we communicate anyway.

3. The Body and the Mind Interact

The human mind is a system, and as such, it can be applied to the laws of the systemic. Mind and body are aspects of the same cybernetic system. Body and mind interact; influence each other in a retroactive loop.

Indeed, if we change something in the mind, it causes a change in the body and vice versa. This means that external behavior (displacement, action, etc.) internal process (thought, reflection, imagination, etc.) and internal state (perception of one’s feelings, moods, feelings, etc.) are closely linked.

In this respect, we then conceive that life and the “spirit” are systemic processes. The processes that take place in a human being, between humans and their environment are systemic. Our bodies, our societies, and our universe form ecology of complex systems and subsets that interact and influence each other. It is not possible to completely isolate part of the system from the rest of the system. Such systems are based on “self-organization” principles and naturally, seek optimal states of equilibrium or homeostasis.

4. The Person Is Not His Behaviors.

It is helpful to clearly separate the identity from the behaviors. We are not our behaviors. Mr. X is not an alcoholic but exhibits an alcoholic behavior. It is not Mr. X as such (his nature) who makes the problem, but his behavior (what he does and not what he is). It is more acceptable to talk about behavior by separating it from the person himself. As a result, she will not feel judged.

Here, we argue that behaviors are to be distinguished from the very nature of the person, his identity. Moreover, while it is relatively easy to help someone change their behavior, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to change their nature.

Similarly, the object is not the words that describe it in the sense that what you say about an object is not the object, but simply the description of the representation that you make of it from the perception that you have some.

That’s why individuals, in presuppositions of NLP, are not their behaviors. Their behaviors are their responses to stimuli based on the internal resources available to them at that time.

5. All Behavior Is Generated by a Positive Intention.

We must distinguish between intention and behavior. Each behavior implies a positive intention. If part of us behaves inappropriately, it does so to satisfy something important to us. The positive intention behind “aggressive” behavior, for example, is often “protection”. Behind “fear” we will often find “security”. And “anger” may be driven by the need to maintain clear boundaries.

A simple example, for NLP practitioners, If a manager is too demanding of his employees it is to give them a sense of quality. In his mind, he does it for the good of his collaborators.

On this subject, we are even tempted to say that at a certain level, all behavior is “positively intentioned”. This means that this behavior is or was perceived by the person generating it as appropriate to the context in which it was developed. Individuals make the best choices given the possibilities they perceive as accessible in their world model. Any behavior, whether it appears bad, crazy or weird, is the best choice available for that person at this time.

Nevertheless, it was necessary here to underline this remark: All behavior is however not positive. Indeed, to accept that behind every behavior there is a positive intention does not mean that the behavior is acceptable; as for the intention, it is positive for the person at the origin insofar as it ensures the coherence of the person. The result can be detestable for others.

6. Everyone Has the Resources to Change, Develop and Want

On the one hand, it is to affirm that a person can change, that is to say, that he is capable of it, but also that he has the means of change, the resources necessary for his development. There is no question of claiming that the person is incurable “that there is nothing to be done” or “it is too late” because the necessary elements for change are present even if our unconscious remains the reservoir of these resources.

The point is how to do it, that is, to organize these potential resources so that they become operational. All the resources of change are in the experience of the person himself.

On the other hand, this assumption holds that each individual has the resources to achieve what he desires. You just have to teach him how to use them or discover them. This presupposition invites everyone to regain power over their lives. He considers that the limits of a person are only the representation that she makes of it.


7. What One Person Can Do, Another Person Can Do.

This assumption is closely related to the previous one. The limits do not exist in the real world but in the model of the world of the person. It is highly preferable to wonder how to get something than to wonder why you cannot get what you want. It is already known that NLP is more willing to focus on the process, that is, the “how” than the “why”. So, if a person labeled alcoholic has been able to cope with others can learn to cope too.

Another thing, Grinder and Bandler, the creators of NLP, originally studied therapists of excellence to discover their techniques. They deduced techniques to reproduce their performances and generalized them.

In neuro-linguistic programming, it is therefore considered that it is possible to reproduce the effective behaviors of individuals. In NLP, modeling allows you to learn from the best.

8. in Communication There Is No Failure, Only Feedback

When we do not wait for the expected result, we get feedback that tells us to do differently at the next test. Failure does not exist in itself since it constitutes an apprenticeship.

In other words, while failure and error can make people feel guilty and demotivate, consider an unexpected response as feedback from a context that empowers and invites action: a result different from the desired one is to be considered as additional information regarding our way of doing things.

What did I say?  “ Is not failure a guide to success? ”  (Thomson Dablemond). To be even more explicit: like the helmsman or Christopher Columbus following his compass, our mistakes are not an end in themselves, but just an indication that what we are doing does not work.

Thomas Edison has, it seems, made a thousand attempts to invent the light bulb. He did not regard it as 1000 failures but as 1000 ways of not making a light bulb.

9. The More Choices, the Better!

At a given moment, people adopt the best possible choice, given their possibilities and abilities and according to what they perceive to be valid for them in their world model.

It is the variety of choices that make it possible to deal with the complexity of a situation, and that, when that does not work, one can change the way one does it, so try something else. One of the goals of NLP is to give individuals more options, more choice, and more flexibility. Because, often, people are locked in vicious circles, in behaviors that they do not wish to keep, and cannot change.

10. If Something Does Not Work for You, Change the Way You Do It

If you fail, change your strategy. It is very easy and advantageous. When you try to reach a goal and it does not work, try something else. One of the basics presuppositions of NLP is the flexibility, the flexibility to change its mode of attack to achieve its ends.

The lack of flexibility destroyed Napoleon Bonaparte. He stubbornly wanted to continue his Russian campaign against an elusive enemy practicing the scorched earth strategy. This led his army to know a real Berezina.

11. The Meaning of What We Communicate Is in the Answer We Get

Communication is two-way. There is a transmitter and a receiver. Neuro-Linguistic Programming says that only the answers we receive when we communicate have meaning.

It is perhaps because of the different maps of the world of each one, the messages emitted are distorted by filters on the emission and in the opposite direction.

Have you ever walked in the street and met someone’s eyes without wanting to hurt him, yet this person will make you look so black or even invading you?

It is because your physiological signals (your nonverbal communication) have expressed something that escapes you (from hatred, disgust or something else).

Even if you are not aware of what you are communicating, it is what you get in response that matters.

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