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"The map is not the territory."

This phrase, the map is not the territory, is the adage of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). It embodies the ambition of all cognitive therapies, that is, all methods that use the unconscious as a means to transform symptomatic physiological ailments or negative behaviors.

I will take advantage of this article to give you a little history of cognitive behavioral therapies. I will explain to you the importance of this metaphor and the idea it conveys. All this will lead us to talk about the unconscious and finally what my work as a therapist consists of. I can only encourage you to read this article to the end and think that understanding this concept will be most useful for you to live more serenely.

History and difference between NLP and CBT.

This thought by Alfred Korzybski (Polish mathematician, engineer, linguist, and philosopher) simply means that there is a difference between reality and the representation we have of it. The founders of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) were the first to take up this adage, but it is the foundation of all cognitive behavioral therapies. NLP was founded in the 70s by psychology students (Grinder, Bandler, Pucelik, Dilts...) from the best American university of the time in this field, Santa Cruz University in California. Since the early 80's NLP has been very successful. This media recognition made the method very popular, and then unpopular. During the 80s and 90's this beautiful psychological tool was transformed into a commercial method for manipulators of all kinds. Nevertheless, it is still a great tool!

Personally, when I use NLP, I also use other methods such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), positive psychology, and psycho-biotherapy. United we stand, divided we fall…

The two often opposing approaches of CBT and NLP are quite similar and even complementary. They describe, by listening and observing, the interactions between 3 phenomena: Internal Processes (conscious and unconscious thinking) and Internal states, which are called emotions Behaviours Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) as well as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) offer methods that allow them to understand and change the thoughts that bother their patients (negative behaviors such as phobia, anxiety, and depression, etc.).

“The map is not the territory” and its interest in therapy.

As I said earlier, we look at several criteria, such as:

  • The mental structure of the individual

  • Mental representations

  • Mental strategies

  • Beliefs

  • Values

We will try to understand why the unconscious, to find a solution to the "problem" (real or not), causes certain changes in the biology of the individual or new disabling behaviors. To understand how it works, you have to understand how our biology works. Specifically, we are interested in the nervous system, both unconscious and conscious.

The nervous systems: unconscious and conscious.

Our brains all have the same meta-program, it's simple. This program is about our survival.

The unconscious mind works in silent mode (we are not aware of it), always on alert, and always active from the beginning to the end of our days to keep us and our genetic heritage (through reproduction) alive for as long as possible.

Leaving aside all metaphysical notions for this article, we can say that the unconscious directs us subtly and discreetly.

Our biological needs, desires, and behaviors, whether physical, emotional, sentimental, or otherwise, would find their "source" in our brain, always motivated by this single goal, to live as long as possible for the survival of the species.

This "source" is a combination of memories and experiences:

The experience of our ancestors is passed down to us through our genetic heritage.

Our own experience.

Epigenetics, neuroscience, and behavioral psychology have made many discoveries thanks to technological advances (such as magnetic resonance imaging). We now know, thanks to the scientific branch of epigenetics, that genetics is not "fixed". Some genes "animate" and "turn off" depending on our emotions. These changes are intimately linked to certain environmental factors, certain situations (often dramatic (subjective to the person)), and our physical environment (climate, pollution, etc.) or emotional environment (stress, tranquility, etc.). Similarly, the study of neuroscience and behavioral psychology has shed light on the biological processes that explain certain behaviors and mental disorders (such as schizophrenia).

Some important facts to remember!

The unconscious, like the conscious mind, does not have a precise focus in the brain itself. However, the cortex appears to be the most active place for conscious brain activity (calculations, projections, and reflections).

The unconscious (UCS), to be as efficient as possible, has naturally made certain "concessions". We call these shortcuts cognitive biases. Like what:

  • We think we know what other people think.

  • We remember things that are already started in our memory or that are often repeated.

  • We discard specificities and form generalities.

  • We store memories differently depending on how we had the experience, etc.

Today, therefore, we have a better understanding of the workings of the unconscious mind and know that it knows neither the concept of the past nor that of the future.

This is due to its "number one" function, always the same, survival. As the unconscious mind is always on the alert, always on the lookout for dangers, it is always in the present.

We deduced that if the UCS identified a "danger" (e.g. fear of losing a loved one, being attacked, etc.), the danger would remain active (considered real) at the unconscious level. As long as this "danger" remains stored in the unconscious, it remains real for the unconscious. To extinguish the "alert", it is necessary to express the emotion caused to process it on a conscious level.

eproducción) durante el mayor tiempo posible.

Dejando a un lado todas las nociones metafísicas para los propósitos de este artículo, podemos decir que el sistema inconsciente nos dirige de una manera sutil y discreta.

Nuestras necesidades biológicas, deseos y comportamientos, ya sean físicos, emocionales, sentimentales o de otro tipo, encontrarían su "fuente" en nuestro cerebro, siempre motivados por este único objetivo, vivir el mayor tiempo posible para la supervivencia de la especie.

If the perceived danger (real or not) moves from the unconscious to the conscious mind, the unconscious considers the case closed "There is no longer any danger”.

Let us remember that the conscious system solves, calculates, and reasons. If the potential danger is dealt with by the conscious system, then the unconscious system frees itself from the alert. The alert "turned off" at the unconscious level, allows a return to normality and physical and mental health.

If we talk in numbers and percentages, the IS processes about 25000 times more information than the SC per second. It is assumed that the IS receives and processes more than 11 million bits per second through our senses, while the conscious mind processes only 50 bits per second.

The brain consumes about 20% of the calories consumed by the whole body daily. Of this energy (20%), the conscious mind consumes 80%, and only 20% for the unconscious mind.

A recent ESPN article quoted Professor Robert Sapolsky, a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, as saying that a top chess player could burn up to

6,000 calories a day during tournaments. However, this figure remains subjective.

How does it work during a session?

As you can see, the purpose of a session is to change the emotional relationship of a dramatic event that has been memorized in the unconscious.

Either you try to express it only, or you also accompany it with progressive exercises. By establishing new strategies, involving new actions, we can create new cognitive relays, new emotions, sensations, and therefore new reactions.

Concretely, the person talks about "the problem", I observe and listen carefully, and I ask what the physical sensation is when talking about it (body memory).

I use this particular sensory reference as a guide during the session.

The person relaxes and focuses on the sensations that the difficulty (negative behavior or symptom) reminds them of.

Then, always keeping an eye on these bodily sensations, we will explore, through language and visualization, the patient's memories. Events from the past then come to light with their share of emotions. The goal is to rediscover the original dramatic moment (subjective to each person) that may have been the trigger for the physiological or behavioral change. Once found, we work on expressing and attenuating the emotional relationship, to obtain a neutral emotion. The sensations that served as our guide disappear.

In conclusion, "The map is not the territory".

Of course, you know it, but you don’t always remember it.

Our memories and mental representations are not the world in its reality. Strangely, if it is easy for us to understand this concept, it is more difficult for us to accept that we can change our menu, that we can change to get better. I wholeheartedly invite you to try and see the changes.

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Jorge Araluce
Jorge Araluce

Very interesting, explanatory and insightful .. looking forward to learn more .. keep the work !

Un abrazo!

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