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The Power of Messages

Communication has three [03] major components: a sender, a message and a receiver. Each of these components must be consciously examined, and a strategy determined. Since we start from the assumption that we have no control over other persons, we must recognize that our strategies are oriented towards ourselves. We use all of these components. We send messages on a regular basis, but are we clear what messages we send? What are the five or six major messages that all children should receive? We receive messages on a regular basis, but do we really hear? ‘Ye have ears, but you do not hear’ is a lament not only of Yeshua, but of many.

A. Memes: units of cultural information that can spread through a culture rather as genes spread through a gene pool.

01. A meme can be just about any form of non-genetic information transmitted from person to person: a word, a song, an attitude, a religious belief, a mealtime ritual, an engineering concept.
02. Bodies of memes can be whole religions or ideologies or moral systems or technological systems.
03. Think of them as competing for your brain, which they use to propagate themselves.
04. Memes can be either helpful or harmful to personal goals and intentions
a. Intentionally helpful/harmful
b. Interpreted helpful/harmful
c. Heroin use is a viral or toxic meme

B. Information – the “difference that makes a difference” [Bateson]

01. Ninety-five [95%] percent of what we do – we do nonconsciously.
02. Habituation causes information to become common and make no difference
a. Saying the same thing to a person over and over causes the representation to be ignored
b. Novel experiences cause an arousal of consciousness – it makes a difference
03. Consciousness is focused on mismatch, novelty, or ‘anti-habit’.

C. Senders

01. Charles S. Peirce, founder of the philosophy known as pragmatism, believed that the ‘meaning’ of a message is the behavior it induces.
02. This is not strictly true as the behavior induced contains information only about the interpretation of the message, not the intent.
03. If your intent to give a compliment results in your being slapped, your message has not been receive in the same context as it was sent.
04. If you don’t get the response you would like to get – change the message.
05. There are several abstractions of communication that might be worth considering
a. Transactional Communication
1) Named after the constructs of transactional analysis, it suggests an adult-to-adult communication
2) Helpers are often pushed into responding with the construct of a PARENT [You will do what I told you to do!] because the client acts from their CHILD [I want what I want when I want it!]
3) Rather than debate who will wins – keep it rational and balanced
b. Directive Communication
1) If you believe that the person is incapable of doing what you told him, then you will not directly and clearly tell him to do what you want him to do.
2) There must be a conscious understanding of exactly what the goal is, in order to develop an appropriate communication.
3) Goals and outcomes must be delineated with behavioral statements which are identifiable and measurable.
4) Children’s behaviors can be divided into three categories: “nonnegotiable”, “preferred”, and “who cares?”.
5) Children who are having difficulty with behaviors, need clear, direct, specific, concrete communications which are conveyed authoritatively in nonnegotiable areas.
6) Such directives are not appropriate for every area of the child’s performance.
• For preferred and “Who cares?” behaviors, other motivational techniques might be performed.
• Nonnegotiable behaviors are those which the school or the family determine to be harmful or dangerous.
• Most adults use directive communication only when their personal limit has been reached.
7) It is important to decide consciously that certain behaviors are necessary if the child is going to be able to maintain him/herself in full community membership.
c. Conversational Reframing
1) Meaning isn’t real
• Meanings have no reality ‘out there’
• Meaning only arises and coheres within a mind – it only exists as part of a given person’s internal world.
• Meaning emerges as a linguistic product from our interactions with people, events, ideas, etc. – as a completely internal thing.
2) Meaning is made of ’thoughts’
• The idea of meaning arose from the fact that we can ‘hold things in mind’. This is the significance of the original words for meaning in Old High German and Middle English.
• What we hold in mind are representations, thoughts, ideas.
• The first level of meaning involves the sensory-based representations – Signs, sounds, sensations, smells and tastes.
• At the next level we have the meta representational system or words.
3) Meaning slips and slides
• As a non-thing, we can’t expect meaning to have a static or rigid quality – instead it keeps moving and shifting.
• Meaning has a plasticity to it so that it bends, stretches, moves, slips, slides, etc. Realizing this will help us from thinking of it, or treating it as solid, permanent.
• If meaning arises by ‘mind’ in ‘mind’ – then expect it to come and go according to the functioning of consciousness.
• Meaning does not and cannot exist apart from a meaning-maker. It takes a human mind to create, communicate, and experience meaning.
• Even though meaning functions in this way, the habituation of our thoughts seduce us into assuming a false permanence and stability about meaning.
• That there exists a ‘plasticity’ to ‘meaning’ [even language] does not make it so relative that we can make anything mean anything. But it does suggest that we should expect to discover fluidity to ‘meaning’ such that it keeps shifting and changing and never stays put.
4) We construct meaning – invent reality
• Because it takes a meaning-maker to create meaning, meaning emerges in our experience as a human construct.
• Philosophically we call this understanding of meaning ‘Constructivism’.
• Recognizing this empowers us in thinking about and working with ‘meanings’.
• Ultimately, we construct or construe our internal realities. The old biblical proverb expressed this in a simple but succinct way. “As a man thinks in his heart, so he is.”
• ‘Reality’ thus operates as a function of our maps [i.e., perceptions and constructions].
• This in turn, leads to the realization of our personal responsibility for constructing useful ideas and maps.
• Kelly posited the idea that our maps are bound by personal constructs that are polarized – good cannot be thought of except in relation to bad or some other polar opposite.
5) Meaning occurs in frames of reference or context
• As a human construct that arises as a thinker-feeler uses his or her consciousness to create ‘meaning’, meaning always exists in some frame.
• The primary significance of this is that it directs us to go looking for the frame. “What frame of reference does this or that idea occur within?” “What frame is this person using to say or perceive this?” “What frame has to be there in order for this statement to make sense?”
• Frame-less meanings do not, and cannot, occur. When you have a meaning, you have a frame of reference.
• An idea, thought or emotion as a personal meaning attains much of its ‘meaning’ from the ideas, experiences, events that it references.
6) Frames govern meanings
• Frames govern, modulate, organize, drive and control the experiences that occur within them [i.e., the thoughts, feelings, language, behavior and responses].
• When we set a frame that frame will govern the consequences and conclusions that follow. Korzybski called this ‘logical fate’.
7) He who sets the Frame governs the experience.
• All human experiences occur within some frame. It occurs within cultural frames of reference, personal frames, family frames, business and economic frames, etc.
– The language frame comprises one of the largest frames that we all unconsciously accept and live within, and which therefore governs our experience.
– If you grew up hearing and speaking English, then as a language system English will govern how you think, how you perceive, what experiences stand out and count, which do no, etc.
• Similarly, the cultural frame typically operates in an out of conscious fashion so that we hardly ever notice it. To notice it, you have to step out of the frame, namely, go to a different culture.
8) As a communicator you want to have the ability to shift the frames that people put around anything.
• If a person believes that something is bad, the question is “when, where, how and for whom?”.
• If somebody says, “stupidity is inherently bad; it is bad to be stupid” you say “some people use stupidity as a way to learn a tremendous amount. Some people use stupidity as a way to get people to do things for them. That’s pretty smart”.
d. Clean Language
1) In the early 1980’s David Grove noticed clinical experts continually shifted their client’s frames of reference – introducing their own model of the world by subtly rewording what the client was saying.
2) Grove fully preserves and honors a client’s experience with minimal interference by identifying a number of very simple questions with a particular syntax and a unique delivery method. These questions contained a minimum of presupposition.
3) The more Clean Language is used the more clients naturally used metaphor to describe their problems in living.
• When Clean Language questions are directed to the metaphors and symbols; unexpected information becomes available to the client, often with profound results.
• The fewer attempts to change the client’s model of the world, the more they experienced their own core patterns, and organic, lasting changes naturally emerged.
6) By interfering with a client’s description of their problems in living, Grove asserts that counselors can rob clients of the very experience needed to resolve their unwanted behaviors.
• Clean Language both validates the client’s experience and facilitates the bringing out symbolic information normally out of everyday awareness. By doing so it catalyzes the processes of self-healing
8) The purpose is to enable the clients to gather information about their own subjective experience, not necessarily for the clinician to understand it.
• Attempts to understand the client’s experience is replaced with tracking the inherent symbolic process and structure within their ‘Metaphoric Psychescape’.
• The counselor asks questions on behalf of the information sources, staying strictly within the metaphor. Thus this process is not client-centered, it is information-centered.
• Common by-products of being asked Clean Language questions are:
– A state of self-absorption (often an eyes-open trance develops);
– A sense of connecting with some deep, rarely explored aspects of ourselves; and
– A sense of wonder, curiosity and awe at the marvelous ingenuity of our unconscious.
9) Clean Language questions are thought to enable the client to experience their own patterns in ‘real time’, resulting in naturalistic, organic transformation.
10) People process everything that is said to them in an attempt to make sense of whatever another person communicates.
• When we are asked a question we have to “mentally do” whatever is asked before we can answer.
• To do this we have to presuppose or infer much more information than is given in the ‘surface structure’ of the question.
• When a responder makes even minute changes to a client’s words, the client often has to go through an additional translation processes to reorient to the responder’s presuppositions. Thus the discussion subtly goes in a direction determined by the responder’s map of the world.
• The counselor aims to ask the question the client’s information wants to be asked.
– Each response is then used in the next question.
– Thus the counselor follows the natural direction of the process rather than leads it.
– New awareness of their own process ‘updates the system’ and the original neural coding will automatically begin to transform; albeit in minute ways at first.
• Clean Language questions are asked of each subsequent response and each symbolic representation is explored.
– Thus the client is continually expanding their awareness of their Metaphoric Psychescape.
– The process ultimately accesses conflicts, paradoxes, double-binds and other ‘holding patterns’ which have kept the symptoms repeating over and over.
• As the process moves further, symbolic resources naturally emerge which resolve, at a symbolic level, that which the client has been unable to resolve at an everyday level.
10) Clean Language has three components:
• The vocal characteristics when delivering the language patterns.
– The speed of his delivery is slower than half normal pace
– A slightly deeper tonality than normal speaking is used
– A distinctive sing-song rhythm is often used
– There is an implied sense of curiosity and wonder in the voice
– The client’s idiosyncratic pronunciation, emphasis, sighs etc. are matched
• The syntactical structure of the language
– The syntax of Clean Language is peculiar and would sound very strange if used in normal conversation.
– It uses Pacing and Leading in a particular way – all the questions begin with ‘and’ and are orientated to the clients ‘perceptual present’.
– The generalized syntax, in its full form, comprises 4 components:
= “And [pacing clients words]
= And as/when
= [question]
= [refer to this particular experience]”
• The Basic Questions – There are 9 basic Clean Language questions. Two questions request information about symbol’s attributes and two ask for locational information. There are two questions that reference the past and two which reference the future (from the client’s perceptual present). This leaves the odd-one-out, which offers the client the opportunity to make a lateral and therefore metaphorical shift in perception.
= And is there anything else about …?
= And what kind of … is that …?
= And where is …?
= And whereabouts?
= And what happens next?
= And then what happens?
= And what happens just before …?
= And where did … come from?
= And that’s … like what?
• Where ‘…’ is (some of) the exact words of the client.
• There are a further 25 or so questions which supplement the basic 9. These are used only in response to the client presenting or presupposing information that warrants such a question.
11) Benefits – The results of using Clean Language can be quite astounding.
• Clients often report that we seem to understand their predicament at a very deep level, and that this in itself is valuable. (Actually this is only true at the symbolic level — at an everyday content/cognitive level we know much less about their issue than most traditional counselors.)
• clients get to increase their awareness of their own process.
= They become observers of their own repeating patterns.
= They make connections between the symbolic pattern and their everyday life.
= This separates them from their ‘stuff’ and allows new perspectives and insights.
• At certain a stage the process ‘takes over’ and both counselor and client are led by the information.
= When this occurs profound shifts take place. The client is taken by surprise at the turn of perceptual events as long-standing patterns transform themselves into more useful ways of being and doing.
= From the clinical point of view this can verge on the miraculous. When the most unwanted and fearful symbols transform organically into resources and the client experiences deep physiological changes

D. Receivers

01. Perceptual systems seem ‘committed’ to unconscious assumptions.
a. This implies that nonconscious contexts help to shape conscious information. Our ability to learn any new information is critically dependent on prior, largely unconscious knowledge.
b. Such context-sensitivity implies that all conscious experiences are constrained by nonconscious context.

02. The beginning of communication is to listen, without bias and without preconception of what the person intends. It is important to maintain, what the Zen Buddhist call the “beginner’s mind”.
a. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few. The mind of the beginner is empty, free of the habits of the expert, ready to accept, to doubt, and open to all the possibilities’.
b. When you do something, you will need to do it with your whole body and mind; you should be concentrated on what you do; everything you do should be based on such an awareness, and not on material or self-centered ideas of your own value or importance.
c. When you listen to someone, you will need to give up all your preconceived ideas and your subjective opinions; you should just listen, just observe what his/her way is – put very little emphasis on right and wrong or good and bad – just see things as they are with this person, and accept them.
d. Usually when you listen to some statement, you hear it as a kind of echo of yourself. You are actually listening to your own opinion. If what the person is saying agrees with your opinion you may accept it, but if it does not, you will reject it, or you may not even really hear it for you are planning a response.
e. Such listening does not come easily and may take a great deal of practice.

03. Another Zen concept worth considering is that of mindfulness – maintaining an awareness of your own thoughts and how they interfere with what you perceive.

a. ‘Don’t believe everything you think’, may be a constant reminder to set aside your thoughts so that you can listen.
b. Be particularly aware of attachment – meanings that you find particularly powerful – and give emotionality
c. ‘Mindfulness’ is connected to the use of the professional self as the latter requires that you maintain an intentionality about your encounters with primary clients and secondary clients.
d. The calm principle is deceptively simple; all it demands is that each thing you do, you do completely and to the best of your ability.
e. You approach even the most unexciting or most trivial of tasks as though it were the most important thing that ever happened in you life. Because at that moment; it should be.
f. Life exists in the present. ‘Future’ and ‘Past’ are nothing more than abstract concepts; yet they dominate our lives and are at the root of almost every emotional discomfort ever experienced.
g. Intentionality is about directing your efforts in a more efficient and orderly fashion. Concentrating attention on a single activity is an exercise in centering.
h. It frees the mind of all distractions and brings maximum effectiveness to each task you perform.
i. Insisting that your attention be fully focused on what you are doing does not imply that you should ignore planning. To plan ahead is an activity of the present. Do it mindfully and with intentionality.

04. Reflective listening
a. Maintain eye contact
b. Nod when appropriate
c. Repeat what the person said in order to seek confirmation
d. Ask questions

05. Listen for the fundamental structure of the language and three universal errors – [See IB02.h above]

C. Adaptation

01. In Piaget’s Theory of Development, there are two cognitive processes that are crucial for progressing from stage to stage: assimilation & accommodation. Taken together, assimilation and accommodation make up adaptation, which refers to the child’s ability to adapt to his or her environment.

a. Assimilation
1) This refers to the way in which a child transforms new information so that it makes sense within their existing knowledge base.
2) That is, a child tries to understand new knowledge in terms of their existing knowledge.
3) For example, a baby who is given a new knowledge may grasp or suck on that object in the same way that s/he grasped or sucked other objects.

b. Accommodation
1) This happens when a child changes his or her cognitive structure in an attempt to understand new information.
2) For example, the child learns to grasp a new object in a different way, or learns that the new object should not be sucked. In that way, the child has adapted his or her way of thinking to a new experience.