Australian General Semantics Society Inc.




Seminar Summary - 14 July 2012



"General Semantics in Everyday Life"
How to apply the principals we have learnt over the years, more consistently when dealing with What Is Going On around you. Bring an example of how you have employed a GS principal, reasonably successfully, in the past month.
Led by Mrs Pauline Callahan

at Gavan and Pauline's panoramic Seminar Centre: "Clifftop View".

Catching Up

As "GS practitioners", we "always" have some GS Diary entries to share with the group.  There was plenty to catch-up on, as we seem to lead lives of uncertainly and change-management challenge!

Today's topic:

How to apply the principals we have learnt over the years more consistently
when dealing with What Is Going On around us.

In my opinion, GS on its own won't make much difference to your life unless you apply it, and apply it consistently and mindfully, preferably  EVERY DAY!!

To me, one of the most important suppositions from GS is that the map is not the territory.  It sounds deceptively simple, but I feel it really is the basis for avoiding many of the day to day mistakes we make;-  jumping to conclusions, making inaccurate assumptions  etc.   I feel not making a REAL effort to check the territory against you map, keep asking questions of both yourself and others, and checking again,  leads to many, many misunderstandings and errors.  Not checking the map with the territory is the basis of many comedies both now, and in the past such as in the classic comedy of errors  plays from 15th century playwright, Molinet.

A map is not the territory it represents, but if more accurate  has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness.   Our perception of reality is not reality itself but our own version of it, or our "map".   We can make all kinds of maps and models of what is happening around us, but they are always going to be influenced, added to and filtered by our interests, our past experiences, our prejudices and our limitations of being able to absorb what is going on around us. As Bois said “The map is not a map but a mapping of the mapper mapping both himself and the territory.”

It has been estimated that in any given moment you are taking in 2-4 million bits of information per second.   Since your conscious mind can only pay attention to approximately 7 (plus or minus 2)  bits of information, it necessarily  goes through a process of deletion, distortion and generalisation to create an internal representation (or map) of the external event being filtered through our senses

As we are unable to absorb everything around us, it stands to reason that others cannot either.  So I feel it is very important to be mindful of that as we go through our day to day life.   To keep in mind that not only are we missing most of the message, but so are others.  I feel it is important to show some  respect for the other person’s model of the world, as  we may be less inclined to prejudge or jump to conclusions if we fully understood that other people (our friend, partner, colleague, child) has a different model of the world that is unique to him/her  and that he/she doesn’t see, hear, feel things the same way you do. 

We all create an internal map or model of the world that is unique to us.

Examining and testing assumptions - We have to make many assumptions in everyday life - many of our assumptions serve us well  eg expecting the butcher to sell meat etc - the trick is to know they are assumptions and be prepared to check them, and not to too much attached to expecting them to work out.   Do our best to test our assumptions, and then hold our conclusions tentatively.  This helps us to prepare for the unexpected.   We assume that the car will start when we turn the key, but sometimes it doesn't - we may prepare for that eventuality by becoming a member of the NRMA, and get road service, or make other plans to delay where we are going, or find another way to get there - after seeing if there is something we can do to get the car started.  etc.

Think of a recent disappointment and ask yourself what higher order abstractions of yours were violated by your experience of the moment. 

What will happen if you hold your higher order abstractions more tentatively?

Become aware of any tendencies you may have to act as if your mind is made up!  What might you risk in deciding to look more closely at your generalisations and abstractions, and considering new information, esp to older, more deeply held convictions, that may have begun as unquestioned p1s from childhood.   What might you gain?

Can you think of an example and list the risks and gains from comparing your map more closely to the territory?

Using the structural differential, evaluate a problem you are having.  As you write about the problem, note which aspects involve non verbal reactions.  Which aspects involve descriptions, inferences, generalisations etc.   Notice how you talk to yourself about it and how you react to that self talk.  Point to each level of the structural differential as you do it.  What do you learn about your problem and possible solutions as you do it.

We can be surprised that friends, colleagues or neighbours etc who seem very sensible and generally in accord with our views admire a particular political party, tv show, world view or religion etc.  How could they possibly think that way???   How could they be in favour of that issue, vote for that politician etc. 

If we stop and view their behaviour in terms of the assumptions and previous experiences they have had (logical fate), we may come to understand that their view may seem quite sensible, and practical, however it may seem to you.   This can make a tremendous difference to how harmonious and happy our relations with others in our life are. We can learn to deal better with other people if we don't just assume they are stupid idiots, but are operating  out of their basic unconscious and unquestioned assumptions and beliefs.  P1-T1 Diagram.

Can any of you think of an example of how we can have completely different views to another person, but still be close to that person?   How, if we appreciate how their assumptions and p1s have formed their world view?

What assumptions to you think they are operating from?

If you are thinking of someone in this group you could ask them.  Does what they say or do make better sense to you now, when viewed in light of their assumptions?

What assumptions do you make of the issue? 

How do they connect with your behaviour?

Another more basic example is when driving in traffic - it is very easy to jump to the conclusion that the other driver is an idiot, or is an arrogant bastard who thinks the road belongs to him, rather than giving the benefit of the doubt, and looking for different assumptions behind their actions.   eg a car in the left hand  lane going straight ahead, may be because he wanted to turn left into a car park just after the intersection. So actually, he was in the correct lane for what he intended to do.

Put this into practice for the next week - look for other explanations into other driver's behaviour - try to think laterally.  Look for possibilities the other driver might have missed - eg an arrow on the road, not realising where the other traffic was heading, not intending to cut you off, but having to cross several lanes of traffic because they are on the highway for a short time before turning off. Etc.  Bbring some examples to the next meeting to discuss just before the meeting gets underway. 

Also look to see if other drivers could misinterpret what you were doing in the car, what your intentions were, etc.

What are some assumptions you make that you feel you are confident with, and what assumptions have you made in the past week that have surprised you in not working out in the way you assumed?

E PRIME is another way I feel is useful to get to the basics of keeping your map closer to the territory.

You could  write a paragraph about yourself using the “is” of identity.  Then rewrite it in e prime (without the is of identity or predication).

Be aware of words that catastrophise - such as awful , terrible, disaster etc and be careful to use less emotive words such as unfortunate, inconvenient or undesireable  eg: preferable instead of absolutely necessary.

The more consciously aware we become, the greater the chance that we will change old behaviours & patterns and detect what we are deleting, distorting or generalising, so we at least get the opportunity to consider an idea before it goes even deeper into the filter process. STOP before answering and consider your answer as consciously as possible.

    * What thoughts or emotions came up?
    * Are they today's emotions or an old experience being triggered?

In short if we want to change something, we need to identify it & then decide to find all the tools and resources needed to support that change. We then practice different aspects of gs - time binding, comedy, extensional, dating, etc

Awareness of the abstracting process encourages us to ask, "What then?" after we've made observations of WIGO, and thus theorise and develop higher order abstractions. Again asking "What then?" when we've thus theorised, we can bring ourselves back to the lower orders of observation and description to check our new or revised theories. 

An important part of a scientific attitude involves a "what then?" point of view, e.g., developing assumptions, theories, etc., and also accepting their tentativeness. This requires a willingness to test them and have them disproved. Part of this tentativeness includes looking for alternative explanations. Consider the possibility that what you believe as true could turn out false. What else might explain what you observe?

Please write down three strategies you intend to put into practice in the following month, and make a note on your calendar, each Friday of this month  to check you are actually doing it.

Don't forget to have fun, and don't let all this strategisation "get to you"!


Next Meeting:

Sun 19 August: "Bias"
What are the main biases affecting our rational judgments and decisions,
and can we be educated out of them?

Led by Gabriel
10:30am - 4:30pm at Bonnet Bay, Sydney, Australia



(Updated by RJ 16/07/2012)

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