What is a mental map and how can you use it for your betterment?

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What is a mental map?

A Mental Map is a powerful way of expressing the thought patterns, pictures and associations that already exist in the brain. “When new information is compatible with your knowledge structures it is accepted, when it does not mesh with your pre-conceived ideas or past experience it receives little consideration, is distorted or ignored.”

Our ‘mental map’ is a road map for living our lives and making sense of the world. This map is formed from factors such as our beliefs, values, experiences, past traumas, attitudes, upbringing, schooling, habits, and behaviors that provide us with a lens through which we see the world. We will always respond to the world according to our individual mental map.

What causes one person to be an engineer, another a sales associate and yet another an accountant or teacher? Why some people are successful and others find success elusive? Your mental map exerts great influence.

What is Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)?

  • Neuro – is how we think
  • Linguistic – how we communicate our thoughts to others. Body language, gestures, facial expressions and movement are all non-verbal cues that express what words may not.
  • Programming- the habits we develop daily

 NLP offers a commonsense view of human psychology. The NLP Communication model illustrated below explains how people create their mental maps.

Everyone goes through a process. Specifically, they are:

  • Gather specific types of information about an event through each of five senses.
  • Visual: sight.
  • Auditory: hearing.
  • Kinesthetic: touch/feeling.
  • Olfactory: smell.
  • Gustatory: taste.
  • Filter the information in three ways:
  1. Distortion

Distortions are basically assumptions (and do remember the old adage that assumptions are the mother of all fuck ups!).  ‘Dogs are dangerous’ for example. However this distortion has prevented us from other options, say, guide dogs.

2. Generalization

Generalisations are a way of drawing generalised conclusions prior to experiences. At a simplistic level, we don’t need to have seen every chair in the world in order to be able to know what a chair is when we see it. In the same way we make generalisations about people and events: we say ‘men can’t be trusted’ as one lady had 3 boyfriends and  all cheated her. However there are billions of men, so we would most likely be able to prove the generalised theory wrong at some point!

3. Deletion

Deletion occurs when we omit or only pay attention to certain aspects or information that is coming into our senses – how many times have we bought something – say a new car and suddenly we start to notice all the other similar cars that are on the road. They were there before, we had just deleted the awareness from our consciousness. In language we might say ‘meat eaters are bad’. In doing so we have deleted other contexts in which they might be incredibly ‘good’.

  • Create an internal representation, or map, of the world around them.

Internal representation refers to the pictures you see and sounds you hear in your head or the feelings that are generated within you, in response to the information you take in from the world around you. These sights, sounds and feelings are what’s left of the information after passing through the filters.

  • Create a state of being that is a combination of their mental and physical states.
  • Behave in response to their state.

For example, if you’re feeling anxious, this feeling affects what you observe, the words you say and the sound of your voice.

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Mugdha is a NLP master practitioner and students' mind coach. She is excellent in teaching memory techniques to students and enable them to enjoy learning.
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