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  • Writer's pictureTom Robinson

NLP lesson 3 & taking a break to focus on other priorities!

Updated: Jan 28, 2022

I had initially intended to write last Friday, but instead I decided to take some more time to think about how I’m going to proceed with my writing, and to focus on a few other things.

There is no point in me discussing any of the issues surrounding mental ‘health’ anymore (which is what’s called ‘part of being human’) and there are only a handful of posts left to write on the subject of mental illness.

These include:

  • Dealing with residual problems of psychiatric drug withdrawal

  • Factoring in spirituality to achieve full mental wellness

  • Analysing the mind/brain problem

  • Radical acceptance and…

  • Root causes of mental illness

After visiting Avebury last week for the first of autumn celebrations with Max, and having taken some time over the last few days to think, I have decided that I will not be publishing these posts just yet.

I've gone so far with this story that I now need a break from the writing to focus on other things such as: finding a publisher for the book/blog, studying for my NLP course (neuro-linguistic programming), and continuing with my French course which started again last week.

I also have a couple of articles to write for various publications (again, gratuitous unfortunately!), and will probably have to redraft the book proposal, so for the time being I will be focusing my efforts on that!

Recapping NLP lesson 3

For those that don't know, I am taking a course in NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) because I am determined to help others to achieve full mental wellness, and I am therefore studying to become a practitioner.

I will then have the option of being an NLP coach while I wait for an astonished world to catch up with my writing!

As I go through the course I am documenting each lesson.

Here is today's offering!

Presuppositions (Linguistic)

‘What is assumed in the model of the world of the speaker by the listener.’

Last week, we began to learn about the language side of NLP, starting with the presuppositions, which are basically the linguistic equivalent of assumptions.

These presuppositions are useful for both recognising what is assumed by the client’s speech (their model of the world), and assisting in creating new internal representations for the them so that they can then change any unwanted behaviour or outcome.

‘Knowing someone else’s presuppositions enables you to encourage their internal processing towards change.’

Linguistic assumptions are therefore useful for:

1. Recognising what is assumed by the client’s speech

2. Creating new internal representations for the client

3. Identifying deep structure in the client’s language

By listening to the language that the client uses to express their problems you can deduce the following:


Gives knowledge and information that something exists, (at least in the client’s mind). This can be in either a negatively or positively framed statement or offering.

For example:

‘I can’t see my garden’ denotes that there is a garden.


These are a give-away when the client uses words such as ‘should’, 'would’ & ‘could’ and gives an indication of the rules they’re trying to live by.

Other examples include the use of the word ‘can’t’ which denotes impossibility and ‘must’ which gives the implication of necessity.

Identifying the use of ‘modal operators’ enables the practitioner to understand the client’s model of the world.

Cause - effect

The client will use either the word ‘makes’ or the clause:

‘If…(such and such happens) then….’

What they say, may or may not be true; it is for the practitioner to recognise the use of this language to assess how these beliefs are affecting the client's behaviour or desired outcome, and whether there is congruence (or incongruence) between the two.

Complex equivalence

The client will use a version of the verb ‘to be’ when describing a particular problem. It is essentially like placing an ‘equals = sign’ in the middle of a sentence.

Often, complex equivalences are used when generalising inappropriately to make summary judgments that do not apply as widely as the person is implying.


For linguistic presuppositions of ‘awareness’ the practitioner is not questioning the second part of the sentence.

The give-away is when they use verbs relating to auditory, visual, kinesthetic, gustatory or olfactory internal representation systems and gives insight into how they put these together.


This includes the use of time or change of time words such as: begin, end, before, after, again, during, begin, end, future, when, again, still, and soon.

Tense type words such as: was, had, been, went (past tense), am, have, are, stop, start, continue (present tense) will, going, getting (future) can create powerful assumptions.

Another example of presuppositions relating to time would be the use of the word ‘never’ which can be changed with the use of language to ‘can’t yet’ which increases possibility for change in the client’s mind.

Linguistic Presuppositions of Order

When we use words like first, once, second, twice, last, another, again, next, we are presupposing a series of things.

  • ‘My second husband is very funny.’ This presupposes a first husband.

  • ‘My first husband liked baseball.’ This presupposes number one is no longer a husband, that there are future husband/s, or that she intends to get married again sometime.

Using ordinal words in this way can be insightful – often the person is using them unconsciously – she may not consciously consider remarrying.

Exclusive or

Here the client will exclude one thing or the other.

  • Would you like white or wholemeal? You are getting a sandwich.

  • Would you prefer one year’s hosting or quarterly? You are getting hosting.

Inclusive or

Here there is a perceived sense of choice:

  • Do you want milk or sugar? There is no decision to be made between the two, you can have both (the ‘or’ is inclusive).

  • Do you want to have your bath before dinner or after? You are going to have a bath, just a matter of when.

Adverbs and Adjectives

This use of descriptive words, which presuppose certain qualities, allows the practitioner to understand in detail, how the client perceives something.

For example, use of words like: just, only, and even. 'Just' can be particularly insidious, discounting effort and talent, but also making things appear simple and easy.

  • It’s just about perseverance. Is perseverance really a simple thing?

  • She is just a homemaker. Dismisses and discounts this role.

  • Even my dog knows that. Presupposes she is not very smart.

Explanation of model

What is it?

‘The hierarchy of ideas is a model which assists us in our ability to move through and between different levels of abstraction from vague and ambiguous to concrete and specific.’

In other words, the hierarchy of ideas is a set of linguistic patterns to guide people with the use of 'Milton Model' language up and down, from the details to the big picture and vice versa. It can be used in trance work to help them overcome their problems at the same time.

People often become overwhelmed if they are at the opposite end of the hierarchy to the one they feel comfortable with.

Some people will prefer to be in the details of a situation or problem and others will prefer to see the big picture.

There are situations where it is preferable to be in the details (e.g being a proof-reader) and some in which seeing the big picture would be more appropriate.

The best balance would be to be able to ‘chunk’ up and down this hierarchy depending on the situation and then react accordingly.

When is it used?

  • To see big picture of a situation to avoid getting bogged down or anxious about it. For example – seeing the big picture of Coronavirus rather than focusing on the details.

  • For making a client (or yourself) aware that they (or you) are thinking from one or other end of the hierarchy - this can help the person to move forward.

  • In mediation it is helpful to ‘chunk up’ to the big picture to attain an agreement.

  • Lateral thinking – for example - What’s this situation? Chunk up – what’s another example? Chunk down into the details.

  • Chunk up to the big picture for the client who needs to see that they have, in fact, achieved a lot (me with this blog) and not get bogged down by the details. A friend recently made me see that I needed to see the big picture with my writing (I am doing all I can to help others) and not get bogged down in details (looking for publisher, worrying that others are suffering, believing I'm not doing enough, worrying for others).

Chunking up and down explained

To recap:

The hierarchy of ideas utilises the concept of ‘chunks’ of information and our ability to take such a chunk and 'chunk up' to a higher level of abstraction, 'chunk down' to a lower level of abstraction, and even 'chunk sideways' or laterally between two chunks at the same level of abstraction.

If we take the word car as an example, the word car is at a particular level of abstraction.

If we then chunk down on car we move to a lower level of detail - something more concrete and specific.

We can chunk down and gain specificity by asking 'What are examples of this?', or 'What specifically?'

So, we might ask 'What type of car specifically?' and chunk down to Ford.

If we required further detail we could chunk down one more level by asking something like 'What model of Ford specifically?' and we might get a response of 'Mondeo' or 'Focus'.

When ‘chunking up’ you may ask ‘what is ‘car’ an example of’ to which the reply might be ‘transportation’.

Then, as you chunk further up into the big picture and get more abstract you might describe the car as an example of movement, energy, and then simply ‘existence’.

Today’s lesson

Apparently today we are:

‘Looking at metaphors, then digging down into details using Meta Model Language. This is the opposite end of the hierarchy of ideas - it’s getting under the surface of what’s being said.’

Being an 'auditory digital' kind of thinker then this could be more my cup of tea!

I will report back next week.

For now though, I’m taking some time out!

Thanks for reading,

Speak to you soon,


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