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How We Experience The World Differently
by Thom Hartmann

What a terrible thing to have lost one’s mind. Or not to have a mind at all. How true that is.
­Vice President Dan Quayle, speaking to the United Negro College Fund.


This is an excerpt from Thom Hartmann's book, "Healing ADD"

ADD is about the differences among humans.

We and our children have different hair, eyes, body sizes, and different preferences in a thousand areas. Some of us prefer high levels of stimulation, while others like a more quiet world. Some are attracted to novelty and variety, whereas others are most comfortable with the consistent and predictable. In these and many other ways, we aggregate differences which sometimes collect in such a way that we put a label on them, such as “ADD.”

There are other, more fundamental differences between people, however. At the level of these differences, it’s possible to gain direct access into the way a person’s mind works, the way they store and process experience and emotion, the way they make decisions and choices.

These differences have to do with how we experience the world around us.

Later in the book, after we go over foundational concepts of what “reality” is and how our thinking defines our world, we’ll go into detail about what NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) calls Representational Systems. For now, consider them the primary senses ­ sight, sound, feeling, taste, smell through which the world enters our and our children’s minds.

Many people are shocked when they first discover that not everybody “sees” (or “hears” or “feels”) the world the same way they do. It’s a fact, however, that we each have our own particular ways of experiencing life, and most people have a single representational system upon which they most heavily rely. Again, we’ll go into this, and the consequences of it, in more detail in later chapters, as well as discovering how knowing a person’s “primary representational system” is a vital bit of information if you want to work with, help heal, or even communicate with that person.

It also raises another question: why do we (or our kids) choose the friends we do? And what can we do with that knowledge?

While this has been the subject of endless speculation since the times of Plato and Proverbs, I’ve not seen a definitive study on it anywhere. Some people choose their friends because of geographic proximity or shared interest: many people have made friends with the person next door, or a co-worker or fellow hobbyist. There may even be elements of shared ethnicity, intelligence, or temperament. But that alone can’t account for why we feel drawn to one person and not another.

Another possibility is that it has to do with shared representational systems. Visual people feel most comfortable with other visual people, since they have a shared view of reality. Two kinesthetic people share an experience of the world, whereas two primarily auditory persons would have similar understandings of what life is telling them.

Yet people who have a different perception of the world from ours have interesting and often-valuable lessons to teach us. Particularly when we understand our differences, they can help us expand our experience of life in ways that may not otherwise have been available to us.

Check out this simple test, and give it to a few friends, family, and your children. The results will open a window to ­ or tell you more about ­ or give you a better feel for ­ yourself and those close to you. It’ll also introduce you to a core concept of NLP: that people experience the world differently from each other, sometimes stated as, “The map is not the territory.” After you’ve taken the test and compared your results with a few friends, consider which of these possibilities may be at work in your relationships.

And if this small revelation is useful for you, continue reading, because this is only the surface-most level of the technology of change which can lead to healing ADD.

The Hartmann Modality-Preference Measurement Index
Rank each of the three answer-options below between one and three, with three being “most often true” and one “least often true.” When you’re finished, add up all the A’s (visual), B’s (auditory), and C’s (kinesthetic).

The numerical scores will tell you (Show you? Give you a feeling for?) which of the three representational systems you’re most and least comfortable with.

Keep in mind that, at least at this point, this is just for your entertainment:

1. I naturally and easily say things like:
A__ “I see what you mean”
B__ “That sounds sensible to me”
C__ “I have a good feeling for that”

2. When I encounter an old friend, I often say:
A__ “It’s great to see you again!”
B__ “It’s great to hear your voice again!”
C__ “I’ve missed you!” (and give them a big hug)

3. I have:
A__ a good eye for décor and color coordination
B__ the ability to arrange the stereo and speakers so the music is crystal
clear
C__ a special feeling in my favorite rooms

4. I let other people know how I’m feeling by:
A__ the clothes I dress in and the way I do my hair or makeup
B__ the tone of my voice, sighs, and other sounds
C__ my body posture

5. My favorite romantic encounters include:
A__ watching the other person, or vivid visualization or visual fantasy
B__ listening to the sounds the other person makes
C__ touching and being touched by the other person

6. When I want to really totally understand something:
A__ I make pictures of it in my mind
B__ I talk to myself about it
C__ I roll it around until I have a good feeling for it

7. When deciding on an important action, I:
A__ must see all aspects of the situation
B__ must be able to justify the decision to myself and/or somebody else
C__ know when it’s the right decision because my gut feelings tell me so

8. When it’s important to me to influence another person, I pay careful
attention to:
A__ the pictures I paint with my descriptions
B__ the intonation and pace of my voice
C__ what kind of emotional impact I can bring to the situation

9. When I’m bored, I’m more likely to:
A__ change with the way I look or things around me are arranged
B__ whistle, hum, or play by making sounds in my throat or chest
C__ stretch, exercise, take a hot bath

10. My favorite authors:
A__ paint vivid pictures of interesting places
B__ write dialogue that sounds true-to-life
C__ give me a feeling for the story which is moving and meaningful

11. I can tell what another person is thinking by:
A__ the look on their face
B__ the tone of their voice
C__ the vibes I get from them

12. When I’m reading a menu trying to decide what to order, I:
A__ visualize the food
B__ discuss with myself the various options
C__ read the list and choose what feels best

13. I would rather:
A__ look at the pictures in an art gallery
B__ listen to a symphony or rock concert
C__ participate in a sporting or athletic event

14. When I’m in a bar with a band playing, I find most interesting:
A__ watching the other people or the band
B__ closing my eyes and listening to the music
C__ dancing with or feeling close to the other people around me

15. A true statement is:
A__ “It’s important how you look if you want to influence others”
B__ “People don’t know a thing about you until they’ve heard what you have
to say”
C__ “It takes time to really get in touch with another person’s core self”

You can score it here: ___ A ___ B ___ C (Visual, Auditory,
Kinesthetic)

Most people, when they take this test, will find that there is a definite preference for one or another system, but that that preference is not more than five or ten points away from their least-preferred system.

A well-balanced person will have very similar scores for all three areas, whereas a person with radically high or low scores in any one system may want to consider using some of the exercises in later chapters on building attentional flexibility to break up rigid old patterns of perception and broaden and enrich their view, hearing, and experience of life.

You may also find it interesting that your closest friends ­ the people you best understand ­ often score similarly to you on the test. Those you just can’t figure out no matter how hard you try may score quite differently from you on the test. This doesn’t mean that you should avoid people who have different modality-preference systems: instead it gives you an insight into (voice to? feeling for?) how you can have a wider range of friends and connections with others. For example, experiment with using language that matches those around you, and while doing so try to also experience the sensory realities that such language implies.

When we have this information about our children, it gives us a whole new range of tools for improving communication, and also for understanding their style of learning. This helps us improve the way we communication with them, and can also help you help your child’s teachers to better understand how she or he learns ­ and through that understanding change the way the child is taught.

This is an introduction to a new world of change. It shows, tells, and gives you a feeling for the possibilities that await you in the rest of the book. Before we get into the specifics of NLP and other change techniques, however, we must first engage in one of the most powerful of all NLP techniques: reframing, or learning to look at things in new and different ways.


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