The map is not the territory

Do you know that the world you're looking at isn't actually the way you perceive it? What you're going to read today is extremely important if you want to reach another level of personal development.

One of the main premises of NLP says that every human being has their map of reality which doesn't have much to do with the real reality.  Becoming aware of this will allow you to realize your true potential. You'll start to look completely differently at the surrounding world and relations with other people.

People orientate themselves according to their own cognitive maps. In other words their personal model of the world and not the world as such.


What is the map of reality? It's nothing more than a mental reflection of the surrounding world.  You don't perceive the objective world, but you look at it through the series of filters, experiences, senses, beliefs and values. They all account for your unique, subjective map.

Understanding and recognizing the real world is beyond us because the way our mind works doesn't allow it. The mind is forced to pick and choose data from an enormous amount of information. And every human being has their own algorithm which determines picking the most important information. As you can see below, there are filters between you and the reality. You can see only what has gone through the filters - all the stimuli coming to you from the reality are being carefully selected.


The moment you realize it, you'll understand that every man has its own map of the reality. After all, every single human being has different life experiences, beliefs, sets of values and expectations. The same information can be interpreted differently by different people. There isn't something like an objective truth. Everyone in right when it comes to their personal reality map.

Now a few examples which will help you understand this concept. At first, let's take a stamp. What is a stamp for you? What does this word mean to you? For a person passionate about stamps the word "stamp" has probably a very emotional meaning. It can be even one of the most important words in their lives. For someone else the word "stamp" can mean nothing more than a small piece of paper. Each of them has a different reality map and it can be hard for the second person to understand the reality map of the first one. They could argue whether stamps are interesting or not - but would it make sense?

Another example. Has it ever happened to you that your interlocutor heard something completely different than what you had meant? It has happened to me many time and I couldn't understand why it was happening. It turns out that the same massage can have a completely different meaning to other people. The word "love" can make one person feel dreamy and the other miserable. Therefore, always be precise about your message and take into account the reality map of your interlocutor.

Another situation. Due to dense fog a return plane from Spain to Poland is being cancelled. What is happening at the airport? Between ten and twenty people are happy because they have another day to spend in that beautiful country. A few people are completely indifferent - nothing bad has happened for them, but they actually have nothing to do here. Other people are in despair because they have urgently to be back in Poland today. Some other people are furious because it is the second time it has happened to them. Different people, different reality maps, different reactions.

Maps in practise

I think that now you get the point. Now a question - how can you make good use of it?

You can realize that your life and your well-being depends on your reality map. You know, people are not happy because they experience only good and positive things. The same way, others are not depressed all the time because they experience sad, frustrating, and painful things. It is the case because both groups filter reality on their own particular way. If you believe that the world is a bad and sad place, then you will feel like that all the time. That's the way you'll experience the world. Changing your way of thinking and the way you look at your experience will enable you to filter the reality differently. NLP provides many tools that will help you to achieve it.

The assumption that the map is not the territory contributes immensely to the relations with other people.So from now on before you judge one's behaviour you'll understand that it comes from a different reality map. If you happen to want to form a strong bond with another person, then first get familiar with their map and next try to put yourself in their shoes. You'll understand their emotions, needs, behaviour or experience.

You can also understand that there is no point in proving that you're right. I used to argue with other people who was right. I was trying to present rational arguments and I was amazed at how wrong they were.  Just as if I had a map of the Poznań city and my interlocutor a map of Warsaw and we both were arguing whether the Green Street is in the south or north of the map. Think how much energy you've lost on such arguments. Now, when you know that everybody has its reality map and perceives the reality through its prism, you can understand that there isn't one objective truth. Everyone is right in the own world and deserves respect. You can say - ok, on my map the Green street is located in the south and on your in the north.

Remember there are as many reality maps as there are people in the world. Do your best to make your map as advantageous as possible for you and respect maps of other people, without trying to impose on them yours.

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