What do you distort in your life?

In the late 1950’s Noam Chomsky completed his Ph.D. thesis Transformational Grammar. In it
he explained that there are three processes by which people make sense of the world; Deletions,
Distortions and Generalisations.

So, if you make sense of your world by deleting, distorting and generalising things, how much clearer would it make it if we knew exactly what those things were?

What if there were a way to know what was real and what you have constructed in your head?

Many of us have been to parties with friends or family, and yet when we recall that event with those same family or friends we all have a different recollection of the party. We all chosen to delete, distort and generalise different aspects of the party.

So let’s look a little bit more about what you might be distorting in the party that is your life!

There are many ways that we distort the lives we see around us, I’m going to look at three of them in more detail, and they are cause-and-effect, complex equivalents and modal operators.

Cause and effect

The giveaway is the word ‘makes’. How many times have you heard someone say ” he/she makes me angry”? Or perhaps “going to work makes me stressed”.

The real key is to know that being angry, or stressed is a choice. It is a choice about how you choose to react to a certain stimulus or input. If a person shouts at you, you have a choice about whether to be angry or not, don’t you? When you go to work you have a choice about whether you decide to let what happens affect you. You may decide that being angry or stressed is how you are going to react… But the event does not make you that way.

Understanding that you have distorted the event and decided that it is going to make you do something is the first step to changing.

The next step is to realise that in each of those situations, you have a choice. You can choose to be angry, or you can choose to be stressed. What are you choosing and why?

Complex equivalents

The giveaway is the word ‘means’. How many times have you heard someone say “Having no money means I’m not a success” or ” You shouting at me means you don’t love me” for example.

Using the word ‘means’ is drawing a direct equivalent between one thing and another, and this equivalence is not reality. Let’s break those sentences down into two halves, half of the sentence before the word ‘means’ and half of the sentence after.

” You shouting at me means you don’t love me” – I am going to challenge that sentence, could someone shout at you and still love you? Could someone not shout at you and not love you? If either of these questions are true, then there can never be any direct correlation between shouting and love, can there?

It is possible for a person to shout and still love you.

It is possible for a person to not be shouting, and yet not to love you.

This is definitely a play on the words, but as a Master Practitioner of Neurolinguistic Programming I notice many clients saying this type of thing often. The problem, especially with the love example is that an argument can begin around a statement that is simply not true. And indeed if it is broken down doesn’t seem to make sense any more!

Being aware of what it means to use the word ‘means’ means you get it!

Modal operators

The give away here is the use of words like ‘need’, ‘should’ or ‘ought’. Using these words implies that there is some form of external force directing us into an action.

“I ought to stop/start doing that”

The question as a Master Practitioner of Neurolinguistic Programming I would want to know is, ‘who says?’.

I saw a client the other day for weight loss, she wanted to lose weight and when I asked her why she told me that the doctor told her that she should. I repeated my question, and asked again why she wanted to lose weight. She replied once more, “Because the doctor told me I should”.

Where is her motivation?

What does she get out of losing weight, specifically that is for her?

Until this person realises that they want to lose weight and can see the benefits themselves then change will never happen. Words like ought, should, or need imply an external motivation… And external motivations are never as powerful as internal motivations.

Until my weight loss client replies telling me that she wants to lose weight for herself, and can give me very specific reasons why she wants to that benefit herself I will not be working with her! Change happens when we take charge and control of our own lives, and stop looking to external motivations to make things happen.


As you can now see we use language and words to distort reality all day long. Most of the time we do it without even thinking about it, and now you know what to look out for I wonder, how many times you will notice yourself using these words over the coming weeks?

Make a decision now to start being aware of your language, its meaning and how you distort the world around you.



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