We receive a lot of questions regarding the NLP belief of excellence ‘Perception Is Projection’. Below is a series of emails between a student and Kate on this topic. We hope you find some information below that helps you come to your own conclusions…
QUESTION “Hi Toby & Kate, I’ve got a bit of a question follow last weekend’s Foundations course, it’s with regard to “Perception is projection”. I think I understand the concept in general, like if I can recognise selfishness in someone, that’s because I’m capable of a bit of selfishness myself (I assume to varying degrees to the person you are perceiving) but what about those situations when you see a photo of someone who’s just been convicted of a really nasty crime and you can see a look in their eye which makes you shudder a bit, like you can see that there is something not quite right about them. Does this mean that you’ve got something of the same in you?! I’m pretty convinced that I am good person who will never commit any horrific crimes, so I’d just like a bit more clarity on exactly what is meant by this statement so I can understand it a bit better please”.
OUR REPLY: Good to hear from you and thank you for your question. I don’t believe (nor do I think it’s useful to believe) that we could commit a horrific crime like in your description. I think what’s important and useful in this presupposition is to be open to multiple contexts of how that could play out in our life. It might not be an exact context match. It’s the structure of that thinking or behaviour that we are looking to explore. For example: I am very aware of the ways in which people I meet currently impose their beliefs, their map of the world, about how I should be a parent on to me (no shortage of ‘horror’ stories!) and if this bothers me it is more useful for me to consider ‘How do I impose my truths onto others?’ for example I can recognise the way I was rather overbearingly encouraging my cousin over the weekend to set up his own business – only sharing with him the joys of business and deleting all the challenges! The same structure appears in both sets of thinking between my advice/opinions to my cousin, and other mothers advice/opinions on me. Toby and I modelled a monk with our last Master Practitioner group. He had been working with a charity that worked in places of conflict, and after 6 months he decided to ‘seek refuge’ (Become a Buddhist). The Monk explained to us that he still had internal conflict within himself to resolve and so how could he turn and ask the world to live without conflict when he had not yet been able to do this for himself? (Incidentally, we met with him on the day of the Mumbai attacks…). I doubt very much that he studies ‘NLP’ – but he has been the best example I have ever met of ‘perception is projection’ or ‘if you can spot it – you’ve got it!’, and has been a role model to me on how to take the presuppositions of NLP and internalise them.
REPLY FROM STUDENT : Hi, I think I understand what you mean – well I definitely do with the examples you’ve given. So I just want to check, with reference to the murderous person, does this mean that if you can project evil onto a photo of someone, then this is because you can perceive it in the world around you and are conscious of what affects it might have on your own life? And perhaps you should be aware of what things people perceive in the world around them, that they might project onto you?
REPLY FROM US:
Hi, let me ‘try on’ your example. If I look at a photo and see evil I can only recognise it as evil if I have some sort of reference for this. When Toby and I asked a Swami who had lived his whole life in the hills of the Himalayas how he managed stress, he did not understand what the word ‘stress’ was. The same blank look I would draw if someone asked me a question in a different language. ‘Stress’ did not live as a linguistic label in his world because he had never had the experience of it and therefore never required the label (plus no culture influences to teach him what it was). So if I understand the word….
So, ‘how am I evil?’… uncomfortable question… the first thing that comes to mind is the way I threw a dish cloth at a fly in our kitchen today. It has been flying around for days since the warm weather and I have repeatedly failed to get it back outdoors. Many other maps of the world would not really see this as a ‘drama’, however I felt pretty bad afterwards when I threw it away. Not very ‘Buddhist’ of me! I certainly did not mention it to Toby. In that moment, when I acted, in a way that is for me evil.
To come back to your specific question, “ I want to check, with reference to the murderous person, does this mean that if you can project evil onto a photo of someone, then this is because you can perceive it in the world around you and are conscious of what affects it might have on your own life? And perhaps you should be aware of what things people perceive in the world around them, that they might project onto you?”
I believe this to be correct in part. I don’t think it’s how others will project ‘evil’ onto us; instead it’s always about looking inside. If others attempt to impose ‘evil’ onto us and we do not recognise it, it will not affect us. It will bounce off us. It will not resonate; it does not stick or linger in our thinking. We shall draw a blank look like the Swami in the Himalayas as Toby and I tried to impose/project the existence of ‘stress’ into his world. It simply provides us with information about how they construct their map/world. In our attempt to learn about the swami, he learned about us!
Hope this is helpful.