Blog Reviews

Review: The Structure of Magic (Volume II)

After rereading the Structure of Magic (Volume I), I went straight onto rereading the Structure of Magic (Volume 2). These two volumes were published in 1975 and 1976 respectively. Over the same two years, Grinder and Bandler were also writing and publishing their study on the hypnotic patterns of Milton Erickson as well as carrying out training seminars for therapists and carrying out their modelling activities–it was truly a productive period of time. This is even more evident when we look at the depth of detail in The Structure of Magic (Volume 2).

Part I – Representational Systems

Part I starts out relatively simply with description of representational systems and the strong claim that people have a highly-valued representational system that can be identified by listening to the predicates that they use in their speech.
In this book, Grinder and Bandler claim that we represent our experiences of the world most strongly in our most-valued representational system, first within the deep structures of language within our minds, and then later in the words that we use in describing our perceptions.
Examples of representational systems are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic and they still lie at the very heart of NLP. A  person with a highly valued visual representation system is likely to use predicates (verbs) such as see or view. A person with a primarily auditory representation is likely to use words like hear, say, and listen. A kinesthetic  person might say feel, touch, or grasp.
A knowledge of the client’s representational system can help an NLP practitioner in several ways:

  1. By noticing the predicates in a person’s speech, an NLP practitioner can match those predicates and talk into that person’s map of the world, thus making it much easier to both create rapport and to help that person to change in some way.
  2. The practitioner can help the client to change representational system in order to represent experiences in a different way.
  3. In some cases, a client will have almost completely blocked one representational system out of consciousness. For example, a person brought up in a very strict traditional household may have learned that it was wrong to express emotion and learned to repress his own feelings so much that they are no longer easily available for conscious reference. The practitioner can gradually help the person to move from the highly valued representational system slowly into the repressed representational system. This may provide a richer map of the world and a more useful way to re-experience trauma or to cope in future situations.

Part II – Incongruity

Part II discusses incongruity at length, also bringing in issues of logical types and describing Virginia Satir’s four categories: placator, blamer, computer, and distractor. Incongruity is described as non-matching output from different representational systems. For example, a high shrill voice and a pointing finger (both indicating blame or anger) combined with the words “I love her very much.” The transcripts of the therapeutic sessions in Part II are particularly useful, and the authors provide many useful ways that an NLP practitioner can help a person to use multiple representational systems congruently and usefully. This section also discusses the use of meta-position (an important concept throughout NLP) and the bringing together of two parts in something which is now roughly equivalent to visual squash or parts integration.

Part III – Fuzzy Functions

Fuzzy functions involve an input channel or output channel in which the input or output channel involved is used in a different modality from the representational system from which it is being used. This is now more generally known as a synesthesia. For example, if a client says “when my father looks at me this way, I feel angry,” this can be called see-feeling.
The authors connect the metamodel patterns of mind-reads and cause-effect to fuzzy functions. In a mind-read statement such as “He doesn’t like me,” the client thinks something and this preconception influences what they actually see or hear from another person (feel-see or feel-hear). In a cause-effect statement such as “He makes me feel bad,” the client sees or hears something and believes that it causes a certain feeling within themselves (see-hear or hear-feel). Again, the transcripts of therapeutic interventions are very informative.

Part IV – Family Therapy

Grinder and Bandler modelled the highly respected family therapist, Virginia Satir, and this section provides good examples and explanations of translations from one representational system into another. For example, if the mother is primarily visual and the father is primarily kinesthetic, their communication can be greatly facilitated by the practitioner stepping in and translating between these modalities.

Part V – Formal Notation

The title of Part V says it all. This is a highly technical section which introduces the idea of six-tuple which consists of:
I: the input channel used by the client for the problem
R: the client’s most highly valued representational system
O: the output channel which the client is using for the problem
S: the Satir category for this problem (Blamer, Placator, Computer, Distracter)
F: the type of semantic ill-formedness of the client’s utterance
M: the most frequently occurring metamodel violation
While the six tuplet is certainly comprehensive and this section gives a good example of its use, it would need considerable use to become familiar with it and there are perhaps more useful tools available.
Overall, The Structure of Magic (Vol. II) is a useful book, but its primary influence can perhaps be found in Part I where representational systems are explained in detail.


©Copyright 2010 by Dr. Brian Cullen

2 replies on “Review: The Structure of Magic (Volume II)”

Please note the mistake in the book; it should say (see-feel or hear feel) for the cause-effect statements. It is stated at least twice on page 102-103
In a cause-effect statement such as “He makes me feel bad,” the client sees or hears something and believes that it causes a certain feeling within themselves (see-hear or hear-feel).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *