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Presuppositions - the curse of assumption

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Your life is supported by a series of assumptions, or what in NLP are called presuppositions, or things that you assume to be true or pre-suppose about life. They are the assumptions that we make in order for what we believe, think and say to make sense or appear valid, because they provide support for them. It is through their presuppositions or unconscious assumptions that we can discover what a person beliefs about life, themselves, the world, the universe etc. By listening for their presuppositions we can learn a great deal about their mental model or the internal map of the world from which they operate. Remember that it is our map through which we operate in the world, not the world/territory itself, so what a man believes or assumes, provides a great deal of information about his internal map or his mental wiring.

The challenge with presuppositions is that are unconscious, and yet we act upon them our as if by conscious design. That design colours our view of everything.

For example, for a person whose frame of reference upon the world is completely open and accepts the possibility of alien life and UFO’s, communicating with someone who presupposes that life on earth is all that there is would be difficult at the very least. Likewise, an atheist would find it difficult relating to the spiritual or religious beliefs.

Presuppositions operate positively and negatively in our lives. They can limit us and they can empower us. By pre-supposing that something is or is not going to be the way that we assume, it can limit both ourselves and our responses to it, and most suppositions are based on what was yesterday, not on what is today.

Presuppositions are not always objective either. They are often subjective, formed from our own unique experience of life. The challenge, therefore, is that they do not always serve us well, often causing conflict between our conscious desires and our unconscious ones.

For example, a person’s experience of life may have programmed them at an unconscious level to believe that people cannot be trusted. However, consciously they may feel that they can trust a certain person whom they need to trust for some reason. The conflict between their conscious and unconscious mind can cause them to act and behave in a way that is not totally trusting. This can lead to indecision and even strategies in dealing with people that can cause unrest and even potentially challenging outcomes.

You may think that you know some of your own presuppositions, but there will be many that you are completely unaware of.  When they cause unrest, challenge or adversity, it is at that point that such presuppositions should be questioned, considered to be un-resourceful, dis-empowering, or just plain wrong. Remember that they can be held on to and reinforced by experience through fear, disappointment or simply justification. Ultimately, the choice is ours. Choices are always there, however, they can only be made when we acknowledge their existence and decide to act upon them. It is only through knowledge that we can exercise true personal power, and by knowing about, and acknowledging our own presuppositions, especially the less resourceful ones, we can create positive conscious change.

It is all about realising that we do have choices and providing ourselves with the psychological tools, techniques and options to make the very best choices that we can.

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