The Shocking Truth About the Map is Not the Territory: Explained | The Coaching Institute

The Shocking Truth About the Map is Not the Territory: Explained

The map is not the territory

“No matter how much I try, I never feel confident about myself,” Linda said.

She was seemingly distressed when she shared this. If you knew Linda in real life, you would be surprised at that statement.

She was a successful business woman. On the home-front, she was happily married with three kids. Each month, she enjoyed volunteering for her favourite not-for-profit organisation. She had a healthy and active social life; friends and family loved her.

Externally, everything seemed right. Yet, Linda would doubt herself and this would lead to a lack of self-confidence.

Linda is not alone – as a coach you’ll find many of your clients with issues that seem a total “mismatch” for them.

Here’s what is happening

Linda has created a “map” around her self-worth – for some reason, there was a moment in time when she made a decision to believe she was not confident enough.

Picture this: When you go to a restaurant, you don’t confuse the menu with food. Similarly, you don’t confuse the map for the actual road or territory. Right?

Although this is common sense, it is easy to confuse our thoughts about reality with reality itself.

In Linda’s case, she unknowingly deleted her strengths from her map of reality which took a toll on her self-confidence.

Deletion occurs when we selectively pay attention to certain aspects of our experience and not others. Linda overlooked her positive traits. She was having issues with some areas, but that did not mean she wasn’t good at anything (further leading to a generalisation).

Once she was able to acknowledge her strengths, Linda realised how to differentiate between the map and the territory.

How We Form Mental Maps

Almost 5,000 years ago, written language was born, and the first writings were made of symbols and drawings to communicate and store ideas.

Over time, symbols have become a part of our neurology. Now it is easy to associate with them when trying to understand a concept or form a belief about something.

Your belief about an object is a certain neural pathway your brain uses every time you think about that object. If you decide to change the belief, there will be a pattern disrupt in those neurons – but that won’t change the object itself, just how you look at it.

This means you can always edit what you think about something, but that does not edit reality. You’re running a map on auto-pilot and although it is a good tool to use, it does not represent reality.

It also means you have a choice to create an entirely new map and have a different experience of the object.

In short, if you do not differentiate between what happens in your mind and what happens outside of it, you mistake your symbols (or map) for things they represent.

Your map starts to takes form the day you’re born, but it pretty much solidifies once you reach age 7. Between ages 7 and 11, you form strategies for decision-making and planning.

Each one of us has a subjective mental represent of everything around us. So there is no right or wrong, but it is good to be more flexible and ready to make changes to your map if it is not serving you the way you’d like it to.

A Real-Life Example in Maps is Not the Territory

John was a sceptic with a science-based thinking.

It became a pattern for him to discard/delete/distort anything that was not scientifically proven. Although it served him well for a while, he would question other people’s beliefs around religion, God, UFOs and things currently outside scope of science.

His impatience started creating friction between him and family and friends. John’s map had become too rigid and inflexible. What John needed to realise was that although his subjective experience of the world around him from the lens of science worked from him, it may not work for everyone else.

As Carl Sagan, author of The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark said, "Science is far from a perfect instrument of knowledge. It's just the best we have."

Only when John started opening up with new-found curiosity and openness to listen to others’ maps, he started to form better and long-standing relationships. That doesn’t mean he gave up on his scientific knowledge of things – instead, he considered the possibility that science was just one tool which can only take us so far.

How to Use Meta-Dynamics™ to Alter Your Clients’ Map of the World

As a Meta-Dynamics™ coach, you will notice clients come to you with their own unique versions of maps and conditioning formed over years.

They have been running the same strategies of Deletion, Distortion and Generalisation to process information that comes into their experience from outside.

Typically, an external event happens and we make an Internal Representation (IR) about it. When combined with physiology, this becomes a State – which could be a happy state, sad state, confused state, pleased state, excited state and so on.

IR + Physiology = State

There are eight communication filters at work:

1. Beliefs: Generalisations about how the world is.

2. Values: An evaluation filter that tells us whether we are right or wrong, good or bad.

3. Attitude: Collection of beliefs around certain subject or area of our lives.

4. Memories: Our reactions in the present are reactions to collection of past memories organised in a certain way (also known as gestalts).

5. Meta-programs: Meta-programs help determine a client’s state. These include external behaviour (introvert or extrovert), internal process (sensor or intuitor), internal state (thinking or feeling) and temporal operator (time).

6. Decisions: Past decisions may create beliefs or affect our perspectives through time. The problem is that many decisions are made unconsciously.

7. Language: The consistent language your client uses to describe abundance, wealth, goals etc. If they can’t language it, they can’t achieve it.

8. Time space matter energy: Short-term or long-term view of goals; belief in life beyond matter (or physical) etc.

(Keep an eye out for future posts about each of these filters.)

Parting Thoughts. . .

People don’t perceive reality (humans and non-living objects, situations, events etc.) as it really is. Thoughts influence perception. The above eight filters, combined with IR, Physiology and State, influence our behaviour.

And that is all the more reason for you to hold a non-judgemental attitude toward your client’s map. Be curious but know there is no right or wrong map.

As a coach, you help your client find out whether their map is helping them have a positive experience in life. If not, gently guide them to improving their map by discovering new experiences, perspectives and beliefs.

What are your thoughts about maps? Do you have any first-hand experiences of “the map is not the territory”? How do you view your map? What kind of effect do you think your map has on your reality? Tell us about it in the comments!

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