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Institute of Semantic Restructuring

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Semantic Restructuring is the pursuit of enlightenment, enlivenment, empowerment through the creative re-arranging of the building blocks of meaning. For a better description, Start Here.

Glossary for Semantic Restructuring

This is a work in progress, which is by way of warning you that there are many terms, citations, and cross-references yet to be completed. If there is any particular item you wish to see extended, any specific citation or cross-reference you would like to see added, drop me a line at; include the glossary term and the citation/cross-reference you are interested in.


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Possibly the most instructive part of the N-LP concepts, in no small part for what you can learn by tracing it's developtment through the N-LP literature. At best this term is inconistently defined and used. The earliest incarnation seems to be primarily a means of keeping therapy sessions on track. Later it was developed into the basis of some of N-LP's most exciting claims, a kind of applied irresistable operant conditioning. As part of the shift from N-LP to Semantic Restructuring we have an update of nomenclature to better distinguish between the intangible "semantic trigger" and it's primary constituent parts, namely, "triggered state", "trigger". Cf. Semantic Triggers (pending.)


This term comes from Alfred Korzybski's "Science and Sanity" and refers to the denial of the common western acceptance of Aristotle's law of the excluded middle. In short, Aristotle's system of logic assumes a statement is either true or false, with no shades of grey. This system of logic is of great value in many settings and pursuits, but is patently out of step with reality. Sadly, however, most of us are so deeply entrenched in our culture that we accept this law of all-black-or-all-white without much thought. Happily we have examples from other cultures where shades of grey and varieties of truth value are accepted as the norm.


Two or more meanings for a word (or sentence, or utterance, or other meaning-unit.) Use of both Inductive and Deductive Language Patterns benefit from being able to recognize the following specific forms of ambiguity:

Ambiguity: Phonological

Homonyms, words that sound or are spelled the same but have different meanings. Technically, homonyms can exhibit either or both phonological and orthoraphic ambiguity, but as our focus is primarily on spoken language, it's the phonological aspect that counts.

Ambiguity: Syntactic

The paradigmatic example from Grinder and Bandler's The Structure of Magic, Vol. I is:

They were murdering peasants

This example has two basic meanings, one in which peasants are being murdered, another in which peasants are committing murder.

Ambiguity: Scope

In essence ambiguities where a description might apply to subject or object of sentence, as in:

I am speaking to you as a seeker of wisdom.

Where the verb "speaking" clearly belongs to the subject, "a seeker of wisdom" could as readily apply to either subject, object or both.

Automatic Motion

Hypnotic phenomenon in which subject engages in (usually repetitive) motion without conscious awareness. This is one of many phenomena that are particularly useful as "convincers," i.e., that are of value in validating trance experiences for clients. Automatic motion can also be used for establishing or deepening trance, starting with a motion under conscious and volitional control to focus the subject's conscious attention.

Confusion Technique

Common term for the methods described in the article "The Confusion Technique in Hypnosis", by Milton H. Erickson, M.D., originally printed in The American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, January, 1964.

In brief, it can be commonly observed that confused individuals tend to exhibit a heightened state of responsiveness as they try to obtain sufficient information to disambiguate whatever stimuli have triggered their confused state. In his paper, Erickson explicated his process of gently creating such confused states as a means of increasing responsiveness to the hypnotist.


A condition in which one's collected meta-messages (Bateson) or para-messages (Grinder) are said to be non-contradictory of each other, minimally, or supportive of, relevant to, in agreement with each other, preferably. Note that this term is used with varying degrees of precision in N-LP texts, along with the issue of some questions regarding "true inner (Condon's work on rhythm at the dinner table and the Scientific American article on response to pupil size changes suggest that volitional, conscious congruence may not always be possible to achieve.) Citations pending.

Extensive Definition

Definition by evidence. One of Korzybski's pet peeves is the defining of a group by describing their qualities. The only sure way to know you have accurately described a group is by collecting up all the members of that group. A glossary can't help being a collection of intensive definitions.


How information is contextualized, thereby influencing how it will be interpreted in relationship to existing beliefs or ideas.

Handshake Induction

Because the motor patterns of shaking hands is learned in early childhood and is almost entirely preverbal it essentially acheives the status of Automatic Motion, the interruption of which can create profound confusion, which in turn can be utilized by the operator to secure trance. cf. Confusion Technique

Grinder and Bandler teach a version which is easy to practice and observe, although it is ill-suited to most settings. The operator engages in the motions of initiating a handshake with the subject, but instead of consummating that handshake gently uses his left hand to take hold of the subject's right wrist, directing the subject's right hand to roughly face level while offering general suggestions for relaxation and trance deepening as suits the circumstances and the operator's needs.


A condition in which one's collected meta-messages (Bateson) or para-messages (Grinder) are said to be at odds with each other. Grinder speculated that this reflects presence of competing perceptual models in need of integration. Grinder refers to two types of incongruence:

Simultaneous Incongruence

One's meta/para-messages at time zero are inconsistent with each other. Perhaps easiest to see (and work with) in those situations where the client exhibits lateral incongruence where the left side of the body sends a set of messages consistent with each other but at odds with the set of meta/para-messages sent by the right side of the body, said messages themselves being consistent.

Sequential Incongruence

Behavior, and consequently meta/para-messages are consistent within time zero and within time n, but the set from time zero are at odds with the set from time n. This is typical of substance abuse and domestic violence.

Intensive Definition

Definition by description of qualities.

Multi-Ordinal Terms

In the book "Science and Sanity" Dr. Alfred Korzybski, founder of the now largely discredited "General Semantics", coined the word "multi-ordinal" to describe words that not only can have multiple meanings, but words where one meaning is inclusive of, of a higher order, than some other meaning of the same word.

In practice this is really subsumed by ambiguity

Neuro-Linguistic Programming

Pop-psych from the mid 70s, largely modeled on the writings and work of Milton H. Erickson, couched in the jargon of Chomsky's "Syntactic Structures" but owing more conceptually to Korzybski's "Science and Sanity." Devotees are certain to take exception with this description. For a slightly less apostate view of all things N-LP, visit NLP University.

Polarity Response

You say, "Black," they say, "White." Where someone is particularly rigid in this kind of response they can be very easily manipulated, simply by taking the opposite of the position you want them to take. "I'm sure you wouldn't want to do anything about your phobia; most people don't; most people derive secret satisfaction from those kinds of limitations." A person exhibiting Polarity Response will, when presented with such a statement, be far more likely to engage in therapy than if approached with a direct offer of assistnce.

There are, however, non-trivial ethical considerations of communicating effectively with people caught in a Polarity Response pattern; yes can mean no and the therapist will be called on to feign positions that are not at all what she truly desires or believes. This notion of a therapist "acting" or "dissembling" or "decieving" is thorny. If in doubt, don't do it.


Communication designed to cause some perception or communication to be evaluated in a different context, so as to obtain affective change in meaning or understanding thereof.

Word Salad

Term coined by Milton H. Erickson in an account of dealing with the apparently meaningless utterings of a psychiatric patient. Erickson successfully reached this patient by learning to reproduce seemingly equally meaningless ramblings, but interspersed suggestions such that the patient came to prefer "normal" talk to "word salad." Citation pending. Cross-references to "Interspersal Technique" and "Multi-level Communication" pending.

Email: rl (at) robertlink (dot) org.

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