In a prior discussion, we talked about Maps of the World, and you may recall that they are unique to the individual. You have your own such map, as do I, and so does your partner, your kids, and your boss.
So to recap for our present discussion, what is a Map of the World in the first place?
We use this term to explain how we as individuals make sense of the world around us. Think of it this way: Your friend wants to take you to lunch at a new restaurant. Neither of you has been there before, as it’s just opened. But you have an address. So you pull out a map (or the mapping app on your phone!) and scan how to best reach that address.
For the map to be useful, it should depict the streets you’ll encounter, other notable landmarks such as railroad tracks and bodies of water. That way, even as you plot the address, you can make note of the fact that you’ll turn left after you pass a bridge over a wide river, then turn right at the park. These landmarks will be represented by symbols, not actual, detailed depictions of each item. And while the landmarks and streets will hopefully be drawn to scale, they will of course not be same size and detail as the real items. That would make for one really large and hard to read map! If you’re using a smart phone, you would certainly go over your data plan – assuming the map was even useful.
NLP refers to maps in a very similar way. To make sense of the world around us, and to navigate within it, we create maps, or more simplistic and smaller, though to scale, representations of the outside world. We use these to make sense of what we see, what we experience, and to get from one place in our lives to another. We are avid map-makers, looking for ways to organize and simplify our experience to hopefully save steps, minimize trial-and-error, and achieve our goals more simply and with less struggle.
Such a map may include our beliefs, your values, experiences, generalizations about what we’ve learned, our prejudices, religious or spiritual convictions, our opinions, and so forth.
Think of it this way. Cartography is actually much more sophisticated today, but the earliest mapmakers followed a process much like the following:
- Notice the general shape of the river – document it on paper
- Notice the position of the mountains in relation to said river – document it, likewise
- Notice the forest to the west, and draw its location in relation to the river and mountains
- As you follow the river, notice where it forks, and how a particular rock formation would make a great landmark – then draw both into the emerging map
- As you begin planning your small town at that fork in the river, draw it in such a way that someone could find it with the map as a reference
- As the town develops, expand the map to include the streets you create, and the landmarks that fall within the boundaries – and draw these into the map. As you learn more about the landscape, mapmakers can add details to the map. Likewise, as you expand the town, adding streets, a city hall, parks, etc., they can draw in these additional details. The objective of the mapmaking process is to make it easy to find things without going overboard on the details. To paraphrase Albert Einstein, you want it to be as detailed as it needs to be – but no more so. If it gets too detailed, it threatens to become a life-size, exact picture of the landscape and the town. This is what Alfred Korzybski meant when he famously said, “The map is not the territory”. The point of a map is to be useful, not an actual-sized, exact photo of the landscape.
We use a similar process as we meet someone. Using the list of cartographer’s steps above as a model, two people create a map of their romantic relationship in a very similar way. Consider the following steps:
- Notice attractive person you would like to meet
- Introduce yourself and note signs of their corresponding interest – the first shared component of the Relationship Map
- Identify your reason for being there – revealing your interests
- Other person reveals that they share your interest – the next component you two share – a second detail on your shared map
- Share with one another your additional interests, including taste in movies, music, books, artists, and find that you share several – additional components to add to a shared map
- The two of you agree that you already seem to have so much in common, and interest in learning more – then decide to meet again in a social setting. This might be a “date”
- After having the opportunity to discuss your values, passions, history, spiritual and political views, among other things, you decide that you would like to continue learning about one another – your Relationship Map is developing still further
Our Relationship Map begins to form even before our very first date. As soon as we begin interacting, and as we discover we have things in common, we are creating a shared map. So our Relationship Map actually begins as you strike up a conversation, before the two of you even agree to a first date.
The things that we have in common create the framework and foundation of the Relationship Map. This includes shared likes, such as movies, art, music, and other interests, are the foundation and as we ask those questions, and as we answer these, we begin to build the map.
Each additional experience that you as a new couple find you share in common further enriches this Relationship Map. Assuming the trend continues toward deepening the relationship, and in fairness, that doesn’t always happen, you may find that you are married to this person and have several children by the time you look up and notice! When we live our lives on auto-pilot, rather than a life of our own design, we may wind up pleasantly surprised to find it worked out to our satisfaction. Just as you can purchase a lottery ticket and it may win you a large sum of money.
It’s also very likely that when taking a chance like that, exerting no influence or skill upon it, that that outcome is less than favorable.
Though you may also deliberately create each piece of the emerging map with your partner, and therefore get to savor each delicious step! Just as each of use is continually creating maps to make sense of the world in which we live, we are hopefully also updating those maps to ensure they remain accurate.
Consider a city map as an example. One that was published in 1970. At that time, the street layout may have been perfectly accurate, the location of the parks and bodies of water absolutely represented in the map. Though since then highways may have been created, new streets laid, the city itself may have grown, necessitating “growing” the map to keep pace. By 2013, that map may bear only a passing resemblance to the actual lay of the land. So trying to use it for navigation may be very challenging, and likely to wind up with a lost traveler.
In other words, it’s entirely possible to allow the natural map-making process to create your life map and Relationship Map. By making you aware of the process, we encourage your actively participate in creating your map, and overall in designing your life, your love, and your happiness.
The same thing happens with life maps, Maps of the World. Perhaps the map, your generalizations, beliefs, and attitudes, may have served you very well for the first fifteen or so years of life. But once you started high school, certainly by the time you reach college, many of those attitudes may have been refined, updated, or entirely rejected, in favor of more useful attitudes and beliefs. Just as when drawing a map, your accuracy and usefulness are always up for questioning, so too are the personal maps we craft. As long as they serve us and make our lives easier, we tend to leave them intact. But when we encounter situations where they don’t serve us, or perhaps they even make things more difficult, we must go back and update them.
The key take-away is that whether we intend to or not, whether we actively participate or not, we as individuals are continually creating Maps of the World. And in the same way, from the very beginning of a relationship, throughout its life, we are continually creating our Relationship Map. Understanding key differences in our individual Maps of the World will provide clues to why our developing Relationship Map is challenged. And as we learn to become more skilled mapmakers, we can design and enjoy the life and the love relationship that we have always wanted.
Relationship Map is your guide to making not only the journey magnificent, but also the destination what you both desire.
Learn more about how we can introduce you to your Relationship Map and how you can take control, using it to create greater intimacy, more love, better communication and tenderness, and more fulfillment for your relationship. Starting now!