DO YOU HAVE YOUR LANGUAGE LICENSE? – Meta Reflections 2015 #15

March 30, 2015

Words are powerful.  Here are some quotes that I put in the book, Mind-Lines: Lines that Change Minds  (2005) indicate the power of words and how because we live in the house of language, language itself operates as such a powerful frame-setting factor.

“You don’t need to take drugs to hallucinate; improper language can fill your world with problems and spooks of many kinds.” (Robert A. Wilson)

“Magic is hidden in the language we speak.   The webs that you can tie and untie are at your command  if only you pay attention to what you already have (language) and the structure of the incantations for growth.” (Richard Bandler and John Grinder)

            “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” (Wittgenstein)

“Language is what bewitches, but language is what we must remain within in order to cure the bewitchment.” (Henry Staten)

If words are so powerful and we can do so many things, good and bad, with words, don’t you think people ought to get a license in order to open their mouth and say words?  With words you are operating the primary vehicle of meaning.  Careening along the road of consciousness in the vehicle of language, you could easily crash into someone, create a wreck, or do all sorts of damage.  So, do you know how to manage and control the neuro-linguistic and neuro-semantic dynamics within words and language?


It might seem strike you as silly even ridiculous at first, but just suppose there was a license for using language?  Suppose you had to take an exam in order to be certified that you are knowledgeable enough and competent enough to open your mouth in public?   An interesting thought experiment, isn’t it?  But it did not originate with me.  A long time ago Alfred Korzybski proposed it in the following paragraphs in Science and Sanity.

“When we become more civilized and enlightened, no public speaker or writer will be allowed to operate publicly without demonstrating first that he knows the structure and semantic functioning of the linguistic capacities.  Even at present no professor, teacher, lawyer, physician, or chemist, etc. is allowed to operate publicly without passing examination to show that he knows his subject.

The above statement does not mean control or censorship.  Far from it.  Our language involves a much more intricate, beneficial, or dangerous semantic mechanism than any automobile ever had or will have.  We do not control the drivers in their destinations.  They come and go as they please, but for public safety we demand that they should have acquired the necessary reflex-skill for driving, and so we eliminate unnecessary tragedies.

Similarly with language, of which the ignorant or pathological use becomes a public danger of a very serious semantic character.  At present public writers or speakers can hide behind ignorance of the verbal, semantic, and neurological mechanism.  They may ‘mean well’; yet, by playing upon the pathological reactions of their own and those of the mob, they may ‘put over’ some very vicious propaganda and bring about very serious sufferings to all concerned.  But once they would have to pass an examination to get their licence as public speakers or writers, they could not hide any longer behind ignorance.  If found to have misused the linguistic mechanism, such an abuse on their part would be clearly a wilful act, and ‘well meaning’ would cease to be an alibi.” (p. 486)


So how about you?  How well informed are you about the semantic mechanisms within language that can be dangerous, harmful, or beneficial?  Korzybski, and later the developers of NLP, was not focusing on grammar as such.  Instead he focused on the neuro-linguistic and neuro-semantic factors that influence our thinking and our mental mapping of our understandings.  “Neuro-“ because it is not grammar per se that is the problem, but what grammar and language does to us within our nervous systems.


Precisely because in thinking we use our nervous system and brain, the thoughts that we think are not innocent.  They influence and affect our subsequent neurology.  They send signals to our body and when we elevate the thoughts to “beliefs,” now we send commands to our nervous systems.  At that point, the job of the nervous system is to actualize the command.  That’s why in most religions we have statements about the power of beliefs: “Be it unto you according to your belief.”


If our thinking is sloppy, if we are engaged in lazy thinking, imprecise thinking, uncritical thinking —then we are setting ourselves up for problems in life.  That’s why the critical thinking engendered by the Meta-Model is so valuable and important.  The following 18 minute TED presentation by Sharyl Attkisson provides a great example of the need for solid critical thinking.



Sharyl Attkisson | TEDxUniversityofNevada


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