NLP and Mental Filters: Now you don’t see it – now you do!

Mental Filters or Perceptual Filters

The branch was in the way

There’s a lot of rubble to get rid of so I ordered a skip from the local company. We’d used them a few times before but this time they said they wouldn’t be able to negotiate the narrow corner because their new lorry was higher and wider and a huge branch was in the way.

The Arboriculture Officer from the local council gave permission for the branch to be removed as long as this was done by a recognised tree surgeon.

Noticing Tree Surgeons

Now I’ve never had to contact a tree surgeon before but a quick scan on the Internet, on Yellow Pages, and in the local newspaper this afternoon showed that there were many such people available. I contacted a friend who recommended one and he is coming along tomorrow morning.

Now the interesting thing was that I then went down town (tiny Swanage, population 9,500) and in the space of about 20 minutes saw no fewer than three vehicles with “tree surgeon” signs on them!

More than I’ve probably noticed in the past year or two.

And I’m probably destined to be seeing tree surgeon vehicles for the next few weeks – now that I’m tuned into this topic!

Setting our mental filters

In NLP terms I have set my mental or perceptual filters to notice them.

It’s the same pattern of mentally filtering to tune in to things which ‘make us’ angry – like when we begin paying attention to and totting up all the little things which irritate us about our partner, or family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances etc. And totting them up to the point where we get well and truly angry – and then the least little thing can produce an explosive response.

It’s the same pattern which operates when we’re in the first heady flush of love and go around noticing how wonderful life is and how nice people are and how beautiful is the sky and so on.

Or when we have a bout of poor health and begin noticing how much illness and pain and disease there is all around us.

Or begin househunting and notice “to let” or “for sale” all over the place.

Become aware of those filters

Usually we set these mental or perceptual filters automatically or unconsciously – they just seem to happen – and they carry on, in the background creating or emphasising our moods.

And sometimes they happen when we allow outside sources, and especially the news media, to set our filters for us – as for example when we go along with whatever is the mass-media’s current flavour-of-the-week.

Right now, here is the UK (August 2008), a recent hot topic for the media was The World Economic Recession which was/is going to ruin us all. Then it changed to The Knife Crime Epidemic which was/is making our streets unsafe for everyone. And, right now, and for a few more days, it’s untypically a good-news topic i.e. the UK Gold Success at the 2008 Olympics.

So what?

Well, for me, it’s a matter of noticing what I’m paying attention to and how this is influencing my attitude. It’s a matter of noticing whether I’m gathering evidence to feel good or to feel bad! And a matter of changing this filtering process if it’s not taking my mood/attitude in the direction that I’d like.

Oh, and remaining aware that journalists have a living to make and have deadlines to meet and that bad news is good business for them.  But that I don’t have to cooperate with their efforts to change my mood.

(Originally published in August 2008 – now revised and updated in March 2019)


Related articles (March 2006) (March 2008) (August 2008) (November 2008)  (January 2009)  (September 2009) (January 2011)