How Your Mental Landscape Affects Your Relationships

31 Aug 2008

How Your Mental Landscape Affects Your Relationships

Your Mental Landscape

What if the way you thought about someone, the way you pictured them in your mind’s eye, in your mental landscape, actually affected your relationship with them? Well guess what? It does!

mental landscape

Social Panorama is a combination of NLP and Social Psychology developed by Dutch NLP Trainer Lucas Derks. When I learnt about it a few years ago, I couldn’t believe that anything so simple could actually work and make a difference.

Having now practised it with several hundred clients and course participants, I can attest that it does work – and really well! It also makes a huge difference to the way you relate to others and vice-versa. So I’m sharing this in the hope that it will be helpful to you in changing any less-than-useful relationships you might have.

Let me explain how it works …

We all have ways of thinking about the people in our lives and in our mind we locate them in a mental landscape, in the space around our bodies. Lucas Derks calls this our social panorama. Generally this locating process is unconscious. Because it’s unconscious you’re unlikely to be aware of the impact that the positioning of people in your mental landscape has on your relationship with those people.

But you can make your social landscape conscious.

And once you make it conscious, you can also experiment by moving people around and being aware of how it feels. You’ll be able to notice how any change you make to the relocation of people, affects the way you think about, and your relationships with them.

Here’s an exercise you can do.

A picture tells a thousand words – so here you go – make some pictures! Ready? O.K.

Close your eyes. Actually don’t close your eyes yet – read the exercise first!
Think of various people with whom you share your life and notice where in the space around you, you mentally locate them. For example, where are your:

  • Brothers and sisters?
  • Parents?
  • Partner?
  • Friends?
  • Colleagues?
  • Your boss?
  • The CEO?
  • Who is closest?
  • Who is most distant? (The physical location of a person – where he or she lives – has nothing to do with this. Someone can live on the other side of the world yet still be very close to you in your social panorama.)
  • Who is higher?
  • Who is lower?
  • Who is on the right?
  • Who is on the left?
  • Is there anyone behind you?

You could plot these on a piece of paper.

The language we use isn’t coincidental.

They way you talk about people accurately reflects how you situate someone in your social panorama:-

  • we’re very close.
  • distant relatives.
  • hold in high esteem.
  • in my face.
  • low self-esteem.
  • low self-confidence.
  • look down on someone.
  • look up to someone.
  • keep at arms length.
  • etc (there are many others).

If your role involves coaching, pay attention to the language your clients use to discuss relationship issues. Because within the problem language is the kernel of the solution.

A common illustration of how this works

Frequently I see clients who have problems with public speaking and presenting. While there is often more than one issue that needs to be addressed to resolve the problem completely, the way they think about their audience in their social panorama is one of the key factors contributing to their issues. It’s also therefore a key to the solution.

The problem is all in their mind

In their mind, this – or a minor variation of this – is how my clients perceive their audience: They’re very big (larger than life!) and often belligerent people, and they’re up high in their social panorama. By implication that leaves my client feeling small, insignificant and overwhelmed. What better way to make yourself feel totally vulnerable!

The solution is remarkably simple

I have my client move the audience, in their mind’s eye, down to the same level as themselves and make the people normal size. This usually results in a big deep breath and total body relaxation. Then I have them make the audience look friendly and interested (as opposed to hostile and disinterested). The result is a huge upward shift in confidence when speaking in front of groups of people.

Low Self-Esteem

In this scenario the client has determined his or her self-esteem as being low.

Self-esteem obviously comes from the self – hence self-esteem.

When I ask where she locates the other people in her life, they’re invariably up higher than the client. Moving them down creates an almost instant change in physiology – from tenseness to calm.

The emotional reaction

My experience is that someone who is up front and in your face (notice that language again) in your social panorama will cause a more emotional response in you. If this emotion feels good that’s great. If you don’t particularly like the associated emotion, simply push the person away into the distance.(In your mind that is – I’m not advocating pushing people around!) Then become aware of how you can feel differently – instantly.

Cool eh?

If you want to feel closer to someone, move them closer in your social panorama. Moving them closer unconsciously affects the way you relate to them, so you will relate more closely.

See, I told you this was simple.

Now it’s over to you. Please try this out for yourself because it really can work wonders.
Go check out Lucas’ website where he also has some videos you can watch.

  • We have a way of mentally positioning the people in our life – our mental landscape.
  • The way we think of them affects our relationship to them.
  • Noticing language is a key to a person’s mental landscape.
  • Changing the location of people in the mental landscape affects the relationship.
  • It works!
What would you like to do next?