This Issue Current
Using General Semantics
Susan Presby Kodish, Ph.D.
General semantics can be considered a neuro-semantic, neuro-linguistic
discipline. Therefore, I have found that learning the definitions and
descriptions of the formulations found in Science and Sanity, staff
presentations and other sources provides a necessary but not sufficient
condition for developing a general semantic orientation. Using the
following material will help you to incorporate general semantics into your
everyday habitual reacting, getting it into your nervous system, thus learning
By using general semantics, we can learn to understand ourselves and others
better. We can also learn to react-evaluate differently, if we so desire. In
developing a general semantic orientation we thus can improve our functioning.
In the material on the following pages, I summarize some of my formulating on
how to approach these goals. The format of presentation is:
1. A GENERAL SEMANTICS FORMULATION
- Some reactions that relate to using this formulation:
- Some questions to ask yourself, and answer, that will help you to
use this formulation in your day-to-day life.
The 15 formulations which follow are:
- Semantic reactions
- Time-binding (Personal)
- Map-territory relations
- Consciousness of abstracting
- Question formulating
- SEMANTIC REACTIONS
- note total organismic reacting; my and your
- What was going on in and around me as I reacted?
- What was I sensing?
- What was I ‘thinking’?
- What was I ‘feeling’?
- What was I doing?
- How was I moving?
- Develop an orientation of delaying reactions:
- How can I delay my reaction?
- When I wait to react, what happens?
- Increase response options:
- How did I choose to react that way?
- Can I make other choices?
- TIME-BINDING (Personal)
- Note developmental life processes; changes over time:
- How did I get this way?
- What led to my reacting in the ways that I do?
- What kinds of response habits have I learned and developed?
- How can I learn to “date” myself? (See “Dating” below)
- What habits do I like?
- What habits might I like to change?
- How will I do this?
- What are the first steps to changing?
- When will I take them?
- Accept present, including myself.
- How can I best build on my personal experiences?
- How do I help and hurt myself and others by demanding that
events, including myself,
- should happen differently right at this moment?
- When I don’t accept events as they happen at the moment, does
that cause them to change?
- How does this hinder my growth?
- What problems are created?
- Should a flower not happen as it does?
- Then how come I shouldn’t happen as I do?
- How will accepting myself help me to move on?
- Broaden awareness of what is going on, ‘inside’ and ‘out’:
- What do I sense ‘inside’ and ‘out’?
- What do I smell, hear, see, touch, taste, etc.?
- What else can I become aware of?
- Cope with uncertainty:
- How will having greater awareness help me to deal with whatever
- How can this help me to experience more security, even when I
can’t feel ‘certain’ about anything?
- How can I learn to “index” better? (See “Indexing”
- MAP-TERRITORY RELATIONS
- Assume non-identity of orders of abstraction:
- Is the way I evaluate something the way it ‘really is’?
- Are my words the same as my non-verbal experience?
- Am I referring to a ‘fact’ or an inference?
- How can I tell the difference?
- What happens when I avoid the word ‘same’?
- Can I ever know the way something ‘really is’?
- If not, how might I better evaluate?
- Assume non-allness of abstracting:
- What might I have left out?
- What else?
- What effect does this have? (See “Etc.” below)
- Recognize that semantic reactions refer to the particular person
- What about me contributes to my reacting in a certain way?
- What about ‘I’ gets in my ‘eyes’ as I develop my view
- What effects does this have?
- Remember that my conclusions are not the same as my inferences are
not the same as ‘facts’ are not the same as non-verbal experiencing
are not the same as “what-is-inferred-to-be-going-on”:
- Can I ever know what some event ‘is’, apart from even my
- What happens when I don’t use the “is of identity”?
- Does what I do equal what I ‘am’, as a totality?
- Does what others do equal what they ‘are’, as totalities?
- How could I ever know what I and others ‘are’, as
- What differences will I experience when I focus on what I do
rather than on what I ‘am’?
- What differences will I experience when I focus on what others
do rather than on what they ‘are’?
- What happens when I don’t put over-generalized,
over-restrictive labels, like good/bad and smart/stupid, on myself
- Can I ever describe anything apart from my evaluating?
- What happens when I don't use the “is of predication”?
- Can I ever know that something ‘is’ pretty in and of
- Where are the sights I see, the sounds I hear, the aromas I
smell, the flavors I taste, the sensations I experience located?
- What happens when I say that something looks pretty to me?
- View formulations as hypotheses to be tested:
- How can I test this out?
- How will I know to what extent I’ve evaluated this
- Can I ever feel absolutely ‘sure’ of my evaluations?
- What does this suggest?
- Use quantifiers and qualifiers to express tentativeness:
- How does this seem to me?
- What happens when I use the word “Perhaps”?
- To what degree does this apply?
- What happens when I avoid the word “same”?
- What happens when I use “a” or “an” instead of
- What happens when I use plurals in place of singular forms?
- Take responsibility for my own reactions:
- What happens when I say “I” instead of the rhetorical
- When I say “you” is it you I’m talking about or myself
- How can I rephrase this using “I”?
- How can I acknowledge the “to-me-ness” of my evaluations?
- Recognize multi-meanings:
- How did I develop my idiosyncratic definitions?
- Can there be other ways of defining/describing events?
- How can I remember that we all have personal meanings for words
and non-verbal experiences?
- CONSCIOUSNESS OF ABSTRACTING
- Separate ‘facts’ from inferences, uncover assumptions, etc.:
- What do I ‘mean’?
- How do I know?
- Can I sense what I’m talking about?
- What observations support or negate my inferences?
- Note assumption-conclusion-behavior links:
- What assumptions do I make about this happening?
- What conclusions am I reaching?
- How am I behaving?
- What changes in my assumptions and conclusions will be needed
in order to behave differently?
- Become aware of different levels of internal processes:
- What’s going on in me now?
- What am I ‘thinking’?
- What memories are triggered?
- What assumptions am I making?
- What do I believe?
- What images do I have?
- What rules for living do I follow?
- Note dead-level abstracting:
- Am I getting stuck on either higher-order or lower-order
- What kinds of inferences and conclusions can I draw from what I
- What do I need to observe to test my inferences and
- What happens when I alternate among these levels?
- Recognize semantic reactions to semantic reactions:
- How am I reacting?
- How am I reacting to these reactions?
- What happens as this process continues?
- What happens when I get upset about my semantic reactions?
- What happens when I accept my semantic reactions?
- What happens when I focus on my current experience, rather than
my past experience or anticipated future?
- QUESTION FORMULATING
- Note answerability of questions asked and usefulness of answers:
- What kind of answers do I expect when I ask this question?
- To what extent can I feel satisfied with any answer?
- How can I rephrase this to find out more of what I want to
- Shift from “why” to “how” questions:
- How can I know “why” something happened?
- How far back do I have to go?
- What will happen when I ask “how” something happened
instead of “why”?
- Avoid complex questions:
- Does my question include an opinion in disguise?
- What do I ‘mean” e.g., when I ask, “How could I have done
- What happens when I separate this into three questions:
- What did I do?
- How did I come to do that?
- How do I evaluate what I did?
- Use dates to show how things change over time:
- Separate past from present, look for changes over time:
- When did something like this happen before?
- How did I react then?
- How old was I?
- How have I changed since then?
- How have other happenings changed since then?
- How can these changes influence how I react now?
- Use indexes to show differences within classifications:
- Look for differences:
- How does this situation seem different from similar ones?
- Do these differences make a difference?
- Develop specific, detailed descriptions:
- What do I see, hear, smell, taste, touch?
- What happened?
- How many semantic reactions can I list?
- What physiological sensations occur?
- Develop a multi-valued orientation:
- What happens when I give up a two-valued orientation and look
for continuums instead?
- For example, what happens if, instead of labeling my reaction
as anxious or calm, I rate the degree of anxiety or calm I
experience on a scale of 1-10?
- How can I describe this?
- Focus on moment-to-moment experiencing:
- What do I notice?
- What is going on ‘inside’ of me?
- How are others reacting?
- Label what is going on as accurately as possible:
- How do I react to “whatever”?
- How can I best describe my reaction?
- How can I differentiate my reactions, e.g., distinguish anxiety
- How do I know what my reactions ‘mean’?
- Develop an orientation of minimum expectations:
- Can I expect with certainty that someone will behave
differently than usual?
- How does having more-than-minimum expectations lead me to
- What will happen when I have minimum expectations?
- Watch for overgeneralizations:
- Does that apply all of the time?
- When and when not?
- Use single quotes to note words that you consider elementalistic or
- What happens to my reacting when I note ‘think’,
‘feel’, ‘Mind’, ‘body’ etc., instead of think,
feel, mind, body, etc.?
- How does this alert me to possible problems in evaluating?
- Connect with a hyphen words that suggest separation of what we best
understand as unified processes:
- What happens when I note my thinking-feeling instead of
‘thinking’ separate from ‘feeling’?
- How about mind-body instead of my ‘Mind’ separate from my
- Can these ever be separated other than verbally?
- Use “etc.” to note non-allness:
- Is that all?
- What else?
- What else?
- Do I have it ‘all’ now?
- What happens when I add “etc.” to the end of my
ETC. ETC. ETC. ETC. ETC. ETC. ETC.
©1995 Susan Presby Kodish
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