Last weekend, while running my diploma training, my colleague and very dear friend Judith talked to me about a process that she had been enjoying much success with in her therapy practice with her clients.

Sadly, as is the case with running training courses, I could not give it my full and undivided attention… But jotted down the words “Identity Matrix” and when back in my office, I pulled off the shelf, my huge volumes of the Encyclopedia of Systemic Neuro Linguistic programming and NLP New Coding by Robert Dilts and Judith DeLozier and starting exploring… (I placed my apple on top to show you how big the books are!)

Lots of the stuff on using archetypes in NLP is very relevant to this and I have taught that material before and found this matrix for identity quite similar and something I thought I’d share here today.

In the field of NLP, born out of the work of Gregory Bateson, change is thought of as happening at different levels in relation to the individual – these levels are known as the logical levels and include our environment, behaviour, capabilities, identity, values, purpose and they all have a relationship of some kind with each other. However, I am not here to discuss those today. The relationship that gets focused on here in today’s blog entry with this process, is that between of our beliefs and our identity.

We all tend to have some existential notion of who and how we are. In NLP terms, the way we think of ourselves, or rather the concept of our ‘self’ is a map that is formed by (amongst other things) our beliefs about our potential and our limitations. Naturally, that includes aspects of ourselves that are deemed desirable and those undesirable.

This ‘identity matrix’ that Judith was telling me about is a means of identifying a cross section of core beliefs about ourselves which influence the way we view and express ourselves.

The identity matrix involves identifying your beliefs about:

1. What you have always been and will always be.

2. What you could become.

3. What you never have been and never will be.

These beliefs are explored in relation to what you want to be and do not want to be. The result provides you with some powerful cues about your own identity, resources and values and also gives you insight about any possible limiting beliefs that you may have.

This is essentially what the identity matrix is:

Are not Could become Will always be
Want to be Limit Potential Core
Don not want to be Boundary Weakness/Defect Shadow

To explore and make use of it, you basically answer the following simple questions. I would add here, that even though many of us would tend to answer these questions literally, the founders of this process tend to favour representing your answers with symbols and/or archetypes (because of a part of the process that comes up later). So you may decide to answer literally and then turn those answers into metaphors, symbols or archetypes.

Here are the questions and sample answers as laid out in the text book:

1. What is something you want to be and believe you always will be (your core)?

e.g. “A volcano of light.”

2. What is something you want to be and believe you could become (your potential)?

e.g.” A beautiful flower or blossom.”

3. What is something you want to be but believe you will never be (your limit or limitation)?

e.g. “A distant star.”

4. What is something you don’t want to be and believe you never will be (your boundary)?

e.g. “A black hole.”

5. What is something you don’t want to be but are afraid you could become (your defect/weakness)?

e.g. “A thick fog.”

6. What is something you don’t want to be but believe you always will be (your shadow)?

e.g. “Death.”

Having answered the questions, you then reflect on them. You consider what you believe you will always be, could become and will never be. With the emphasis being on the fact that you ‘believe’ these things and they are not necessarily a true reflection of reality. Which in turn leads you to spot any limiting beliefs you may hold about yourself.

The final step, once the questions are all answered and explored afterwards, is to create a story or poem that combines the vari­ous symbols together in some way that suggests a next step in your evolution or journey. it creates a story to follow. As Joseph Campbell would say, a typical sequence for a “hero’s journey” would involve (with reference to the above matrix):

1. Attempting to develop a potential

2. Confronting and transcending some limit

3. Struggling with and healing a weakness

4. Facing and transforming the shadow

5. Clarifying and strengthening a boundary

6. Affirming and reconnecting with the core

In other words, a person sets out to develop or manifest more of his or her potential. This leads the person to confront some limit, which reveals a weakness or defect. The struggle with the weak­ness brings out the shadow. In facing the shadow, the person must rediscover and strengthen his or her boundary. Eventually, the person is able to reconnect with his or her core. This allows the person to transform the shadow, heal the weak­ness and transcend the limit, in order to finally reach his or her potential.

It all fits so neatly into something I think is a thoroughly enjoyable way to explore your own relationship with yourself and how you perceive yourself and what you believe in relation to yourself… and then wrap it up into a tale that depicts it all…

For instance, Dilts and DeLozier use the following story in the encyclopedia, using the above structure with the symbols provided earlier:

A young boy from the city set off into the forest to bring back a special flower that had healing powers in order to be able to cure the ailing princess. After many days of journeying, the boy, whose provisions were dwindling, began to lose heart, and the blossom seemed more and more like a distant star. He became frustrated and despondent, and because he was not paying attention to the path, he took a wrong turn and found himself lost in a thick fog. He spent many days in the fog becoming weaker and more confused. At times he thought he saw the dark figure of Death lurking between the trees, and would feel afraid and run, becoming even more lost and tired. Eventually, when he was too weak to run anymore, he decided to turn and face the shadowy figure. As Death approached, the young boy looked him directly in the eyes. As he looked into the two black holes, the boy suddenly remembered the purpose of his journey. In the darkness of the eyes, the boy seemed to see two distant stars. The light of the stars reignited in him his own sense of light and confidence, which began to strengthen and shine, like a volcano of light. As the light shone from the boy’s eyes into the eyes of Death, the figure of Death became gray and turned to ashes. The ashes crumbled into a pile, and there, growing in the center of the pile was a beautiful flower. The boy carefully picked the flower and, guided by his inner light, found his way back out of the fog. He returned to the city and presented the flower to the princess’ physicians. As they waited for the medicine to be made, the boy sat beside the princess and held her hand. As he looked into her weak but hopeful eyes, he saw in them the light of the distant star, and knew that she too would be all right.
I have not written about anything NLP for a while… I really rather liked that. Thank you Judith 🙂