In NLP we understand that there are three filters in the brain that process all incoming information. That is anything that we experience outside our body (people, places, situations, conversations, experiences, etc) with our five senses.
They each have their own functions and decide where to place which information in the brain based on past experiences which have already been filed away in our subconscious mind (which is like your own unique database).
Past experiences also have set recorded responses so that if the same thing happens again, it can match the incoming experience and replicate that same response. For example, very simply if you will, if you love chocolate cake already when you see more chocolate cake, you will automatically want some because you already love it!
So, what are the filter functions?
The filters and their functions are:
- Generalise -used to simply understand what something/ someone/ somewhere is, i.e. to categorise it.
- Distort -this filter changes information from how it actually is, e.g. when someone wears rose tinted glasses in any new experience thus ignoring any negatives that are present. We need it in order to enjoy ourselves -without too much fear, and have new experiences.
- Delete – this filter removes information from your brain to make space because you do not need it right now, usually because you have too much going on already.
Malfunctioning filters affecting our behaviours
When we are under a lot of pressure, stress or not feeling ourselves, the three filters may very well malfunction – very easily and very quickly!
So, when they are malfunctioning, it will categorise everything together instead of separately! It makes all experiences, people and places the same. It is where we often get all the “….isms” from too: racism, sexism, ageism, etc.
Another example is when someone is alone, their internal voice will probably say to them “Nobody loves you, everybody hates you, you are always alone, or you will never meet anyone ……”
The Distort filter will exaggerate and catastrophise the situation for you, possibly making it quite unbearable!
The Delete filter will block out things/ information from your current thought process e.g. In an argument you may say something like : “you never do…..” When in actual fact they may have done …. just last week even. Your brain just deleted it in that moment!
You get the picture?
How to reset your filters – Challenge your thoughts
Step back, take a minute and just think about how you have responded to any given scenario (usually a problematic one).
Ask yourself : Is yours or your person’s response:
- Reasonable (are you/they being fair)
- True (are you/they really always like that…like every minute of the day..)
- Justified (within the context/ setting – has there been another thing that’s influenced this response)
- Hasty (automatic because you had an experience like this before)
- Distorted (have you made it a bigger issue than it really is?)
- Have you/they deleted certain bits of information that is relevant or important?
- Be humble by apologizing if it’s your fault for exaggerating the issue if you need to.
If you can challenge and deconstruct your thoughts like this, it will allow your brain to create a more justified and reasonable response, which may be new and even surprise you, but probably a much better one!