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NLP General Semantics Language Essay

The We Of Identity

by Silvia Hartmann


A few months ago, I had a really interesting breakthrough experience on something beyond the "I of Identity" (a particular stumbling block according to Count Alfred Korzybski and General Semantics!) and potentially even worse in every way, and that would be the "we of identity".

I met a man who was amazingly, near incapable of using the word "I" at all.

He used "we" all the time, even when referring to himself, because he was in a "long term relationship". With another person (who still had the use of the I of Identity AS WELL AS the ubiquitous "we", I might add).

I found that at first vaguely disturbing, then really fascinating, then it hurt my head.

"We walked into town (as we don't drive) and there, we bought **A** jumper, then we came home and we had **a steak**, we took ***a*** shower and then we went to bed."

WE bought A jumper?? For both of them to fit into? Do they REALLY go into the shower cubicle together at the same time??? Are they Siamese twins?

"What do YOU think about the war in Iraq?"


"We don't watch much TV and we never discuss politics."

Ohmygod - I am talking to an ant! The hive mind at work!

For the next hour or so I tried to actively with my very best NLP skills elicit some form of "I of Identity" from this person, but it wasn't happening. Everything was filtered through a "we of identity" instead.

I could see the point of it.

"I" am way too scared to leave the house, but "we" are brave enough.

"I" can't make decisions or know what I like, but "we" are able to do that.

"I" have no reason for my existence, but "we" are a part of society.

For someone with high levels of anxiety, it is a way out. A form of meta autism, dissolving oneself into a greater "we" which has the resources to survive, to be safe.

Now, this person was an extreme "case" of the "we of identity disorder", but it really made me aware of a class of confusion I had not considered sufficiently.

And when you start taking notice, thus sensitised, that "we of identity" is possibly even more horrendous in its sheer power for Korzybskian insanity than the "I". At least with the "I" there is some hope of changing ONE'S ways eventually, but how can a undefined part of an undefined larger something change anything at all, ever?

There are two useful things that "one" may practically do (but unfortunately, "we" could not!) which is to:

a) for those who find it amusing, to take the laborious General Semantics path and re-phrase every occurrence of the "we of identity" into something more reasonable.

So for example, "We went shopping for wood in B&Qs" becomes:

"I, being a total individual and you, also being a total individual, although there exist a time-space relationship that has led us both to have similar outcomes and thus, proceded to share a car for this shopping trip, for our own purposes and unfoldments, found ourselves each present at B&Qs in the wood isle last Saturday."

And there you thought undoing the "I of Identity" was a bit of an effort! LOL!

b) You can get around this by structurally using the "we of identity" to refer to one's own individual singular self - in other words, majestatis pluralis.

So, instead of "I went shopping by myself" that would be, "We went shopping by ourself."

That's actually quite amusing from numerous viewpoints. It takes structurally into consideration that there may be "parts of our totalities" which reside outside of conscious awareness and thus may have been not included in past "I of Identity" decisions, judgements, "realisations" and such.

If one was of such a mind, one could factor all manner of useful additions into one's "I" or rather, "we" such as a higher self, spirit guides, unconscious resources, a soul, even Smile

In which case the STRUCTURAL BENEFIT of "I can't possibly talk to that pretty girl - BUT ***WE*** CAN!" is fully maintained - but without losing perspective and personal power along the way.

Just for fun, try it out. These are all amusing and mindstretching little games one may play, we can play, and they do give a new perspective on old routines.

Sometimes, a game such as referring to oneself in the majestatis pluralis of "We are undertaking this project" can really lead to some fascinating insights, energy shifts, STATE SHIFTS and much "out of the box" thinking on the oldest of topics.

So I thank the "we-man" for bringing this very useful pattern to my attention. I hope that he never loses his "better half" because he'd sure end up "broken" and "lost", or manages to find his way in some other way to lead an inspiring and truly interesting life, one that we can base a movie on perhaps Smile to benefit us all.


Silvia Hartmann 2003

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