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Can you bind time?

By on March 2, 2015
Picture courtesy of Stuart Miles and

Alfred Korzybski, the creator of general semantics and in many ways the father of neuro linguistic programming (NLP), described man as a ‘time binding’ animal. What Korzybski meant was that man is able to pass information and learning from one generation to another through teaching, schools, books and other methods. This allows human beings to improve their lot from one generation to the next, leading to human civilization.

But recent research shows that each individual human being is a time binding creature, in a way that other animals are not. You see, for most animals memory is a fleeting phenomena, lasting seconds or minutes. Even your dog, smart as he (or she) may be, has a memory that lasts for only two minutes. That’s why dogs are so easy to distract, all you have to do is to catch their attention for a minute or two they will have forgotten all about whatever they were doing before!

In fact, for most animals, their memories can be measured in seconds. The average memory is less than 30 seconds. Of course there are exceptions, for example dolphins can remember the whistles of other dolphins even if they have not heard that whistle for 20 years (each dolphin has its own unique whistle, sort of like its name). Other creatures have specific things they are programmed to remember, for example squirrels remember where they buried their nuts, birds remember where they built their nest last year, and so on.

But we are different. We remember, not just specific facts that may be useful to us, but potentially anything and everything. If your client remembers being embarrassed while speaking in front of their kindergarden class, this memory might impact their ability to speak confidently in public for the rest of their life. Any highly emotionally charged experience your client has is stored as a memory, and those that are negatively charged may prevent your client from being their best in a context that triggers that memory in them.

Fortunately, human beings are also able to change their memories in a process known as ‘memory reconsolidating‘. When you recall an event from memory, that memory is changed by whatever is taking place at the time. It’s a means of ‘updating’ the memory with more up to date and relevant information, making the memory more useful in the future as a reference experience.

In coaching, you can facilitate this sort of memory reconsolidation using NLP techniques such as ‘change personal history‘ and reimprinting.

Here’s the article describing the limits of memory in our animal cousins:

The next time your dog happily greets an old friend, remember this: Your pup likely can’t remember the last time they met. Chimpanzees, at around 20 seconds, are worse than rats at remembering things, while the memory spans of three other primatesbaboons, pigtailed macaques, and squirrel monkeysexceeded only bees (the sole study participant that wasn’t either a mammal or a bird). It suggests human capacity for memory evolved after we branched from the most recent shared ancestor with chimps, over six million years ago. Many AnimalsIncluding Your DogMay Have Horrible Short-Term Memories

Picture courtesy of Stuart Miles and

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