The “Phantom’s Menace”

Posted by: admin  :  Category: Neuro Semantics, NLP, Personal Development

“She is such a witch, man! I swear our new boss is going to give us lots of pain.” Wham! These words from my colleague, as he rushed out of the new boss’s office; hit me with such negative seismic energy that it caused my blood pressure to rocket. It was the first day at work for “the new boss” who I had never met before and his words lead me to assume the worst about her, being a witch who brings lost of pain! Seismic waves continued to move through my body for the rest of the day, causing me to hallucinate and run horror movies about the new boss in my head. It went on until the dreaded meeting with the new boss later that evening. You can imagine, walking into her office itself was a “haunting experience” until the discussions started and then the “revelation” happened, the “witch” was really pretty nice, in fact she was very much the opposite of what I had assumed.


“Our presuppositions shape our perspective, our perspective shapes our priorities, and our priorities shape our practice.”

- Kenneth Boa, Conformed to His Image


What happened? Believe me, on one hand, the negative seismic experience was real, almost trance like as I experienced a tunnel- vision perspective that totally filtered out anything possibility positive of the “new boss” situation. It caused me to float between fight and flight mode for the whole morning. Then almost instantly, the “revelation” took place, and I felt the total opposite! The cause? The power of presuppositions: presuppositions can either positively or negatively distort our perspectives, our internal representations, our internal “languaging” and meanings and consequently get us into resourceful or unresourceful states.


“We must never assume that which is incapable of proof.”

- Anonymous


What are presuppositions? Well, they are the hidden or invisible assumptions we take “to be true” in our meaning making process for things to make sense. As human persons we communicate and make sense to each other in contexts that are held together by certain “foundational presuppositions”. Take for example the subject of “the boss”. Now, for some folks in a given organization, the topic of “the boss” is discussed within the frame work and presupposition of him or her being “too hard to please”, “difficult”, “demanding”, “inconsiderate”, a “slave driver”, “the evil emperor cum Hitler reincarnate boss”, etc.


Now these shared presuppositions then operate as the supporting foundations or context for all communication about the boss to take place. They will no longer be mentioned but be assumed and will form the context for all communication about “the boss” to make sense. So when these folks meet up at the office pantry for a quickie “pity party” about the boss’s latest “awful decision or action”, these presuppositions set the context for them to have a “lovely time.” Now, when another person or persons who does not hold to these presuppositions about “the boss” walks in, the proverbial “boss’s pet or pets, the “pity party” is immediately over!  Even if it continued, it would make absolutely no sense to the “boss’s pet(s)”, in fact it would be “unbelievable” to them. Ah, the power of presuppositions at work: the “phantom’s menace”!        


“Presuppositions in language work covertly, indirectly, and unconsciously as we have to accept them and their assumptions in order to make sense of the communication.”

- Bob Bodenhamer, D. Min, L.Michael Hall, Ph. D,

“The User’s Manual For The Brain“, Volume 1.


Now going back to the experience of my colleague and me, his words about the new boss presupposed certain painful and frightening possibilities. She is such a witch, man! I swear our new boss is going to give us lots of pain” presupposed for me that there is a new boss, her identity is that of a witch, the criteria that defines a witch (which can lead to awful hallucinations), that she causes pain, the future is going to be difficult and my working with her is going to be extremely and unusually challenging. These “hidden presupposition” acted as the “phantom menace” pulling my strings “unconsciously” as I went into a negative seismic state. It colored my expectations of the new boss, my evaluation and understanding of her, my intentions of behavior towards her in the future and my identity as being a “victim” in this situation, having no choice as she was my boss!


“What a man believes may be ascertained, not from his creed, but from the assumptions on which he habitually acts.”
- George Bernard Shaw


All of our communications are littered with presuppositions. They work covertly. The actual words that we use or hear convey only a part of the meaning behind the communication. The presuppositions which are our beliefs about ourselves, others, the world, our maps of the world, God, etc. lies at a deeper level, unconscious for most of the time but in operation in order for us to make sense. Every system, be it culture, family, religious, corporate, relational – spousal or professional, etc. comes with its own presuppositions too. For example, if one’s faith says that God is love and compassion and that every human person is unconditionally loved and accepted by God, then this presupposition works positively.


Take another example; what if someone walks up to you and say “Don’t cause anymore trouble!” What does this presuppose? It presupposes that you have caused trouble before or that you maybe a serial “trouble causer”. Or the question “Why don’t you work harder?” presupposes that you do not work hard enough.  What if you hold unconscious presuppositions about yourself that say “I am not good enough” or “The universe is out to get me”, what would your experience of work, relationships, self, etc. be like? Most surely, it would not be a party! Now here’s the powerful and frightening part about our presuppositions, they will be perceived as being “true” to our model of the world, our beliefs about ourselves, others, our personal worth, etc! Hence they function very much as our unconscious law of attraction, our canopy of consciousness, our Meta Perspective!       


“You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

- Anne Lamott


Perhaps this would be an appropriate occasion for us to examine some of our presuppositions about our worth, potential, value and identity, about others, our spouse, friends, colleagues and superiors, about our work, business or career, about God or higher power, about the world and our future, our goals and outcomes. Whatever they are, they are the foundations of our experience of self, others, the world, career, outcomes, etc. Remember, presuppositions are the hidden or invisible assumptions we take “to be true” for things to make sense. For most of us, we assume our presuppositions, even how toxic and limiting them maybe, to be true and suffer “limiting experiences” that we just can’t figure out why. This would also be a good occasion for us to learn to be aware of the presupposition that we unconsciously “buy in to” when we are communicating with others! Beware the “phantom’s menace”!    


“We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are or the way they should be. And our attitudes and behaviors grow out of these assumptions.”

-Stephen R. Covey


How do you challenge presuppositions? Simply by asking these questions:

“What leads you to believe that……….?”

“How do you know that ……?”

If it is true: “According to whose truth?” “By whose criteria or experience of “truth?”  

“How specifically do you assume…………?”  

“Differences challenge assumptions.”

-Anne Wilson Schaef



Presuppositions can either serve us positively or negatively, limit us or liberate us. They lie hidden for most of the time and they prove to us that our experience of “reality” is true according to their maps. In a way they are our self fulfilling prophecies. However the liberating truth is that we can challenge and change them, after all we are their masters! When we do so, we gain mastery over ourselves and our outcomes! 


“Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won’t come in.”

- Alan Alda


Stay committed to transcending, transforming and transferring value back to your world!

Conrad Rozario is the founder of Alchemy Resources, a cutting edge human potential and peak performance development company. He has more than 15 years experience in people development from the diverse fields of Sales, Marketing, Customer Engagement and Service, Business Management and Talent Development. He is a Certified & Licensed Neuro Semantics and Neuro-Linguistics Programming (NLP) Trainer from the International Society of Neuro – Semantics, USA, a Master Practitioner in Neuro Semantics and NLP (ISNS, USA) and a Language and Behavior Profiling for Coaching Practitioner. He holds a MBA from Gordon University, Illinois, USA.
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