The idea behind the phrase "the map is not the territory" comes from Neuro-Linguistic Programming. NLP is an approach to communication and personal development created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder of California in the 1970's.Part of the doctrine involved is the idea that "the map is not the territory." It refers to the difference between reality and our beliefs. It applies to the fact that our perception of the world is being generated by our brain as a "map" of what we see as reality, but is not always the true reality. It is the difference between studying a road map and the actual terrain involved. The phrase refers to the fact we have an internal, mental map of reality and each of our maps are unique: ours and ours alone. We start assembling our "maps" at birth and add to them through our daily activities and mental thoughts. Our maps contain our beliefs about ourselves, our capabilities and how we fit into our world. Much of our internal map we are not aware about but they impact our attitudes, expectations and general belief about life.
This fact is important when it comes to our self examination and willingness to recognize what we need to improve upon in our lives. Being honest about our mistakes and need for change is an important part of personal growth. It requires accepting our personal responsibility for ourselves and not making excuses or blaming others. In the words of Teddy Roosevelt "If you would kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month."
The best illustration of this idea is my favorite routine by comedian Flip Wilson who talked about the long-suffering Reverend Leroy, pastor of "the Church of What's Happening Now" and his irresponsible wife, Geraldine. As Flip enacted the scene on the Johnny Carson program, the pastor finds out she has bought an expensive dress and he demands: "What on earth ever possessed you to buy such a thing? The devil made me do it!" Geraldine protests. "It's not my fault! I was walking down the street, minding my own business, when all at once the devil said to me, 'Oh, my! Will you look at that fancy dress in the window over there!' Never you mind about that dress, devil,' I said to him. 'I ain't got nuthin' to do with a dress like that! 'Well,' said the devil, 'it won't hurt to just look at it, will it? No, I guess not,' I said. So I went over to the dress shop and looked in the window. My, that dress sure was fine! 'Why don't you go inside and have a closer look,' said the devil. 'After all, you're just lookin'. So I went inside the shop to have a closer look. That dress was even more fancy inside the store than it was outside. 'Why don't you try it on,' the devil said. Uh, uh, Mister devil,' I said. 'You know better than that! My husband would never let me buy a dress like that!' 'Can't hurt to try it on,' the devil said. 'Reverend Leroy, he don't even have to know! So I tried the dress on. Why, it was like I was poured into it, it fit so good! 'Oh, you know that dress was made just for you,' the devil said. 'It wouldn't be right to let some other woman have it.' So before I knew what I was doing, I bought it!" Reverend Leroy says "Why is it,that the devil is always making you do what you want to do. Why doesn't he ever do anything for me? Hah!" Geraldine says haughtily" "The devil, he say, if it weren't for him, you wouldn't have no job!"
We all make excuses and evade taking responsibility for what we say and do. When we do, we prevent personal improvement and growth. We can start the process of honest self appraisal by eliminating excuses for what goes wrong. That's because when we blame others or make excuses we are shifting responsibility to others. Start listening to ourselves when we talk to others. Do we hear us always blaming others for things that aren't what we want? Do we point our finger at other things and people for mistakes that are really ours? If so, we need to change our pattern of thinking and speaking in that way. If we are given positive feedback, we should take it seriously by controlling our defensive knee jerk reaction. We know that thoughts do matter. What we say to yourself and believe becomes our reality. Negative thoughts can take control. Our inner voice can become our worst enemy. Be aware of our interior thoughts. Avoid always seeing the negative and refusing to learn from our admitted mistakes. We all need to take time through thoughtful meditation to take an inventory of who we are and why. And, I think I am safe in assuming that if what we find we don't like, the devil didn't make us do it.