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Anil Thomas

Master NLP Practitioner & Gestalt Therapist

What is the difference between Big Chunk and Little Chunk thinking?

In this Meta Program, attention is directed either to the big picture or to details.

Big Chunk

Big chunk thinking is useful for envisioning, perspective and setting direction. It can "take in" broad patterns and trends and make associations between them for the benefit of the whole.

In NLP, the process of taking a thought or perception pattern to bigger chunks is called "chunking up." The process of moving to smaller chunks is called "chunking down."

Problems arise in big chunk thinking when small negative events are overgeneralized, or chunked up, to the point where they are perceived as pervasive or permanent. Chunking up is part of the process of "depressing" (that's "depression" denominalized) when it's combined with associated negative experience. It is also involved in "awfulizing" -- taking something relatively benign and interpreting it in more and more "awful" ways.

The reason NLP denominalizes "depression" is because NLP views "depressing" as something people do by using a number of different processes. It's fairly easy to teach someone how to create, for themselves, a really depressed state. Not that you'd want to. But it demonstrates the process theory of "depressing".

Other problems with the overuse of big chunk thinking include ineffective dreaming -- having lots of big ideas but never doing anything about them -- grandiosity, and passivity.

Small Chunk

Small chunk thinking is useful for executing on a plan and making progress in manageable steps. It can be an important part of optimism and a person's perception of having the capability to move toward larger goals.

Problems arise in small chunk thinking when context is lost and one can no longer "see the forest for the trees." Chunking down is part of the process of "obsessing" -- repeated choiceless attention to a specific small frame of reference or intention. This would also be the pattern for "penny wise, pound foolish."

Small chunking in combination with "Worst-Case Scenario" can easily map to "anxiety". Anxiety becomes panic or depression when it chunks up. Some individuals, in fact, run a strategy wherein they first chunk down, sort for small negatives, then chunk up and feel depressed.

Conclusion

Most people have a default preference for big or small chunking, and that's part of what makes the world of people an interesting and diverse place. As with the other Meta Programs, the desirability of using one or the other depends on the context.

In general, people who use one form of chunking a lot will be less skilled in the use of the other -- just as any skill increases with use. So practicing the weaker skill will be more effort at first, then less effort over time, and will create more balanced capabilities over time. An appropriate balance and the ability to choose which Meta Programs to use in different contexts represent powerful tools for health, success and happiness.

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