From Idea to Reality: The Neuro-Semantics of the Montreal Riots

Humans are conceptual creatures. We think and reflect, we ponder and imagine, we analyze and conceptualize. We interpret and make meaning out of the world around us. We are meaning makers. We give meaning to events, experiences, circumstances and out of events and circumstances we form beliefs, attitudes and frames of reference. It is these higher conceptual levels of the mind that drive our thinking, feeling and behaviour. Our thoughts, emotions and actions are a product of our beliefs and conceptions of the world and our place in it. What is hiding behind the scenes in our minds, the higher levels of abstraction, meaning and interpretation, take form and manifest in the real world through our behaviour.

When I consider the Montreal riots that have left the city stunned, I cannot help but think of the meanings, ideas and beliefs that drove young Montrealers to take to the streets in a rampage that required calling in the Montreal riot squad and caused damage estimated at $500000.

After a Montreal teen was killed when shot by a police officer, and two other youth wounded, rioters took to the streets. It was not the events themselves that drove them to riot, but their interpretations of what the events mean. The death of a teen is a sad event, enough to shake up the city and leave a whole community in mourning. But why a rampage of violence and vandalism? What conceptions, frames and beliefs were behind their actions? What do these youth believe about, police and authority? The violence and vandalism are the enactment of behaviours and perceptions; behaviour doesn’t come out of nowhere and doesn’t happen for no reason.

To these youth, the police are their enemy and losing one of their own at the hand of the enemy meant war. In their world, the authorities are against them. The world is against them, and it is a fight for survival. A police officer is an intruder, a threat, and when officer approach, they are reacting to the threat, and not someone they believe is on their side. Life is a battle, a struggle, and they are the victims. Of course these are my beliefs about what they have to believe for an event like this to take place and they may not be the gospel truth, so we can all ask ourselves:

What do these youth have to believe that causes them to refuse to cooperate with police (referring to the initial event that led to one death)
What do they need to believe to take to the streets and destroy a whole community?
How do they need to perceive police?
What do they need to think about the world and others?
What meaning do they need to give to authority?
What beliefs do they need to have about life?

Reality is a question of perception and the majority of people have never taken control of the meanings and interpretations given to events. We live out of our perceptions believing they are reality.

What would happen if we helped our youth take control of their meaning making powers and choose more empowering meanings and beliefs so that youth and police could be allies in making the world a better place? If youth were taught to take back their power to think, to feel, to express and to act, to choose the most empowering and life-enhancing response to events, would things like this happen?

But in school, we didn’t learn to take control of our thoughts. We weren’t taught how to deal with our emotions. There was never a class on how to respond to challenges and problems, communicate effectively, consider the consequences of our actions, think, feel and act strategically to get what we want. Instead we learned about osmosis and quadratic equations. We learned the history of China and how to make PowerPoint presentations. School is supposed to educate, but we leave everything important out. In school, I learned nothing that helped me be happy, successful or empowered.

I am not saying that our school system is responsible for these events, but I am saying that changes to the way we educate youth could make a big difference and prevent things like this. If kids were empowered, would they resort to violence?

What the youth in Montreal want is revenge… but not really. Instinctively they act out to get revenge, but what they really want is a better world. They don’t want to be victims. They don’t want to live a life of struggle and hardship. But no one has ever empowered them to make changes. No one has ever awakened them to their own power to create change. And so they turn to violence. If they were taught to run their own brains, quality control their thinking and their actions, they could find a much better way of getting what they want than destroying a neighbourhood, looting businesses and ruining a community.

People are meaning makers and the meanings we give things shape our inner world, which lead to behaviours that lead to results in the outer world. Our world is a product of our thoughts, emotions and beliefs. The ancient adage “as above, so below” rings true.

What will happen to our society when everyone learns to take control of their mind, when everyone learns how the mind works and how to more life-enhancing and empowering thoughts, emotions and behaviours?

David Kynan

David Kynan will get you there with practical cutting-edge methods for change and performance. President of Personis Coaching and Training ( and Former Vice President of the Canadian Association of NLP, David coaches, teaches and consults on how to make change happen when change is hard. He also lends his skills to individuals, professionals and businesses on topics related to strategic intervention, problem solving, marketing and sales. His expertise has landed him training and consulting contracts with companies such as Sun Life Financial, Medisca Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Pure Water Technologies. He has been featured in the Montreal Mirror, interviewed on CTV and presented on his work at the Canadian Human Rights Commission in Ottawa.

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