Bottom Up or Top Down?

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

I used to want to make the world a better place.

Now I understand that wanting the world to be a better place is a Top Down approach. It is an idea I have that everyone and everything must fit into for it to work. That, of course, is impossible. What I can do is influence people to think the way I do and then there will be a group of us who want the world to be a better place. Then together we can influence even more people and so on and so forth. Thing is, the way I think has its limitations, and it is only one perspective. Wanting people to think the way I do is problematic at best.

At the same time there are others who have a different idea of what a better world would be like. They are influencing and recruiting as well. Groups that each have their own direction in which they think all people should travel in. Of course not all people are travelling in the same direction. Each is a Top Down approach to relating to people; this idea is a one size fits all.

When someone says,

‘This is what you should do’

‘This is what we should all be doing’

‘We should do such and such for the greater good’

‘We have to give up the desire to want things to save the planet’

All these and similar ideas are Top Down ways of thinking. They impose an idea that I have to fit into.

The Bottom Up way of thinking is recognising or appreciating that new ideas and new behaviours, and surprises, emerge from our interactions. Instead of imposing ideas the exchanges of information can create new ideas.

The Bottom Up approach allows emergence to do its thing. The myriad interactions of people with each other and the world about them encourages creativity and the emergence of new ideas. Instead of a way the world should be it is always becoming. Instead of making the world a better place, it is forever evolving, transforming, being created, and so influencing and creating the individuals that make it up.




These too are Top Down approaches. It is interesting to note here that Top Down approaches can never work in the long term. They require imposing ideas and ideals upon people not all of whom are open to being told what to think and what to do, or how to behave. If people have to be told what to think and what to do then the idea has already failed.

What sort of world emerges if people are free to learn? What would happen if we were free to discover with each other how we are interdependent? Perl explains it far more eloquently than I ever could so… over to Perl.

The following is an excerpt from my novella Perl.

‘Emergence and evolution we consider synonymous. It is a process of group learning from the interaction of individuals that are capable of learning and exploring difference. The differences that each individual offer to the group combine and new forms, new ideas, emerge from the group. The more free an individual is to experience and learn new things the greater the difference that individual offers the group. Difference allows new forms, both physical and mental, to emerge in the group that were not necessarily present in the individuals.’

‘So the emergence of a better way for humanity to relate will be the result of individuals being more free?’ Eve asked.

‘Is the notion worth exploring? Fear, control, the degree to which we need others to think and behave the way we want is a measure of how far from freedom we are. Humanity is still at a barbaric stage. Freedom is not your motivator yet. You are motivated by fear. You are motivated by supposed separation from each other. That sense of separation is learned. The boundaries of your skin are arbitrary boundaries; useful, yet still arbitrary. You can see the moon due to the light that reflects off it. You can argue that you are separate from the Moon and yet you can see it, its presence is also felt in the tides and in your weather. So are you connected to the Moon and the Moon to you? The more freedom, the more an individual can offer the group. New forms and ideas emerge within the group from which the individuals benefit. Thus benefitted, the individual has greater resources with which to enjoy her freedoms to find new experiences.’

‘But what do you mean by freedom? I feel that I know but I can’t articulate what I feel.’ Adrian asked.

‘Your intuition tells you that what I say resonates with you in some way.’


‘The degree to which you suffer is directly proportional to how free individuals are. Ideologies are used by some to more or less constrain people therefore ideologies and suffering are interconnected. They give what they have. They fear so they will relate to others to influence them to limit themselves as the unpredictable is something to be feared. On Earth, a free individual is unpredictable and thus should be feared.’

‘Are you saying suffering and belief are somehow related?’

‘Freedom will encourage the emergence of something different. If you are looking for a way to stop suffering and conflict could it possibly begin with the freedom of the individual? Does suffering emerge from trying to build a house from the roof down, trying to impose a concept of an ideal world? The Top Down approach so prevalent among your species; politics, religion, ideology… is intimately linked to suffering. As long as fear is the motivation suffering will continue. The Bottom Up approach is evolutionary or emergent, incorporating changes and learnings whenever possible. Instead of imposing a way or the truth, a fixed idea of how things should be, emergence is continuous and unfolding from the interactions of free minds. Is an understanding of emotions the path to freedom? Understanding that filters, our mental maps, are not reality and are subject to change; what I think now is not the truth and will change over time as I experience the Universe and my experiences give me news that shows me what I think is useful at one time and not necessarily in subsequent times. What do you want and how are you going to achieve it? These are the questions asked by those who would encourage you to explore your freedom. This is freedom as encouraged in relationship. Is love the reward of freedom?’

Perl is available from Lulu at




Neuro-Linguistic Programming Consultant. Author of a few books including ‘Perl’ and ’neuro-linguistic programming: Liberating Parents’.

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Keith Gilbert

Keith Gilbert

Neuro-Linguistic Programming Consultant. Author of a few books including ‘Perl’ and ’neuro-linguistic programming: Liberating Parents’.

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