Neuro-Semantics as an Idea In Business

By L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.

Since we began using the phrase, “Neuro-Semantics,” and trade marking that term, we have developed two different references for it. On the one hand, Neuro-Semantics refers to an idea and to a model of human functioning. On the other hand, Neuro-Semantics refers to a network of people all around the globe, to the Societies and Institutes of NS and hence, to a business. While it will take several years to fully sort these out and to fully develop both the model and the business, the time has come to at least begin that process.

If you were with us during any of the Neuro-Semantics Trainers Training in the past three months, you know that we have been doing this. In fact, the vision and plan for NS as a business, as an international association, has been coming together with the voices of the 50 Trainers that we now have.

Neuro-Semantics as a Model and Idea
First and foremost, NS is a model. It’s a model about consciousness, mental-and-emotional functioning, the structure of experience, and human nature. Emerging from Korzybski’s work at the beginning of the 20th century, Bateson’s in the middle, and Bandler and Grinder’s at the last quarter, Neuro-Semantics builds on from the Cognitive Sciences, the neuro-sciences, General Semantics, System Theory, NLP, and Cognitive Linguistics.

You can see the latest summary that I have been sticking in the front of all of the NS training manuals on the following page, “Models Used in This Training.” That summary identifies NLP and Meta-States as the immediate sources of Neuro-Semantics.

Defining the field of Neuro-Semantics

In my opinion, NLP made a major mistake when it failed to define the field as such. John Grinder and Richard Bandler never defined the heart or boundaries of NLP as a model. Robert Dilts seemed to have tried to do that. His book on Strategies and Modeling, “NLP: Volume I” (1980) came very close to setting forth some of the definitions of the field. Yet during the first 20 years of NLP, there were really no comprehensive books of the NLP model. Only in the mid to late 1990s did some works begin to appear providing an overview of NLP. The book that Bob and I write, User’s Manual of the Brain, surprisingly has come as close as anything to doing that.

As a consequence, early in NLP’s development, people began bringing all kinds of things into “NLP” and mixing it with many other things. This confused the public with regard to what NLP was. Many thought it was some facet of the New Age Movement, others thought it was a new form of hypnosis, or therapy, or manipulation, or personal development, etc. Yet though NLP can be and has been applied to all of these things, NLP is not any of these things. NLP grew out of the context of therapy (Gestalt Therapy and Family Systems Therapy) and for that reason it is often confused as a psychotherapy. Yet it is not psychotherapy. Very early, Bandler and Grinder modeled Erickson to create the hypnotic language patterns of Milton Erickson. Yet NLP is not hypnosis.

NLP is a meta-model about other models. At its heart, it is a description of the structure of experience whether that experience is therapy, hypnosis, family systems, systems, sales, business, relationships, etc. Because NLP is about modeling, it falls into the category of the Cognitive Sciences (Information Theory, Cybernetics, etc.). It therefore operates strictly as a scientific model regarding how things work. Robert Dilts devoted several pages to this theme in NLP: Volume I. (1980).

The same holds true for Neuro-Semantics and more so.

Neuro-Semantics has grown most directly from NLP and then secondarily from General Semantics and Cognitive Linguistics. I developed the foundations of Meta-States from modeling and “mining” the riches of Korzybski. Later I conducted trainings in London on “The Merging of the Models: NLP and GS” (now is called “Advanced Flexibility”).

I also took a lot from the Cognitive Sciences and Psychologies inasmuch as that was the focus of my doctrinal work. I took much from systems theory, Ericksonian models of Brief Psychotherapy, Narrative Therapy and Solution Oriented therapy. More recently I have taken much from chaos theory, fuzzy logic, mathematics, etc. as NS continues to grow and expand.

This means that Neuro-Semantics is also first and foremost a description of the structure of experience and especially the higher levels of mind or consciousness that creates contextual or framed “meaning.”

With regard to religion and spirituality, Neuro-Semantics is neutral. It’s only a tool. It’s only a description of the structure of how we organize our mind-body, brain / nervous system to experience whatever meanings we process. As a model, NS does take a stand about the ideas that we can postulate about the origin or destiny of the universe or about the existence of an intelligence in the universe. However, NS does take a moral and ethical stance in that it does value the essential ethics of the scientific model, namely, honesty, truthfulness, disclosure, respect of colleagues, openness to new and different ideas, willingness to test, experiment, and validate results, the human treatment of people and animals used in research, etc. Why? Because these are the essential attitudes necessary for searching, researching, communicating, and taking an open and explorative stance.

Philosophically, Bandler and Grinder tried to make NLP philosophically free and neutral. They did that by saying they had “no theory.” They argued that NLP is “just a model.” Of course, they then turned around and snuck the theory into NLP in terms of the presuppositions that they said were unquestionable because they only viewed them as “useful lies.” Well, that was a slick reframe, perhaps the first NLP Sleight of Mouth, but as we know, it was not true.

NLP is full of philosophical assumptions: constructionism, some empiricism, lots of pragmaticism, a touch of positivism, within the tradition of the human potential movement, etc. Yet because Bandler and Grinder set it up so that NLP presented the image of being philosophically neutral, it refused to allow its epistemology to be examined. This is what Bateson meant when he talked about NLP having a “shoddy epistemology.”

By way of contrast, I have sought to make the theoretical and philosophical foundations and frameworks of Neuro-Semantics manifest and explicit. I have done this by identifying them as located first of all in the NLP presuppositions and then secondly in the list of Meta-States principles which we have published in Meta-States, the Training Manuals, and NLP: Going Meta. Soon I will put this into the first Volume of Neuro-Semantics.

What does this mean for NS in terms of philosophical frames?

It means that NS is―

  • A facet of the Cognitive Sciences and the Neuro-Sciences
  • Partly Constructionism (we construct maps of the territory)
  • Partly Pragmatism: we seek to identify what works, but without making the end justify the means.
  • An expression of Cognitive Linguistics. We follow much of Lakoff and Johnson’s work (Metaphors we live By, Philosophy in the Flesh, etc.). Most of all we recognize the embodied nature of our metaphors by which we live and that frame our thinking.
  • Democratic: we seek to find the structure of the best experiences in order to equally support and validate all people in all cultures and to encourage the democratic ideas of equality of all, fairness, justice, etc.
  • Human Potential Movement: as NLP, Gestalt Therapy, Family Systems, Rogerian Counseling, etc. grew out of the Human Potential Movement, so NS is a beneficiary of that tradition and similarly seeks to promote human well-fare, empowerment, health and vitality, etc.

Generative focus: we seek to find and promote generative models rather than remedial because we believe that except for disease, genetic damage, etc., people are not broken, but work perfectly well. It’s not the lack of the ability to become resourceful, the lack of genetic possibilities that’s the problem, but the lack of top-notch maps (frames).

Figure 1:
Models Used in This Training


A Model of Communication about human processing that empowers us to “run our own brain.” Using the “languages” of mind (our internal cinema of sights, sounds, and sensations) along with language, we “think” and frame things using these see, hear, and feel dimensions. As we represent data to ourselves on the inner screen of consciousness, that internal movie signals our bodies to go into a state-a mind-body or neuro-linguistic state and that governs the quality of our life and experiences. Developed by a linguistic and computer student about human excellence and genius, NLP provides insights and specific step-by-step techniques for running your own brain, managing your own states, communicating more effectively and elegantly with yourself and others, and replicating human expertise.


A Model of Reflexive Consciousness that extends the NLP Model, taking it to the next level. It details precisely how we reflect back on our thoughts and feelings to create higher levels of thoughts-and-feelings and layers of consciousness. In so using our thoughts-and-feelings thoughts-about-our-thoughts, feelings-about-feelings, we create mind-body states-about-states or Meta-States. Primary States involve primary emotions like fear, anger, joy, relaxed, tense, pleasure, pain, etc. and thoughts directed outward. Meta-States involve a layering of higher level concepts to involve structures like fear of fear, anger at fear, shame about being embarrassed, joy of learning, esteem of self, etc. Meta-States describe the higher frames-of-references that we set and use that create more stable structures (beliefs, values, understandings, etc.)


While it sounds like a big word, it refers to a simple fact. Namely that we create meanings in our minds (semantics) and we get those meanings incorporated into our bodies (neurology). That why, when things mean something to us-we feel it in our bodies. The meanings show up in what we call “emotions.” The meanings take the form of values, ideas, beliefs, understandings, paradigms, mental models, frames, etc.

Neuro-Semantics provides a model of how we humans make meaning as we evaluate experiences, events, words, etc. It’s a model of how we then live in the world of Meaning that we construct or inherit. Neuro-Semantics describes the frames of reference we use as we move through life and the frames of meaning that we construct. It creates the Matrix of Frames in which we live and from which we operate.

Neuro-Semantics arose from the Meta-States model which provides a way to think about the levels of states or mind that we experience all the time. That’s because we never just think. As soon as we think or feel-we then experience thoughts and feelings about that first thought, then other thoughts-and-feelings about that thought, and so on. Technically this is called self-reflective consciousness. Practically, it’s the Frames for the Games that we play in life.

Neuro-Semantics as an International Association and Business
We also use Neuro-Semantics as we refer to the associations of people who have learned the model, who are thrilled and excited about the possibilities of the model, and who plan to use the model to extend human knowledge and skill. In this, Neuro-Semantics stands for the growing community of all of those who see in Meta-States a model that extends and expands NLP. It stands for those who make up the NS movement that is spreading around the globe. It stands for all of those trainers and practitioners who use and plan to use Neuro-Semantics for creating models and training programs for education, relationships, business, health, government, leadership, etc.

Trade marking Neuro-Semantics has given us the ability to use the model for training, certification, networking, creating associations, etc. It has brought into being the first dozen or more Institutes of NS and the first Societies of NS. Structurally we have organized the networking of relationships under the trademark of Neuro-Semantics in the following way.

Figure 2: The Structure of Neuro-Semantics as a Business

Because the Institutes of Neuro-Semantics represent the local NS training centers, this is where the business of NS actually makes contact with public life. It is at the NS Institutes where NS trainers will be presenting public workshops and trainings in “Genius” and the other NS Trainings. Many NS Trainers will not establish Institutes, but will operate in corporate areas as consultants, coaches, and trainers. Rather than public trainings, they will influence businesses from within doing “in-house trainings.”

The Societies of NS will operate primarily as non-profit organizations (formally or informally) providing guidance and direction to the individual Institutes within their region. They will provide oversight and accountability. This will be our way of policing ourselves and making sure that those who are in the forefront of leading in the field of NS are walking their talk and providing an example of an ethical professional. Again, this was one of the key mistakes that NLP made from the beginning and which the NLP community in almost every country in the world is now paying the price for. We do not want to make that mistake.

I have put together the beginnings of a book on The Business of Neuro-Semantics. Currently it is a brief document, “Neuro-Semantics: the Vision-The Plan.” It is mostly about marketing at this point. But eventually, it will become a full-fledge description of NS as a business and how to make it work effectively.

While this is the beginning, this is just the beginning. There is much to do and together we will be inventing it as we go. How NS will grow and develop in the years to come will depend to a great extent upon you … upon those of you who are the first to catch the Vision and to make this a facet of your commitment.


L. Michael Hall, Ph.D., researcher and modeler, international trainer and entrepreneur (P.O. Box 9231; Grand Jct. CO. 81501; 970 523-7877), developer of the Meta-States Model, co-founder of Neuro-Semantics®, currently involved in several modeling projects: wealth building, selling/persuasion excellence, accelerated learning, etc.