Actualizing Excellence

Meta-NLP™ – Taking NLP to the Next Level

We’re UP to Something Big

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.

  • What’s so meta about Meta-States?
  • How does Meta-States generate a new and higher Meta-NLP?
  • How does the Meta-States model make for a Meta-NLP?
  • What’s new in Meta-State that you need to know to keep up with NLP in the 21st century?

If you are familiar with the genius of the NLP model and to using NLP in running your own brain, accessing your most resourceful states, then you know about the first and second generation NLP models and patterns. These have come about from the first and second generation NLP developers, thinkers, modelers, and trainers. We owe them a great debt of gratitude for their marvelous discoveries and patterns. And yet, now that you have explored, discovered, and practiced many domains of NLP (time-lines, submodalities, meta-programs, meta-model patterns, reframing, hypnotic patterns, etc.), are you not fully ready for the next step in NLP? Are you not ready for the step that will put it all together, that will reconcile the various pieces, sweeten the entire model, and expand it into entirely new realms? If so, then you will soon discover that we’re up to something big.

If you’re an old hand at NLP, and have been performing the magic of language elegance, running your own brain, patterning new resources day by day, then you will especially see the value of moving up to a domain that generates the third generation of NLP models, patterns, and technology– to Meta-NLP.

Dr. Graham Dawes was the very first NLP Trainer in the UK who took NLP to the UK. He began the first NLP Training Center in London. He was also the first to catch a vision that many of us within Meta-States did not even see. Upon reading both Meta-States and Dragon Slaying he wrote in a review that “the Meta-States model would be the model that would eat up NLP” (Anchor Point review of Dragon Slaying, and NLP World book review).

  • What did Dr. Graham mean by that?
  • How does Meta-States enrich, enhance, sweeten, and outframe NLP?

To trace out more specifically how Meta-States generates a new extension of NLP, and in fact a “higher” form (higher in the sense of “meta”) of NLP, we have generated the following to show how the Meta-States model does not merely “repackage” NLP, but actually extends NLP and opens up several new domains. We have designated this as Meta-NLP. You can find this expressed in User’s Manual for the Brain, a textbook for the NLP Practitioner course that has integrated the levels of thought model (i.e., the Meta-States model) into basic NLP. The result? Bob Bodenhamer has found that it has installed an accelerated learning of NLP itself. So Meta-States takes and adds a “higher” expression of NLP in the sense that it creates a meta-level platform for understanding and working with NLP. Functionally, it begins to offer a unified theory for the field. I realize that’s a very ambiguous and perhaps heady thing to say. So you be the judge. Check it out for yourself.

Meta-States Generates a Meta-Frame that Shifts NLP to META-NLP

When I describe the meta-frame that unites all of NLP, you’ll probably want to dismiss it as “too simple.” “It can’t be that simple!” Yet it is. And that’s the elegance and wonder of the model, which many others have noted and written about.

The meta-frame boils down to the Levels of “Thought” which I modeled out from Korzybski’s “Levels of Abstraction” (or Structural Differential), Bateson’s Levels of Learning, and the Feedback loops governing feedback loops in the Cognitive models. And the mechanism governing and driving all of this ultimately comes down to reflexivity– self-reflexive consciousness or self-referential thinking.

What does all of that mean?

It means that as “a symbolic class of life,” we encode our “thoughts” in various modalities (i.e., the VAK of NLP along with higher symbols, words, diagrams, mathematics, etc.). Then we refer the symbols to themselves, we think about our thinking. We react to our reactions. This sets up a system of self_referential, reflexive symbols.

So, the “same stuff” that creates our neuro_linguistic states at the primary level_ our internal use of symbols (whether words or images, sounds, sensations, etc.), we also use at all meta_levels. We do so with this difference, at each higher level we build nested frames within frames and with each higher level, we create a different quality of experience.

Korzybski called this “multiordinality,” second and third, etc. “order of abstractions,” etc. We call them meta-states, meta-levels, nested frames, and even meta-frames. Traditional NLP never gave it a name, never called it anything and so did not punctuate for it. Accordingly, in NLP we have lots of disconnected and disparate domains: “beliefs,” “values,” “identity,” time-lines, “submodalities,” etc. In Meta-NLP we have risen above that to create a meta-frame, a meta-frame which embraces all of these meta-phenomena under a larger level umbrella. This does not repudiate NLP, it rather pulls the domains together under a unifying structure so that we can look at the same subjective experience through different lenses.

Levels of thought enable us now to see how and why The Meta-Model of Language, and its reverse, the hypnotic language of the Milton Model, and Meta-Programs and Meta-States all refer to the same thing– subjective experience. This gives us three pathways or avenues to the same thing. It gives us a triple-description of the structure of experience. We can talk about it in terms of linguistic encoding, perceptual filtering, and mental-emotional states.

In this way, Meta-States has tracked out precisely how Meta-Programs arise as the solidified form of former meta-states, how the use of trance and hypnosis moves us up into higher meta-states that we co-create with the hypnotist, and how sleight of mouth patterns (as Mind-Lines) give us conversational reframing direction (seven of them). Meta-States gives us a way to pull in separate and disparate domains: values, beliefs, identity, submodalities, etc. We now have a much more unified approach and perceptive of all of these meta-level phenomena. This enables us to see how they relate to each other, interface with each other, and how we can use them together in a coordinated way.

Since it’s Beliefs all the way up (or frames, or meta-states), we have not only a double-description of these higher level experiences, but a multiple description. We now know that “beliefs” operate as confirmed thoughts of other thoughts, “values” exist as beliefs about the importance of something, “submodalities” exist as conceptual structures (distance, intensity, color, etc.) that we bring to bear upon some visual image, auditory sound or kinesthetic sensation.

What is the value of having such a meta-frame that transcends and includes the NLP model?

It allows us to tie things together, see the relationships, and inter-relationships between domains, which in turn, enables us to create multi-layered techniques that utilize values, beliefs, submodalities, mind-lines, etc. at the same time. We repeatedly and constantly hear people say:

  • “It pulls everything I learned in my NLP trainings together.”
  • “Now I have a larger picture of it all.”
  • “Now I have a sense of what to do when.”
  • “Now it makes sense about how the patterns actually work.”
  • “Meta-States gives me the ability about why sometimes some techniques don’t work and won’t work, and what to do when that happens.”

Having a meta-frame gives you a sense of control and understanding about what’s you’re doing and the effect it will have. This gives us predictability. This moves us to a higher level beyond mere Desired Outcome, Look for Result… This puts into our hands a more informed awareness about patterning at higher levels.

Meta-States Enriches our Understanding of Logical Levels

Logical levels are an integral part of NLP from the beginning. Robert Dilts then added several logical level models (I’ve noted that in NLP: Going Meta…). John Grinder in fact, had picked up the scent of meta-states in Turtles All the Way Down… (1987) when he revisited Bateson and recognized that the way to manage first and second level attentions was “by means of logical levels.” Accordingly he developed an extensive and inelegant model for the prerequisite of personal genius as he sought to track out the way to build an internal “Controller.”

Meta-States has streamlined that process and has generated a four-step process for accessing your inner Executive Level and commissioning it to take charge so that our personal genius can “get in there and kick.” Knowing about the Levels of Mind enables us to manage the multiple levels of consciousness and manage our meta-mind as well as texture our everyday states with much more power.

In Meta-States we have discovered that the magic is in the mix, the mix of layer upon layer of thought and emotion and resource. This leads to texturing of states. Actually, the magic is the mix. We call this dynamic process of the systemic influence of state-upon-state “gestalting” in Meta-States and have many patterns for creating particular mixes for very rich and powerful states.

This explains why the higher levels are not a static and unmoving hierarchy like a ladder or step of steps. It’s far too dynamic, holistic, moving, and plastic about that. This means that the highest form of NLP training, Meta-NLP, involves learning to think systemically, in loops, and using feedback and feed forward loops.

This means that there are many more “logical levels” than just those enumerated in Dilts’ list of the “Neuro-Logical” levels. For an examination of this, see the article on the Neuro-Semantics web site entitled, “The Other Logical Levels.”

Systemic thinking and modeling enables us to track out complex structures. Then our modeling is much more full and complete.

Meta-States generates META-NLP As it Enables Us to “Do NLP” on Ourselves

Joe Peoples first expressed this in a training in New York City. He had found himself in a situation and at the same time, used some higher level of mind processes so that he could stay in the experience and access the needed resources for himself so that he could then have enough presence of mind to track with the other person and bring the best resources to bear for that person.

NLP always have talked about “going meta,” but then contaminated the process by linking it to the idea of a “dissociated” state. That was one question that I used to get a lot. “Isn’t this creating dissociation?” The emotions of Meta (see Anchor Point article on that, 1999) give us access to higher levels of emotions. The Andreases’ brought this up in Core Transformation (1991) although they used the “down” metaphor even though they also used the meta-question that implied an “up” metaphor.

“And when you get that fully and completely in just the way you want it, what will you have that’s even more important than that?”

Going up into those highest “Core” states puts one into some of the most profound emotional states, spiritual states, altered states of mind and emotion. This means that as we go up the levels of thought in our mind, we experience meta-feelings. Here the quality and nature of our emotions change as they take on a very different feel. For a fuller description of this see the new second editions of either Meta-States (2000) or Dragon Slaying (2000).

To “do NLP on yourself” you have to go meta, access your highest executive levels of mind. That’s Meta-NLP. In Meta-States, you will find that we have take the Perceptual Positions and used them as higher logical levels which we create in our mind, via our self-reflexivity, as we move up the levels, developing greater perspective and wisdom as we take on other perspectives. Then, installing a higher executive part of your mind to run this higher awareness allows us to do NLP on ourselves even in the midst of challenging experiences. This reduces and even eliminates incongruency and internal conflict, thereby generating even more personal power.

Because Meta-States works with and operates from self-reflexivity, “apply to self” (self-referential thinking and feeling) is built into the model. This explains why learning Meta-States to a great extent involves learning a different way of thinking. It involves following the circuits of thoughts without getting lost or disoriented. It involves non-Aristotelian or systemic thinking.

What difference does this make?

A lot. Mainly it means that in learning Meta-States, you deeply and profoundly learn the self-referential process of applying to self. This allows you to practice the NLP and Meta-NLP patterns on yourself. And that means that first and foremost, you become empowered and enabled to do and live what you talk about. And that, of course, makes you more integrated, whole, and congruent– the basis of personal power.

Meta-States Gave Birth to META-NLP By Introducing Meta-Detailing

One of the reasons and tools for “doing NLP on ourselves” arises from some of the most exciting new developments in Meta-States. This was introduced in The Structure of Excellence (1999) as “meta-detailing.” This gives us the ability to practically apply and implement higher levels of learning. And, it is, by the way, perhaps the heart of the structure of “genius” itself.

The Mind-to-Muscle pattern arose during the modeling of wealth building in the fall of 1999. It has now become one of the central staples in all NLP training. This allows us to bring the high ideas “down to the ground” as it puts conceptual knowledge into our muscles and bones. And when you know how to install implementation strategies, then wealth building, fitness, etc. become a piece of cake.

People who lack the ability to meta-detail fall into two traps. They either live in the ozone, creating great big bright ideas which they can’t specify into concrete action, or they live deep inside the zillions of details which cause them to lack vision or perspective. Synthesizing inductive and deductive thinking into a gestalt results in the higher level consciousness of meta-detailing.

And, inasmuch as meta-detailing describes one of the key variables that make up the nature of “genius,” as we learn to meta-detail our ideas, concepts, beliefs, frames, etc., we make things happen, we take effective action, we put the highest levels of our mind to work in everyday life.

Meta-States Generated META-NLP by activating the Higher Levels of Meaning itself

Basic NLP is about anchoring– user friendly Stimulus-Response. That’s associative meaning by linkage, connection. When we take a reference and represent it and set it as a frame (as a meta-state) we have contextual meaning– the meaning of frames and frames-of-frames.

This takes us into the higher levels of meanings– to Neuro-Semantics. Meta-States is Meta-NLP to the extent it flushes out, teases out, and provides the structure of how we build beliefs about various things and these become our higher frames-of-mind or meta-states. And because it’s systemic, this frequently occurs as an emergence. New emergent properties arise due to the gestalting of many of the parts. Then, out of the mix arises new and more profound higher states of mind.

In understanding and modeling “the structure of meaning,” NLP has fantastically offered marvelous insights into the very structure of how we create meaning. The Reframing models of NLP, developed from Satir and Erickson, from Bateson and others has enabled us to develop patterns for anchoring and reframing the Stimulus-Response linkages of our lives.

Meta-NLP goes further as it extends the reframing models. We began that as we modeled and then refined the unwielding “Sleight of Mouth” patterns. We published this in Mind-Lines: Lines for Changing Minds. In Frame Games: Persuasion Elegance (2000) we have taken this much further as we have noted how that “contextual framing,” that is, the meta-stating of frame upon frame in a nested holographic system enables us to now model, design, and work with meaning at its highest levels. This has enables us to specify new tools for modeling Cultures and Cultural Phenomena.


Yes, there’s a new meta in town. NLP itself has gone meta. Meta-States enabled it to actually fulfill its own vision as a meta-domain modeling the structure of excellence. It was there all along. The best NLP patterns are meta-level and meta-state patterns (the phobia pattern, time-lines, decision destroyer, etc.). We have now modeled that structure. It’s called Meta-States.

Come join the meta-revolution.


Beginning with Michael Hall the Meta-States of Neuro-Semantics began in 1994. Bob Bodenhamer & Michael continue to promote and develop the Neuro-Semantic model. New things are continuing to emerge on a monthly basis.