A Critique of the Strengths and Weaknesses of DHE


L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.
Written Feb.2000, Updated 2004


Using the linguistic tools of NLP’s Meta-Model, I have explored the nature, claims, structure, and processes involved in the training and model called Design Human Engineering or DHE™.  The conclusion I have come to is that DHE™ is simply an exciting, provocative, and creative application of basic NLP, it is also over-sold, dehumanizing, and machine-heavy.  It is not “the next step,” nor is it anything more or different from NLP—in spite of the claims made for it.

That DHE extends the use and application of NLP in terms of visualizations, music, “sub-modalities,” and trance work, there is not under question.  But that DHE has produce anything new and/or different from NLP in the past ten years, that is the issue.

In this review I have repeatedly asked, “If DHE has created anything new, then what is it?”  Every aspect and facet of DHE that we know about can be located in the NLP model that existed at the time of its creation(1975-1990).  That DHE has produced no specific patterns for achieving new outcomes or creating new directions for people—and that nobody is presenting anything that has arisen from the DHE model arises concern whether its theoretical foundations are sound.  The Ten Years of DHE (1990-2000) have not only produced nothing of value, but has depersonalized lots of people with the machine-heavy metaphors in the training.

Whether you agree or disagree with the following analysis and conclusions, I only ask that you read with an open mind.  If you can answer any of the tough questions raised here—I would be delighted to receive your data, documentation, and response.  This paper was originally three articles.

Part I:  In The Beginning, there was NLP

In the early 1990s, NLP co-founder, Richard Bandler, set out to initiate a new and advanced form of NLP that he called Design Human Engineering or DHE™.  Having become fascinated by “sub-modalities” and also assuming that within this so-called “sub-strata” of distinctions he would discover “the difference that made a difference,” Bandler and associates moved from modeling to design engineering.   Richard explains  it using the metaphor of cyborg (as in the second film of the Terminator Movie series).

“Suppose,” he says, “you could design and put into your head any preferred program that you can imagine.  What are the possibilities?”

And that became the driving idea in DHE.  Yet, after ten years of conducting DHE workshops and experimenting with hallucinating control grids, globes, binoculars, x-ray glasses, lightning bolts, etc., and claiming super-human intelligence and feats (telepathy, remote viewing), and seeing no concrete demonstrations from the model, I think it now time to begin to ask some tough questions about DHE.  I now think it is time to explore the validity and legitimacy of this model.  I offer these as an NLP trainer and as someone who cares about the credibility of this field.

  • Where are the new patterns that DHE has developed?
  • Where is the book that presents the complete model with grounding in the sciences?
  • How does DHE differ from what we already have in NLP?
  • What are the elements and variables of the model that go beyond NLP?
  • Where is any evidence or demonstration of validity of the model?
  • If it’s as powerful, magical, wonderful as the advertising asserts, what about the “problems” of the practitioners?
  • The Process of Demonstrating the Validity of a Model

In reviewing DHE, I well know all about the challenge of demonstrating the validity of a model.   I say that having personally been involved in the development of the model, Meta-States, the Matrix model, and the Axes of Change model.   Over the years, I have had to answer these kinds of questions about what I have been doing, how Meta-States function as a model properly, the basis of its validity, its grounding in the cognitive-behavioral sciences, and the patterns that have uniquely arisen from it.  Actually, answering these kind of tough questions has enabled me to continue to refine the model so that the products and processes that it has generated become even more useful and practical.

Accordingly, I think it appropriate now to ask the same of DHE.  After all, lots of people are asking these questions anyway.   My knowledge of DHE began with my trainings with Richard Bandler who was beginning to come up with the idea in the early 1990s.  He introduced the hallucinating of grids in my Trainers Training, as well in some of the materials that I worked with to create some books for Richard.  Since that time I worked through the exercises of DHE from the recordings of DHE programs in 1993, 1995, and 1997.  I also conferred with several Neuro-Semantic trainers who had been through the actual trainings multiple times.

In thinking about the process of exploring the validity of any model, I will first clarify what I mean by a model and the necessary factors that make up an operational model that a person can use to accomplish something.  This is important because if we claim that a set of ideas and patterns make up a “model,” this means that it provides us the structure whereby we can actually do things in the real world.

  • What does it take to have a workable model?
  • How does NLP work as a system?
  • How does the Meta-States model work as a model and system?

Minimally every model involves four features:

1) Theory

2) elements

3) guidelines

4) patterns.

NLP has all of these features and in the following chart, you can see that we can describe Meta-States using these terms as well.  The following page comes from some of the Training Manuals that we use in Neuro-Semantics in presenting Meta-States (Accessing Personal Genius), modeling, etc



1) A Theory:

A theoretical background, foundation, hypothesis, etc. that offers an explanatory model for how the model or system works, the governing ideas and how to test and refine the ideas in order to create new applications.

Ideas that can be tested and falsified

Answers Why Questions

Establishes the epistemology of the model

NLP — — — —

The NLP Presuppos.
Map/ Territory
Gestalt Psychology
Cognitive Psychology
Transformational Grammar


Meta-Level Principles
Levels of Abstraction

Cognitive Psychology
Bateson Cybernetics
General Semantics
Cognitive Linguistics
Meta-Cognition Field

2) Variables and Elements:

The pieces and parts that make up the components of the model.

Answers the What Questions.

What elements are absolutely necessary and sufficient to make the model work?

What processes and mechanisms?

Recursive Feedback loops
Feed-Forward Loops
System Functions
3) The Guiding and Operational Principles:

The “laws” or principles (presuppositions) that define and articulate the mechanisms at work and how to use them in a methodological, systematic, and systemic way.

This gives one the ability to keep refining the model.

Answers the How questions:

How does the model work?

What processes & mechanisms govern it?

Adaptation of NLP Ps.
TOTE Model for Strategies
Meta-Level Principles
Thinking in feedback loops to track the recursive flow of mind
Higher Frames govern
Self-organizing theory
Principles of Systems
4) The Technologies or Patterns:

The specific tools that provide immediate application for using the Model or System to achieve something.

Answers how to questions:

How do you reframe meaning, swish to a new image, re-imprint a painful memory?

The 150+
NLP Patterns
Sourcebook of Magic
The 100+ Meta-State Patterns

The Exploration

Is DHE a full fledge Model?

With this brief overview of NLP and Meta-States as full-fledge models, let’s now apply the same to DHE.

1) Theory:

What ideas or hypothesis drives DHE?  Primarily just one as far as we can tell, namely,

“Forget modeling experts, let’s imagine the possibilities of human experience by starting from the assumption that we can invent programs like we would with a cyborg and simply install brand new possibilities and skills from scratch.”

One DHE fan said that NLP is based upon observations while DHE is based on calculations.  One observes experts in order to then models their skills, states, and strategies.  The other starts from scratch, hallucinates preferred experiences and skills and then calculates what that will be like.  From that grand idea (which I must admit, is a fascinating idea), Bandler and associates have been playfully exploring the possibilities.  This describes one of the strengths of DHE.  It encourages thinking that’s beyond the box.  It encourages new and expansive flexibility of the mind.  It fosters creativity.  It opens up new vistas for dreaming and imagining.

The strength of DHE is that it provides more playfulness and use of NLP techniques, patterns, and processes.  It takes the idea of “running your own brain” and creates contexts for doing more of that.  It reinforces the idea that “the map is not the territory,” and that inventiveness and innovation begins when we give place to our creative fantasies and passions.  This is good.   I know various people who have used these exercises and trainings to build a place in their head for “Life Designing.”  This enables them to use this to reinforce the sense that they are the Designer and that they can utilize all kinds of resources.

Are there any other ideas of hypotheses driving DHE?  You may find this amazing, but there are no other thematic ideas or premises that I know about.  Postulating inventing programs from scratch is the only governing idea in DHE.

Advertisements for DHE says that NLP focuses on outcomes, whereas DHE focuses on directions. Yet this dichotomy falsely assumes that there is nothing in NLP regarding the directionalizing of the brain, or the creation of a sense of direction.  But is that really true?  No.   That contradicts how Bandler himself described the Swish pattern in the book Using Your Brain for a Change.

In a recent website chat about DHE, one participant asked, “What’s the nature of DHE?”  A legitimate question.  Yet in response, the fan said, “DHE has no nature unto itself; it’s just another nominalization for building new things.”   So it’s a process for building new things?  What new things?  What has it built?  What can you do with DHE that we cannot do with NLP?

The fan went on to quote from Bandler, who is supposedly said “The territory is the map.”  Oh really?  Now that would be something.  Korzybski would call that the unsanity of using your nervous system as an animal uses his—confusing levels, confusing map and territory.  This would not be a good thing.

That we create things by using our ideas, thoughts, representations, creativity and then manifest our ideas into the world does not mean or equate that our mental “map” is the territory.  Truly, we can create maps that allow us to invent new things, do new things, but still what we do inside our heads differ from what we end up creating on the outside.

2) Elements and components

What is there in DHE that we don’t have in NLP?  Here we come upon a blank wall.  NLP already has “sub-modalities,” trance, positive hallucinations, using embedded commands, chunking up, etc. So what’s new?  What has been added?

Is “Paradoxical Cushioning” new?  What does that mean?  One fan described it by saying the following:

“Paradoxical cushioning is about where the strongest point is with the least resistance.  It’s where things intersect and are bound in the strongest way possible.  It’s just a concept that we use to discover the easiest way to lock things in neurologically…”

Now I would not give that speaker above a high grade for specificity or clarity of expression.  That is one of the most convoluted and vague statements I’ve read in a long time!   “The strongest point” of what?  “With the least resistance” to what?  What things “intersect?”  How “bound in the strongest way possible?”  That writer ought to restudy the Meta-Model to learn to write with some precision or get to our Prolific Writing Workshop!

I assume this refers to the process of taking an idea, feeling, state, or belief and installing it into a person’s way of thinking and feeling.  So “the strongest point” must refer to how to get the best leverage on the new idea or feeling that the rest of the person’s beliefs, values, and neuro-linguistic meta-frames do not reject or resist.  That sounds like the processes of alignment, checking objections, fitting into a hierarchy of values, etc.  Giving it a new name, even one that has to win a prize for sounding “rad” (Paradoxical Cushioning) doesn’t make its referent new.   We engage in this process in Meta-States by exploring 16 possible state-upon-state structures involving how mental frames interface with one another.  I think that perhaps we ought to do the same in Meta-States, invent new sensationally robust terms.

3) Guidelines and Principles

What guidelines direct and govern the use of the patterns in DHE that we don’t already have in NLP?  None that I can tell.  Just more of the same with a focus on hallucinating things in trance.  And it is this lack of specificity, lack of offering descriptions for how to use the so-called model that questions the very foundations of DHE.  After all, if a designer cannot offer specific ways to use a model, what are the followers to do?  How can they know or discern the legitimate versus illegitimate uses of the model?

4) Patterns or Human Technologies

What patterns for new skills and experiences has DHE invented that don’t already exist in NLP?  Where is the binocular pattern for improving eyesight to such an incredible degree that humans can see details a mile or two down the road that could only otherwise be achieved by a pair of binoculars?  Bandler has often claimed to be able to do that.  But where is the pattern?  Where is the evidence that he can do that or anyone else can do that?  Since the first review, Bandler himself became diabetic.  Where is the Diabetic Cure pattern?

“Control panels”—perhaps this offers something new and different to NLP.   But no, sorry; it does not.  That’s been around for a long time too.  Where?  In the process of introducing “sub-modalities” (Using Your Brain—for a Change, 1985), Bandler or Andreas put a picture of a guy with head-phones running a control panel to adjust his subjective experience (Chapter 2, page 25).  And that’s what I was doing in Trainers Training just prior to the invention of DHE.

Exploring the Claims of DHE

What do we actually have in the DHE exercises?  When we examine the exercises, we discover that we simply have NLP patterns that primarily engage in “sub-modality” play embedded in trance work.  Most of the exercises that we have seen, heard about, and experienced are very similar to those that Master Practitioners and Trainers experienced with Richard Bandler in the late 1980s.

  • There’s lots of play with visual hallucinations (cross hairs, grids, globes, and the like).
  • There’s lots of fun play with sounds, noises, music.
  • There’s lots of kinesthetic fun: sliding anchors, flirting, intense tingling,
  • And there’s lots of hypnosis.

In fact, most of DHE is just that—hypnotic inductions to try on and experiment with altered realities.  And without doubt, given Bandler’s style, that can be, and often is, a lot of fun.  I would consider that one of the strengths of DHE, and even recommend it for that.  It does enable participants to become more playful, to explore more, and to push away self-imposed limitations.  Using DHE people can create visual hallucinations, many pleasureful states, a sweet hypnotic voice, and much more.  Yet there are also lots of unfounded assumptions and unsubstantiated claims.

Unfounded Assumptions of DHE

There are numerous assumptions of DHE that are just simply unfounded.   Let me start with the one that I have done the most study on.  Namely, the assumption that the NLP and structure of experience story ends with “sub-modalities.”  In DHE, Richard Bandler has posited that everything occurs at the “sub-modality” level.  This fit the NLP mythology at the time about “sub-modalities.”  Then it was thought that as a “sub”-class of distinctions, “sub-modalities” operate on the VAK modalities (the Movies in our mind) like atoms and sub-molecular particles work on molecules.  At the time I bought the idea as well.

Since then many NLP trainers have called the “sub-modality” model into question.  In 1999, Dr. Bodenhamer and I published The Structure of Excellence: Exposing the Meta-Levels of “Sub-modalities” to put an end to the old mythology about “sub-modalities.” [This was revised and published as, “Sub-Modalities” Going Meta, 2004.]  Today I’m of the opinion that mis-direction in the search for the structure of subjective experience (the passion of NLP from the beginning) has been responsible for why so little has been developed in NLP since the late 1980s.

Why?   Because the mythology and over-emphasis on “sub-modalities” simply took us in the wrong direction.  Yet this continues to be the story and main focus in DHE.  The exercises and focus there gives up the modeling idea, and, running with the “sub”-molecular idea, seeks to design new states, experiences, and structures from scratch.  The DHE argument says, “Why model world-class experts when you can create your own cyborg and install new possibilities from the start?”

Yet the challenge I have put to the DHE trainers is this.  Name one structure that has been so designed, marketed, and is now available for replication in human minds?  There is none.  And that there are none shows the emptiness of the approach.  It just does not work.  Yet worse, it goes in the wrong direction.  It goes down, instead of up.  And it’s UP where you’ll find the magic of NLP and Meta-States and all of the models and patterns that have arisen from Meta-States.

The Truth about “Sub-modalities”

With The Structure of Excellence, we have demonstrated in many ways that there is no “sub” level.  What is there?  There are features, distinctions, and qualities that we call “sub-modalities” which are actually “meta” modalities.  The Meta-Modalities of your internal movie which are full of pictures, sounds, sensations, smells, and tastes are the Cinematic Features of the Movies which we can step back from and edit in as an editor of our movies.  See the book, MovieMind (2003) for a full description of this meta approach to these cinematic features or “sub-modalities.”

This explains how and why some “sub-modalities” have, from the beginning of NLP, also been classified as Meta-Programs.  How could they be both?

C   How could Associated/ Dissociated be a “sub-modality” in every representation system and a meta-program?

C   How could Global /Specific be both a Meta-Program and also the “sub-modality” of “Zoom in/ Zoom out?”

This does not make the qualities, properties, features, and distinctions that we call “sub-modalities” go away.  Not at all.  It rather enables us to appreciate them for what they are—meta-level structures (meta-modalities or cinematic features) that enable us to set frames using such “mental” and “cognitive” distinctions.  After all, every “sub-modality” classification is just that—a classification, and as such, not a thing or noun.  So it fails “the nominalization wheelbarrow test.”  “You can’t put location, intensity, distance, etc. in a wheelbarrow.”  These are concepts, hence, meta-level structures. [I could write a lot more about this, but have already in Sub-Modalities Going Meta and MovieMind.]

Unconscious Installation

Another troubling assumption in DHE is that via hypnotic trances, the DHE trainer can totally bypass your conscious mind and do straight-on installation at the unconscious level.  Actually, this is an old saw for Bandler.  From the beginning of NLP, he downplayed the conscious mind.  After all, it can only process seven plus or minus two chunks of information at a time (Miller, 1956).  So why bother with it?

Yet when it comes to the installation of high level concepts and principles into muscle, every expert in every field has to go through the learning process of apprenticing him or herself to the discipline and use the neurological mechanisms of repetition, rehearsal, and patterning of the muscles.  We do that with typing, skating, riding a bicycle, playing basketball or tennis, driving a car, piloting a plane.   The muscle memory that later results then has well trained intuitions.  We then attain the level of unconscious competence.

Where is the DHE pattern for totally bypassing this apprenticeship/ mastery process?

What principle or understanding from the neuro-sciences would explain this?

What pattern can teach a person typing without actual practice?

The DHE disrespect for the conscious mind shows up in the older Bandler Videos (NLP Comprehensive, 1987) when he describes the conscious mind as “a dickhead,” and in some current advertisement in the UK using that same terminology.  In so dis-respecting the conscious mind, and wanting to engage in the questionable process of “unconscious installation,” DHE has missed out on the entire domain of background knowledge.  But rejecting “theory,” “conscious understanding,” and working with the higher structures of mind, prevents one from truly identifying and installing the higher frames, the place where  “the difference that makes a difference” occurs.

You wouldn’t want to model a pilot only using NLP and DHE and then take over the controls.  Indeed, you may find all of the strategies for how to sit in the cockpit, look at the gauges, and move the steering mechanisms.  You may even elicit the pilot’s supporting beliefs and values.  But I’d recommend you ask about some of the pilot’s background knowledge. This is a meta-level or “logical level” that we create through the meta-stating process.  So in modeling we ask the pilot,

“What do you know about aerodynamics and the principles of piloting that are absolutely essential to flying?”

In addition, there are all kinds wild and totally unsubstantiated claims, from growing limbs, hallucinating binoculars and microscopes and being able to see a mile away or at the microscopic level, increasing IQ from 120 to 183, etc.

Some of these claims need no comment.  What do the IQ numbers for an adult mean anyway?  What does it mean when you know that the IQ number is derived by dividing one’s age and what one “should know” in a given school grade?  A 100 IQ means that what a person “should know” at age 10 or 18 corresponds to what “the average” person of that age “should know.”

So what does that mean for someone 40 or 55?   How would we calculate the IQ number for 63?  And we have not even brought up any of the raging controversy in the field where researchers and designers conceptualize and test for IQ, and the problems this “concept” of an “Intelligent Quotent” provides.  I would have thought that the NLP Trainer on the East Coast who put that one out would have known better.  Apparently not.  As for growing back limbs, I think we need to have the hospital and doctor who did the original amputation provide some documentation on that one.  As for the other claims—

NLP Trainer, Leo Angart, of NLP Asia Limited has been working for years on Restoring Natural Vision and has provided documentation and demonstration of his processes repeatedly, along with extensive research and writings.  But seeing a mile away would be spectacular and super-human and would make all of the TV magazines.  Who will step up and let 20/20 or Primetime interview them on that skill?

Challenging Questions for DHE

If DHE truly operates as a workable “model,” then as a model, it minimally needs to have four features:

1) A basic theory about human nature and how it works

2) A set of elements and variables,

3) Operational guidelines for how to use the theory, and

4) A set of patterns or technology.

Yet it seems that DHE does not have any of these things.  Or, if it does, neither Bandler nor anyone else will reveal them.   This enables us to ask the following searching questions:

  • Where are the actual patterns or technology that has arisen from the model?
  • What is the theory that governs the model and how does it different from NLP?
  • What additional elements, components, factors, etc. does DHE have beyond NLP?
  • In terms of use and applicability, if DHE is so powerful, what does it offer that extends and expands the basic human experience that is not addressed in NLP?

DHE Really Needs the Meta-Levels of Meta-States

One associate who attended many DHE trainings said the he used it to develop a set of hallucinated and imagined structures for sorting out various structures.  He created what he called a “mind zone.”  Why?  To set various controls whereby he could more readily get to his motivation, understandings, and skills.  But then, “Having learned Meta-States, I now realize that I’ve actually been meta-stating myself with these concepts and using various symbols, icons, and visualized structures to encode the meta-levels.”

Since we all think by referencing, and then represent our reference (the Movie that we play on the theater of our mind), we then use our representation as a frame of reference.  Eventually this habituates to become a frame of mind—mind operates at multiple levels of awareness.  Meta-States tracks and operationalizes how this works and provides lots of practical applications from the specific strategies for engineering higher levels of states of consciousness (resilience, proactivity, un-insultability, etc.) to the strategies for specific domains (wealth building, selling excellence, fitness, accelerated learning, etc.).  This describes the structure of our frames embedded within frames that make up our Matrix (see Frame Games, 2000 and The Matrix Model, 2003).

Meta-States explains how we actually use “sub-modalities” semantically and symbolically.  After all, you have to go meta to even detect “sub-modalities,” let alone play, shift, and alter them.  And yet, when you do, you can then use various sights, sounds, and sensations to stand for and do service for new expressions of consciousness.  This gives us insight into which “sub-modality” to use with whom (see The Structure of Excellence).

Meta-States chunks up as no other model does and articulates the mechanisms and processes by which we create the meta-representation of language and the Meta-Model, how we give birth to our Meta-Programs, and how all of the meta-phenomena (beliefs, values, understandings, decisions, identifications, etc.) are generated in the first place.

What DHE truly needs is to integrate the intensionalizing and extensionalizing processes in Meta-States so that it can reality test the things it seeks to invent and make them available in the see-hear-feel world.  DHE does great at intensionalizing—moving up into hallucinated visualizations. It seems to be lacking in extensionalizing.   Korzybski introduced these terms and invented numerous extensionalizing devices for bring the “ideas” in one’s head down into practical everyday world.  We do this with the Mind-to-Muscle pattern among other processes.

In this, the process of creating control panels and stationary storage devices are too static and unwieldy.  While I built some of these during my Trainers Training, they lasted for about one day after the training and they play no role in any presentation I have ever made.  I have repeated asked people trained in DHE to hallucinate a globe and impose it on me and name off my meta-programs.  They cannot.  It does not work.

Conclusion:  What Will Richard Say?

What will Richard Bandler say about this review.   When I first wrote it, I said, “That’s hard to say.  You’ll just have to ask him!  In fact, please do.”  Since then I discovered that he only got angry and cursed my name.  That sounds like a helpful response, one open to feedback, one ready to have his theories and processes tested!

Should you go to DHE?   Well, yes if you can find the trainings any longer.  I understand that Richard doesn’t do them any longer.  And if you do, go to enjoy the process and then afterwards review it to quality control it and to critically evaluate it.   That’s what I recommend for any training, including my own.   As you go, access your ferocious Puma state, feel compelled to get everything you can from the training, asking the trainers the tough questions we’ve raised here, and demand excellence.  Don’t settle for anything less.   Isn’t that the spirit NLP?  Isn’t that the passion that Richard and John initiated this field with?  Then go.  Ask.

But don’t be surprised or disappointed if you don’t receive the answers that you’d prefer.

If you want to really know how Meta-States can enrich, enhance, and empower your use of DHE, then come share the adventure of the next step in NLP, the Meta-States of Neuro-Semantics.   Discover the meta-level principles and mechanisms that actually govern submodalities and other hallucinated concepts.  We’ll look for you at one of our trainings.

Part II:   DHE Critique Follow-Up


No evaluation is perfect.  And certainly my original analysis and critique of DHE was not.  I considered it only a beginning of a dialogue.  In the first week of presenting it, I received a great many responses and so thought I would use this format to respond to various statements and questions.  There were many questions asked and so I have taken this format for addressing those.  There were also some personal accusations and insults, to those I will not respond and hope that in doing so, I will raise the level of the discussion.  It’s not about any person, it’s about ideas and processes.

What is DHE, really?

One of the most surprising things that we found was that almost nobody even attempted to defend DHE as a model.  The majority of respondents forthrightly acknowledged that it is not, not in the scientific sense, and that it is more of “an experiment,” a “marketing tool,” an “exploration of the limits of NLP,” an “amplification tool of NLP.”

A few individuals questioned my definition of a model.  True enough, the simplest definition of a model is that it provides a pattern for how to do something.  In that sense, we could hear someone speak in a warm and seductive way and use that as “a model” for how to replicate that.  Yet that does not address the larger issue of a field or domain of knowledge like NLP, and it was in that sense that we used the term.

Several people fell back to the original Bandler and Grinder myth that “NLP is not a theory but a model.”  I have written some articles on modeling in Rapport (the ANLP magazine, London, England) about this myth and how that the epistemology and theoretical work of NLP was snuck into the model by using the NLP presuppositions.

How is that a “myth?”  It’s a myth because there are always presuppositions to everything.  Korzybski described them as “unspoken assumptions.”  Bandler and Grinder initiated NLP by downplaying the importance of theory and that served NLP very well in the beginning.  It enabled them to focus on “what works.”  But they had theories.  John brought the theories about language functioning and acquisition into NLP—the cognitive development of Chomsky in Transformational Grammar, the cognitive psychology of Miller, Galanter, and Pribram about the TOTE, the General Semantics of Korzybski, the gestalt of Perls, the systems of Satir and Bateson, etc.

The same respondent also questioned whether NLP falls into the cognitive science model and wondered about “constructionism.”  That NLP used Transformational Grammar, “the map is not the territory” (Korzybski), the research from the Bateson group, the ideas from Miller, et al. (who initiated the Cognitive Movement, 1956) all highlight the cognitive nature of NLP.  Psychology textbooks (as I noted in The Spirit of NLP, 1996) have been locating NLP there for a long time.  Richard Bolstad and others have documented this extensively in their research as well.

DHE “Bashing?”

Several respondents said that all I was doing  in the article was bashing DHE.  Yet the great majority didn’t think so.  Several key players in DHE, who asked us to keep their names and words confidential, said that they agreed with the focus and emphasis of the review and one said that we had not even “expressed the half of it.”  Many participants in DHE wrote and offered many other complaints about DHE.

  • The whole notion of basing skill generation on hallucinations only encourages delusional behavior.
  • It’s full of black magic
  • The machine model is a “parts” model without an ecology check.


What does “extensionalizing” mean?

Bandler and Grinder referred to it briefly in The Structure of Magic.  It comes from Korzybski—his way of talking about meta-modeling.  It is richer than that though.  He means extending from mind (thought, concept, hallucination) down to the ground… to sensory based expressions.  When we said that DHE lacks extensionalizing into the everyday world, we referred to how it builds hallucinations of globes and girds and things, but is very weak on testing out the hallucinations in the real world.  Many DHE participants said the same thing.

Where did Dr. Hall get his sources, do his modeling, etc.?

Several wanted to know about the sources in my modeling projects.  I have made this common knowledge by documenting all for the sources for the selling excellence, wealth building, women in leadership, accelerated learning, defusing hotheads, business experts, entrepreneurs, coaching, etc. by providing extensive documentation in the training manuals for each of those areas.  For anyone interested, the training manuals provides all of that.

Who did Dr. Hall interview about DHE?

Over the past three years, I have asked not only DHE participants, but key trainers.  Most of the people did not want their names publicized and so we have respected those wishes.

Are you not just stealing from other people?

Of course.  Just as Richard and John “stole” from Virginia, Fritz, and Milton and created NLP, as the modeled the “three therapeutic wizards” and presented a model of how they did their word magic (The Structure of Magic, 1975), so I have modeled Korzybski, Bateson, and many others.  I also have published the sources to these things in many books and articles.  In the early 1990s I published a series of articles on the “Almost Inventors of NLP” —exploring how William James, Wundt, Adler, and many others presented so many facets of what we now call NLP.

One of the key researchers in the field of wealth building is Dr. Scrully Blotnick.  When I found his longitudinal studies on 1500 people, and his research of interviews in focus interviews with multi-millionaires, he set forth extensive data that was just waiting for someone to format using NLP structures of Meta-Programs, States, Meta-States, beliefs, strategies, etc.  Later, when I interviewed a couple multi-millionaires myself, I found that what Blotnick had created was far richer than I could re-produce if I interviewed 100 more individuals.  He and his team had the data, they just didn’t have it in the NLP formats that made it readily available for replication.

Why didn’t you name the DHE trainers or people that you referred to?

I chose to not do that because I have no intention to embarrass anyone or to fall into the trap of describing something in a personal way that someone could take it as a personal attack.  I was tempted to name the trainer who claimed to raise his IQ 50 points since he used that in his P.R. pieces, but thought better of it afterwards.

I did have one respondent get really nasty and obnoxious.   He personally attacked my character, and even my right to review DHE as a model.  About that kind of thing, I don’t think there’s any need to comment.  The article speaks for itself as does openness of critique for any model.  When I asked him if he even read the article, he said no.  He actually said he would not.  He claimed that the title of the article had offended him too much.  To that I responded, “Is this the kind of closed-minded, narrow, bigoted, fundamentalist, spirit of total curiosity and playfulness that DHE has installed in you?”  Touché!

Aren’t you just promoting your own model of Meta-States?

Well, yes.   Of course I think that the “logical levels” of thought and mind as articulated in the Meta-States model could and does provide balance and enrichment for DHE as it does for NLP.   I’ll detail that more in the next section.  Does this bias me in such a way that I can’t see the true value of DHE?  Well, that is certainly possible.  Yet does that make me so totally subjective that I can’t put aside my own preferences and look at something with some objectivity?   Not at all.  In NLP we start from the premise that it’s all subjective anyway, and that objectivity is always relative.

Having seen and experienced much value and benefit from NLP and the DHE version using trance and “sub-modalities,” I have no desire to “bash” it.  The same thing can be said for the series of articles that I published three years ago (1998) about “the downside of NLP” (NLP World, Anchor Point).  There I sought to ask tough questions and encourage a more professional use of our technology.

Isn’t there a difference between a model and a theory?

Yes, it’s the difference between someone following/ using a model and someone modeling.   John and Richard gave NLP a nice mind-line when they first said that, yet in reality, that’s all it was.  They also had a purpose for saying that “NLP is not a theory, but a model.”  They wanted to get away from the theorizing and focus on description.  That served them well.  It served NLP well … at that time.  Then some people focus the frame and thought that their statement was “real.”  From there it was a short step to the delusion that NLP has no theory.

Actually Bandler and Grinder snuck their theories into NLP but they did so under the guise of “NLP Presuppositions.”  It was there that they hide their own biases, understandings, epistemology, etc.  There they stuck the disciplines of Transformational Grammar, General Semantics, Cybernetics, Systems thinking, cognitive psychology, constructionism, etc.

Actually, every model has a theory.   Well, any model that’s more than just an example.  Extensive models that provide descriptions for how something works also covertly contains assumptions about what something is, how it works, why it works, what mechanisms make it work, and the guidelines for using it.  In fact, while a person can just follow the model and not have a clue as to why it works, for someone to extend the model and invent new uses, applications, and refinements—he or she has to understand the mechanisms, governing ideas (theories, hypothesis, etc.).  That’s what a modeler does.  A clinical just uses a model.

Where are you documentation for your modeling projects?

We have written about it in our descriptions of our specific modeling projections.  If you want to know who we modeled, how we used the modeling efforts and data of others, etc. about wealth building, the best documentation for that is in the Wealth Building Training Manual.  One of the things we have become known for is our full documentation and that in our books we constantly and always give full credit to our sources.

Isn’t is good enough to just do “what works?”  Why worry about theory?

True enough, for the practitioner, just doing what works is good enough.  Not so for the modeler.  A modeler needs to understand.  We have written about this extensively in NLP: Going Meta— Advanced Modeling Using Meta-Levels.  We have a series of articles on modeling now [2000] being published in Rapport (London).  We also present training in modeling using Meta-States (Advanced Neuro-Semantic modeling, Matrix modeling, and Cultural Modeling).

“Good enough” also has a built in limitation.  After all, things change.  People, events, circumstances, cultures, etc.  So what is “good enough” at one time, in one location, for one context, may become not good enough in other contexts.  What determines the difference?

NLP has not been very explicit about what to do when.  That’s why I put a chapter in The Source Book of Magic, Volume I on the very question of how does a person figure out what to do when.  Understanding the theoretical foundations, guidelines, principles, and governing mechanisms of a model provide these answers.  Without such theoretical understanding, a person just shoots in the dark.   So its a question of use.  Do you want to understand the mechanisms that make something work so that you can extend and refine the model?  Or do you just need to buy the end products of the modeling?

What have other DHE trainers said?

Interesting enough, some of the once most well-known DHE trainers actually agree with the critique and say that I didn’t go far enough.  Rex Sikes, who I met in both my original master Practitioner and Trainer courses and the first DHE Trainer in the USA said that it is based on too many mechanical metaphors and that from such it had a dehumanizing effect on him.




At the beginning of this paper on DHE, I set forth the results of examining DHE as a “model,” and found it wanting.  That led me to then set forth the following propositions:

  • DHE is great stuff, exciting, and trance-laden, but ultimately is just more NLP.
  • DHE does not really extend the NLP model because it adds nothing to the model.
  • DHE does not even qualify as a full fledge model apart from NLP, having no additional elements or components, guidelines or processes, and no additional patterns.
  • DHE needs the richness and power of the Meta-States of Neuro-Semantics to truly make it full and complete.

In this section I want to follow up on those propositions and to extend our comparative analysis between DHE and Meta-States.  The questions that we will be addressing here are as follows:

  • Is there a relationship between DHE and Meta-States?
  • How do the processes, mechanisms, and outcomes relate to each other?
  • How can Meta-States enrich, empower, and engulf DHE?

A Brief Description of Meta-States

Without reproducing the half dozen books on Meta-States and the scores upon scores of articles, I will first briefly summarize Meta-States as a model and how it drives the field of Neuro-Semantics.  The new reader to his field can find introductions, extensive descriptions, scores of free techniques, and patterns on the website.

To understand Meta-States you have to recognize and understand the levels of mind.  I took this originally from Korzybski’s “levels of abstraction” which Bandler and Grinder used for the first levels.  What they missed from Korzybski was that the “infinite regress” (or progress) continues up the levels without end.  This means that we build up “thought” into a “logical level” or psycho-logical system as we frame thought upon thought.  Each level arises from the previous level.  Each higher level is about and above the previous level.  As Bateson built his levels of learning using the thread of “learning,” and Dilts built the levels of outcomes from “outcomes,” so this is built upon “thought.”

1) Thinking begins as mind  references some experience or event in the world, say being yelled at or complemented by a teacher.  This occurs outside of us and we refer to it via consciousness.  We notice.  We hear, we see, we feel, etc.

2) Next, we record our recordings.  We represent our reference.  We make an internal movie of it on the theater of our mind.  We create our internal thoughts by using our senses and so inside have a “sense” of the sights (pictures), sounds, sensations, smells, etc. of the experience.  In NLP we call this the VAK of our sensory systems or modalities.  We make an internal movie of the teacher saying words and gesturing.

3) Then we create linguistic symbols of our first level representations.  We use the meta-representational system of words, language, and higher level symbols.  We say words about our internal movie.  “The teacher raised her voice at me.”  “The teacher smiled and said I did a great job.”

4) Then we use more abstract words to label, classify and categorize our conceptual understanding of the experience.  “The teacher was mean to me.”  “The teacher make me feel like a million bucks.”

5) Then we bring even more abstract words to classify our classifications, and so we fill up our “mind” with additional concepts.  “I’m inadequate and will never amount to anything in school.”  “I’m love learning and know that I can succeed at whatever I do.”

6) And so on and on it goes, abstracting up the levels. “Thought” become more conceptual and layered with more and more “ideas,” “principles,” “beliefs,” “values,” “understandings,” etc.

A “thought” does not occur apart from “body” and “emotion.”  These three terms all refer to the same holistic dynamic, the brain-nervous system processing information.  As the brain processes information, it activates neuro-pathways, neuro-transmitters, messenger chemicals, etc. and so activates “the body.”   “Emotions” refer to the evaluative judgment made in the brain and the higher cortex areas about neurological processes, feelings, sensations, etc.  Together we have the mind-body-emotion system.

The holistic result is a state—a neuro-linguistic state of awareness.  When we experience one state in relationship to another state, we have a meta-state.  We fear our anger, we rejoice in our learning, we feel confident about our decision, etc.  State-upon-state structure utilizes the levels of thought and speak about how layer upon layer of thought, emotion, physiology textures or laminates our states of mind.  Each higher layer sets a higher frame of reference.  Each higher layer brings reflexive consciousness back onto itself.  This gives us the structure of all of the meta-level phenomena that we call by various terms: beliefs, values, understandings, expectations, intentions, decisions, memories, imaginations, etc.

We go up a level by asking meta-questions:

And what do you think or feel about that?

What does that mean to you?

Or we can flush out the higher level frames by asking,

What’s the quality of your state (i.e. confidence, anger, fear, joy, etc.)?

We can then set new levels by inviting a person to experience a state-upon-state structure.

And with that in mind, what do you think about X?

When you feel X (confidence) fully and complete about your ability to handle your anger, what do you experience?

How Meta-States Enriches DHE

Given the predominant role that the mechanism of reflexivity plays in human states of consciousness and in language itself, we take both NLP and DHE to the next level (conceptually and literally) when we use the levels of thought or mind model of Meta-States.  This describes how Meta-States has been revitalizing and “eating” up NLP in the past six years.  Instead of each of the so-called “logical levels” operating as separate and disconnected domains of NLP, we now have a meta-domain (Meta-States) that ties it all together and provides a unifying theory and process for the entire field.  (I have detailed this more fully in The Matrix Model, 2003).

Meta-States flushes out:

The nature of “beliefs” as “confirmed thoughts” about other thoughts

The nature of “values” as “thoughts of importance” about other thoughts

“Decisions” as “chosen thoughts”

“Understandings” as a domain of “knowledge thoughts” about an area of study: aero-dynamics, chemistry, physics, gestalt psychology, mathematics, etc.

“Belief systems” as “confirmed thoughts” about other “confirmed thoughts”

“Expectations” as “anticipated thoughts” about our thoughts of the future

And so on.  In Meta-States, Meta-Coaching and Matrix trainings, we now have a list of 26 sets of meta-questions that utilize these “logical level” terms.

Meta-State Insight about “Sub-modalities”

As already noted, applying this to the mis-named domain of “sub-modalities” we discover that there is no actual “sub” level.  What we call “sub-modalities” are actually meta-level distinctions of the properties and qualities of our movies—the cinematic features that we can edit in or out.  That’s why some “sub-modalities” are also “meta-programs.”

To even detect “sub-modalities,” you have to go meta.   You have to step back and notice (with a meta-awareness) about your coding.  This occurs at a meta-level.  The same applies to changing and playing with these cinematic features.  The “sub-modalities” of distance, intensity, location, etc. are not things you can put in a wheelbarrow.  So, failing the nominalization test, they are not true nouns.  They refer to processes (verbs) and to mental conceptualizing, hence to concepts.

This totally revitalizes and streamlines how to work with ‘sub-modalities.”  They actually involve “concepts”—a level that NLP does not handle very well.  IT has take the Meta-States model to describe how “sub-modalities” work symbolically and semantically.

What does that mean?  It means that you never know what any particular “sub-modality” stands for and symbolizes until you talk to a particular person.   Does the “distance” of a picture mean (semantically) “more motivating,” “more compelling,” “more real,” all of those, none of those?   Does “brighter” mean more clear and compelling?   It does for most people regarding most things.  But “brighten” up a picture of a “romantic dinner” and it reduces the sense of “romance.”

And precisely because neither NLP nor DHE takes the symbolic and semantic nature of “sub-modalities” into account, this has caused all kinds of “failures” with NLP patterns, from turning “confusion” into “understanding,” running the first NLP “belief change pattern,” and many other things.  Meta-States sorts these things out and enables a person to know how to efficiently work with “sub-modalities.”  See The Structure of Excellence (1999) for a full presentation of this and six new sub-models for handling various meta-level phenomena.

Slam, Bam, Thank You Ma’m

DHE specializes in hallucinating globes, grids, cross-hairs, control panels, etc.  It specializes in filling the mind with these concrete objects from the outside world under the assumption that by doing so, one can take more “control” over the mind.

Yet, like “sub-modalities,” what do these objects stand for semantically?

Do the objects carry the semantic meanings up the levels of mind?

Does it install it at the appropriate level? How does one test?

What guiding principle governs such?

DHE never says.   Operating from some of the errors in the NLP old “sub-modality” model, DHE blindly gropes in the dark with regard to the theoretical foundation, guidelines, principles, and processes.  Hallucinating such objects and installing them via trance fails to take into account the structure of the levels of thought and how those levels actually operate.  Sure it’s playful and fun, but if you want a model that works, that can install practical strategies for “doing things,” don’t count out conscious understanding.  Don’t you want to “run your own brain?”

Trying to slam in concrete hallucinated holographic objects assumes too much and ignore too many of the higher principles.

Going Higher to the Boss

The most pervasive and generative processes in the “structure of subjective states of consciousness” occur at the higher levels, not imaginary “lower” or “sub” levels.  That’s why the most powerful patterns in NLP have always been patterns that govern meta-phenomena:

Time-Lines: the meta-domain of the concept of “time” (see Time-Lining, 1997)

Meta-Programs: meta-states repeated and habituated become Meta-Programs offer time (see Figuring Out People: Design Engineering Using Meta-Programs, 1998)

The Phobia Cure

Trance: moving up levels of thought and abstraction, into more “trancy” language, nominalizations, Milton Model patterns, etc.

Ecology Checking: moving up to an evaluation of our evaluations.

Change History Pattern: a “time” pattern

Decision Destroyer: Another “time” pattern

Re-imprinting: another “time” pattern

It lies in moving up the levels of mind and accessing higher meta-states that we find the most  powerful NLP patterns.  Meta-States as a model explicates this and extends it.  In Meta-States we have identified over a dozen specific “principles” or premises about meta-level mechanisms and processes.  These govern the use of this domain.  Once a person understands the structure of an experience, then he or she can perform what otherwise seems to the uninitiated as “magic.”

Meta-States speaks about accessing executive states of mind in order to more effectively manage the meta-levels of mind.  This enables us to quickly and powerfully eliminate frames and meta-states that might sabotage our success (what we call “Dragon States”).  It also empowers us to perform magic at meta-levels.  Here we can set an “attractor” frame (a meta-state) and let it self-organize the entire neuro-semantics states.  Here we can use feed-back and feed forward processes in a mindful and conscious way.

DHE longs for that kind of “control” over conscious and unconscious processes.  Yet until DHE gets over its current diatribes against the “dickhead” of the conscious mind, it will not be able to operate with a mindful and consciousness of the meta-level principles.  Assuming that everything can go “straight in” via trance misunderstands the power and processes of the higher mind— the way the higher frames work.

Hypnosis is powerful.  We know that.  We also know that it is no panacea.  Nor can you hypnotize someone and make them act against their higher frames of mind in terms of values and ethics.  This applies to the higher frames of beliefs, understandings, paradigms, etc.  Assuming that the DHE trainer will just “install” it and even though we don’t know that we know—the skill will just pop out in the appropriate situation presupposes that all of the higher frames are already aligned and congruent with the hypnosis.  So what’s the hypnosis for?  Reinforcement.  Sure.  But not installation.

If there are higher levels of mind (frame), the executive levels will not allow the installation.  Herein DHE lacks the sophistication to know how to install.  Not knowing the principles of the meta-levels, it also provides no guidance at all about how to truly “design” the higher states of consciousness.  That’s why DHE provides no new patterns, no new technologies, and why there is no body out there teaching new strategies for new human behaviors and skills.  That’s also why with Meta-States, we are.  We are teaching training workshops in a great range of applications—

  • Selling and persuasion
  • Wealth building
  • Business excellence
  • Health and Fitness
  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Coaching
  • Training
  • Mastering Fear
  • Mastering Stuttering
  • Relationships

And we are coaching people through design and installation processes using new techniques and patterns:

  • Mind-to-Muscle Patterning
  • Meta-States Alignment
  • Modeling using meta-levels
  • Design and installation of higher states: resilience, un-insultability
  • Design and installation of gestalt states: seeing opportunities, courage.


How Does Meta-States Enrich, Extend, and Engulf NLP and DHE?

In a great many ways.  For example—

1) It provides a rigorous model about the levels of mind.

2) It explains how “sub-modalities” work semantically and symbolically.

3) It presents guidelines and principles about the mechanisms and processes at work at the meta-levels.

4) It specifies the design and installation processes.

5) As a meta-domain, meta even to the Meta-Model and Meta-Programs, it explains the origin and structure of these two meta-domains.  This gives NLP (and DHE) a unified field theory—which we have now described in The Matrix Model.

6) It brings mindfulness and consciousness back into the picture so that people can take charge of the processes and use them to extend the model even further.

7) It articulates the governing theory that allows it to become testable and therefore tested for validity.


About 90% of the responses that we have received and heard on the chat group responses pretty much agreed with the main thrust of the Analysis and Critique of DHE.  As “more of NLP,” DHE has a lot to offer.  Its strength lies in its playfulness, its wild and wonderful exploration of the limits of human capacities and its actual practice of the NLP model.  Yet the advertising and marketing claims about it has probably not served it well or NLP well for that matter.   If in this I have started a self-examining process so that the NLP and DHE community learns how to “police” its own self, then I am most pleased.


L. Michael Hall, Ph.D., psychologist and entrepreneur living in the Rocky Mountains, author, developer of the Meta-States Model, and international Trainer.  He developed the Meta-States model, co-founded Neuro-Semantics with Dr. Bodenhamer, and more recently has co-created the Meta-Coaching Foundation and trainings with Michelle Duval.  He is the author of over 30 books, many best sellers in the field of NLP.

References by L. Michael Hall

Accessing Personal Genius, the Meta-States Training Manual (2004).

The Structure of Excellence (1999) Hall and Bodenhamer.  Now renamed, Sub-Modalities: Going Meta (2004).

Mind-Lines: Lines that Change Minds (2002) Hall and Bodenhamer.

Persuasion Engineering Simplified (2000).

Meta-States: Managing the Meta-Levels of your Mind (2000).

The Matrix Model (2003).