Review of Steve Andreas’s
Ongoing Misunderstandings of Meta-States
L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.
Written 2006, updated 2018
At least he’s honest! I have to give him that. In his new book on Fundamental Principles of Scope and Category that he titled, Six Blind Elephants, Steve Andreas at least acknowledges that he just does not understand the Meta-States Model. Of course, he makes that admission as he is criticizing and arguing against it!
“I admit to being dizzy and confused. What on earth could it mean…?” Steve Andreas (Six Blind Elephants, 2006, p. 116)
His Straw Man Fallacy Argument
At first, I hoped he would provide a solid critique wherein he might point out some weakness or some area that needs more refinement. But no. What he argued against, and critiqued, was only a “straw man” presentation of the Meta-States Model. So I felt disappointed in his criticism. It reads more like Don Juan fighting vigorously against the windmills because he imagined that they were knights. Against the straw man that he created I could have given him even more arguments. I would have equally disputed what he argued against as unworthy and inadequate.
Andreas says that neither I nor Robert Dilts will “provide a clear operational definition of how we determine logical levels.” That’s not exactly true. I have repeatedly sent him that information and, for that matter, he could find that on the Neuro-Semantic website if he so chose. There’s plenty of articles there, free articles, about Meta-States and Logical Levels. As far as I can tell, he has not even read Meta-States, Secrets of Personal Mastery, Dragon Slaying, Frame Games, or Meta-State Magic to understand the Meta-States Model. The one and only book he even references in his bibliography is the first edition of The Matrix Model. So, given that, I’ll give him a break that what he has written is just the lack of study and information about Meta-States. Yet isn’t that funny that he wrote his review before he did his research? Not exactly professional.
In his book he quotes me, “Meta-States necessitates a different kind of thinking” than linear thinking. But then he tries to put the Meta-States Model on a procrustean bed to fit the linear thinking of his ideas of category and scope. It makes for an interesting, yet very inadequate critique. Generally, when scholars offer a critique, they will put that which they critique in context and evaluate it on its own merits and up against the contexts in which it has been designed. Andreas did not do this.
What Steve Andreas doesn’t seem to understand is that when it comes to human thinking-and-feeling as a dynamic, non-linear system, we do not follow the rules of Socrates and Aristotle’s rules of logic as we create our mental categories. Instead, as Alfred Korzybski noted, we are not logical, but psycho-logical beings. When it comes to the way we categorize things (since Andreas’ book is about categories and categorization (most of which is a pretty good description of how meta-states work), in human experiencing and meaning-making through thinking-and-feeling, we can categorize just about anything as a member of any category.
Andreas quotes me about “playful seriousness” and “playfully and compassionately kind in our seriousness,” but then he declares (as if this is absolute and divine truth) that playful as the modifier is a sub-category of seriousness (2006, p. 115). Really!
Yet is it that? That’s the question. What if we thought about the state and quality of being serious (which Steve seems to be well practiced in) and brought some playfulness to it? What if we brought some kind compassion to it? What if we brought some win/win thinking to it? Those are the qualities I typically frame (or meta-state) seriousness. I know it’s not logical, but what if we did it anyway? What if we did that just for the fun of it?
Steve does not even consider this possibility. He seems to only have one direction for sending his brain and that is in the direction of smaller and smaller categories. So for him, “playful” is a sub-category. And yes a person can perceive it that way. Yet there are other ways to perceive it. That is not the only choice for how to perceive it or frame it.
If we applied playful to serious we would embed serious inside of the larger context of play. That would make “seriousness” a member of the category of playfulness. Yes, I know, it is completely psycho-logical. Doing this would reduce the scope (extent) of seriousness making it a smaller thing to playfulness (which would be the larger category). Simultaneously it would extend the scope of playfulness, making playful the bigger thing.
Blinded by the Flawed Sub-Modality Model
Reading Blind Elephants makes me think that Steve has been completely blinded by the old sub-modality model. (Actually there’s a number of NLP people blinded by it.) The old so-called “sub-modality” model thought that because sub is in the title of sub-modalities that the features and variables that are called “sub” are “smaller”and “finer” distinctions. Description has been treated as territory. If we use that name, they must be below and sub- to the basic representation systems.
My hallucination is that he has taken the size or scope of things (smaller to bigger) to be equivalent to the construct of any and every “logical level.” And if that’s what has blinded the elephant, then no wonder he cannot understand Meta-States! This could be his chemistry background getting in his way. Steve Andreas has “atoms” and “molecules” on his mind and so sees things via the chemistry model. [“If we think of a scope as an ‘atom’ of meaning, a category is a simple ‘molecule’ composed of a group of scopes.” I, p. 237.]
On the Disliking of Words
Andreas also does not like lots of words. He states that “state” is “an ambiguous term” (I, p. 203). He does not like “reframing” and he seems to especially not like “meta” (and meta-position) because he thinks it is too vague. His solution? Get rid of these words!
“The easiest solution is to simply not use these terms at all.” (I, p. 154)
That’s right. If you don’t understand something, if you don’t like the way someone else is using a term, kill it! Murder it in its sleep! Yes I guess that would be easier to than reading the books and articles on Meta-States. So what does Steve Andreas know about the Meta-States Model and/or the process of meta-stating? What he writes about it is pure fiction. It is certainly not what I have written about a meta-states, and I should know a bit about that.
“When someone applies one vague and general ‘state’ to another ‘state’ to create a ‘meta-state,’ that compounds the ambiguity and uncertainty about what is actually happening. If this ‘meta-state’ is further ‘meta-stated,’ the confusion deepens exponentially.” (I, p. 188)
Hmmmm. So I wonder if Steve meets someone who says he is afraid of his fear (or anger, excitement, confidence, etc.), if instead of dealing with the fear of some other state, he will first make the fear of that other state more clear and precise? Of course, that generally will increase and amplify the fear and so set a more intense frame of fear about the first state and make things much worse for the person.
Interesting enough, on the next page in the book (I, p. 189), he writes, “What is important is the quality or appropriateness of the resource state to the problem” Hmmm. If he had read what I wrote, he would have recognized that as the process of meta-stating. Bringing a vague and general “resource state” of quality or appropriateness to the problem state? That is precisely what we do in Meta-States.
This is the elephant’s blindness (Steve’s), he is meta-stating and does not even know it!
“‘Meta-stating’ applies one poorly defined state to another, compounding the ambiguity and confusion in the term ‘state.’” (I, p. 203)
Yes, Steve, I would also complain and criticize if that’s what I meant by meta-stating or what I presented anywhere about meta-stating. Thank God it is not. In fact, in Meta-State trainings (Accessing Personal Genius, APG) I focus entirely on accessing very precise states (not poorly defined ones) to very precise contexts and situations in order to create richer and more robust states like resilience, self-esteem, ownership of one’s response-powers, the “flow” state of mastery and scores more.
Categorizing — also Known as Meta-Stating
The kind of categorizing we do in meta-stating creates new and more effective frames of mind, frames of reference, frames of meaning for a new psycho-logics. Obviously doing so does not fit Andrea’s definitions of category and scope, and involves our psycho-logics which given what he wrote, he does not like. Given I had hoped he would have taken some time to do some research on the Meta-States Model, and he did not, I here announce an open invitation to Steve Andreas—you can attend any Accessing Personal Genius training that I do anywhere in the world at no cost.
[By the way, I still have a standing invitation also to John Grinder given that he also has written that he does not understand “the proliferation of meta-states.”]
Paradoxically, Steve uses the meta-stating process throughout his entire book and doesn’t seem to know it. In his Introduction he writes,
“If someone says to you, ‘That’s an interesting way to do that,’ and you categorize [meta-state] that statement as a ‘criticism,’ you will tend to feel bad, and then think of other unpleasant experiences in that category, and feel even worse. But if you categorize [meta-state] that statement as a ‘compliment,’ you will feel pleased, and then tend to think of it in the context of other compliments, and feel even more pleased.” (I, p. x)
Actually, meta-stating involves setting a context about some other experience. You can meta-state a statement as meaning either criticism or compliment. You can bring the state of criticism or compliment to your first state of receiving those words. In doing so, you frame it, set a context, and create a meaning. Steve calls this a category and categorizing. I call it a meta-state and meta-stating. Strange that he has to misrepresent my model and put it down as he attempts to put forward his model —in critical thinking, we call that the Straw Man Fallacy.
In Meta-State Trainings, a Neuro-Semantic Trainer will talk about the power of a simple adjective to qualify one state with another state. That’s why “joyful learning” is a meta-state, so is playful seriousness, etc. Steve writes this:
“Soon after learning about cognitive qualifiers, I had a depressed client who began almost every sentence with ‘sadly,’ or ‘regrettably.’ [Say Steve, aren’t these vague and poorly defined terms?] As a first step, I asked him to start every sentence with ‘happily’ or ‘fortunately.’ This felt very strange and inappropriate to him, but it stabilized him to the powerful impact that his words had on him, and it began to restore some balance.” (I, p. 271)
To explain how the higher frame governs the lower, Andreas invents a word, “inheritability” (I, p. 267). Well, of course. You meta-stated him with new modifying states —happiness and fortune. This means that it is possible to be using the structure of meta-states and not even know it. Come to think of it, the “strange and inappropriate” feelings that the client experienced was probably that his mind had been invited to create some new psycho-logics and went around in a few loops and got dizzy from the strangeness of that experience.
Since Andreas doesn’t know this, when we apply one state to another and create a meta-relationship so that the second state stands at a higher position to the first, it sets a frame, it establishes the mental context, a category, and it thereby generates a construct of meaning. To use his words, it sets a new category, it re-categorizes, it expands scope, it contracts scope, and it can even nest categories so that they overlap. All of that is fully entailed in the Meta-States Model.
Andreas recommends asking, “What kind of X would you like?” (i.e., general, divorce, etc. p. 264) to match the current category and nest yet another one inside it. In Meta-States, we ask, “What is the quality of your X?” “What is the quality of your anger? Your grief? Your confidence? Your learning? Does it have the kind and quality that you want?” On second thought, maybe he has been reading Meta-States and is just using my materials with his new term “category.” Is that what you’ve been doing Steve? No? I didn’t think so.
He uses this book to present the NLP reframing models (and gives no indication that he has ever even read or researched Mind-Lines, 1997/2005). There he presents frame (context and category are his words) after frame as a higher frame— same as out-framing in Mind-Lines, the meta-stating of our frames with yet higher frames. He also uses many of the NLP presuppositions as frames that one could use.
In addition to still being under the illusion that the cinematic features by which we can edit our internal movies are “sub”-modalities and at a lower logical level, Andreas is also tricked and blinded by imposing the idea of “control” upon hierarchies. He argues for a “heterarchy” because the meta-program of preference (people, things, time, activities, location, and information) is not a hierarchy of control or importance (210ff). This is convoluted reasoning. After all, who has ever said that the meta-program of preferences is a control hierarchy so that those items that are most important govern those that are less? I have not (e.g., Figuring Out People, 1997/2007), and I don’t know anyone who has. This seems to be another straw man argument that Andreas then effectively demolishes. He did a good job except that he wasted his time on something that I also don’t agree with!
When Steve quoted me describing the non-linear nature of meta-stating, the nature of human reflexivity which sends our brains round and round, turning it over, upside down and at first generating confusion and dizziness, he wrote,
“Many years ago, someone said, ‘All writing is either biography or autobiography.” In this case, I think it is definitely autobiography.”
While I’m sure it applies to me, it surely applies to him as well. I wonder if he is really dizzy and confused or if he just does not want to understand the Meta-States Model in the first place?
If you want to understand the Meta-States Model which models the workings and processes of our self-reflexive consciousness, do not depend on Steve Andreas to accurately describe it. He does not. Actually, he doesn’t have a clue about what it is or how it works. Yet on the other hand, he actually describes the meta-stating process when he talks about establishing a new and higher category.”