“It’s the Frames Stupid!”

How Meta-States Leaves NLP in the Dust

Beyond NLP and DHE

to the Higher Levels of Meta-States
and Frame Games

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.

Since the controversy has begun (and been raging), I thought it might be a good time to be a tad bit controversial myself. So, here goes.

The Challenge

It wasn’t nice. It wasn’t polite. It may not have been even accurate, but it was effective. What? The Campaign Slogan. Do you remember the campaign slogan that defeated President George Bush and that put Bill Clinton into the White House? A central one that Clinton’s ad men used over and over and over was, “It’s the economy, stupid!”

A similar thing can be said about the difference between NLP and even DHE and Meta-States. For years, NLP got stuck on “submodalities.” When I was writing some books and working on the Directory for the Society of NLP for Richard Bandler, he was moving into the DHE direction and positing that everything occurs at the “submodality” level.

At the time, I bought it. And why not? I had been taught that submodalities were “the difference that made a difference.” (It was only later that I discovered that Bateson’s famous line was in a context about meta-levels, not “submodalities.”)

Further, the current NLP mythology at the time about “submodalities” was that as a “sub”-class of distinctions, they operate on the VAK modalities like atoms and sub-molecular particles work on molecules. And I bought that too.

That’s probably why so little has been developed in NLP since the late 1980s. There’s been a few new patterns. There have been some nice refinements and streamlining of the early NLP patterns, yet apart from the Meta-States Model, there have been no new models and very little practical applications. Dr. John Grinder noted this and raised this lack of creativity and innovation in an interview in NLP World last year. Why? What explains this?

I believe that one very powerful contributing factor lies in the mythology and over-emphasis on “submodalities.” We simply went in the wrong direction. This really shows up 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. But name one structure that has been so designed, marketed, and is now available for replication in human minds? That there are none shows the emptiness of the approach. It goes in the wrong direction.

The Original Discovery of Meta-States

From re-exploring the treasures of Korzybski (Science and Sanity, 1933/ 1994) and Gregory Bateson, the Meta-States Model arose. It did not go into some supposed and imagined “sub” basement of mind and personality, but “up” into the higher regions of mind.

Bateson described this by his introduction of the term “meta” and his explanations in terms of cybernetics and systems. He posited that “mind” itself arises as an emergent property from the entire body-brain system (I have a chapter in Languaging, 1996 that summarizes his theorizing about “mind” and “spirit” as a systemic property).

Korzybski described it by speaking about “orders of abstractions” and positing what happens in the interfaces between second and third orders of abstractions. He posited that both science and sanity absolutely depend upon moving up the orders and called the highest state of consciousness–consciousness of abstracting. This “awareness of awareness” he said involves an “infinite regress,” and has no stopping place. He then posited his “Theory of Multiordinality” that solves the problem of “sanity.” (I have described Multiordinality in The Secrets of Magic, 1998, and in The Merging of the Models, 1999).

When I put together these models and insights of these two “grandfathers” of NLP while engaged in a modeling project on resilience, the Meta-States Model emerged. This has led to more than a hundred new patterns, the refinement of many of the NLP patterns, numerous books, trainings, modeling projects, the certification of hundreds in Meta-States, journals, etc. It has enabled us to model much more complex structures of human consciousness and to provide training to replicate such expertise and genius (e.g., Defusing Hotheads, Selling/Persuasion Excellence, Wealth Building, Accelerated Learning, etc.).

The Truth about “Submodalities”

In 1999, Dr. Bodenhamer and I published The Structure of Excellence that challenged the whole idea of “submodalities” as involving any “sub” level and showed how that the features, distinctions, and qualities that we have called “submodalities” are actually “meta” modalities. This accorded with what other NLP leaders and thinkers had been saying for years, and so was not all that new.

This explains how and why some “submodalities” have from the beginning of NLP also been classified as “Meta-Programs.” How could they be both? How could “Associated/ Dissociated” be a submodality in every system and a meta-program? How could “Global./Specific” be both a Meta-Program and also the submodality of “Zoom in/ Zoom out”?

Without repeating all of the reasoning and examples in The Structure of Excellence, our explorations enabled us to discover several of the “secrets” of submodalities. This does not make the Qualities, Properties, Features, and Distinctions that we call submodalities go away. It enables us to appreciate them for what they are– Meta-Level Structures that enable us to set frames using such “mental” and “cognitive” distinctions. After all, every submodality classification is just that– a classification and as such, not a thing or noun and so fails “the nominalization wheelbarrow test.” “You can’t put location, intensity, distance, etc. in a wheelbarrow.” These are concepts– meta-level structures.

So what?

This is why the Meta-States Model that moves us UP to the higher levels of mind provides such a rich domain for new patterns, new processes, new structures, new refinements, etc. It provides a wealth and abundance of explorations for extending the NLP model even further. It ties together and outframes NLP itself by providing a structure for all of the meta-phenomena that comes in such common and everyday terms as: “beliefs, understandings, values, identity, mission,” etc.

Now we have a way to track “mind” up the levels. And, as we do, we watch how mind takes on more and more properties and traits of a system and so become systemic and producesystemic properties. This explains much of the magic of the meta-levels. I have more fully described these processes in Meta-States (1995), NLP: Going Meta– Advance Modeling Using Meta-Levels (1999), and The Structure of Excellence (1999). In fact, the last book has six sub-models for handling various meta-level phenomena from beliefs (confirmed thoughts) to negation frames to domains of understanding, backgrounding and foreground, etc.

Beyond NLP & DHE to Neuro-Semantics

The ability to think in meta-levels, to think systemically through the feed-back and feed-forward loops of “mind” and “emotion” as it reflects back onto itself to create every higher layers is what gives us the ability to go way beyond basic and advanced NLP and way beyond DHE to Neuro-Semantics.

It lies in the very lamination of mind as we layer thought upon thought, feeling upon feeling, etc. that new properties emerge. Then, the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. The word gestalt speaks about such a configuration– an emergent state or experience that arises that one cannot reduce to its “sub” parts. A very simple example exists in the state of “courage.” What comprises the mind-and-emotional state of “courage?” Break it down and you have “fear” at the primary level. You also have some higher level thought about “self,” some “task” or “adventure,” confirmed thoughts (beliefs) about the “risk,” “probabilities,” the future, etc. that somehow, when layered and sequenced– allows “courage” to emerge.

In The Structure of Excellence, we have detailed many of the failures of NLP (the Belief Change pattern, the Confusion to Understanding pattern, trying to kinesthetically anchor a meta-state, etc.) that showed what happens when we do not take meta-levels into account. When we do take the meta-levels into account and use them with intelligence__ we can design and engineer all kinds of powerful meta-states and gestalt states. In our trainings on Wealth Building, Genius at Work and others we do just that– courage, “seeing opportunities,” self-esteeming, resilience, un-insultability, proactivity, etc.

These processes leave basic NLP and DHE in the dust. We now have testimonies from NLP Trainer after NLP Trainer to that effect. They say that Meta-States provides them a larger level understanding of NLP, is “the missing piece” that unifies the field, and opens up whole new dimensions for exploration. Many talk about finding their passion for NLP rekindled, that Meta-States has recaptured the original search for “structure,” and that it creates a sense of abundance.

Frame Games– Mastery Your Matrix

The newest thing in Meta-States if Frame Games–Mastery Your Matrix. Translating Meta-States into the language of frames, we have designed a logical level system that uses the neurological mechanism of “referencing” to create the system. It goes like this.

  • The neurology of our nervous system and of the nature of protoplasm itself begins by referencing something.
  • This then leads to the creation of our internal represented references, our VAK sensory system of re-presentations.
  • We then reference our Sights, Sounds, Sensations, Smells, etc. (the VAK) by using Symbols– words, language, etc.
  • We then use our entire “Conscious Represented Reference” as a Frame-of-Reference. We “go in” and “UP” to our frame– in this way we do our “trans-derivational searches” to our system of meaning.
  • Through repetition and habituation (two other powerful neuro-linguistic mechanisms), our Frame-of-Reference becomes our Frame of Mind– and gets into our eyes– this meta-state becomes our Meta-Program and governs our perceptual sorting. Here we experience the gestalting of our systemic consciousness.
  • As we continue to use, reflect back on, and operate from our Frame of Mind, it becomes the Frameworks of our mind– stabilizing the higher meta-states and meta-phenomena of believing, valuing, identifying, etc. This completes the creation of the virtual reality of our concepts and paradigms– the Matrix we live in and project out onto the world.

Frame Games provides an easy and user friendly access to all of these and turns a person on to how to not only reframe and deframe, but how to outframe.

And the Adventure Continues

Meta-States builds upon the foundation and basis of NLP–and recovers even more of the original models in the cognitive sciences, General Semantics, Bateson, Gestalt psychology, Family Systems, and others, from which NLP emerged. Meta-States refines and re-energizes the NLP model in new ways and it goes further. By modeling the higher levels of mind, it opens up a whole new domain for exploration. That’s why the model has been so productive, created specific applications, has found patterns for translating “Principles” into muscle (the Mind-to-Muscle Pattern), knows the formula for the gestalting of complex states of experts, and can engage in design engineering of new Gestalting.

Meta-States has given birth to Neuro-Semantics that focuses on the structure of Meaning at higher levels. At the primary level, meaning involves simple association or linkage– the stimulus-response type of “anchoring” that utilizes the discoveries of Pavlov. But at the meta-levels, ah, the meta-levels, now that’s where we truly enter into the human world– the Semantic States that govern the heavens and hells that we create in our minds. And when you know how to navigate that world– you have the tools for some tremendous transformations.

Author: Michael Hall, Ph.D., author of numerous books in NLP and NLP Trainer conducts training in meta-states, advanced language skills, etc. He can be reached at 1904 N. 7th. St. Grand Jct. Co. 81501. .