Mastering the Matrix of the Frames of Your Mind

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.



The sci-fi movie hit of 1999, “The Matrix,” described life in the Twenty-Third Century, after the great war between humans and A.I. (Artificial Intelligence).  The Machines won.  As the movie opens, most humans are imprisoned in egg-like structures where they are harvested for their brain energy.  There’s a few who live on the outside, but only a few.  They are about the only ones who know “the truth.”  Everybody else lives in a computer-generated world.  This creates the illusion that they are living in New York City, Toronto, or Sydney in 1999.  They are not.  Actually, they are experiencing the electrical signals that cue their brains to represent the world of 1999.  The Matrix is sending them these signals.  It’s all an Alice in Wonderland world.  Their mind is in the Matrix of those representations.

To keep these humans occupied so that their brains stay activated and emits lots of energy, the Machines created a “1999 World” Matrix.  It’s richer and fuller than the holideck on the starship Enterprise.  This is what we call “Sensorama Land” in NLP—a rich, vivid, 3-D, close, in color, etc. world.  Electrical signals to their brain induce them into experiencing the sights, sounds, sensations, smells, tastes, etc. of life at the end of the Twentieth Century.  That’s why they have plugs up and down their spinal chord and on all of their major muscle groups.  It’s the ultimate in a computer generated virtual reality.  It was a hypnotic state with no exit.  Well, almost no exit (and that’s the story, of course!).

This “1999 Matrix,” however, was not the first Matrix.  The Machines had originally created the “Perfect World” Matrix.   It didn’t work.  The humans didn’t buy it.  And so, as Agent Smith said, “whole crops were lost.”   After that, the A.I. Machines set up the “1999 Software Matrix” to deceive and occupy the humans in order to keep their brains intensely activated as they harvested their energy.  Yet the 1999 Matrix is really a fictitious reality, presented as real, to create a false consciousness that will allow the Game to go on.

There were still some free humans.  Some lived in Zion, “the last human city,” and the others worked from hover crafts like the one Morpheus operated, the “Nebuchadnezzar.”   Being free from the Matrix, Morpheus and his crew could hack into it.  In that way, they could enter and exit it as they chose.  Yet they had to be careful.  Sentinel programs, the Agents, roamed the Matrix and had never been defeated by a hacker.

The Matrix of Our Minds

We too live in a matrix—a matrix of our frames.  Because we do not deal with the world (the territory) directly, but via our maps, we relate to the world via three mapping levels: neurological mapping, representational mapping, and conceptual mapping.

We relate to the world via our neurological maps, that is, the “perceptions” that emerge from the interaction of our sense receptors with the energy manifestations “out there.”   These seem so “real”, we can easily confuse what we “see” with what is truly out there.

We also relate to the world via our representational maps, that is, how we encode our internal movies of things using sights, sounds, sensations, smells, etc. (the NLP VAK model) and all the distinctions that we can make in the sensory systems (the NLP “submodality” model).

We relate to the world via our conceptual maps, that is, by the concepts, categories, beliefs, values, expectations, decisions, etc. that we bring to our thinking.  All of these frames of reference combine to create the matrix of the frames in our mind.  They comprise our “reality strategy”.  They give us our sense of the fabric of reality (subjectivity reality).  In NLP, these make up our Meta-Programs, Meta-States, and the domains that make up various logical levels.

Entering and Exiting “the 1999 Matrix”

At the beginning of the movie, a message appears on Anderson’s computer.  Trinity sent it.  The words quietly scrolled across the screen,  “Wake up Neo.   The Matrix has you.”

Our matrices also have us to the extent that we are not aware of the existence of our subjective world or matrix of frames.  Our Matrix has us to the degree that we are blind to our Frames.  We have partially inherited these frames from the cultures that we are born into and partly from the ones that we create.  This makes waking up and detecting our frames our highest priority.  NLP talks about this in terms of Korzybski’s classic statement, “the map is not the territory.” This allows us to distinguish the frames that we map from the “real world” out there.

In the movie, a particular feeling brought Neo (Neal Anderson) to Morpheus (the leader of the hackers).  It was the feeling that “something is wrong with the world.”  What created that feeling?  The fact that the frames and the software of the matrix did not support and promote human vitality, aliveness, or freedom.  This feeling emerged into a question in Neo’s mind.  He asked,  “What is the Matrix?”

The same happens for each of us.  We also experience our frames first and foremost in terms of our feelings and emotions.  For instance, those who play “The Blame Game” experience a very different set of feelings and intuitions from those who play “The Solution Game.”  Each frame (and all of the frames that they are embedded within) create a set of feelings, states, and behaviors.   And frequently it is the feeling that “there’s something wrong with my world” that makes us ready for a new game.  When you feel that, welcome that dissatisfaction.  It can open you to leaving that old matrix of frames.

Taking the Red Pill

After I conducted the Frame Games Workshop in Austin Texas, a good friend and NLP Master Practitioner, Addison Woods wrote me.  In an email he said, “The Frame Games training was an ‘experience ‘ analogous to taking the red pill.”

Ah, taking the red pill.

In the movie, Morpheus first greeted Neo (and others he had freed from the Matrix) by saying,

“It seems you’re feeling a bit like Alice, tumbling down the rabbit hole.  You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up.  You know that something is wrong with the world.  You can’t explain it, but you feel it, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.”

Neo says, “The Matrix?”

Morpheus said, “Yes, the Matrix.  The world has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.”

“What truth?”

“That you were born into slavery, into a prison that you cannot see or smell…  A prison of the mind …   Unfortunately, no one can tell you what the Matrix is; you have to see it for yourself.”

In his invitation for Neo to see the Matrix for himself, Morpheus showed him two pills.  He held them out, a blue one and a red one.  “Take the Blue Pill,” he said, and “you will wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.”

“Take the red pill and you stay in Wonder Land, and I’ll show you how deep the Rabbit Hole goes.”

NLP and Neuro-Semantics is like that.  Taking the red pill opens our eyes and ears and feelings to the map/territory difference and we begin to discover the depth and height of the rabbit holes of our minds.  We begin discovering the cultural rabbit holes that we live in, the labyrinths of meaning.  It’s all a fictional bio-computer generated world.  We (and many, many of our ancestors) made it up.  It’s but a human construct —subjective experience, and it has a structure, we can even model it, and yet, in the end, it is just frames within frames within frames.  Maps.

Matrix Training

Once delivered from the Matrix, the crew prepared Neo to re-enter the 1999 Matrix.  Why?  So that he could learn to become “The One” —the one prophesied that would come.  He would be able to change the matrix at will and to eventually destroy it.  Morpheus and his crew used other computer programs (Training Matrices) in “the construct.”  The software set the frame: a sparing program, detecting agents program, jumping program, etc.

In the Jumping Tall Buildings Matrix, Morpheus invites Neo to jump from one skyscaper in New York City to another.

“I’m trying to free your mind…  Let it all go.  Fear. Doubt.  Disbelief.  Free your mind!”

This is also the challenge before us as we work within our frames of reference and frames of meaning.  When we are in the construct, they seem so real to us.  And as we believe in them, they are real to us—subjectively real.   We build (or inherit from our culture) our frames of reference in order to organize a consistent picture of the world.

Eric Fromm (1968), writing about another context and from the frame of psychoanalytic sociology, said:

“The human being… would indeed go mad if he did not find a frame of reference which permitted him to feel at home in the world in some form and to escape the experience of utter helplessness, disorientation, and uprootedness. … He has to have a frame of orientation which permits him to organize a consistent picture of the world as a condition for consistent actions.” (The Evolution of Hope, p. 63)

This is the wonder of our maps.  When we’re on the outside of our maps, when we look upon the maps of others—it is easy to recognize them as maps.  We sometimes feel surprised, “How could you ever believe that?”  But when we step inside them, when we step into the universe that our frames create, suddenly it becomes more difficult to remember that they are just maps, just the encodings of our mind.  They seem so real.  When inside the matrix of our frames, they signal our nervous system to make them real (to us).  We feel this in our body as our emotions.  If we only use our feelings, we become Frame Blind.

In NLP, the magic lies in stepping outside.  We do that in the “Phobia Cure” with the metaphor of a movie theater.  We do that in the “Time Line” metaphor, and we do it in many other meta-level jumps to higher states —higher states of mind.  And, of course, that’s what the Meta-States Model is all about.  This is how we “get an exit” from the Matrix— by Stepping Back, Stepping Up.

During the first time that Neo goes in, he can’t believe that the chair, his hair, etc. are not “real”.

Morpheus says, “What is real?”  Do you mean the electric signals sent and interpreted by your brain?”  Then he explains, “You’ve been living in a dream world.”

Actually, we all do.  We live in a “dream world” of our mind— hypnotized by the meanings and cultural inductions.  We too live in a computer generated world. The only difference is that ours is made by the bio-computer of our brain and neurology and it is comprised of such meta-phenomena that we call “beliefs, understandings, language,” etc.  Our cultural and conceptual programming creates the Frames that we live in— the Matrix of Frames that we call “reality.”

This highlights our nature as Matrix Makers.  We create frames and then play the games that the frames permit because that’s how our minds and nervous systems work.    Again, Fromm explains what today we call the Constructionist viewpoint about reality,

“Man not only has a mind and is in need of a frame of orientation which permits him to make some sense of and to structuralize the world around him; he has also a heart and a body which need to be tied emotionally to the world—to man and to nature.  The animal’s ties to the world are given, mediated by his instincts.  Man, set apart by his self-awareness and the capacity to feel lonely, would be a helpless bit of dust driven by the winds if he did not find emotional ties which satisfied his need to be related and unified with the world beyond his own person.” (pp. 67-68)

Discovering Our Powers to Transform the Matrix

In the scene where Neo meets the lady that they call “The Oracle.”  Located in what looked like a 1950s kitchen, she looked Neo over and said, “You have the gift, but it looks like you’re waiting for something.”

NLP operates with very similar ideas.  It operates from the presupposition that we have all the resources we need to enrich the world we live in.  If we suffer from an impoverished model of the world, the fault lies not in the world, but in our map of that world.  The Meta-Model was originally designed to elicit and coach in others a fuller linguistic model.  By meta-modeling, we invite people into new levels and quality of framing.  Why?  To get us to find our gifts and to “go for it!” with ferocity.

Later in the subway, after Trinity and Morpheus escape the Matrix, Agent Smith turns to confront Neo.  From outside the Matrix, Trinity yells, “Run, Neo, Run!” And then, when she sees Neo turn to take the agent on, she asks, “What is he doing?”

Morpheus says, “He is beginning to believe.”

Ah, belief!  It takes belief—belief that we can challenge and change our matrix.  That is, we have to utter a profound and strong “Yes!” to our desired frames in order to activate our own powers within whatever Matrix of Frames that we have created.   When we do that, we transform mere “thoughts” into a dynamic meta-phenomena that actually sends commands to the nervous system.  We create “beliefs.”  We create beliefs which then activate the Matrix World of our skills.

The Metaphor

Every metaphor can only take us so far.  And so it is with “The Matrix” metaphor.  In the movie, the actors could move in and out of the Matrix.  We do not have that choice.  Given the frame constructing nature of our mind and nervous system, we can only think, feel, act, and relate via some framework.  We have a different choice.  We only choose between various Matrices.

We have been born inside of a Matrix, a matrix of frames—of ideas and beliefs that have ever so subtly infiltrated our brains and that now run our programs.  As “time-binders” we are culturalized to various frames of mind.  We have no choice about that.  But we do have a choice about which Matrix we want to live in.  We do, that is, if we know about the Matrix and have developed the Matrix entering and exiting skills.  Then we too can master our Matrices.

Where did you get your current frames of mind, your points of view, your mental styles for perceiving things?  Did you invent them all on your own?  Of course not.  Most of them you just absorbed from your family and cultural environment. You sucked them in as you breathe in air—paying no attention at all to the frames that people, groups, culture, and language itself set for the working of your brain.  And, given whatever Matrix you entered into, that controls the games that you can now play.

All of the Games that we play in life spring from the higher frames that are set in our minds.  We learnedMatrices of Frame empower us to use our mental and emotional powers efficiently, other Matrices sabotage our effectiveness, manipulate the hell out of us, poison our emotions, and imprison us.   Only through Frame Awareness can we begin to develop  the skills to play mindfully and elegantly.  Otherwise, the Matrix will have us— will imprison us.  to play these Games and to play within the rules of the Game.  Some

However, once we become conscious of our map making, able to jump logical levels in a single bound, then we can detect frames, challenge them, shift them, transform them, set and solidify new ones, and layer frame upon frame to build up a Matrix World that’s a lot of fun to live in.  Then we become a Frame Game Master.   Then like Neo, we develop the power to change the Matrix of our Frames at will.  That’s when we can bend the fabric of our subjective “reality” to do us service in living richer, fuller, and more vibrant lives.  We can then keep opening up a whole world of possibilities as the deceptions and illusions are exposed, and as we reclaim our powers of Matrix Making.

Seeing the Matrix in Code

After being in the Matrix and learning to maneuver in the constructs, Neo happened into the central computer on the hover ship.  There he found Cypher who was watching the Matrix.  On the screens before him was a flow of numbers.  Now he was seeing the Matrix in code.

“You look at it in code?” he asked.

Cypher said, “I don’t even see the code.  You get used to it.  All I see is blond, brunet, and redhead.”

We do this in NLP and Neuro-Semantics when we learn to see and hear the structure of the frames and the way we encode our representations.  Apart from the code, we experience things as behaviors, emotions, talk.  Content.   But after we learn how to deal with structure, we can see and hear the codehaving us.  It gives us true choice and control— kind of like the promise in NLP that we will learn how to “run our own brains” and access our own highest resourceful states. as people talk, act, and emote.  This gives us a higher level of awareness of understanding.  This leads to frame mastery and frees us from frames


This introduces the newest developments in the Meta-States of Neuro-Semantics, the models that began with Frame Games and that now includes The Matrix Model.  In Frame Games trainings we enter the meta-zone of the Matrix of our frames in order to develop skills and learn patterns for working with the matrices of our minds.  It leads to frame game mastery where we can explicitly work with the embedded frames of mind.  The games (states, actions, emotions, talk—all of the actions and transactions) that our frames format and structure.


Fromm, Eric.  (1968).  The revolution of hope: Toward a humanized technology. New York: Bantam Books.

Hall, L. Michael. (2000 second edition).  Meta-States: Mastering your higher states of mind.  Grand Jct. CO: Neuro-Semantics.