Meta Reflections #1-#14

L. Michael Hall

Meta Reflections #1


I’m not sure who first introduced the term meta into English as it is now used, but from my research I would guess that it was either Gregory Bateson or Abraham Maslow. They were certainly the two individuals who popularized the term in the fields of anthropology, psychology, and linguistics from which it was then adopted in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Brief Psychotherapy, Solution Focus Therapy, and Neuro-Semantics.

What does meta mean? Sometimes after a glass of wine I will playfully answer, “I don’t know, it’s over my head!” Or, “I don’t know, it’s above me!” Or, possibly, “I’m not sure that I’m up to defining it yet.”

But if you catch me during the day, I’ll say that the term from Greek and literally means “above, beyond, about, over.” When we put one experience at a meta-level to another and create a meta-relationship, the meta experience is above and beyond the referent experience: meta-communicating is communicating about our communications, meta-thinking is thinking about our thinking, meta-feeling is feeling about our feelings, a meta-analysis is an analysis regarding an analysis.

Because of this, we can use the term meta to refer to one thing at a higher level to another thing. Metaphysics refers to the physics that are beyond the field of physics. So a meta-state refers to a higher level state, a state that is above and beyond the first state.

Now in NLP, there is a point of confusion about this. I think Richard Bandler initiated it and that various people have picked it up. It is the erroneous idea that meta means to dissociation. Have you heard of that one? Of course, that’s pure non-sense. When you access fear about your fear, does that dissociate you from fear? Does that decrease your fear? Of course not! When you access an intense state of love of curiosity, does that reduce the curiosity or dissociate you? Of course not!

Yes we can access a state of “just observing” our love or fear or any other emotion, and then “just observe” that observing and access a gestalt experience of being less and less emotional and more and more objective. Yet even that is not “dissociation.” That term, in psychiatry refers to an unhealthy state trigger by trauma plus lack of ego-strength, and occurs as a defensive maneuver that we use to avoid representing and feeling ourselves fully in our bodies. That’s why I have argued for years that we ought to abandon the use of a psychiatric term (“dissociation”) for a resourceful state like witnessing or observing another state.

The bottom line is that meta does not refer to dissociation. And the process of stepping back from our immediate experience to rise up in our minds and our emotions to set a higher frame about it does not create dissociation. Moving to a meta-position is what Bateson called the meta-function and t his refers to creating additional thoughts-and-feelings about previous thoughts-and-feelings whether those “thoughts-and-feelings” were beliefs, decisions, values, intentions, understandings, memories, imaginations, and so on. In the meta-function we layer, level upon level, additional thoughts-and-feelings about something.

Actually, there’s no way to not do that. That’s because it is simply the way our kind of human consciousness works. We call this special kind of awareness, self-reflexive consciousness which means that we have the ability to step back, in our mind, and notice and reflect on ourselves and on the products that we create as well as the processes that we use in such creations. Now some of the higher intelligent animals can do the same, at least a level or two. Yet that’s it. Bateson’s work with the dolphins indicated two or possibly three meta-levels.

Yet with us humans this stepping back to reflect upon ourselves, this “going meta” to the products and processes of our consciousness, this meta-stating of our experiences is an infinite process. It never ends. Whatever we think, whatever we feel, we can always step back to think about it, feel about it. Korzybski described this as “an infinite regress.” He took that from the philosophers who for centuries that recognized this quality about human consciousness. In Neuro-Semantics, however, we call this the infinite progress. Why? Because it is this meta-process that allows us to continually progress. Practically, this means that there is always another step; that we are never stuck!

So given that we are forever rising up in our minds to create thoughts and feelings about thoughts and feelings, what does this moving up the meta-levels do? It creates the layers of our thinking or our meta-thoughts. And meta-thoughts are more “solid” and stable than the flow of thoughts-and-feelings through our minds. They are the kind of thoughts that we “hold in mind” and carry with us as our basic frameworks of understanding. We call these meta-thoughts by various terms: beliefs, understandings, knowledge, intentions, memories, imaginations, decisions, etc. In Meta-States we now have over 70 of these levels and using these we have meta-questions and the Matrix of our frames.

Going meta we draw conclusions, create abstract ideas called concepts, principles, premises, etc. and these become the meanings that govern how we read and interpret things. It is in going meta and “holding in mind” our frames (belief frames, value frames, understanding frames, etc.) that we generate the meanings and meaningfulness of our lives. And as we repeat these, the repetition transforms them into our habitual ways of perceiving and experiencing the world. This activates the part of our brain that translates our meanings into our physiology and hence performances.

Given that we are born without “instincts” and have to make sense of the world through the use of our self-reflective mind, we are inevitably meaning-makers. And it is this that makes the meta-levels of beliefs, values, intentions, etc. so important. We inevitably live in and from the meta-levels of our mind. This explains why the quality of our lives directly reflects the quality of our beliefs, understandings, intentions, decisions, identity, etc. It explains why our “problems” are primarily problems with our frames and why the solution involves recognizing the constructs we’ve built and which are limiting, sabotaging, and sometimes even toxic.

So, how’s your meta-life? How competent are you in rising up to make a meta-move that can frame and reframe your inner game so that you can enhance your outer game? In a word, that’s what Neuro-Semantics is all about and why the term meta lies at the heart and soul of what we do. Ready to clear out meta-muddles and master your meta-powers? Then stay tuned for the series of Meta Reflections.

L. Michael Hall

Meta Reflections #2



In the first Meta Reflection I defined meta, addressed the myth that it refers to dissociation, and briefly mentioned the meta-function, and our unique kind of consciousness. With that in mind, the key to understanding your mind and working with self-reflexive conscious is recognizing what the role of the meta-function and how to use it for taking charge of our brains in serve of our self-actualization.

Now the meta-function is one of the key concepts that Gregory Bateson introduced as he went about modeling various anthropological, sociological, and personal expertise. In modeling the complexity of communication, Bateson used meta to designate “about” and then presented what a hierarchic series of messages would look like.

Our hierarchic series will then consist of message, meta-message, meta-meta-message, and so on.” (Steps to an Ecology of Mind, p. 248)

He used this to model change, change-of-change, first level change, second order change, etc. He used it to make explicit the structure of schizophrenia. Regarding the complexities of communication, he wrote that

. . . by noting that messages may be about (or ‘meta’ to) the relationship between messages of different levels. The smell of the experimental harness may tell the dog that the buzzer will mean meat powder. We will then say that the message of the harness is meta to the message of the buzzer. But in human relations another sort of complexity may be generated, e.g., messages may be emitted forbidding the subject to make the meta connection. . . . The hierarchy of message and contexts thus becomes a complex branching structure.” (248)

He wrote this in the context of working out his Levels of Learning model. In this he was looking at the meta connection. That is, the connection between the different levels. He was looking for how one message modifies another message. He called this the meta-relationship and spoke about the “infinite regress of such relations.” (250)

All of that is pretty abstract, so let me illustrate. Let’s start with a primary experience of your bodily energy, health, and fitness. What do you think about fitness? What immediately comes to mind when you consider exercise? What do you feel? Whatever your answer, your thoughts-and-feelings about health, fitness, and exercise set your personal mental and emotional frames.

Suppose your first thought is, “I know I should, but it’s a lot of trouble to go to a gym, it takes a lot of time, plus it costs money that I could invest in other things.” And suppose that the emotional feel of it is a sigh indicating a state of feeling bothered by it all. Then with that state, you have reflexively set an emotional frame of being bothered with a dash of “should-ing.”

And just about the time you identify that this is your state about the state of exercising, you have yet another thought in the back of your mind about it, “When I have more time and money, I’ll d it.” Ah, yes, procrastination with good intentions about the bothered-should-ing state about exercising. That should reduce some of the negative energies and create a sense of relief from the first negative meta-stating as it lets you off the hook a bit.

But then your reflexivity kicks in again! “Am I just fooling myself or what? I don’t have the energy or vitality I once had; I really should exercise. I just wish it wasn’t such a bother.” Now you’ve meta-stated or framed yourself with some reality testing, some realistic questioning and some wishing. So this sets the next level of your mental-emotional attitude to this frame of mind.

In each of these moves, and the others that will arise, jumping a level and layering more thoughts-and-feelings creates the relationship of one state upon another. This is the meta-function of your reflexivity. Your meta-jump functions as setting a frame. It functions as modifying and modulating what is embedded within it. Each time you jump another level, you reflexively apply understandings and meanings to what you are experiencing. This makes your consciousness more complex, more layered. In the Meta-States Model, I have called this meta-stating. In Frame Games (Winning the Inner Game) I have called this framing, setting a frame, and creating your inner game. These are but different ways of talking about the meta-function.

Here I have described each of these in a linear way, as if we have one thought, then another, and so on, but your mind and mine is much more dynamic than that. What seems to happen in actuality is that our thoughts-and-emotions go round and round simultaneously and almost instantaneously. In the meta-function you circle an experience like health and fitness as if each iteration of your reflexivity was a planet circling a sun or electronics circling an atom.

Consciousness is that dynamic. No wonder the resultant state is an energy field, an energy field that creates a magnetic pull for whatever you have created. The primary state included and transcended by the circling thoughts now interact so that it invests various energies into it. If you have taken the APG Meta-States training, then you have been introduced (at least briefly) to the 16 interfaces of state-upon-state. These speak about the junctions of the meta-functions, how various states interface with other states.

Another metaphor that I’ve been using recently is of an onion. When you meta-state using your reflexivity power, you put layer upon layer of meaning. You create a Meaning Onion. Sometimes this is great, sometimes it is not. Sometimes it creates genius, expertise, and excellence. Sometimes it creates dragons, demons, gremlins, pathology, and disease. In either case, if you want to get to the core of your experience, you have to unpeel the layers. In The Ultimate Self-Actualization Workshop you will experience an process for this kind of unpeeling. Then you can get to the core of an experience.

As a therapist, getting to the core of a person’s meaning onion allows you to see how the client has misused his or her reflexivity to turn their energies against self. As a coach or modeler, getting to the core of meaning empowers one to see the structure and processes of meta-stating genius and enables you to replicate it or enhance it with even more resources.

In either case, you are working with the meta-function of the relationship of one state upon another. This is the vertical structure of self-reflexive consciousness that creates a whole matrix of frames about things. And when you know that, you have a process for quickly getting to the heart of things where you can unleash new possibilities.

December 1, 2006


This year’s NLP Conference this year in London was a tremendous success with 450 people attending the two-day event. Not only is that one of the few remaining NLP Conferences, it is certainly the largest. And it is primarily due to the faith and vision of one person, Jo Hogg. Here’s a head’s up for next year’s conference, it will be at Regis College again, November 25-27 2007.

This year I presented an introduction to the Wealth Creation modeling and training of Neuro-Semantics; next year I will present some facet of the Self-Actualization model on Unleashing Potentials.

While there this year, I had a dozen or so people come to the presentation, not so much for the content of Wealth Creation, but because they wanted to know more about Neuro-Semantics. The same thing happened in Avignon in southern France this past weekend, a couple people there told me about the same thing verbatim. They had read books and/or articles on the website and wanted to know more about Neuro-Semantics as a model and field.

Yet one person who I spoke with in London had a very unique way of describing his interest. He said that hewas interested in “Neuro-Semantic NLP.” “I’ve read the Matrix model and Mind-Lines and I’m just really fascinated by what you’re doing with Neuro-Semantic NLP.” I like that. Prior to that it was always Neuro-Semantics and NLP or Neuro-Semantics taking NLP to a new level. This was new, “Neuro-Semantic NLP.”

That evening I thought about it a lot and the next day I asked him what “Neuro-Semantic NLP” meant to him. “Well, it’s a new kind of NLP. What you’re doing with the idea of frames, levels of frames, multiple-levels of frames and how these dynamic frames are the logical levels and the higher states, it not only takes NLP to new places, but it gives NLP a whole new quality— you are dealing with meaning directly without getting it mixed up religion.”

Since that conversation, I’ve thought a lot about what he said. “Neuro-Semantic NLP” certainly acknowledges the dominate source of Neuro-Semantics, namely NLP. “Neuro-Semantic NLP” also says that what we are doing in Neuro-Semantics is giving NLP a new quality and focus, one focusing on our neuro-semantic nature. As a class of life that incorporates meaning neurologically in our mind-body system, meaning is not just a phenomenon of language and concepts, it is a holistic embodied experience. We know things in our body, in muscle-memory, and we use all of our biological senses and processing levels to generate meaning.

In London, I ran the Mind-to-Muscle pattern and talked about embodying meaning and several individuals who had very moving experiences with it, especially one sports coach, were thrilled about the power of closing the knowing-doing gap and taking what’s conceptual and installing it as procedural knowing in the body. He commented “this puts the K back in NLP” referring to K for kinesthetics. I think I’ll be making the comment from now on,

This is Neuro-Semantic NLP. We make it meaningful from the conceptual level all the way down to the kinesthetic level.”

For years, we Neuro-Semanticists have been saying, “This is coaching the body to feel an idea. It is enabling you to know in your body what you know and even believe in your mind.”

At the London conference I noticed that some of the directions that different branches of NLP are going really differs from our direction. Some are focusing on more esoteric and mystic things; some are focusing on the enogram and using that model over the Meta- Programs, others talk about “pure” NLP as if its not allowed to develop and evolve.

Then there is Neuro-Semantic NLP.

L. Michael Hall

Meta Reflections #3

December 11



What is the heart-pulse of the Meta-States Model?

Why is that so important?

The heart-pulse of the Meta-States Model deals with how your self-reflexive consciousness works and how you can work it to your health and effectiveness. It is about how you constantly, inevitably, and forever reflect back onto yourself. It is about how you reflect back onto yourself with more thoughts, emotions, and physiology. It is about how you apply one state to another of your states. Yes, I know. Stating it in that way doesn’t sound very sexy. Stating it in that way, in fact, sounds boring. But I promise you that it is not.

Reflexivity is the most peculiar feature of human consciousness and it is the very essence of our consciousness that causes it to differ from that of every other creature on this planet. That’s because when you reflect back, you move to a position above what you just thought or felt and as such, this means you have just stepped up to a meta-position. Now you are no longer in reference to the world, you are in reference to your state. You are in reference to your thoughts, to your beliefs, to your understandings, to your memories, to your imaginations, and so on. You have turned inward. And because of this, whatever you think and feel at this higher or meta-level sets a frame about whatever is below it.

Ah, and with that, the magic begins. With that, you classify the lower. You catagorize the lower, you embed the lower thoughts and feelings inside of a higher frame that defines the lower, that positions the lower, that determines what you will feel about the lower and how you will respond. And with that you enter into the magical land of framing and reframing.

An example. Say you have an experience wherein you worry about someone or something. You know that one don’t you? Recall a time when you worked up a good case of worrying. Shouldn’t be too hard to do. Most of us are pretty skilled at worrying, especially about things that never happen.

Now to create a meta-muddle out of worry. To do that, worry about your worrying! That’s right, worry that your worrying is irrational and that maybe you’re losing your mind or perspective, and that if this continues you’ll create an ulcer. Now fear that this may happen. Now dread it. Now hate that this is happening to you. How’s that for a sick, morbid, and very, very un-useful meta-state which is a real meta-muddle!

So far you have categorized your worry in the class of Worry (Worrisome things). Then you classified your worry-of-your-worry in the class of Dreadful Things. Then you put all of that inside of the frame of Things to Hate. Do that and you will create some black magic. You will create a complex meta-state that will undermine your health, peace of mind, and effectiveness. And with it you just might send enough messages to your nervous system to actually create an ulcer.

But what if you want to create some white magic? Okay, let’s start with worry again. Got it? Now step back and bring a state of Witnessing to the worry so that you categorize worry in the class of Things to Observe and Witness. How’s that? Now given that most worry is silly and un-useful and an unrealistic exaggeration, bring Exaggeration to the Witnessed-Worry. Exaggerate it to the most extreme situation that you can. Doing that you categorize witnessed-worry in the class of Humor. How’s that?

This describes how frames work, how meta-stating works, how reflexivity works. And it is magical. Yet, you ask, How can I say that? What does that mean?

It is “magical” in the sense that you can put almost anything in any category that you want — no matter how unsane, insane, crazy, irrational, stupid, idiotic, etc. that it may be. Consider fanatics who take a fundamentalistic attitude to whatever they believe in. They are great examples of this. A fanatic fundamentalist is someone who forgets, or doesn’t know, that “the map is not the territory” and so a fundamentalist actually thinks that his or her belief is true. So above the meta-state of a belief (a validity thought about a first thought), they believe in their beliefs. And they believe in their belief of their beliefs. All of this, of course, closes them to new or different information. It doesn’t matter if the person is a Christian fundamentalist, a Muslim fundamentalist, a Science fundamentalist, etc. The structure is the same.

So a fanatic fundamentalist might believe that they way to honor God is to kill people. They have to kill the abortion doctor who kills babies to show him or her that they are not supposed to kill. Right! The Muslim extremist has to kill innocent women and children as the 19 did on 9/11 because they are infidels and that will teach them to believe correctly. Right! The liberal fundamentalist wants free speech except where a Christian, Jew, or Moslem believer wants to speak up at school or have a rally on a state-supported university. Right.

The problem with these examples is not that these people have beliefs. Having beliefs is fine. We all do. The problem is that they believe-in-their-beliefs which leads them to assume that they cannot be wrong, cannot be corrected, and cannot have an open explorative conversation. In their meta-muddle, they cannot simply believe. Having over-loaded their beliefs with so much meaning and significance, even a question about their belief triggers them to feel attacked and so they get defensive about ideas in their heads or the heads of others.

The process of meta-stating involves bringing thoughts-and-feelings to an experience, to a state, and that creates categories of the mind —classifications, frames, contexts, meaning structures, etc. And when people do this without awareness that they are not even dealing with the world, just their own layers and levels of thinking-and-feeling —they confuse their internal mappings with the territory. Then they think their meta-thoughts and meta-feelings indicate what’s real. And when they get to that point, they are very deep in meta-muddle.

So what is the solution? First and foremost is to become aware of this. What categories have you created as you have meta-stated some primary experience that has become semantically loaded in a way that creates limitations and problems? Second, it is to dis-identify with the map (or belief). You are more than what you believe. Your beliefs are just human maps trying to map out something. The problem is never you as a person, the problem is always your frames. So stop identifying yourself with your frames and categories — dis-identify yourself and that will begin to give you some perspective.

Now most meta-muddles build up and get created in lightning quick speed. Really. In a nano-second you jump logical levels and bring various thoughts-and-feelings to your experiences (to your primary states or to some level of a meta-state). And just as soon as you do, the next thought —there you go again. Again, this is your reflexivity at work! And if you can begin to just observe it, you will be able to catch the process without judging and evaluating. And with that, you begin to develop an incredible skill that few humans have, a meta-skill that will enable you to unleash potentials like no other skill. Why? Well, that will be in the next Meta Reflection. See you then.

L. Michael Hall

Meta Reflections #4

Dec. 18


If you want to really see the power of a meta-move, consider the ability to step back from yourself. Step back from your thoughts, your emotions, your beliefs, your ego, your ego-investments, your history, your future, from all of your internal movies, fears, hopes, and dreams. When you do this, you are using and experiencing your own reflexivity. And while we may not understand all of the mechanisms involved in this, there is something amazing. Just asking you to do it facilitates it and suddenly, magically, wonderfully, you step back and begin thinking-feeling-experiencing-believing, etc. about it.

Stepping back from ourselves is reflexivity at work. And it is the very quality within our unique human kind of consciousness that reveals such a wonder within us. We can respond to our own responses! We can, as it were, step back from ourselves, or rise above what we have just created and think-and-feel about that. Philosophers have called this the infinite regress. No matter how far back you step, you can always step back yet another time. And then another. There’s no end to it. Noting this in Science and Sanity, Korzybski described it as part of the structure of multi-ordinality. And in Neuro-Semantics I have been describing this infinite regress as the infinite progress.

Infinite progress means that no matter what meta-muddles you or another create, you are never more stuck than your framing. It means that there is always yet another step you can make out of the muddle! Mark that down. No matter how deep your meta-muddles, there’s always the next step. You can always step up and gain a broader and more expansive perspective. And when you know that, when that is in your muscles as the knowing of muscle memory, then you will lose all fear of yourself and your insides. You will launch a whole new style of self-awareness and self-discovery so it becomes a truly exciting adventure.

Over the years, I’ve tracked with a person ten jumps, fifteen, even twenty as I explored with someone their “dragons,” their layers and layers of unresourceful states. I do that first to track, to understand the meta-muddles. And yet, no matter how dysfunctional, how toxic, how morbid, a simple meta-question or two and they can step out of the whole mess.

So do you like all of that? Is that the way you want to live your life?”

How empowering is all of that? Would you like to continue living that way for another five years?”

Simple questions, yet suddenly, they step back from it all, take a good look at it, view it through the lens of ecology, the frames of empowerment, the belief about life’s purpose, etc. and suddenly the pull of the meta-muddle loses all of its attraction. Suddenly the person is out in the clear with a larger meta-perspective.

The important thing about going meta to yourself and your experience is that you make that meta-move with acceptance and appreciation. It must be done without judgement. If you do it with judgment, then you bring threat and danger inside and that will result in self-abuse. Then, your “conscious mind” will not serve you well. Then, you might even make the unfortunate mistake of concluding that the problem is your “conscious mind.” Many in NLP have made that mistake, including the two co-developers.

Yet the conscious mind is not the problem. The problem is only that you have that misused your reflexivity, your infinite progress, and your power to meta-state. You have thereby made your conscious mind a problem. But you don’t have to. To avoid that and to fully access the power of your conscious mind, all you have to do is bring love, compassion, wonder, curiosity, appreciation, and such like to the products of your thinking-and-feeling. Then making the meta-move takes you to a whole new level of consciousness. Do that and you will begin to understand and feel how transcendence is built into us.

And we all feel it. People of all cultures, times, and places have known and experienced it and have tried to come up with an explanation for it —from magic, to religion, to aliens, past lives, parallel universes, etc. For me, I prefer to think about it more simply, as simply a psychological mechanism within our multi-layered brain. When Ken Wilbur found it, he recognized it as the holon structure that reflects our holographic brain (Karl Pribram) and so popularized the language of “transcending and including.” That is, when we meta-state ourselves with love, appreciation, wonder, etc., we transcend whatever state we’re in and move to a higher state, a state about the first one which now becomes our basic state. As we do that, we also simultaneously include the base state inside of the higher state.

Transcend and include. In transcending we rise up, access new resources of thought and emotion, and set those as our frame about the lower. In including we embed what was a problem inside of a solution. And because with each move, with each level of meta-stating, we keep transcending and including, this gives us the feel of something higher, something more, something yet to reach for, and because it is infinite – unending, the sense of transcendence inside of us feels like something divine, something spiritual. No wonder we all have a touch of the divine, of the sacred, of a higher intelligence.

And no wonder the meta-skill itself is such an incredible skill and experience. And when you develop it so that it is within your control, your meta-skills will powerfully enable you to unleash your potentials. The meta-perspective that evolves from this will enable you to keep growing long, long after childhood. So while every animal grows during childhood, we humans have the ability to keep growing in our mind, our emotions, our relationships, our hopes, our creativity, our learning — throughout all of our life.

Our meta-perspective enables us to see the larger picture of things literally, symbolically, with regard to time, with regard to consequences, with regard to morals, etc. The meta-perspective also empowers us to stay calm and cool under pressure. It enables us to keep our head when circumstances, events, environments, immediate stimulate would distract us or hook us.

The meta-perspective also puts you at Choice Point, the point were you can truly choose the direction and quality of your life. Have you been there? Have you stepped up to that place? This is the place where you become self-directed and the director of your experience. Here you bring in the authority from outside so that you can author the script that you’ll play your life by. So did you know that there are so many benefits in accessing a meta-perspective? Well, now that you do, may you transcend and include your states with the very highest and best resources in your own adventure of self-discovery!

L. Michael Hall

Meta Reflections #5

Dec. 25



If you’ve been following these Reflections on Meta here on Neurons, then you already know several things that “the old guard” of NLP (Richard Bandler, John Grinder, Steve Andreas, etc.) doesn’t. In writing this I don’t mean to pick on them, just to highlight where they are stuck and explain why they are now arguing for “pure NLP,” and discounting new developments and evolutions of the model. While I find that sad, I guess it is inevitable since it seems to happen with every organization and movement. I had assumed that perhaps it would be different in a field like NLP that’s supposed to recognize the difference between map and territory and that’s supposed to be a discipline of creativity.

Anyway, Steve, as John Grinder did before him, has now written a book in his attempt to discount, discredit, and explain away the “logical levels” within the Meta-States Model. Grinder did the same in his book on whispering in the wind (or was that whistling in the wind?) questioning “the proliferation of meta-states.” I’ve written several reviews about that which you can find on the Neuro-Semantics website. More recently Steve Andreas, less elegantly has done the same. And again, I have written two articles that you can find on the website. Andreas books are on “category and scope” which he doesn’t know involve the very processes within Meta-States (See “Blind Elephant’s Confusion #1 and #2).

Now, given that any and every meta response to yourself, to your thoughts, emotions, experiences, memories, imagination, and a hundred other things is a meta-state, and that if you don’t take charge of the process, you’ll create meta-muddles, I will here contrast Neuro-Semantic NLP from the old classic NLP of those individuals who haven’t come into the twenty-first century.

So what’s the difference? The difference lies in the confusion and non-sense of the idea of Sub-Modalities. Now if you are new to NLP, sub-modalities is the term used to describe the quality and the properties of our mental movies— the cinematic features that we use to code our movies. For example, in the visual system, we can edit our movies in a wide variety of ways: close or far, bright or dim, panoramic or narrow, snapshot or movie, are some of the sub-modalities. In the auditory or sound system, we can do the same: close or far, loud or quiet, coming from one side or the other or panoramic, etc.

These are the cinematic features of our representations. They are not sub to the visual or auditory modality. Want proof? Okay, good. Here we go. Think about your fifth or sixth grade when you were in elementary school. Go back there and imagine it again. Got it? Good. Now, is your picture of your childhood school days in color or in black-and-white? Is there any sound in that school? How big or small is your picture?

Do you not have to step back from the picture (yes, go meta) in order to answer these questions? Do you not have to move your head or body back so that you can get some perspective to notice the cinematic features? Ah, yes, you have to go meta to notice sub-modalities! Well, try this. Make the picture bigger (or smaller), make it brighter (or dimmer), put in some circus music in it, etc. Didn’t you also have to step back, and go meta, to shift or change the sub-modalities?

How large is your picture? What if you doubled it? What if you shrunk it to half-size? With each cinematic question, you are invited into a higher frame of mind about your representations. These questions invite you into the editorial level of your thinking and feeling so that you can then make changes to the cinematic features. It’s as if you are in the creation room of a movie editor and you have all the tools at your disposal to alter the film. You can delete all of the noise and irritating sounds. You can put into the movie the sound track of a great piece of music. You can put a sub-script on the movie to explain things.

At this editorial level to your movies, these cinematic features are not sub to the movie. They are the editorial features that you can alter and manipulate at will. From this higher position you can do all kinds of things to your pictures, sounds, and sensations. That’s why you can step back from any mental representation and alter it with a change of these qualities.

Also, what you are essentially doing when you do these cinematic alterations is meta-stating. Think about the cinematic distinction of making an image bigger or smaller. To make it bigger you are zooming in so that one facet of the picture totally fills the screen of your mind. Zoom in on the person’s face who is criticizing you. Zoom in further. Further! Zoom in until every tiny pore is the size of a baseball so the face looks poc-marked.

Dif you do that? If so, then you have just meta-stated a primary experience (an image of a face) with the conceptual idea (a meta-state) of “zooming in” so that it telescopes the skin of the face with “big, bigger, bigger yet.” You have brought the state, frame, category, and classification of “bigger” and applied it to a previous thought (image) of a face. Congratulations on some elegant meta-stating!

But don’t tell the old guard. Don’t tell Steve Andreas. Don’t let John Grinder know. You’ll just get shot down and insulted. Is it that they don’t know that every sub-modality shift is a meta-state process? Can they really not know that? Or is it that they don’t want to know that? Their linear reasoning goes like this, “A sub-modality is a ‘finer’ distinction in the rep. system, therefore if it is ‘finer’ it is smaller, and if it is smaller it is sub to the rep. system.”

While I don’t know the answer to that, I do know that Steve Andreas thinks that because bigger /smaller are members of the class of Visuals, they are “smaller” to the class and therefore a “scope.” To him, a scope is different from a category. And because of that, it has to be sub, hence sub-modality. He can’t even imagine meta-stating with something small or tiny and setting that as a new category as you just did.

I did? When did I do such a thing?” Just a moment ago when I invited you to start with the representation of a face and to zoom in on the face until it fills the entire screen in your mind, then zoom in again until a one inch area fills the screen. Doing that is meta-stating the idea of “big” (make it bigger, and bigger yet). Okay, do the opposite, zoom out of the face and see the person’s entire body, zoom out to see the person in a house, in a city, in a country, zoom all the way out to see the planet the person is on, then the solar system. Good. You just brought “small” (make it smaller) and applied it to the base representation.

Now what Steve Andreas really doesn’t know or understand is that the size or scope of something does not absolutely, and for all time, lock it into that category. Bright is a small unit in the visual category and is on a continuum with Dim on the other side. Yet though “smaller” to visual, we can meta-state bright or dim and bring it to a visual representation so that the visual representation is now a member of the class of bright or dim.

Impossible! Couldn’t happen!” One of the old guard says. Okay, then consider the optimist, the over-optimistic person who sees everything around him and into the future as bright. Hasn’t he put all visual representations into the category of bright? Consider the die-in-the-wool pessimist who knows that it is all futile, meaningless, that she is ineffective and helpless, and so has dimmed all pictures and representations of her world and her future. Hasn’t she put all visual representations into the category of dim even dark?

If you don’t know about meta-stating, about making the meta-move and that you can meta-state any piece of “thought” or “emotion” with any other, then you don’t know about our human psycho-logics and how we set frame upon frame of meta-levels to create our mental maps about reality. Sure it is not logical. And that’s the whole point. It is psycho-logical.

L. Michael Hall

Meta Reflections #6

January 2007




With the arrival of the new year our thoughts naturally turn to what the new year holds for us and what we’d like to do or accomplish in it. Given that, how can you use the meta response, meta-perspective, and meta-function for making 2007 a fabulous year? Is there a way? If there is, how can you take charge of your psycho-logics so that your own meta-stating truly enriches and empowers you in the new year?

I ended the last Meta Reflection mentioning our “psycho-logics.” This key concept in Neuro-Semantics refers to the “logic” that you create and which makes you and your life experience psycho-logical. By putting a hyphen within the word psychology, Korzbyski introduced this as a way to distinguish logics from psycho-logics. The first deals with the kind of logic (reasoning, understanding) that maps the external world. The second addresses the kind of logic that maps our internal world.

So what are our psycho-logics? How are we psycho-logical? We are because we are so free on the inside to set any state, thought, feeling, memory, imagination, decision, etc. as the frame for our states and experiences. I’m of course speaking again about the meta-stating process itself. Whenever we bring one mental state, emotional state, even physiological state to another, we thereby create a particular kind of logic to our own experience.

For example,

What is your particular logic about the new year?

What is your particular logic about new year’s resolutions?

What’s your particular logic about setting goals, raising your expectations, dreaming big, and inventing audacious visions?

To find out simply reflect about what do you think and feel about these ideas. What do you think and feel about the idea of a new year? This means that your thoughts-and-feelings about (i.e. your meta-state frame) any of these ideas functions as the category and classification. And because it does, its makes up your inner “logic.” Your psycho-logics. If you think, “I don’t like goals setting, it just sets me up for disappointment” then you are meta-stating yourself with “anticipated disappointment tinged with dislike” and so that becomes your frame-of-mind about it. It becomes the “logic” (your reasoning and meaning-making) about it.

What do you think about charting your future with some fantastic new goals?

What do you think about yourself as someone who acts on and makes your goals real?

What do you think and feel about the goals you sat last year?

This means that you have been proliferating meta-states all over the place (which answers John Grinder’s question about that! Hope you’re reading, John). And, depending whether your thoughts-and-feelings about these things are positive and supportive or negative and limiting— so are your frames, beliefs, decisions, attitudes, and state of mind. And that’s the thing about the meta-levels. When you go meta, rise up and set some thought, feeling, belief, category, decision, etc. at a higher level— it becomes your frame as in frame-of-mind or frame-of-meaning. In other words, your attitude.

Have you ever wondered how you create holistic “attitudes” that set your mind, body, habits, lifestyle, etc. in a certain way? The answer is simple: You meta-state those attitudes into existence. The stuff out of which you do that is the same stuff that make up all meta-levels: thoughts, feelings, and physiology.

This gives us the Neuro-Semantic definition of an attitude, namely, the composite of your multiple frames of mind about something. And knowing that, you now probably know how you can de-commission an old attitude and build up a new attitude. This is what lies at the heart of the pattern in Living Genius, Super-Charging Your Attitude.

So back to the new year —what’s your attitude? What’s the psycho-logics of your attitude? What would you like it to be? What attitude would be truly a new frame of mind for you that would support you in unleashing more of your potentials this year? In fact, what if you spent 2007 focusing more on setting attitude goals than you did on the traditional goals of more time at the gym, more time reading, more time with your loved ones, etc.?

You undoubtedly already know the reason. To win at the outer game of health, fitness, job, relationships, etc. you first have to win the inner game. And that’s what attitude is all about, isn’t it? Win at your attitude, super-charge your attitude, custom design the kind of attitude that you want to empower you through the challenges before you, and as you win the inner game, the outer game becomes a cinch. (This, by the way, is the theme of the book, Winning the Inner Game.)

That leads to some very different questions as you begin the new year—

What inner game am I not winning?

What inner game do I need to win in order to really succeed outwardly in the external game?

What frame of mind do you have about effort, discipline, patience, long-term commitment, mastery, problems, and the other facets that make up character and a winning personality?

There’s no escape from your own psycho-logics. Everywhere you go, everything you say, every emotion you experience is a result of your inner psycho-logics. Whatever reasoning, reasons, ideas, states, thoughts, feelings, etc. that you bring to your states sets the next level of logics for your mind and your emotions. The real question is this: What is the quality of your psycho-logics? And that’s critical because the quality of your psycho-logics is the quality of your life. Your life, in fact, can be no better than the quality of the frames that you set through your meta-stating.

As we all begin a new year, realizing more fully than ever before that you are entirely psycho-logical, do you like your psycho-logics? Do your psycho-logics enhance and empower you? If not, are you ready to engage a Neuro-Semanticist for updating and enriching your psycho-logics? We have lots of coaches and trainers who can do precisely that.

So, I raise a toast to you as you begin your new year —

Here’s to the most ecological and robust psycho-logics for you so that you can live the life that fulfills your inner dreams and passions!

L. Michael Hall

Meta Reflections #7

January 8 2007



Within the word meta is the height metaphor that implies going up, going higher, ascending, and transcending. That’s what gave me the idea originally of creating a consistent diagram of meta-relationships as higher and higher states that embed the lower states. I say “consistent” because prior to that not a single person in the field of NLP did so consistently. At the time (and still today for that matter) there was lots of mixing and confusing the depth and height metaphors.

Depth and height metaphors— let me say a bit about these. Knowing about them and their history helps to understand the meta-domain and the Meta-States Model.

The depth metaphor is the oldest metaphor in psychology. Sigmund Freud even called his modern invention of psychoanalysis “Depth Psychology.” Originally Freud wanted to grow up to become an archeologist. That was his first love—history, and especially Greek and Roman history, hence all of his use of mythologies to explain human experiences. So, as a frustrated archeologist, he decided to delve into the depths of human consciousness, to go deep down into the “primary processes” of the Id, and to unearth the instincts of sex, aggression, greed, and death. He delved into the depths of the unconscious latent meanings of dreams in his classic The Interpretation of Dreams (1905) that launched psychoanalysis as “the second force” in psychology (Behaviorism or Learning Theory being the first force and the Human Potential Movement the third).

So the idea of going down, which was already a predominant way of talking about the “deep” things within us (lots biblical passages in Proverbs uses it), became even more so as it was popularized by psychoanalysis. It’s no surprise then that most of us have grown up with the depth metaphor and use it to speak about our psychological forces. Yet the height metaphor is also one that we naturally use. We speak about our highest values and beliefs, developing our skills to a new and higher level, getting over things blocking and interfering our growth, and transcending to new heights.

This led Viktor Frankl to designate his psychology, “Height Psychology.” Prior to his imprisonment, Frankl had actually been trained in psychoanalysis and had published a paper in the Journal of Psychoanalysis. But in the concentration camp he found himself thinking more about meaning and purpose, about spirit and faith than about the dark forces of the id. From that he created Logotherapy, the first Height Psychology (Neuro-Semantics being perhaps the second).

The biggest example of confusing the depth and height metaphors to model human experience is in Connaire Andreas’ Core Transformation. There she uses the word “meta” and asks a powerful meta-question at the heart of the process. Yet she pictured it as going down deep to the “core” of things. The “core” process is actually a meta-stating of intention. “What do you want?” “And when you get that fully and completely in just the way you want it, what do you want that’s even more important than that?”

When I first re-modeled that using the Meta-States Model, I presented it in Houston Texas in a Master Practitioner training. As I did, I diagramed it so that with each higher state I put it above the previous one, and the next above that until we got to the top where we would access the highest and most transcendental state of all. Several people were there who had just learned Core Transformation and who with each new “core” state had, in their minds, gone down deeper and deeper. They later described the difference between the two metaphors. They said that the depth metaphor made them feel increasingly claustrophobic, even trapped into a smaller and tinier space, things seemed darker the further down they went. But the height metaphor took them up to a sense of greater expansiveness. It opened up more for them and created a sense of freedom.

That’s the funny thing about metaphors. Metaphors come with entailments. Mark Johnson wrote about this in Metaphors We Live By (1980) and then again with George Lakoff in Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things (1987). Entailments refer to the unspecified implications that come along with the metaphor. Often it is one of a metaphor’s entailment that prevents us from taking a metaphor very far and have to abandon it at a certain point.

When I decided to use the term meta in mapping out the meta-levels of states, I decided to do so consistently in the diagraming and formatting. So in speaking about one state above and beyond another state, all of the diagrams show the rising up above one state, transcending it, and then including the former inside of the higher state. This enables us to diagram the layering of thoughts-and-feelings, the evolving embedding structure of the systemic complexity of our mental-and-emotional states and our own reflexive feedback loop on the inside. That is, how you feedback to yourself more thoughts, more feelings, more memories, more anticipations, etc. whenever you reach one conclusion.

Yet in Meta-States, we do not only use the height metaphor. We also use the depth metaphor. We use it to describe the feed forward loop. That’s because have we have transcended a state and included it in a higher frame, we then feed that forward into the lower state and into our bodies. Feedback is information into our system, feed forward is the transformation of that information into energy which shows up as emotions, feelings, sensations, actions, speech and all of our external responses.

So the full loop of information in as feedback and energy out as feed forward maps the dynamic complexity of our mind-body system. Now we can follow the processes through the system. Now we can intervene in that system anywhere along the communication–energy loop.

This also means that we go up with information from the world and back to ourselves to create meaning, meaning as states and frames (the inner game). We then go down with energy to actualize that in performing the outer game. We go higher deeply so that we can feel the new meanings (Mind-to-Muscle) as deeply higher. All this is because of coalescing. Ah, coalescing— another mechanism that the Meta-States model introduced, and the subject for the next Reflection. Meanwhile, here’s to your powers of meta— may you always take the high road to self-actualization!

L. Michael Hall

Meta Reflections #8

January 15 2007



At a certain level, meta and meta-states is all about coalescing.

Did you say coalescing? What in the world is coalescing? What does it have to do with the word meta and what does it have to do with the Meta-States Model?”

As a bit of a review, I ended the last reflection describing the systems loops in the Meta-States model. This is critical for anyone who wants to learn how to “follow the energy” through a human system. This is something that we teach in Meta-Coaching and in Matrix Games. And this involves a different kind of thinking than strict linear thinking, it is systems thinking.

Feed back — information that we get back from the world and others “out there” beyond our nervous systems that we bring into ourselves. We feed it back to our mental representational movie. Then we feed back to ourselves our thinking about it as we reflexively think and feel all the way up the levels.

Feed forward — the transformation of the information into energy that we experience as we metabolize our thoughts, ideas, and meanings. We feed this energy forward level by level as emotions and then feelings which then activates the motor cortex to translate into speech, behaviors, skills, and all of our responses back to the world outside of ourselves.

Feedback is the information we bring in and that we create as we draw conclusions up the levels. Feed forward is the experience we have of that feedback as it becomes energy within our mind-body system. Every time you draw a conclusion and feed that conclusion back to yourself at the next higher level, you create more meaning for yourself. You thereby set a yet higher frame of meanings. In doing so, you extend and expand your meta-mind about the subject. Feedback takes you up the levels of beliefs and abstractions.

Feed forward is bringing the higher level thoughts, beliefs, and meanings back down. The best example of it in Neuro-Semantics is the Mind-to-Muscle pattern. Here we start with a high level concept or principle that we “intellectually” know is true, valid, and useful, something that if we could just get ourselves to do would make a positive difference in our lives. But we don’t. We know but don’t do. To therefore close that knowing-doing gap, we linguistically drive the principle down the system and layers of meta-levels so that we code it as a belief. Then we drive it down to become a decision, then a feeling state, then an action that engages the real world out there.

In the Mind-to-Muscle process, we are feed forwarding into our mind-body system information that we know at higher levels. Now it’s time to feel it. That’s why in the process of bringing that knowledge down, we coach the body to feel it. That’s why we have a specific process for engaging more and more neurological activity and processes, why we encourage exaggerating and gesturing. We are seeking to feed the information forward and in doing so let it transform into energy— physical energy in our bodies.

I like to describe this as how we metabolize our ideas. We do metabolize ideas, you know. Yes, we also metabolize food and transform what we call food into fuel. We eat fish and chips, pizzas and tacos and somehow the fish in the river and the potatoes in the garden become part and parcel of Michael, or you. It becomes part of our skin, eyes, fingernails, internal organs. We masticate the food, tear it apart, digest it, and then assimilate it so that what was other now becomes part of self. Metabolism describes a basic transformation process for how stuff “out there” comes in and becomes a living part of our biology.

There is also another kind of metabolism, a metabolism of ideas, thoughts, beliefs, understandings, experiences, and so on. We also bring in “mental” stuff out there in the world from the conversations we have with others, from the books we read, from the symbols we receive from our various cultures and we similarly masticate them as we think and reflect, as we tear the ideas apart and as we digest them and assimilate them into ourselves. For a century Gestalt psychology has been using this metaphor.

To take the metaphor to the next level, I’ve used it more explicitly to describe how we integrate ideas and make them ourselves. And this is where coalescing comes in. When we apply one state to another (joy to learning; calmness to fear, respect to anger, abundance to relating, etc.) and bring the two states together and allow them to become linked— they eventually coalesce. They eventually “unite or come together in one body or mass” so that the two become one. They two now operate as one.

That’s why a coalesced meta-state feels like a primary state. From the inside, we experience it as if it were one thing. This is what we mean by the word gestalt in Neuro-Semantics, the two have become a whole. And that whole emerges in the mind-body system as something more than the sum of its parts.

Coalescing is like the percolating of coffee. You take two separate things, coffee beans and water, heat the water and pass the water through the crushed beans and, presto!, Coffee. The coffee we then drink is something other than, more than the sum of these parts.

When we meta-state another thought or feeling to our current experience, what is high or meta to us doesn’t always stay as something separate and distinct. It often coalesces into the lower. From this emergence something new that’s a whole, a gestalt. The emergence of this gestalt creates a new kind of state, a gestalt state.

So when we feed our states, ideas, meanings, beliefs, etc. forward and texture or percolate our previous thoughts and feelings with it, we metabolize our meanings in such a way that we commission our body to feel them. We commission our neurology to experience them. We close the knowing-doing gap and incorporate (put into the body, corpus) or embody what we know in our mind. This creates the personal power of congruence. It enables us to get ourselves to actually do and perform what know and believe in our mind. This unites meaning-and-performance, neurology and semantics, and knowing-and-doing. It gives us the synergy of the whole. And this is what lies at the heart of self-actualizing our potentials. Are you ready to coalesce? Great, then here’s to your positive coalescing in 2007!

L. Michael Hall

Meta Reflections #9

January 22 2007



Part I

In Neuro-Semantics we have long been speaking about the land of Meta —Meta Land. This is the space within your mind where you go when you use your self-reflexive consciousness. This is where you go when you “go inside.” It is where you go when you experience the hypnotic state of trance. This is the space that’s very, very special to us humans— the upper decks of your consciousness, the place where you “store” your conceptual framework about reality, and all of your beliefs about yourself, others, time, and the world. It is the space that we call your Matrix. It is all the thoughts “in the back of your mind.”

In fact, while the two co-founders of NLP have completely ignored this region of consciousness, it has primarily been Robert Dilts who attempted to do so. Studying the “logical levels and types” of Bateson, Robert created an elementary model some twenty years ago that he designated, the Neuro-Logical Levels. With it, he offered a list of belief distinctions along with how much each level affected one’s neurology. The biggest problem with the model is that it has not evolved, grown, or developed over the past twenty years even though Robert has.

Within the Neuro-Logical levels, the first three distinctions occur at the primary state level. 1) The ability or capability to act, 2) the behaviors that result and 3) the context of some environment are all primary state distinctions. Above that we get to the meta-level distinctions: 1) beliefs, 2) values, 3) identity, and 4) spirit.

Over the years, numerous writers in NLP have shown that the Neuro-Logical levels is not actually a “logical level” system, and certainly not hierarchical. Wyatt Woodsmall was the first to do so, showing that Environment is not a a member of the class of Behaviors. Inside the class of behaviors, we do not put environment. Behaviors are not more psychologically “encompassing and impactful” than Environment.

Environment is a larger phenomenon than Behaviors. Even though behaviors may effect environment, behaviors do not drive or modulate Environment as the term “logical levels” suggests. Yet this model did encourage the thinking of many other NLP trainers about the meta landscape.

The Dilts’ list does provides a useful laundry list of items as a checklist regarding beliefs. After all, in Meta Land it is beliefs all the way up. And Robert Dilts has structured the levels to correspond to the basic indexing questions of where, when, who, what, why, etc.

6. Why? (big) Spiritual God/Universe Transmission

5. Who? Mission Identity Mission

4. Why? (Small) Motivation/ Beliefs/Values Permission/

Meaning Motivation

3. How? Process/Strategy Capabilities Direction

2. What? Actions/Reactions Behaviors Actions

1. Where? Opportunities/ Environment External context

When? Constraints

Robert (1990, Beliefs) has also noted the relationship between the landscape of Meta Land and what occurs at the lower levels of our neurology. “These different levels each bring a deeper commitment of neurological ‘circuitry’ into action.” (p. 210). That’s due to the feed forward communication loop (as noted in Meta Reflection #8).

Given this we can now step back and explore the contributions that Robert Dilts has made to our understandings of Meta Land. Not only did he initiate the first NLP mappings of this area, but he relied heavily upon Gregory Bateson’s work on logical levels. Robert highlighted that this is the land of beliefs —beliefs about our abilities, behaviors, and environment; beliefs about our values, beliefs about ourselves, our identity, our sense of self, and beliefs about our purpose and mission.

This means that the landscape of Meta Land is the landscape of beliefs. No wonder this area of mind works so differently from the outside world. Bateson contrasted the two as “the world of physics and the world of communication.” And in the world of communication, what you “believe” and say has tremendous influence unlike the effect of words and beliefs in the world of physics. Here the mechanism of a self-fulfilling prophecy works. Here we metabolize our ideas so that our ideas become self-organizing frames. This refers to how our mind-body system is always seeking to actualize what we think. It may or may not succeed at it, but it seeks to “make real” inside us and then outside us the messages we send our neurology.

No wonder we have to be careful what we believe. If we get a thought-virus installed in our thinking or live by old antiquated beliefs, especially beliefs that are limiting, diminishing, or even toxic and morbid, this can create all kinds of things, from illness, diseases to self-sabotaging behaviors and even destructive and pathological states.

Meta Land — the place where you live most of your life. There’s more to write about it, so till next week, may you assume the full powers of your creativity and make the landscape of meta in your mind-body system a wonderful place to live!

L. Michael Hall

Meta Reflections #10

January 29 2007



Part II

In the last Meta Reflection , I began describing the landscape of Meta Land. There I focused on it being the space of beliefs, where we create our sense of reality and so invent belief-frame within belief frame to create our beliefs systems. This makes Meta Land a place where our beliefs become self-fulfilling prophesies as they seek to self-organize our mind-body system to create externally the ideas and understandings.

Because of this, the landscape is a space of layers of belief frames and when we put all the belief frames around any given idea or experience, it makes up a matrix. A matrix refers to a “womb.” That’s because within a matrix things are given birth. It may be that we give birth to a concept by creating two axes. Then, inside of the quadrants or space of those axes we can give birth to the concept of the “flow” state or “the synergy of self-actualization.”

In Neuro-Semantics, I have used the metaphor of a matrix to create the 7+1 matrices of the Matrix Model. In doing so, I was able to combine all of the cognitive-behavioral factors that make up our reality into three process matrices and five of the developmental and lifespan factors that make up our construct of “self.” This gives us the five content matrices. When combined, it gives us a systems approach to thinking about, and working with, the mind-body-emotion system of a person or of a society.

This also is part of the landscape that makes up the meta territory. In this landscape you will discover the multiple matrices that you and others build around various experiences, ideas, and even words. Once we build these matrices and live within them, they become our reality. And that’s precisely why they feel so real. That’s why they become the very fabric of our sense of reality, why they become our assumptive reality, and why they feel so solid and unchangeable.

Sometimes I’m asked if there is or could be a third axis for the Matrix model. The first two are meaning (semantics) and performance (neurology) which also constructs the Self-Actualization Quadrants. And the answer is, “Yes, there is a third axis. It is self.” After all, when we ask “In Developmental psychology, what is it that develops over the lifespan?” The answer is the same—our mapping and sensing of our self, that, is our identity, how and with what we identify ourselves. Developmental psychology maps this in terms of our cognitive development, our psycho-social development, our sexual, cultural, moral, etc. development.

And what are all these factors, but facets of our self. For a fuller development of this idea of the third axis, see the article, The Matrix of the Matrix on the website. This means that the five content matrices are five facets of the development of self over the lifespan: my sense of self as a person (Self), my sense of self in terms of competencies, skills, and performance (Power), my sense of self in relationship to others and to various cultures (Others), my sense of self as existing in temporal space (Time), and my sense of self in the larger environment and in all the universes of meanings (World).

This is the landscape of Meta Land. And because the Matrix model presents this as a systems model which encourages systemic thinking, to work with this facet of Meta Land, we have to shift from linear to non-linear, from either-or to both-and, and think in terms of our mental-emotional energy moving through the Matrix as a system. This is where the communication loops of feed back and feed forward also come in enabling us to follow the energy through the system.

What is the space where you live, in your mind, when you use your self-reflexive consciousness? It is the Marix of your frames of meaning that you construct about all kinds of things. And now we can follow the energy that is incorporated in it and the energy that follows through it. We can follow the cognitive energy by which you can transform your inner reality so that it begins to exist externally. And with the Marix model, we can now follow that motivational energy as you metabolize and embody those meanings.

Meta Land is the place of your meaning matrices, all of them, the thousands of them. It includes the positive ones which enhances you and your self-actualization. It equally includes the negative ones which imprison and diminish you. In all of this, you like me, are a creator. Because you are by nature a meaning-maker, you have some incredible powers to create meaning— to call meaningful worlds into existence. You can also misuse these powers and create worlds of trivial or bland meaning, or worse, meaningless worlds. Knowing this is one thing, knowing how to effectively use your creative powers that will enable you to self-actualize, that’s another. That is the theme of Day 1 of the Ultimate Self-Actualization Workshop and the theme of the next Meta Reflection.

L. Michael Hall

Meta Reflections #11

February 5, 2007



Part III

As we continue exploring the landscape of Meta Land, there’s another structure, or to be more precise, “structuring dynamic” to mention. I’m now referring to what we call in NLP, Meta-Programs. Ah yes, meta-programs. There are numerous ways to speak about this dimension. In various NLP writings these are described and labeled by a wide variety of terms:

perceptual filters

thinking patterns



Metaphorically, we think of meta-programs as the kind and color of glasses that you wear as you see and perceive things. This is the most common metaphor for a meta-program. What kind of glasses are you wearing?

The simplest of all meta-programs is the classic optimist / pessimist filter, “Is the glass half empty or half full?” Which ever you see, it is just that, a way of seeing things. And in either case, the amount of liquid in the glass is the same. Yet precisely because the way you see it differs, then so does your reality. If you see it as half empty, then you are looking for what’s missing, what is not there. If you see it as half full, then you are looking at what is there. This gives us the classic pessimist and optimist in “personality.” That is, the way we filter, sort, and think about the same object creates different ways or styles of feeling, relating, talking, and behaving— the components of what we call “personality.”

Now as part of the meta landscape of the higher regions of your mind, your habitual meta-programs play a dominant and even a determining role in how you experience yourself, others, and the world at large. No wonder we often relate our meta-programs to our sense and experience of ourselves as “persons,” hence “personality.” I put these terms in quotes because they are highly liable to misled us. Without quotes, we easily fall into the seduction of to think of them as externally real, as objective things. They are not.

Personality” is not what you are, it is how you function. It refers to how you do “personality.” This separates Neuro-Semantic NLP from all of the “typology” models (Myers Briggs, Taylor Johnson, the MMPI, the four Greek personality types, etc.). Typology assumes that people come in types or kinds. “She’s X type of person,” “He’s got Y personality.” Assuming that people are a certain way, typology presupposes that personality is fixed, determined, fated. This is actually a case of over-generalizing. We take some way of operating, turn it into a “trait” and then assume that that is all the person is and that they cannot be otherwise.

The typology approach pretty much locks out change, especially personality change or transformation. In Neuro-Semantic NLP, we start with some very different assumptions. As with classic NLP, we start with the fact that people operate in states and operate from states and that when we keep repeating a state, the habituated state becomes a way of being in the world, a way of functioning. This solidifies things so that we then operate through the lens of that state consistently and regularly.

And, when we do that for months and even years, we essentially meta-state that state with all of its ways of thinking and feeling so that it becomes our gestalted meta-state or meta-program. For example, if you keep accessing the state of looking for sameness and do so repeatedly for years, you may meta-state the sameness state so that it becomes your glasses by which you filter and sort for everything. Then the perceptual lens you use to process the information from books, conversations, work, hope, dreams, fears, etc. will be the sameness lens. We could say that you then become a sameness person. You live consistently in the sameness state and always talk about how things are “the same” or similar. Doing so makes you good with people and quick to get rapport. And personality-wise, you would probably dislike, even hate, conflict, differences, and disagreements.

Or, you could use the opposite end of that continuum, and always be access the state of looking for differences. If you meta-state differences in the meta landscape of your mind so that you only and always sort for differences, then you would develop difference glasses and that would put you in a state of differing. This would make you good at seeing what’s left out, what’s not accounted for, and how thing are not right, how people are wrong, what’s missing, etc. It’s this state that supports creativity and innovation and conflict, disagreement, and lack of rapport.

Each meta-state that has solidified into a meta-program has its strength and weakness. And each operates on a continuum. In Meta-Coaching, we have made this the very heart of self-actualizing new potentials. We do that by focusing on expanding meta-programs. This differs from merely changing a meta-program or trying to become the opposite. In expanding the meta-program in the meta landscape, you expand your perceptual range and that activates a wider range of states and possibilities.

And as a consequence of this, the expanding of meta-programs expands your sense of self and personality. At the lowest level it develops your personality and at the highest it absolutely transforms your personality. And it does so, not by eliminating any meta-program or state, but by expanding and transforming such.

In Meta Land, your meta-programs represents the ultimate coalescence of your meta-states. That is, as you set states as your frames of mind, they become your very perceptual lens so that you see the world in a certain way. With each, you thereby create strengths and competencies and limitations. That’s why expanding to the full range of a meta-program is such a generative and transformative experience. That’s why also, in the Self-Actualization Workshop one of the key ways we facilitate actualizing our highest and best is through the expanding of our meta-programs. And that’s one of the key benefits of the Ultimate Self-Actualization Workshop, the transformation of personality so that you can reach your full humanness and experience more peak experiences.

L. Michael Hall

Meta Reflections #12

February 12, 2007



Part IV

In the beginning of NLP, Richard Bandler used the following example of a belief as he proposed changing beliefs with sub-modalities:

Think of a strong belief like ‘I believe the sun will rise tomorrow.’”

But is that really a good example of a strong belief? I don’t think so. Are your beliefs like that one? Do your strong beliefs follow that format? Aren’t your strong beliefs more emotional and personal than that? Are they not more like the following:

I believe that people are human beings who should be treated with respect.” “I believe that continuous learning is a key to success.” “I believe that in loving my children and spending quality time with them.”

These are strong beliefs. Believing that the sun will rise tomorrow is not a strong belief. Come to think of it, it’s not even very much of a “belief” at all. It is more of an understanding. It is conceptual knowledge. The sun coming up tomorrow is something that we know, not that we believe. After all, what would be the opposite if you didn’t believe it? That the sun will not rise? Do you believe that? Does anyone? How much emotion goes into that? How personal is that?

The idea of the sun rising is a metaphor regarding how we experience the beginning of a new day. It actually does not rise. Since the earth circles the sun, the earth “rises.” But even if we take the phrase about the sun rising at face value, this is knowledge content about the everyday life on this planet. It is not a strong personal belief about what you can, or cannot, do. That’s why, as an understanding or fact of knowledge, “I believe the sun will rise tomorrow” is an inadequate comparison to a belief.

Bandler would then use that phrase to invite a person to notice how he or she represents the sun rising, notice all of the sub-modality features and then to use them to encode a belief that the person wants to strongly believe with the same cinematic features. But beliefs are not just representations vividly encoded with the qualities of reality. Today with all of “the movie magic” that’s available through computer generated images we can see and encode all kinds of things as real. Yet no matter how many times we repeat the “real” representation, that in itself, will not turn our representations into a belief.

To turn a representation into a belief we have to make a meta-move to a higher level and set a frame of confirmation about the representation. We have to confirm what we are representing as true, real, factual. We may even need to layer our evidences upon the representation so that we have proof that we have the right to confirm it as true.

All of this highlights the different dimensions of our mind. We begin with the representational level and then move up to the levels. The first level up is the meta-state level. At this level we bring various other thoughts-and-emotions to our first ones and this begins to layer our consciousness making it richer and more complex. With regard to beliefs, we bring confirmation thoughts-and-emotions to our representational thoughts-and-emotions.

It is at the meta-state level that we qualify and texture our states. The quality of our beliefs, the quality of any of our states, the quality even of the coding of our representations are all state-about-states or meta-states. This explains why the Meta-States Model is unique in being able to explain the structure of “magic” in NLP. All of the “magic” of NLP are meta-stating processes. Meta-Programs are coalesced meta-states. All of the Meta-Model distinctions about language and linguistics are meta-stating processes regarding the meta-representational system (language). All of the cinematic features that enable us to add finer distinctions and textures to the movies in our mind (sub-modalities) are meta-stating processes.

Above and beyond the meta-state level is the gestalt dimension. Something holistic occurs when we meta-state. As mentioned in Meta Reflection #8 (January 15), meta-states coalesce. They do not stay “meta” but as a systemic process facilitate the emergence of systemic processes —gestalts. Something “more than the sum of the parts” emerge, a whole, a larger phenomena that cannot be explained by adding all of the parts together.

At the gestalt level, we experience the layers of states and frames and all of the multiple meta-levels as one thing. As one state. As one experience. Courage, as a gestalt state, is experienced as a single focus and state and not in terms of all of the ingredients that go into it. So with self-esteem, proactivity, responsibility. These complex states are a holoarchy made up of multiple holons (wholes that are parts within larger wholes) yet which we experience as a single phenomenon.

There is, however, yet another dimension of the mind. As human beings, we can also create, process, and operate from concepts. At the highest level of the mind, we have conceptual models, paradigms of reality, intellectual and abstract understandings about things. These are often highly abstract conceptions— hypotheses, premises, presuppositions, computations, etc. They are things like “the sun will rise tomorrow.” “E = MC2.” “Relationships depend on respect.” Intellectually we know, understand, accept, go with, and operate from these high level abstract principles. But emotionally these do not seem to have much if any somatic affect in our bodies.

So these are not beliefs so much as they are concepts and conceptual reality. They describe another dimension of mind. In the meta-landscape of your mind are these dimensions.

L. Michael Hall

Meta Reflections #13

February 19, 2007


It was early in the days of the development of the Meta-States model that I got interested in meta-pleasures. Why? How did that come about?

Strangely, it arose from the study of resilience. I say strangely because the state of resilience arises when there is pain, when there is a disappointment, a set-back, a trauma. I researched the literature of people who had been through hell and yet bounced back to participate fully in life, to contribute, etc. What I found was that they were able to enjoy life as part of the resilience process.

This was the surprising thing to me. The great majority had learned to find pleasure and joy even during the time when they were in the process of bouncing back. That is, it was not the case that they bounced back to life and vitality and then rediscovered joy in their life. It was rather the case that while in the midst of their pain, trouble, trauma, set-back, knock-down, they had rediscovered pleasures.

The most radical example that I can give you is that of Viktor Frankl. Even in Hitler’s death camp, he and his colleagues were able to find and enjoy humor. They were able to take pleasure in the smallest of things, to appreciate, and to acknowledge value. By grim jokes, small acts of human kindness, the smallest delights they were able to experience a kind of meta-pleasures even in the concentration camp.

Nor was this the exception. The people with the most robust strategies for resilience, for bouncing back to life with vitality, those who were able to powerfully return to living with purpose and passion, were those who were able to experience pleasure even in the midst of their pain. As they were able to keep the hurt, pain, or evil out by refusing the three p’s of learned helplessness (personal, permanent, pervasive), they were also able to bring in joy, pleasure, and value.

It wasn’t enough that they could protect themselves from taking a distress and making it about themselves (personal), forever in time (permanent) and about every facet of life (pervasive). They were able to do more. They were able to positively fill their minds, hearts, and lives with joys. And in doing this they were able to take the simplest of things and endow it with rich and robust and significant meaning. And that is the structure of meta-pleasures.

That led to the Meta-Pleasure Pattern that we run in the Meta-States training, Accessing Personal Genius. We begin with a simple pleasure: walking on a beach, listening to music, baking break, walking, running, reading a good book, enjoying a conversation, watching a sunrise, etc. and we begin asking the semantic questions as meta-questions: What does that mean to you? How is that valuable to you? What pleasure do you get from that? How is that enjoyable?

Meta-pleasures are the pleasures that we get from our pleasures. For example, with taking a walk in nature. People typically will say that the pleasure, meaning, value of that is time alone, relaxation, renewal, in touch with nature, etc. And when we take each of these as a meta-state of pleasure about the first level pleasure, we get even higher level pleasures: connection, rejuvenation, sense of purpose, alignment, etc.

In APG we typically encourage people to run this pattern on ten activities that they find easy to do, for which they are naturally motivated, and which create positive results for them. The reason? To model out their own unique meta-pleasures, meta-motivations. We say that this is a motivation pattern in that it uncovers the person’s intuitive and natural higher values and how he or she can add semantic pleasure or value to something. The significance of that? If you know how to meta-pleasure yourself around some activities, you can take charge of this process and begin to spread the pleasure around in your life.

We do this in accessing personal genius because genius is characterized by joy. The totally absorbed state is one of “flow”—delight, fun, enjoyment. And when you semantically load an activity with meta-pleasures, you answer the motivation question. That is, you don’t have to “work” on your motivation. Motivation is built in.

Long before I came up with that using Meta-States, Abraham Maslow described meta-motivation as the level of motivation that naturally occurs when we gratify the lower needs and move into the growth or self-actualization level of experience.

Once we’ve solved the lower problems, the material problems, empirically I insist on the tremendous role of the meta-motivations— the search for truth and excellence and perfection and beauty and justice and ultimate order and ultimate simplicity and harmony and species-hood and brotherhood and the like.” (A Memorial Volume, 1982, p. 37)

What Maslow specified as the specific meta-motivations that enable to be at our best and unleash our deepest potentials are the very things that most people naturally talk about when they explore the pleasures-of-their-pleasures:

Truth, excellence, perfection, beauty, justice, order, simplicity, harmony, love, compassion, cooperation, collaboration, etc.

Interesting enough, these are also our values, our highest values. Maslow called them the being-values. He used being for the realm of life that operates by abundance, growth, self-actualization, and non-insrumentalism. That is, we seek such for themselves. They are not mean-values, but end-values. They are valuable in and of themselves; they are inherently desirable and delightful. They are their own reward.

So, how’s your meta-motivation? What have you semantically loaded with so much meaning, significance, value, and pleasure that you naturally and inevitably and intuitively give yourself to it and it’s “no problem?” What would you like to meta-pleasure so that you have more pleasure in your life, more vitality, more enjoyment? How’s your pleasuring and meta-pleasuring skills? How competent are you at meta-pleasuring yourself and keeping yourself in a delightful and appreciative state even when things aren’t going your way?

Here’s a key secret about unleashing your potentials —load it up with lots of robust meta-pleasures. Do that and you’ll have all the motivation that you’ll need because it will be inherently fun, enjoyable, and delightful no matter how much effort and energy you have to put into it!

For more about Unleashing your own self-actualization — check out the following:

L. Michael Hall

Meta Reflections #14

February 26, 2007


If your levels of meta-pleasure define the joy, delight, and basic happiness of your life, then do you know how to uncover the meta-pleasures that you already have? And do you know how to begin to spread the pleasure around? That’s what the Meta-Pleasure Pattern in Meta-States is all about, which was the subject of the last Meta Reflection (#13).

Let me unpack that a little further. What this means is that there is a logical level in your mind that we can call pleasure, joy, enjoyment, delight. After all, you have the ability to delight yourself in things, do you not? And that’s a cognitive-affective response. And if you can bring thoughts-and-feelings of delight about something, then you can use this to meta-state many other things with delight. You can access delight as a state of thoughts, feelings, and physiology and set it as a frame on lots and lots of things.

When you come to think of it, isn’t this one of the meta-differences between us? Look around at your family and friends and make a list of all of the things that they delight in which you do not? Does someone delight in jogging every day? In cleaning the house to make it impeccable? Do you have anyone in your family or friends who loves mathematics? Puzzles? Working in the garden? Cooking? Handling receipts? Being licked in the mouth by a dog?

What pleasures do they have which are your tortures?

Which of their pleasures would be your distress?

And vise versa, which of your pleasures would turn them off and be their stress?

Meta-pleasures also show the principle that all of our higher logical levels are but “facets of the same diamond.” What I’m calling pleasures and meta-pleasures can also be viewed through the lens of values, meanings, significances. This explains why Neuro-Semanticists will often use the Meta-Pleasure pattern to uncover a person’s “values,” that is, what a person values as important and significant. Your meta-pleasures are the experiences and meanings that you value; they are your values.

When I now tie this to Self-Actualization Theory as developed by Maslow, we begin with the fact that we humans experience levels of motivation. In the area of the lower needs, our motivation is mostly an away-from motivation. At this level our “needs” are deficiencies. We need, and are motivated, because we lack something essential. If you’ve ever been without food for two-weeks, then you truly know about hunger. It only takes a couples days to feel the need for water. And only seconds for air. We experience these survival deficiency needs with desperation. And when the need it gratified, it goes away.

So with our lower needs for safety and security, love and affection, and esteem and regard. When we don’t have what we require, our whole organism desperately reaches out to get it. And when the need is gratified, the need goes away. This describes deficiency motivation.

This, by the way, seems to be the motivation that most managers, business owners, politicians, economists, etc. operate from. Assuming Theory X about human nature, they build structures in business, economics, society, etc. that assume people are motivated when they experience a lack or a threat and lose their motivation when there’s no lack or threat. [Douglas McGregor (1965, The Human Side of Enterprise) introduced Theory X and theory Y of human nature in management and business, Maslow later added Theory Z.]

Yet there is a higher motivation. At the top of the hierarchy of need prepotency, Maslow put the growth needs which he also called self-actualization needs, expressive needs, and being needs. These describe a different kind of motivation, abundance motivation. Here we do not “need” in the sense of deficiency, we “need” in the same of expressiveness— we need to express ourselves, grow, self-actualize, and to “be.”

The difference of this motivational level is that here gratification of the need does not make it go away. Gratify the self-actualization needs and you want more! Needs at this level cannot be satisfied. Instead, satisfaction increases capacity! This is a toward-motivation, toward all that we value and toward all that fulfills our highest nature. So unlike the negative addiction that occurs with the lower needs, here we experience a positive addiction that makes us better, more resourceful, more creative, more of who we can be. This is meta-motivation.

And it is meta-motivation, as a high level toward motivation, that truly drives and facilitates the unleashing of potentials. Certainly, we unleash capabilities via deficiency motivation. After all, “Necessity is [still] the mother of invention.” Yet above and beyond it is curiosity, play, experimenting around, stumbling upon fortunate accidents, etc. that unleashes our highest potentials. The fact is that those who persist in creativity and innovation in continuing to create year after year are not those driven to it by lack and need, but those who create for the fun of it, for the curiosity of it, to just explore what is there and what’s possible. At this level, you can never lose your motivation.

Meta-motivation describes living for and pursing the being-values for the sheer joy and experience. When we move to this area, we begin to experience end-values. We experience and enjoy things, events, and people for themselves, without any other motive. Rather than experiencing something as a means-value, as a means to get to somewhere else, we enjoy the experience for itself. In fact, we can then even develop the ability to sacralize anything, that is, transform mean-values into end-values.

At the level of the meta-motivations, the more you devote yourself to one of the being-values and gratify that value, the more you want it. The motivation does not go away. It does not weaken. In fact, it grows stronger. You grow stronger. You develop more capacity for it—truth, love, beauty, synergy, cooperation, collaboration, peace, excellence, goodness, etc. Now your unleashing not only creates a sense of fulfillment, but leaves you with the sense of goodness, “The world is good.” “Life is good.” “Life is meaningful.” At this level, what we call motivation is no longer a problem. It is just the way we move through life. Whereas once we might have had to “work on our motivation,” motivation is now a given. Now we experience it as life passion, vitality, meaningfulness, inspiration, even “spirit.” So, how’s your meta-motivations? Are you ready to tap and unleash your mea-motivations?