Meta-States As Advancing NLP Into the New Millennium

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.

Many people are just now hearing about Meta-States.
Many are just discovering Neuro-Semantics.
What are these NLP developments?
Where did they come from?
What can you do with them?

  • What can you do with Meta-States?
  • How can you use the Meta-States model to improve the quality of your life or to enrich your skills in the everyday world?

Mostly we can awaken our executive levels of mind to create the highest and most generative transformations in the process of modeling and installing expertise. If NLP introduced a model with lots of techniques for “Running Your Own Brain,” Meta-States took the next step in the evolution of greater resourcefulness by establishing the pathway for managing the higher levels of mind.

With Meta-States we can now handle and direct the vertical jumps and loops that reflexive consciousness creates. This gives us the secrets for detecting and communicating with the presuppositional frames that govern experience. Now we can create “magic” at meta-levels as described by Gregory Bateson which allows us to sometimes generate whole system change with one fell swoop. Bateson talked about this as the mathematic punctuation of experience using brackets. Korzybski talked about the same neuro-mathematic features so essential in engineering better quality experiences.

Indeed, Dr. Bob Bodenhamer has experienced numerous occasions of leading clients to totally reframe a long history of unconscious parts in one major intervention. Whereas in Time Line Therapy™ one theoretically must uncover the entire gestalt of limiting perceptions and beliefs, with Meta-States a person can access a higher level resource and “bring that to bear” on the “negative state” that represents the entire gestalt of the problem state. In doing this, one can totally reframe and “blow out” the negative state. This is the one fell swoop of Bateson. It means that you do not have to “uncover” and reframe each negative memory in the gestalt.

Of course, with people who hunger to know “why” before they give themselves permission to reframe their past, sometimes you need to do some internal searches to uncover enough of their memories. This lets them know “why” they have developed the neuro-linguistic structures that they have. Once they have enough information to understand why, the Meta-State Practitioner can simply lead them to access a higher level state and bring it to bear on the negative gestalt resulting in totally reframing their lives. And it’s this simplicity that adds to its magic.

  • And what can we do with all of this?
  • What practical applications can we put this to?

We can detect more than just the primary mind, we can detect the higher levels of mind. And with that we can model the full structure of expertise. Knowing even a simple strategy like the spelling strategy in NLP without knowing and being able to replicate the higher frames-of-reference within which that strategy can very well prevent us from fully replicating the excellence.

  • What does the expert speller believe about self, spelling, language, etc.?
  • What values and decisions govern the process?
  • What understandings govern his or her thinking?
  • How does the expert feel about the experience?
  • How does it affect the expert’s identity?

To date, Meta-States has provided much more precision in understanding personal resourceful states like resilience, courage, self-esteem, etc. These arise as gestalts —larger level configurations—that arise from layers of thoughts and feelings about other states. We have also used Meta-States to model selling excellence, the conversational reframing patterns (“Sleight of Mouth” patterns) or Mind-Lines, the Wealth Building strategy, the Defusing strategy, and others.

While Meta-States arose from NLP, the Structural Differential and Theory of Multiordinality of Korzybski’s General Semantics, Bateson’s Levels and meta-function, it also fits precisely with the field of Meta-Cognition that’s pioneering research and technology in memory, learning, artificial intelligence, etc.

Many NLP trainers who have discovered the Meta-States model have said that it is a larger encompassing model, a model that outframes NLP itself. In this, they have found that Meta-States provides a more precise and elegant (needing fewer distinctions) approach to NLP. They have noted that NLP itself is a meta-discipline. From this has arisen numerous writings, projects, and patterns showing how:

  • Most NLP Patterns are meta-stating patterns or processes— they involve going meta and from a higher frame of reference bringing a resource to bear upon the limitation.
  • Meta-Programs are solidified Meta-States. When you keep framing your thinking in a particular way, it eventually becomes a solidified and stable meta-program for attention, hence a perceptual filter or sort.
  • Submodalities do not exist as a “sub” level at all, but as meta-modalities which explains why Associated/ Dissociated, Global (zoom out)/ Specific (Zoom in). The term “submodality” mis-labeled and mis-directed our attention away from the meta-frames that actually govern the encoding of information. “Distance,” “volume,” “intensity,” “space,” — these are not smaller pieces of sensory-based representations, they are nominalizations about higher evaluative processes and evaluations. You can’t put these things in a wheelbarrow. They are higher judgments and concepts of the mind. And when you know that—it gives you many of the secrets of “submodalities.”
  • The Meta-Model, which initiated NLP, simply provides a model of the linguistic markers of the higher level symbols (language) that we use to frame and map our realities. The language of the generalizations and distortions in that model provide the meta-representational mapping about Meta-States.

Practical or Theoretical?

Practical? You bet. Theoretical? Yes, definitely.
But that’s an either/or question. Meta-States and Neuro-Semantics offers both.
After all, what good is any information if you do not have a solid theoretical basis for understanding what you’re doing and why it works? A full “model” has to not only have a set of variables (elements, components, pieces) and a set of techniques (things that it can do), but a complete “model” that we can use to forecast and predict things… so that we can continue to refine and tweak it. It has to also have a theory and a set of theoretical guiding principles for how to use it.

The “magic” that transforms meaning and hence emotion, behavior, and personality is great. But the magic without the book of magic — that provides the structure of the magic, the secrets of that magic, and an explanatory model only dooms us to keep repeating the old magic, or to stumble upon new pieces without understanding of how they made the discoveries in the first place.

Meta-States makes NLP Conscious

For years Bandler and Grinder set the pace in valuing (and over-valuing) “the conscious mind.” They also ran a “Sleight of Mouth” Pattern on the entire community by asserting that they had no theory, but a model. Then, when nobody was looking (or so they thought), they snuck in the theoretical basis of NLP in “The NLP Presuppositions.”

More recently Bandler has put out advertisement about DHE to the effect “do not bring pencil and paper,” you won’t need it. “The conscious mind is a dickhead; I don’t trust it; it will only mess things up.”

By way of contrast, the field of Neuro-Semantics has focused on making NLP conscious. This means putting the theory and the theoretical foundations “on the table.” To that end, we have produced straightforward works so that conscious minds who are willing to do the work of “understanding” and comprehending can do so. This, in turn, allows us to test our hypothesis, to make our ideas open to examination, to refine the model, to use it to predict results, and to make it more acceptable to the general scientific approach.

This will not appeal to everybody. Most people, in fact, just want the techniques that produce “the magic” —whether its the magic of —

  • rapport
  • running your own brain
  • taking charge of your states
  • learning excellence in a given field
  • transforming emotions and behaviors
  • re-inventing one’s self and self-identifications
  • slaying dragons and creating new habits
  • etc.

But for those who like to understand, who appreciate the conscious mind, who want to extend the model, and who care about advancing NLP in professional communities — then explicating the theory and theoretical foundations enables us to understand the frames of reference that we use in modeling mind, consciousness, personality, and structures of excellence.

We have written this because Meta-States is showing up on Web sites around the world in Spanish, Danish, German, Japanese, etc. People are using Meta-States for analyzing music, time management (Roy Kim), for persuasion and language elegance (Kenrick Cleveland), for new understandings of logical levels, sales, etc. There’s also a good bit of misunderstanding and mis-representation of Meta-States as well. Numerous people have inquired about where they can obtain the most current and up to date information on Meta-States and Neuro-Semantics.

The two works that represent Neuro-Semantics include:

Mind-Lines: Lines for Changing Minds

The Structure of Excellence: Unmasking the Meta-Levels of “Submodalities”

The most current information on Meta-States include:

Meta-States Training Manual

Meta-States Journal (1997-1999)

NLP: Going Meta— Advanced Modeling Using Meta-Levels

Soon we will be republishing a completely new and revised edition of—

Meta-States: Reflexivity in Human States of Consciousness

And to stay even more current—

See our ongoing training schedule…

On the Web site

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