MODELING FRAMES – 2013 Meta Reflections #17

Modeling Excellence Series #9

I ended the last post about modeling (Advanced NLP Modeling using Meta-States) saying:

To meta-state is to classify and that means framing and reframing and outframing, all of which lie at the heart of modeling.

Now when you are modeling any complex state or human experience, you have to flush out the frames that governs that experience.  If you cannot do that, you will not be able to actually understand the experience let alone replicate it if it is a state of excellence that you want to adopt for yourself and others.  This raises lots of questions about modeling:

  • What are ‘frames’?  What does this mean in terms of subjective experiences?
  • How does one flush out the frames of an experience?
  • How can you determine which are the actual frames governing an experience?
  • What are the multiple ways that we can think about framing and reframing?

The word frame comes from a larger phrase, frame-of-reference.  And this refers to the reference that a person is using to understand something.  And the good news? you are already skilled in flushing this out!  When you hear a person speak and you don’t know what they are talking about, you know to intuitively ask, “What are you referring to?”  If you walk in on a conversation that several people are having and they are talking about something, and it seems important, even emotional, but you really don’t know what, who, when, etc., then you ask the reference questions: “What are you talking about?” Who are you talking about?”

And the reference they are using makes a lot of difference!  Suppose you think they are talking about you, or your daughter, or your spouse, or your job … and then you find out they are talking about the movie that saw on the weekend!  How you interpret their words, their emotions, and their responses depends on the reference that you use.  Make sure you use their reference to understand them.

Now if that is obvious about external references: what, who, when, which, where, etc. how much more important it is about internal references: beliefs, decisions, understandings, sources of information, models, values, criteria, standards, permissions, cultures, etc.  It is even more important about internal references because when you use a frame-of-reference you are using something (an event, an understanding, a belief, etc.) to interpret or make sense of something else.  That’s what a ‘frame’ is.   A frame is an interpretative scheme, a lens by which you perceive, observe, understand, etc. something else.

So when you set a frame, you set a way of interpreting or understanding something. And you can do that with words, with decorations, with environment, with context, with gestures, etc.   And if modeling is anything, it is seeking to understand a human experience on its own terms so that we can understand what it is, how it works, and what we can do with it.  That’s why to accurately model a human subjective experience, I first need to enter into that experience in a neutral way (without my own filters and judgments), empathetically (to understand it as an experience on its own terms), and thoroughly (to understand the full system and not just the obvious and symptomatic expressions).

Now most NLP modeling includes finding some of the ‘frames’, especially the ‘beliefs.’  In fact, this has been the focus of most NLP modeling.  Robert Dilts make this explicit in his Neuro Logical Levels Model:

  • Beliefs: What are the beliefs about the experience?
  • Value beliefs: What are the beliefs about its value and importance?
  • Identity beliefs: What are the beliefs about one’s identity?
  • Mission or Spiritual beliefs: What are the beliefs one’s mission in the world?

In Neuro-Semantics, using the Meta-States Model we have taken this much further.  First, we have identified 104 ‘logical levels’ (see Neuro-Semantics: Actualizing Meaning and Performance, 2011). Second, we have pictured these ‘levels’ not as a rigid hierarchy, but as fluid and reflexive, using such images as a diamond of consciousness, a hologram of holoarchy relations, as a Matrix (see The Matrix Model, 2003), and as a system of interactive variables (see Systemic Coaching, 2012).

This is really important for flushing out frames.  That’s because frames often hide, even from our own perspective and that’s because when you live within a frame for long, it seems ‘real’ and ‘the way things are’ and not an interpretation.  And whenever that happens (and it happens to all of us constantly), the Matrix has us!

How do we flush out the governing frames that are working as the self-organizing attractors in the system?  First and foremost, enter into the system and keep holding the frames that you receive and detect and see where it goes from there.  Accept, embrace, and innocently enter into the given frames.

This is not an obvious skill or an easy skill to develop.  It is counter-intuitive to how we all have learned to think and speak and respond to each other.  In phenomenology, this is called the epoche, the emptiness.  In NLP we call it the know-nothing state or the ‘stopping-the-world’ state.  Fritz Perls called it ‘losing your mind and coming to your senses.’

Hold the frame that you receive and ask, “If this is so, then what?”  “Let’s say this is true, so what? What does that mean?  What do you believe about that?”  Most people will go blank at this point. They will say, “I don’t know.”  Now in Neuro-Semantics we love this answer.  “Oh really!” Why?  Because we have 15 ways to respond to “I don’t know.”  After every Coaching Mastery I send that list to our Meta-Coaches because if to be a great coach, you often have to model the person’s current experience to understand it.


L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.