To John Grinder’s Challenges in “Whispering in the Wind”

The following articles was written after the publication of Whispering in the Wind in response to the challenges that John Grinder presented to me (or to M. Hall) as he addressed me repeatedly in his book. I wrote the articles to answer his questions in a straightforward and honest way, but then he immediately commented that he was “tired” of the debate and didn’t want to do it any longer. Since John refuses to put my answers to his challenges on his website and to engage in an honest scholarly dialogue, I have collected the articles that I wrote in 2002 —2003 and put in this format. Please feel free to distribute this file to John and to anyone in his “camp” of NLP. Michael

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D., cognitive psychologist, international NLP trainer, entrepreneur; prolific author and international training; developer of Meta-States and Developer of Neuro-Semantics, co-developer of the Meta-Coach Training System.

An Answer to John Grinder #1


“A special flexibility challenge to M. Hall
—write an article (even a paragraph that does not use the term meta
— smile, Michael.” (Whispering, p. 309)

We invite M. Hall to make explicit the answer
to the simple meta model challenge,

Meta states are states about other states… about, how specifically?

(p. 288)

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.

In his recent book, Whispering in the Wind, Dr. Grinder offered several challenges and invitations for me to respond to. One was to write a paragraph without using the term “meta,” another was to justify expanding the Meta-Model. He also invited me to explain how a higher logical level can be more “psychologically encompassing and impactful” and then to offer an understanding of how riotously proliferating meta-states can be useful. Since I didn’t find any indication that John has read Meta-States, Secrets of Personal Mastery, Communication Magic or any of my other books that detailed answers to these questions, I thought I would use the medium of a NLP journal to answer. There are numerous paragraphs in this article where I do not use the term “meta,” so as you notice that … smile, John.

In terms of having honest debate and discussion (dialogue) in the NLP community, I welcome these challenges from John and will be interested in his responses. These are important questions that need to be addressed. After all, NLP itself is just a map and therefore also subject to needing revision and updating from time to time as we move into the 21st century.

Misunderstanding Korzybski

In Whispering in the Wind, John repeatedly offers a refrain about Korzybski that accuses him of not really understanding the map/territory distinction and of mis-identifying the “territory.” Having extensively studied Korzybski’s Science and Sanity seven times, I know that this misrepresents what Korzybski actually said. Before I provide quotes from Science and Sanity, here is what John wrote:

“We are proposing that Korzybski was far too conservative when he said the map is not the territory. Indeed, we propose that his territory isn’t even the territory.” (p. 25) “There is no isomorphic mapping between the representations called FA [First Access] and the linguistic coding of these.” “In what Korzybski called the territory— the neurologically transformed representations to which we first have access— there are no artificial sets … FA has no such groupings.” (p. 30)

FA is John’s new terminology. It stands for First Access and refers to how we first access the outside world, not through our language or even representation systems, but prior to that, through the sense-receptors of our eyes, ears skin, and other end-receptors.

“There is an ambiguity in Korzybski’s writing as to whether the territory he referred to is what we call here FA or the actual world itself. The more general point—the distinction between neurological transforms and linguistic transforms— we are making is independent of which way you read Korzybski” (p. 46) This significantly broadens and deepens the representation of “Korzybski’s territory” (actually NOT the territory but rather the already transformed representations at First Access) from which you will ultimately map onto an explicitly model (post FA) once you reach criteria.” (131-132)

I’m in good company when I say that I have no problem with John’s description of “first access” because neither would Korzybski. This was, in fact, one of the revolutionary things Korzybski pioneered in neuro-linguistics back in 1933. He created a model called The Structural Differential that is comprised of his “levels of abstraction” that moves from those “first access” channels of information that strike our neurology and the non-conscious facets of our embodied existence and through several levels of “access” before that information reaches even our sensory representational encoding and then on to conscious awareness of the sensory representations systems (the VAK in NLP).

Actually, if you want pages upon pages of detailed description of all the levels of first, second, third, etc. access from the process world of events “out there” prior to becoming encoded as our sensory awareness and before our Representational Encoding of that — read Science and Sanity (pp. 327, 328, 329). No NLP book has yet been published that goes into such detail.

As an engineer who used more mathematics than any NLP book has ever used, Korzybski recognized that the only “content of knowledge is structure” and that this makes correspondence between the structure of the world and the structure we encode in our mapping important. Yes, John, there is “no necessary correspondence between the way we divide up our perceived appearance (FA) and the actual structure of the world” (25). Yet, it is structure that gives us our most important information. That was Korzybski’s point.

Korzybski described the world “out there” as the process world that’s always changing, the “mad dance of electrons,” that for him was “the territory,” the territory that we do not have access to directly. When we begin our neurological mapping, that is the “unspeakable level” of abstraction, a level that we do not have conscious access to.

“A map is not the territory it represents, but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the
territory, which accounts for its usefulness. … If we reflect upon our languages, we find
that at best they must be considered only as maps. A word is not the object it represents;
and languages exhibit also this peculiar self-reflexiveness, that we can analyse languages
by linguistic means.” (p. 58).

“As words are not the objects which they represent, structure, and structure alone,
becomes the only link which connects our verbal processes with the empirical data.” (p.59)

“The structure of the actual world is such that it is impossible entirely to isolate an object.
An Aristotelian subject-predicate language, with its tendency to treat objects as in
isolation and to have no place for relations, obviously has a structure not similar to the
structure of the world, in which we deal only with collections, of which the members are
related.” (57)

“If we take something, let us say the object … called ‘pencil,’ and enquire what it
represents … we find that the ‘scientific object’ represents an ‘event,’ a mad dance of
‘electrons,’ which is different every instant, which never repeats itself, which is known to
consist of extremely complex dynamic processes of very fine structure, acted upon by,
and reacting upon, the rest of the universe, inextricably connected with everything else and dependent on everything else.” (387)

Korzybski’s Levels of Abstraction
Etc. Beyond Words
Evaluative words
Linguistic Evaluative Words
maps 89 Intensional
of 9 Evaluative words
Sensory-Based Words
Neurological Sensory Representations
maps (V.A.K.O.G.) Extensional
of 9 89
Sense Receptors

______________________________________________Before Words

Reality “Reality” Beyond the Nervous System The Territory Beyond

Korzybski’s Structural Differential identifies and separates numerous levels. The “territory” out there are the “events” or the mad dance of electrons “out there” that we never have contact with. Then there is “the object” or the objective level. This is Grinder’s First Access (FA) and Korzybski’s description of the same many years ago.

“We see that the object is not the event but an abstraction from it, and that the label is not
the object nor the event, but a still further abstraction.” (p. 389)

“We have already spoken of the event in terms of recognition; namely, that we can never
recognize an event, as it changes continually.” (390)

Expanding the Meta-Model

With regard to expanding the Meta-Model distinctions, John writes this: “We find it peculiar that there are people (Michael Hall, for example) proposing to add to the meta model additional patterns without justifying them. It seems to us that the entire point of modeling is exactly a movement in the opposite direction. Rather than expand a model already proven effective in securing some outcome, X, the task of a modeler is to attempt to reduce the model consistent with achieving X—that is, to demonstrate that X can be achieved with fewer distinctions or more efficiently… (p. 186)

This is really interesting given what he wrote in The Structure of Magic, Volume I. Apparently John has not read Communication Magic (2001, revised from The Secrets of Magic, 1997) where I “justified” expanding the Meta-Model by quoting him! Here I quote me quoting him.

“The 13 distinctions of that we have detailed in the Meta-Model offer linguistic distinctions about modeling, map-making, and well-formed structures. Yet they do not express the last word about such. John and Richard noted this at the beginning of their work in The Structure of Magic,

“… our Meta-Model covers only a portion of the verbal communication which is
possible…” (p. 107)
“… we suspect that some of the research currently being conducted in Generative
Semantics … will be particularly useful in expanding the Meta-Model further.” (p. 109)

Hmmmm, “useful in expanding the Meta-Model further” was Grinder1975 and Hall1997, a point that Grinder2001 now has problems with and argues conflicts against. Now he wants to reduce the model rather than expand it. Of course it is perfectly fine to change one’s mind. I have no problem with that. But how fine is it to encourage “expanding the Meta-Model further,” provide the justification for it, and then demand that I have to justify it now without reading my justifications for it or remembering that he himself began NLP on the note of expanding it?

Here are more of my “justifications” for it from Communication Magic:

“I began my own search for missing Meta-Model distinctions in 1990 as I engaged in an in-depth exploration of the foundational work of neuro-linguistics in the classic work of Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics (1933/ 1994). After having presented the Meta-Model as part of the NLP training, and researched into Korzybski, I published a series of articles in Anchor Point (an International NLP popular magazine) on the missing Meta-Model distinctions (1992). These were later published in German (Multimind — NLP aktuell magazine) and were also translated in other languages, Russian, Spanish, etc. That work ultimately culminated in my doctoral studies and dissertation and a book, Languaging (1996). I have replicated some of that work here, as I have updated and expanded the Meta-Model.”

Riotously Proliferating Meta-States

While John recognizes that his third perceptual position is a meta-state, he seems to think that to create many of these is a naughty thing to do.

“One explicit use of a meta state is 3rd position as it occurs in Triple Description. This is a state in which the person involved positions herself perceptually such that she is entertaining representations of herself as an actress/player in the scene that represents the situation she wishes to influence. This is variously referred to as the coach, the observer, the consultant, the director, the 3rd position or the meta position. In this particular use, the meta position or 3rd is a perceptual position that includes or covers in its scope a representation of the representing party. The ordering principle that generates the difference in levels is … contains/covers a representation of … (downwards) or is included in/covered by a representation of … (upwards).” (288).

Here is a meta-state that operates at a higher logical level and that has a psychologically (mentally, emotionally, and somatically encompassing impact throughout a person’s neurosemantics). Apparently this one is okay and valid. But apparently, he senses that there is no use or value from doing very much of this.

“Meta states: literally states about states, states within the coverage of other states or states within the scope of another state. In its actual usage, it is sometimes very difficult to understand what the author who is proposing the about relationship intends. For example, M. Hall’s gives the impression that he finds great value in a riotous proliferation of every “higher” states of meta states although we find it difficult to imagine what advantages might accrue from such activities. We invite M. Hall to make explicit the answer to the simple meta model challenge, meta states are states about other states… about, how specifically?” (p. 288)

My explanations for this are in numerous books, several of which I have sent to John since he apparently has not been keeping up with the field. In Meta-States: Managing the higher Levels of the Mind (2000), I offer a more academic presentation of the model, tying it into Bateson’s work, Korzybski, to the field of Meta-Cognition and the researchers there, to Logotherapy, Cognitive Linguistics, etc. In Dragon Slaying: From Dragons to Princes (2000) I show how that meta-states can be sick, morbid, and toxic and the very structure of self-sabotage. In that same work, we use meta-states to build up numerous genius states, self-esteeming, proactivity, forgiveness, etc. We used the higher meta-states to establish an executive state of mind that can govern and manage the genius states. John called the higher state, the Controller state, and posited it as a way to manage the demon in Turtles all the Way Down (1987). He said that the way to manage the first-level attention was through the use of logical levels. That’s what I mapped out using meta-states.

What has the proliferation of meta-states led to that has been useful? Models for selling and influence, a model for wealth building, a model for being fit and slim, a model for all kinds of higher states (resilience, forgiveness, proactivity, uninsultability, etc.), a model for remodeling NLP and Meta-States (Frame Games) which in turn has led to many more patterns, books, trainings, etc. It has led to 110 Neuro-Semantic patterns. Perhaps this riotous proliferation of higher states is the magic and dynamic of what’s emerging in Neuro-Semantics.

Through the proliferation of meta-states, we have identified numerous meta-level alignment patterns that leads to greater congruency—a state that John argues for. In Neuro-Semantics we specified the Mind-to-Muscle Pattern three years ago and have used that for closing the knowing-doing gap that prevents so many people from “applying to self.” Of course, the self-reflexivity that is built into the very heart of the Meta-States model has “apply to self” as an essential facet of every meta-stating process. Some great reasons to riotously proliferate more and more higher states of mind is for greater congruence, personal power, and creativity.

About “Logical Levels”

John admits in Whisperings that he departs from historical usage of “logical levels” and does not follow Bateson, Russell and Whitehead, Dilts or myself. In the typical definition of “logical levels” we say that a “Logical Level” refers to an internal hierarchy in which each level is progressively more psychologically encompassing and impactful. John finds this confusing and thinks that the language prevents the rest of the NLP community to participate in the discussion.

“If there is some serious intention involved here, specification of the terms, psychologically encompassing and impactful is required to allow the rest of the world of NLP to participate intelligently in the discussion.” (347)

Consider the states of mind that we recognize as playful and serious. Suppose we meta-state playfulness with seriousness and set the state of mind-body-emotion of being serious as the frame for playful. That would give us the more complex state of being “seriously playful.” Many parents get that way watching soccer. Soccer is a game and is designed for play and fun. But then people get serious about it. And sometimes that seriousness becomes deadly.

Is that different from being “playfully serious?” What is the quality and nature of a state that’s playfully earnest? It is this texturing of states that shows how the higher frame operates in a way that is psychologically (mentally, emotionally, somatically, personally, interpersonally) impactful. The higher state or frame operates in an encompassing way setting the frame. This impacts the entire mind-body-emotion system. It operates like an attractor in a self-organizing system. That’s what “psychologically encompassing and impactful” refers to. On this subject of the power of meta-stating I have written numerous articles. For beginners, I would invite John to catch up with the current state-of-the-art of Meta-States by reading the following articles (see, click on the button, Logical Levels).

Texturing States

Meta-Stating Playfulness Super-Charging Your Beliefs with Meta-States

On “logical levels,” we now have several articles on the web site specially dedicated to this subject:

The Fluidity of Logical Levels The Other Logical Levels Is there Any Difference between Logical Levels and Logical Types? How Meta-States Enriches Logical Levels


Believing as I do that true dialogue around critical issues is the heart of what keeps a community alive and growing I have sought to briefly answer some of the key concerns that John has surfaced in Whispering. Nothing keeps a community and individuals more honest and authentic than honest debate about central features of a model. It is in that way that new ideas that enable a model to continue and evolve with the changing times. It enables people to congruently walk their talk and to be forthright and professional. I would have liked to have seen John put my books and articles in his bibliography so that others can look up the original sources. That only seems fair when being critiqued. Personally I make it a policy to generally first send a copy of a critique that I intend to publish to the person that it concerns and to ask, “Have I accurately represented you?”


Grinder, John; St. Clair, Carmen, Bostic. (2002). Whispering in the Wind. Scotts Valley,
CA: J & C. Enterprises.
Hall, Michael L. (2000). Meta-States: Managing the higher levels of the mind. Grand
Jct. CO: N.S. Publications.
Hall, Michael. (1997). NLP: Going Meta — Advance modeling using meta-levels. Grand
Jct. CO: ET Publications.
Hall, L. Michael; Bodenhamer, Bob G. (1999). The structure of excellence: Unmasking
the meta-levels of ‘submodalities.’ Grand Junction, CO: E.T. Publications.
Hall, L. Michael; Bodenhamer, Bob. (1998). The Three NLP Meta-Domains as a
Unifying Model. Paper.
Hall, L. Michael. (2001). The Secrets of Personal Mastery. UK: Wales. Crown House

Continuing the Dialogue of Grinder’s Challenges (#2)



“Actually, I Like My Conscious Mind!”

We invite M. Hall to make explicit the answer to the simple meta model challenge,
Meta states are states about other states… about, how specifically? (Grinder, Whispering in the Wind, p. 288)

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.

Unless I missed a disclaimer, NLP is all about “running your own brain.” Does that correspond with your impression about NLP? Isn’t that what you learned?

What cued me to this as being a key facet of NLP? Well, it was mentioned in my early NLP trainings. It also stands out in the books that Connaire and Steve Andreas edited. At least the titles are suggestive of this, are they not? Namely, Using Your Brain —For a Change.

It was this very theme and focus, of running your own brain, that first excited me about NLP as it did my associate, Dr. Bob Bodenhamer. I was so impressed with this theme, that I wrote a article on our web site, Brain #101. Bob, on the other hand, was so impressed with this idea that he made these words the title of the Neuro-Semantic web site. You can get there by simply typing in:

For us, this is the stroke of genius in NLP—empowering people to take charge of their brains and to consciously run them. Even the “ecology check” in NLP presupposes that we can mindfully check out the health, balance, and ecology of our brain functioning. In a chapter on meta-states and the history of NLP (Meta-States, 2000), I noted that the Ecology Check is a meta-state process. You have to go meta to your state of mind, emotion, and body to quality control things and to consciously evaluate any given frame or state.

Does this enhance your life?

Does this empower you as a person?

Does this support your relationships and health?

Does this create a balance in life between work and love?

This is also why we have found the first model of Neuro-Semantics, the Meta-States model so powerfully profound in enabling people to run their own brains. In this sense, Meta-States takes NLP to the next level by empowering people to rise up in the mind and to manage the higher levels (or lower and deeper, depending on your metaphor of choice) of one’s consciousness. It enables us to use the human kind of consciousness, self-reflexive consciousness, and to become thoughtful about our thoughts. This leads to what we call “mindfulness.”

Yet in spite of this original focus, both Bandler and Grinder today seem more focused on debunking the conscious mind as they give more power to “the unconscious mind.” For years, Bandler has called the conscious mind a “dick head.” In promotional literature he has threatened participants to not bring paper or pens to his trainings or else they will be collected. Now, Grinder and Carmen’s latest book, Whispering in the Wind (2001) similarly questions the conscious mind’s value, wisdom, and usefulness. The critique here of NLP, and even of Grinder’s own contributions to that model, center around the over-emphasis on the conscious mind.

“… these experiences had taught me that understanding is in no way a prerequisite to acting effectively in the world—this insight would subsequently be incorporated to great advantage in NLP patterning both as an essential element in the actual modeling of patterns of excellence as well as in the appropriate positioning of the NLP agent of change in the context of applications.” (144)

Regarding the flaws that he now perceives in what he calls the Classic Code, he writes the following:

“In this prototype Classic Code anchoring format,, then, we note that

  1. The consciousness of the client is assigned the responsibility for the selection of certain critical elements: the desired state, the resource and/or the new behavior that will substitute for the behavior to be changed…
  2. There are no constraints placed on the selection of the resource or new behaviors to replace the original behavior being changed.
  3. There is no explicit involvement of the unconscious of the client.
  4. The focus of the work is at the level of behavior. (pp. 213-214)”

Why Banish Consciousness?

Why this attempt to banish the conscious mind from taking the lead? Why this over-devotion to the “unconscious” mind? Is the “unconscious” mind different in nature from the conscious mind? Is the “unconscious” mind somehow smarter, more holistic, and more informed than the conscious mind? Does the unconscious mind not make mistakes (i.e., allergies, cancer, memory loss, etc.) as does the conscious mind? Is it not as fallible (e.g., liable to error)?

Certainly it is true that Bateson (1972) warned about the short-sightedness of a mind so set in a purposeful way on an outcome that it fails to take into consideration long-term consequences, aesthetics, and the wisdom of ecological concerns. And true enough, Bateson took on the medical community on this account as he did much of twentieth century science. He argued for the aesthetic concerns of the larger mind, mind-as-a-cybernetic system that takes values, beauty, relationship, and wisdom into account. Yet he did not thereby argue that the conscious mind was a bad thing. After all, he wrote his critique with his conscious mind as John and Carmen wrote their book.

Meta-Stating “Mindfulness”

I like what Ian McDermott noted in The NLP Coach. He wrote that it is not the fact of being conscious or aware that’s the problem. Rather, the problem is the kind of awareness that we bring to things, even ourselves.

“It’s not the fact of being conscious that’s the problem for most people. It is rather the kind and quality of consciousness! Self-conscious: fearing inadequacy imperfection, Judgmental, criticizing, Harsh, demandingness, imposing norms, rules, shoulds. How aware is your mind? How mindful? What’s the quality of the mindfulness?” (pp. 248-9)

Mindfulness, in fact, is today recognized as a key ingredient in many aspects of health, creativity, and genius. In terms of research, Ellen Langer’s work in Mindfulness (1989) offers afresh perspective on the importance of the conscious mind in terms of health, energy, longevity, optimism, resilience, learning, and many other things. Professor Langer and her staff have conducted research studies for many years showing the value of bringing conscious awareness into the picture for a greater sense of personal control. In fact this is a key theme in her book,

The Psychology of Control.

In terms of being aware, and in experiencing self-awareness, we need a special kind of consciousness. We need to be conscious with grace, calmness, acceptance, appreciation, pose, joy, and celebration. Mindfulness, then is a meta-level state (a meta-state) that goes beyond mere awareness. In mindfulness, we become aware of our awareness and if we do so with an intention to manage our mind, we can then texture and quality control our awareness. This is the reason for meta-stating multiple levels. We can qualify our everyday mindset or attitude with numerous frames that texture it in just the right way. For more about this, see the article, Texturing our States on the website. ________

Mindfulness actually describes a complex meta-state structure. In Meta-States we say that it is a gestalt state of the mind-body-emotion system and hence an emergent property of the human matrix. Eastern religions and philosophies describe this high level quality of mindfulness as a higher awareness. In such fields, numerous processes such as meditation, journeys, emptying, etc. are used to generate that state. That’s the long way. The short way is direct meta-stating processes.

So what? What’s the value of such mindfulness? The value is that such mindfulness enables us to be more intelligent about our emotions and relationships. It increases our emotional intelligence. Patrick Merlevede, Denis Bridoux, and Rude Vandamme described the use of meta-states in this way in their book, 7 Steps to Emotional Intelligence (2001).

Of course, the nice thing about rising up in your mind to a higher awareness, a textured awareness of your awareness, is that it enables us to re-enter into any experience with a higher level awareness that then transforms that experience. Re-entering into the state of anger with calmness, respect, love, seeking positive intentions, etc. changes the experience of anger. It is still anger, but now qualified and textured in a new way. This leads to state management from a higher frame of mind.

Meta-Stating a Higher Frame of Mind

If you would like to meta-state yourself with a higher frame of mind, the process is really very simple. All meta-stating involves accessing and applying. We access one state (a resourceful state of mind-body-emotion) and then apply it to another state. We can access calmness and apply it to the state of anger to create calm anger. This process can lead to all kinds of empowered states: joyful learning, respectful disagreement, seeing opportunities in difficulties, passionately excited about a challenge, and so on.

But sometimes access and apply isn’t enough. It generally takes a robust state to set one state as the frame for another, so we access and then amplify before applying. Then afterwards, we appropriate to a given life context (future pace) and then analyze (check the ecology) to make sure that it is ecological.

We can now operationalize our description of developing and creating these higher states of mind in the following step-by-step process. This provides the general formula for texturing your states with ever higher meta-states, what Grinder has called “the proliferation of meta-states.” Do this and you will be able to replicate a higher awareness and to practically use it as a way of moving through the world. The process is actually very simple.

The Texturing of Meta-States to Create Emergent or Gestalt States

1) Identify the primary state that you want to texture.

What is the everyday state that you want to texture?

What contexts are involved in this state? When, where, with whom, etc.?

What are the challenges before you in this state?

2) Identify the qualities you desire in your mindfulness (or conscious awareness).

What qualities and properties would you like to access and apply to this state?
What properties would you like to texture your awareness with?
Which resourceful states of mind and emotion would you like to apply to your primary
Create your own menu list for qualifying your state (e.g., calmness, focus, concentration,
creative, loving, caring, compassionate, firm, goal-oriented, gentle, etc.

3) Access and apply each quality to your primary awareness.

Access each state getting a good representation.

Apply each state to the primary state. Keep adding until the gestalt emerges.

4) Step up a spiraling loop in your mind to create a gestalt state.

Would this empower you as a person?

Would you like this?

How would it be valuable to you?

Would it affect your self-definition?

5) Test by quality controlling, checking, future pacing.

Are all parts of your mind-body system fully aligned with this?

Is there any aspect of yourself that objects to this as you imagine taking this into your


What is this like? What symbol comes to mind that represents this new gestalt?

The Unconscious Mind? Which one?

If there ever was a term or phrase that glories in indefinite vagueness it is “the unconscious mind.” What does that mean? Several years ago I wrote with Dr. Bob an article that we entitled, Which Unconscious Mind do you Train? You can still find it on our website _________.

In that article we identified several references for “the unconscious mind.” After all, if we are only aware of 7 plus-or-minus 2 chunks of information at a time, then most of our knowledge, awareness, skills, memory, imagination, etc. is outside-of-our-awareness. That’s one facet or referent of our “unconscious mind.” Freud called this the pre-conscious. Then there is our memory, our autonomic nervous system “mind,” our immune system “mind,” the “mind” of our DNA, and so on.

What I find amazing is that in a field like NLP where we take such pride in being specific and precise in our communications, a book like Whispering in the Wind uses the term “unconscious” over and over and over without ever defining it. Then, to increase the vagueness and indefiniteness of things, John (and I suppose Carmen as well) continually presupposes that this “unconscious mind” is somehow smarter, more intelligent, wiser, more holistic than the conscious mind. There is no evidence for this, no proof for this, no argumentation that leads to demonstrate this, just the assertion.

Through Consciousness to the “Unconscious Mind”

Habituation creates one form of “the unconscious mind.” Repetition and over-learning can drive anything that we focus on into unawareness. We say that things “drop out of conscious awareness and into the unconscious mind” through repetition and learning. We know that this happens in learning physical activities like cycling, roller-skating, driving, tying our shoes, etc. It also happens for school subjects that we memorized like the mathematical times chart, historical events, names of presidents, meta-model distinctions, meta-programs, etc. When it “drops out of consciousness” and becomes “unconscious,” it becomes “intuitive” (an in-knowing).

What does this mean? It means that most of what we have in our “unconscious mind” we put there through our conscious mind. We learned it. We habituated it. We made it intuitive. So how much smarter, more intelligent, or wise is this “mind” than our conscious mind? Will it not be just as full of errors, mistakes, and irrationalities as our conscious mind? Will it not, in fact, have more errors within it since it is comprised of our older learnings—learnings we made when we were children and less intelligent?

What about the “mind” that’s outside-of-our-consciousness that we call our autonomic and immune systems? Is that “mind” more intelligent, smarter, and wiser than our conscious mind? Obviously, that “unconscious mind” can and does make mistakes as in allergies and in immune system disorders. So there’s certainly no infallibility there.

What about “the collective unconscious” or the “intelligence” that some humans seem to have access to beyond our basic “senses?” Could that facet of “the unconscious mind” be wiser and more intelligent? Yes, it could. Yet we also have to recognize that these are theories and beliefs. I might also add that Jung, the brilliant psychologist and philosopher, who postulated “the collective unconscious” was not exactly a paradigm of mental wellness. In his biography he details his two major psychotic episodes when he really lost it. So those who might want to believe in the possibility of “the collective unconscious” might want to add some ecology to their search as they follow his lead.

Back to Consciousness

Alfred Korzybski argued throughout Science and Sanity (1933/ 1994) that in our use of symbols what’s important is our “consciousness of abstracting.” This phrase occurs hundreds of times in his book. It was his call to consciousness, to mindfulness. By this phrase he called for an awareness and understanding that our symbols and the recognition that our symbols (as maps) are not the same as what we symbolize by them, that the verbal and non-verbal levels should be kept distinct and coordinated.

Consciousness of abstracting means realizing that our assumptions are assumptions and they are our assumptions. It is this kind of mindfulness that then allows us to ask meaningful questions. Because map differs from the territory it represents, we use symbols and that makes us a symbol-using class of life. In this, our attitude toward language plays a critical role. Our degree of conscious awareness of language, its use, the difference it makes in adjusting to reality, etc.

Conversely, our habits make us unconscious. As any habitual response drops out of conscious awareness and becomes part of our unconscious intuition. When that happens we become unaware and automatic in our response. It becomes our “program.” We become less flexible, and more rigid. This typically reduces our choices and options and if the external contexts change, make us less effective.

Why? Because no habit is foolproof. Habits are useful if we don’t depend on them, and if we don’t insist on following them blindly regardless of circumstances. Habits can make us rigid, stupid, and inefficient. In this, they can be dangerous and stupifying.

For Korzybski, delay of reaction has an adjustive value only to the extent that we carry on effective evaluation during the delay, that is, that we come back to conscious awareness and evaluate the situation confronting us and of the likely consequences. In this we need consciousness.

It is through consciousness that we can break an old habit that has become unuseful. To substitute another response or behavior for an old one, we first have to become aware in a new and fresh way. Similarly, to stay adjusted in our orientation to the world and to react differently to different situations, we need the flexibility that awareness gives us. That’s why our ability to bring a habitual pattern back into awareness lies at the heart of such flexibility and choice. And for me, this is much of the power of NLP and Neuro-Semantics in enabling us to “run our own brains.”

In this I disagree with Grinder’s critique of NLP in his criticism of it giving too much attention or focus on the conscious mind. In Meta-States we use not only the immediate conscious mind of some immediate awareness and goal, but many multiple levels of awareness. We do this to manage our states and emotions from a more executive level of mind. We do this to put our entire mind-body-emotion system to good use in creatively thinking outside the box, thinking by analogy and metaphor, influencing our physiology, and integrating our knowledge. Much of this is described in The Secrets of Personal Mastery (1999) and in Meta-States (2000).


Neither the conscious nor the “unconscious mind” is infallible. As part of the same mind-bodyemotion system, they work together enabling us to process and integrate knowledge and skill. We need them both.


Grinder, John; St. Clair, Carmen, Bostic. (2002). Whispering in the Wind. Scotts Valley,
CA: J & C. Enterprises.
Hall, L. Michael. (1999). The secrets of personal mastery. Wales, UK: Crown House
Hall, L. Michael. (2000 second edition). Meta-States: Mastering your higher states of
mind. Grand Jct. CO: Neuro-Semantics.
Langer, Ellen J. (1989). Mindfulness. Reading, MA: A Merloyd Lawrence Book.
Patrick Merlevede, Patrick; Bridoux, Denis; Vandamme, Rudy. (2000). 7 Steps to
Emotional Intelligence. Wales, UK: Crown House Publications.

Response to Whisperings (#3)






L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.

For several years now I have been traveling around the world introducing Meta-States. Over 800 NLP Trainers have attended our 3-day Accessing Personal Genius training that introduces Meta-States as a model, as the third meta-domain of NLP, and have experienced the application of Meta-States to personal mastery or genius. A written text of this is in the book, The Secrets of Personal Mastery (1999). Most Trainers are interested in how the Meta-States model fits or doesn’t fit in the history of NLP. So they ask such questions as:

C Where there meta-states in NLP from the beginning?

C Was meta-states mentioned in The Structure of Magic?

C How close did Bandler and Grinder come to discovering Meta-States?

While I wrote a chapter about this in 1995 in the first edition of the book, Meta-States (2000) and identified many NLP patterns that have or presuppose meta-stating processes within them, they were not called that nor was meta-stating recognized as the driving mechanism. Yet Meta-States was hidden within it, unarticulated. Actually, in both The Structure of Magic—Volume I and Volume II, John and Richard speak a lot about “meta,” they speak about “meta-tactics, meta-positions, meta-questions, meta-form, metacommenting,” etc.

John now asks of me about the purpose and vaule of “proliferating meta-states.” From the following quotations from Magic, if he is not disingenuous (as he asserts about myself in his response article to me, Oct. 2002, then he has known all along about how meta-states are psychologically pervasive.” See for yourself.

The Meta-Question

In the second volume of The Structure of Magic (1976), Bandler and Grinder termed the following as “the meta-question.”

“Client: I feel so angry about my job. [A primary state in reference to the outside world.] Therapist: Yes, and how do you feel about feeling angry? [A meta-question eliciting a meta-state.] Client: Well, I feel scared about feeling angry. [Description of a meta-state.]

Here they use a meta-state question, “How do you feel about feeling X?” Yet the conclusion they drew from this was that “feelings about feelings” create “self-esteem.” They received that from Satir and Mr. Grinder didn’t question this conclusion.

“This question is extensively used by Virginia Satir in her dynamic therapy—she describes this question as an excellent way to tap the clients self-esteem (the client’s feelings about his feelings)—a part of the client closely connected with his ability to cope.” (p. 57)

It was in this way that Mr. Grinder along with Mr. Bandler failed to see the state-uponstate or meta-state structure before them. Using Satir’s explanatory theory, they assumed that the question would elicit the client’s

“… reference structure—his model of the world… an explicit way of directly approaching what is called in many therapies the client’s self-esteem…” (The Structure of Magic, Vol. I, p. 161).

Yet they knew that this was a jump to “the next higher logical level” which was an equivalent way of describing “logical types,” and that we create such logical levels by putting one “meta to the other.”

“Again this exchange typically involves the client’s shifting the paramessages in each of his output channels radically from his first statement about his feelings to his response to the therapist’s meta-question about his feelings about his feelings—the next higher logical level. We will return to this example during the section on integration to demonstrate effective ways for a therapist to cope with different parts of a client which exists (at this point in the process) as different logical types —one meta to the other.” (p. 57, italics added, MH)

In a section entitled, “Theory of Logical Types” (pp. 33-36), Bandler and Grinder described Bateson’s use of this theory in terms of communication, a position they disagreed with (p. 36).

“Bateson chose to assign the relationship portion of the communication—the message carried by the non-verbal part—to a level higher than the content portion of the communication. In other words, the analogical, non-verbal message is considered meta to— of a higher logical type than— the verbal message.” (p. 35)

Again they quote and use meta-stating questions:

Therapist: How do you feel about feeling angry?

Client: I feel frighted about feeling angry about my job.

They noted that Russell developed the Theory of Logical Types to avoid paradoxes. To do that we must avoid mixing statements of different levels. “[D]ifferent logical types or different logical levels are to be kept separate” (p. 36). Mr. Grinder then argued that to handle paramessages— messages of the same logical level, one must be able to rise above both messages, to a meta-position and then create the neuro-linguistic magic of a higher classification. Asking meta-questions enables a therapist to do this. As Samuel is put in a “meta-position with respect to his own communication” (p. 153) he experiences an enriched map. They call this a “Meta-Position Move” (p. 158).

Husband: I feel angry about that.

Therapist: And how to you feel about feeling angry at your wife?

Husband: I don’t like it.

Therapist: Did you know, W, that M did not like getting angry at you?” (p. 158)

This is meta-stating precisely because it brings one state to another. In this case, the therapist elicits the state of dislike that the client accesses and he then highlights it as he brings it to the anger state and even invites the wife to notice this higher frame or metastate about the anger state.

This also leads to “psychologically pervasive” changes. So now while in Whisperings Mr. Grinder seems to find this surprising and inexplicable, he recognized this when he wrote The Structure of Magic, I. In that first volume we find this same thing.

For example, in the chapter on The Sorcerer’s Apprentice we have the following dialogue using the meta-question along with John and Richard’s explanations.

T: How do you feel about feeling angry? The therapist … chooses to shift levels, asking the client about her feelings about her image of herself in her model of the world (her reference structure).

S: How do I feel about feeling? The client appears to be initially confused by the therapist’s question requiring her to shift levels. This is a common reaction to such level shifts in our experience; clients, hwoever, do have the resources to deal with this kind of maneuver.

T: Yes, how do you feel about feeling angry at Paul?
The therapist repeats the question.

S: Well, I don’t feel so good about it. The client supplies her feelings about her feelings— her self-esteem.

At the end of that exchange, notice now what the authors then write. This speaks about the psychological pervasiveness of the meta-state level.

“The therapist begins to explore the client’s model at this new level by asking her to specify her verb more fully. Changes at this level— the level of self-esteem — are extremely important, since a person’s self-image affects the way a person organizes his entire experience or reference structure. Therefore, changes at this level of structure permeate the client’s entire model of the world.” (p. 163, italics added)

“Permeate the client’s entire model of the world…” Hmmm. That’s pretty much fits with what Robert Dilts and I describe as being “psychologically pervasive” and as being a higher level that is “psychologically encompassing and impactful” as it influences the person’s “entire model of the world.” I can’t imagine something having a more pervasive influence—“entire” model of the world. This is precisely what I have been arguing for in the so-called “proliferation of meta-states.” So, unless Mr. Grinder is being disingenuous here—what part of the meta-question eliciting a meta-state to create “changes at this level of structure” which then affects a person’s “entire model of the world” does not seem to fit with the words that both Dilts and myself have used, “psychologically encompassing and impactful” with regard to higher levels of the mind?

Yes, it seems that Mr. Grinder almost discovered meta-states, he and Bandler certainly discovered a whole range of meta-things: meta-tactics, meta-positions, meta-questions, meta-form, meta-commenting, etc. And they almost discovered meta-states.

Grinder #4

A Meta-Response

Responding to Grinder’s Response to My Response


L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.

c Did you catch the personal meta-states that John (or Carmen) wrote in their Response? C What did you feel about the level of the dialogue given that response?

As the readers of this website ( well know, John (and Carmen) recently wrote a Response to my response to his book and to some of the weaknesses that I pointed out there. I now offer this Meta-Response . . . to his Response, the fourth one. May you enjoy it . . . May it allow you to experience the highest meta-states that will texture your mind-body-emotion system in new and wonderful ways . . . ways that make for personal mastery.

A Healthy Dialogue for a Growing Field

The health of any field, movement, and community depends upon healthy, direct, respectful, and professional dialogue. Upon reading Whispering in the Wind by Grinder and Bostic, I read of their repeated requests for me to respond to several things. So I did.

“A special flexibility challenge to M. Hall—write an article (even a paragraph that does not use the term meta— smile, Michael.” (Whispering, p. 309)

We invite M. Hall to make explicit the answer to the simple meta model challenge, Meta states are states about other states… about, how specifically? (p. 288)

I submitted my first response which is on our website, and then followed it up with two additional short pieces attempting to answer their queries. Now John and Carmen have published “A response to M. Hall’s article” which they have entitled “Different worlds: An Answer to John Grinder #1.”

What I find fascinating in this response is that they both present and manifest a tired and bored attitude about the discussion which they invited in the first place. Quite a meta-state if I say so myself! Somehow it doesn’t fit with the spirit of curiosity, learning, creativity, and openness that comprises The Spirit of NLP as I described in the book by that title. John and Carmen write the following (well, I assume it is John and Carmen, that’s not always clear in their writings):

“I find myself in the somewhat awkward position of responding to the work and writings of a person— Michael Hall— that have nearly no intrinsic interest to me.

“I have no interest in pursuing additional conversations with Mr. Hall (I am wary of his use of #1 in the title of his article, Response to John Grinder #1) as I am presently of the opinion that NLP (in all its aspects) has a minimum overlap with Neuro-Semantics.”

Hmmm. Isn’t it interesting how many people are ready to pontificate about Neuro-Semantics without reading the works in this field? I wonder why that is? By way of contrast, it seems that those who do read into the field of Neuro-Semantics typically come to a different conclusion. They are the ones who conclude that Meta-States is the next step in NLP and provides an over-arching model that can integrate the field of NLP into a systemic model. Actually, there have now been literally hundreds of NLP trainers who have been to the trainings have repeatedly said this from Robert Dilts to Richard Bolstad to hundreds of other top men and women in this field.

I did enjoy some of the meta-state (state-upon-state structures) that John and Carmen present in their response. For example, when John or Carmen wrote, “… his above rendition is (so far beyond) (my willingness) (to imagine)…” Ah yes, the wonderful thing about meta-states is that they are everywhere! And that’s why John the “proliferation of meta-states” are everywhere whether we like it or not. As a semantic and meta-class of life, we inevitably live at those levels.

Explicit Mapping

John and Carmen say that they want from me “an explicit mapping” of the terms I use. Well, I hate to break the news now, but I have already done that. I did it first in 1995 with the first publication of Meta-States. And, not to surprise Mr. Grinder with this new development, I sent a complementary copy of that book many years ago. I did it as a professional gesture. Well perhaps it was lost in the mail. That’s why I sent yet another complementary book (Meta-States, 2000) to him (and Carmen) in July of this year. That books sets forth an explicit mapping of the terms, the model, the foundation, and the epistemology of Meta-States.

And not to be stingy, I also sent Secrets of Personal Mastery (1999) and Frame Games (2000). The second edition of Meta-States locates Meta-States as a model in the field of NLP and makes explicit the nature of the model. Actually, I have been doing this over the years. Yet for all of that, I cannot tell in Whispering that he or Carman had actually read any of the books. I wonder why.

Modeling or Application or Both?

In their current response, John and Carmen invite me to specific whether I’m dealing with NLP Modeling or NLP Application (as if it couldn’t be both).

My answer is this. Meta-States is a model about modeling, about mapping the structure of experience (and excellence) which takes into account reflexivity (self-reflexive consciousness) and “the higher levels of mind” (Bateson’s term) using “the levels of abstraction” (Korzybski) and the latest insights from the field of Meta-Cognition. So, Meta-States is a model and a tool for modeling as I presented it in full detail in the book, Meta-States (2000).

Is the model useful or productive? Well, if the old proverb is true that “by their fruits you shall know them” then Meta-States has proved exceptionally productive.

Using Meta-States as a model, I began by specifying the structure of such complex states of excellence such as Resilience, Proactivity, Magnanimity, Self-Esteeming, etc. Since then, I have along with several colleagues, created models for wealth building, fitness, mastering fears, women in leadership, accelerated learning, accessing personal mastery, selling, etc. In Neuro-Semantics, we have created more than 130 new patterns, 3 major models, and multiple trainings that thousands of people around the world have found useful in “running their own brain.”

My associate, Dr. Bob Bodenhamer, has been using Meta-States in his client work with people and has tracked the response time for numerous therapeutic issues. With NLP he was able to reduce the time for interventions to an amazing degree, then with Meta-States, he divided that time to almost half. You can see his detailed chart on the Our recent work with people who stutter (PWS) has lead to some remarkable results. Bob is currently preparing a training in this area and writing a book detailing the processes. This obviously combines Modeling with Application.

Reasons for Expanding the Meta-Model

In their recent response about Different Worlds, John and Carmen took the old Training Manual, Advanced Flexibility which I sent them and quoted that as reflecting my thinking on the additions to the Meta-Model. Apparently they have not even looked at Communication Magic (2001) which was the actual book on that subject. With John and Carmen’s desire to reduce the Meta-Model to “the minimum number of distinctions,” to just two (the noun specifier and the verb specifier), I suppose that’s why they felt free to offer the following mind-reading statement of myself:

“Hall is being quite disingenuous here as the material quoted comes from a section in
Whispering which also contains specific comments that would resolve his contradiction: namely,”

I proposed in Communication Magic (previously entitled, Secrets of Magic, 1997) that we should add the linguistic distinction of Either-Or to the Meta-Model. Why? Why is that important? Mostly, because most things are not mapped accurately using Either-Or formations. Most things are mapped more accurately and explicitly using Both-And and other Systemic formulations. Here is a quote from John and Carmen’s response that could really use this meta-model challenge.

“Is Hall seriously proposing that all the modeling of excellence and the ensuing explicated patterns of excellence that Bandler and I coded in creating NLP were somehow already in Korzybski’s work? Korzybski coded a powerful perception – the map-territory distinction.  Congratulations and full stop!”

Hmmmm, first it is news to me that I ever thought that “all of the modeling…” Bandler and Grinder did was already in Korzybski. I have always contended that some of it was and is encoded in Korzybski. But never all. Yet, if it does happen that some of it was encoded by Korzybski, does that suggest we should make a “full stop”? That sounds like Either-Or thinking. Either Korzybski encoded nothing or all. And if all then we might as well give up completely. Either-or thinking leads to that kind of reasoning. Systemic thinking would enable us to recognize that Korzybski both encoded some of what we have in NLP and that we can learn much more beyond Korzybski. I wonder if John is open to the idea that Korzybski could offer new insights to the MetaModel, to NLP Modeling, to developing advanced flexibility, and much more?

Reductionism or Synthesis

I think Mr. Grinder is accurate about my focus as a modeler versus his. He has made it clear that he aims to reduce things and to obtain the fewer distinctions as possible.

“Rather than expand a model already proven effective in securing some outcome, X, the task of a modeler is to attempt to reduce the model consistent with achieving X – that is, to demonstrate that X can be achieved with fewer distinctions or more efficiently.”

I agree; my focus does differ. While I’m interested in the scientific attitude of reducing an experience to “the bare bones” structure, I am also interested in making locating an experience of excellence in its full system so as to understand its emergent properties. In that we do differ.

Mr. Grinder opened his response by saying that he had the impression that we are working “in entirely different fields with profoundly different criteria for presentation, argumentation, and evidence, and with significantly different purposes.” Perhaps he’s right. Our focus in Neuro-Semantics is on “running your own brain” and modeling excellence in health, business, relationships, resilience, and so on. This means developing “the conscious mind” or mindfulness.

By way of contrast, John Grinder seems to focus on kinesthetically based expertise: rock climbing, drumming, dancing, piloting, healing, acting, pistol shooting, and fire walking. This undoubtedly explains his desire to eliminate the conscious mind’s influence and to use second position for the unconscious uptake stage of modeling. A friend of mine wondered if such modeling could ever deal with the issues in business, economics, politics, communication, etc. These experiences are not so kinesthetically-based. Perhaps that’s why we are having so much interest in the models that we’ve developed in Neuro-Semantics regarding these subjects.


C It’s always good when those within a community engage in a healthy dialogue that’s open-minded and respectful about the model that they use and are developing. For that I’m delighted that Grinder and Bostic decided to engage myself and Robert Dilts in their book. Yet to begin a dialogue and to immediate tire of it seems a strange thing.

C It’s good fun also to be able to explore different perspectives and to put them before the larger NLP and NS community. After all, it is in doing so that we continually refine our maps and mapping and develop ever-richer and fuller maps for making a difference in the world and for enjoying a fuller experience. So as John and Carmen say, “Smile John!”

Re: “Whispering” Meta-States Posted on Neurons Egroup, October 18, 2002

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.

As many of you know, in his latest book, John Grinder (along with Carmen Bostic St. Clair) have written a criticism of NLP and the inadequacies of the “classic code” of NLP in order to promote his “new code” (actually a misleading phrase since Perceptual Positions and Ecology, etc. was “new” back in 1985). The book presents NLP in some new language, they talk about “First Access” (FA) and then later accesses to “the world.” I found it interesting in some respects but adding nothing new to the field.

It was nice to see in “Whispering in the Wind” that John and Carmen recognize and acknowledge meta-states. He acknowledges, “One explicit use of a meta-state is third position as it occurs in triple description…” (288). Yet John also doesn’t understand the model. I don’t think he has read the book Meta-States at all even though I have sent him a complementary copy.

He especially complains about the wild “proliferation of meta-states” and inquired about how such meta-states would be valuable, and what a person could do with such. Nor does he understand what Robert Dilts and I have argued for over the years, that the higher levels of “logical levels” have a progressively more encompassing and impactful influence in a mind-body system.

So to those things and many others, I’ve responded to some of John’s challenges to explain meta-states, logical levels, and so on. Several have commented that the field of NLP needs this kind of open dialogue and so we have posted the first three on the web site at the following locations:

What Dr. Grinder Doesn’t Know

An Open Invitation to John Grinder

Posted Neurons, 2003


It all began with the pattern in “Turtles” by John Grinder and Judith DeLozier many years ago. At that time, quoting Bateson they noted that it was through the use of “logical levels” that one could manage first and second order attention, and so enter into a genius state of singular focus. When Meta-States later came onto the scene in 1994, I was so bold (or foolish) as to re-model the pattern as the Genius Pattern to use the words of Richard Bolstad in describing that Meta-State pattern. Today that pattern is known as the Accessing Personal Genius pattern and is regularly presented and trained in APG (Accessing Personal Genius) training.

When I then applied to self, I found that I no longer experienced “writer’s block” and that I could access that focused state, and since then, many others. And the results were revolutionary on the personal level, not only for me, but for hundreds. From all over the world, people were beginning to use all of their NLP skills and knowledge to actually access their genius states.

Then, Grinder with DeLozier argued for the use of “logical levels,” but now he does not.  Now he discounts and questions it. In London recently someone asked me in a training,

“Is John missing out on his own personal genius because of this? After all, what has he presented in the last 15 years that’s new? Yes, ‘new’ code was new in 1985, but that’s been quite a little while now. By the way, how old does the new code have to get before they will change the name to old code? 1985 doesn’t seem to be the ‘new’ anything if you ask me.”

Personally, I hope John has not missed out on his own personal genius due to that. So with this post to the Neuro-Semantic e-group, I now put forth this ongoing Invitation to Dr. Grinder—

Dear John: You are invited to come to the 3-day “Accessing Your Personal Genius” in Brussels in July of this year as my personal guest. If you wonder why all the “proliferation of meta-states” and can access the sensory-based F1 know-nothing state, then come and see for yourself. If you want to see and experience how the higher levels are “psychologically compassing and governing” then check it out.

Well, that was in 2003 and John did not show up. So I sent out the invitation to him in 2004, but again, John did not show up. And so I now make the invitation an ongoing one— worldwide, and not only to my presentations of APG, but to any of the 160 Neuro-Semantic Trainers who are licensed to Train and Certify APG.

But will John Grinder show up?
Will he come as our guest and explore the merits of Meta-States on its own terms?

I hope so.  But of course, only time will tell