Unleashing Vitality

~ Article by DrL.Michael Hall & Shawn Dwyer ~

When NLP began and before it was called NLP, it was called Meta. It was called Meta from 1971 to 1975 before it received the new name, Neuro-Linguistic Programming in 1976. Why Meta? Because of the central role that “going meta” played in the formation of the new discipline. While it originally started as a Gestalt Therapy class and slowly morphed into something else, it did so because the two founders (Bandler and Pucelik), not understanding how the transformations were happening, asked Grinder to come in and see if he could figure it out. He enter the group seeking to understand things from a structural point of view- from a meta perspective.
Then, as they stepped back again and again from specific experiences to gain perspective on what was happening – the created a meta-model- the Meta-Model of Language.

Actually, this fact that NLP is a meta-discipline is its strength.

This also explains why so many people don’t know what NLP is. And why there’s so much confusion among them about NLP. When asked to explain “what it is,” they are at a loss. They jump between various contents and miss the larger picture. There are people who say it is change work, personal development, therapy, linguistics, hypnosis, communication, state management, etc.

Obviously, NLP involves all of that and yet it is more. Because NLP looks at the structure of experience and details how the structure of an experience operates, it is a meta-discipline. That’s why NLP seems to apply to nearly everything. It especially applies to any human experience.
Because of that, we can look at any (and every) experience in terms of how it functions in our thinking and feeling, and how we communicate it to ourselves and to others. No wonder then we can apply the communication structural process to therapy, coaching, leadership, management, parenting, teaching, consulting, sports, health, and on and on.

Human Experience Has a Structure

Any and every human experience has a structure and NLP is the study or field of that experience. The focus is on how it works. And further, this applies to experiences that are good and powerful and healing as well as experiences that are bad, disempowering, toxic, pathological, and criminal.
In this, NLP can apply to just about everything. But everything is not NLP.
Not everything is NLP, yet NLP, as the study of subjective experience from a meta-perspective.

When the Meta-States Model emerged in 1994, the role that a meta perspective grew in understanding and application. That’s because the Meta-States Model modeled the special kind of consciousness that we humans have- a consciousness that is self-reflexive. We do not just think, we think about our thinking. We do not just emote, we have emotions about our emotions. The consequences of this is profound.

When you move above a primary experience of thinking-and-feeling, and include it in your next thinking-and-feeling, you do several things. You set the frame for the first experience. You create the category or
classification for the first experience so that it becomes a member of the higher class. Now you can move from mere thought to belief. Moving from fluid thoughts to more stable thoughts that you “hold in mind” as your meanings- your definitions, classifications, evaluations, values, decisions, understandings, and on and on. As you do this, you set in motion a higher level “attractor” in your system of thinking-and-feeling. Now what you put at the meta-level becomes a self-organizing factor attracting to your thinking, emoting, perceiving, remembering, imagining, etc. that very factor.

Meta-States of NLP

What we discovered with the Meta-States Model is that it could explain all of the hidden, invisible processes that made the NLP patterns work. The techniques of NLP, especially those that have proven dependable, work due to the meta-level framing. Sometimes this framing is explicit, yet most of the time it is not. Most of the time to identify the hidden structure, you need to track out the meta-levels.

After the discovery of the Meta-States Model, Bob Bodenhamer and I remodeled the time-line model of NLP, meta-programs, sub-modalities, beliefs, etc. You can find these in Adventures in Time (1997), Figuring Out People (1997), Sub-Modalities Going Meta (2002), as well as User’s Manual of the Brain, Vol. I and II.

Meta made the difference.

It was there in NLP from the beginning, but for twenty years it was unrecognized and undeveloped. The development of meta came in 1994 with Meta-States. Hence “go meta” is to step back and reflect, now you can do quality control of your experience. Therefore to go meta” is to transcend and include- transcend the immediate experience and include it inside of a higher frame.

So to “go meta” is to rise above your experience of fear, for example, and include fear in the larger state of mindfulness, or courage, or appreciation, or any other state that you would like to outframe the fear with. This is meta-stating. Now, you have a subjective experience which is richer and more profound that just fear- you have mindful fear, or courage fear, or appreciative of the values in fear, etc.

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