Book Summaries

NLP Going Meta: Advanced Modelling using Meta Levels

By L. Michael Hall

NLP Going Meta integrates the Meta States model into the modeling process by considering logical levels. This is an advanced book about modeling which beginners would find difficult. It considers Modeling from the perspective of changing unwanted behaviors.

Check out Nlp Going Meta: NLP Advanced Modeling Using Meta-Levels at Amazon
The central NLP Modeling attitude asks, “Teach me how to do that – if I were you for the day, what would I need to do to fill in for you?” It asks questions about process.

NLP itself is the byproduct of modeling Milton Erickson, Fritz Perls – Inspiration for the Meta Model and Virginia Satir – Family Therapy. It codifies their patterns and procedures (among other things). Richard Bandler and John Grinder made the components of human subjectivity explicit as Representational Systems. The sequencing of the elements is the strategy model.

How an expert does what she does

We process and learn by:

  • mapping out the territory, generating internal sights, sounds, sensations (representations)
  • mapping linguistically when we say words about those first level representations
  • Using submodalities to frame our representations
  • Using meta level phenomena such as beliefs, values, criteria, frames, metaphors, presuppositions and narrative

Map Building

We don’t operate on the world directly but via our mental maps. In the physical world, there are events, forces and impacts. In the world of ideas, there is only news of difference.

Our maps are our model of how things work, what things mean and what’s out there. We respond to our world in terms of our maps. Information feeds back to update our maps and/or take different actions.


Strategies are a formal description of what we do in our head and nervous system to generate a particular behavior. Strategies exist inside our maps and are a first approximation of a model.

At the micro level, we have thoughts and beliefs. At a macro level, we have skills and communication. Identifying a person’s strategies can increase our effectiveness in communicating and persuading.

Purpose and Intention

The expert’s purpose and intention organizes the particular skill. It is usually not in their conscious awareness. It provides the big “why”.

NLP generally has a polarity response to “why”, preferring to concentrate on the “how”. This kind of “why” is important in understanding their overall motivation for acquiring and maintaining the skill.

Meta States

The failure of some NLP Techniques comes from trying to work with Meta level experience using primary state technology. You cannot anchor a Meta state the same way you link a primary state. You need a Meta mechanism such as language, symbols or metaphor. Language primarily drives Meta states.

Meta States are the leverage points in the experts processing system. A Meta State is one state referencing another. Meta States can be complex. Our expectations about ourselves control both our perceptions and behavior. They operate both sequentially and simultaneously. How do you feel about that? What is the meaning about the meaning?

As humans, we are amazing. We can think about our thinking (reflexive thinking). We have expectations that can create self-fulfilling prophecies (for good or bad). We can say things like I feel spectacular, dumb or useless which don’t relate to feeling at all. We can even reflect about our reflections – loving love or fearing fear.

We have ideas, frames and beliefs about our abilities, about being a human self (identity), about meaning and purpose (spiritual).

Gestalt Meta states

Beauty is a class word. What does it mean? It is about order and symmetry. What does the state of recognition feel like? As we move up the levels of abstraction, we summarize, integrate and evaluate.

We respond to the perception of the whole structure. When we try to analyze the wholeness, the structure disappears.

Emergence is an organized effect of the system itself. For example, the constant temperature of the thermostat is an emergent thing. It has no existence apart from its organization within the system.

Meta Programs

Meta programs are our perceptual sorting devices. They evolve from habituated Meta States. They are how

  • we perceive stimuli
  • we pay attention to information
  • we input and process
  • reframe and sort

They are cognitive patterns that critically affect how we see ourselves, how we feel, what we value, which states we access and how we speak and behave.

They are part of our “personality”. Personality refers to the characteristic ways a person behaves, responds. It is the overall set of metaprograms, frames, content programs, strategies and our style of structuring information

They can exist overall as a life state or be subject to contextual markers. One of our most central Meta programs is representational systems

Beliefs and Values

Beliefs can drive abilities behaviors and purposes i.e. they out frame. They have a frame of validation or confirmation. What we believe doesn’t make it real, only subjectively. It actualizes in body, mind and behavior.

Primary States

This is the level of conditional stimuli, and the Pavlovian anchoring of content. With primary states, any “aboutness” refers to the external world. Primary states are not about ideas and concepts. Primary states are things in the world. Meta states are references to earlier abstractions.

Primary states in modeling refer to behaviors (both micro and macro), capabilities in terms of genetic predispositions and the immediate context.


Meta states show the critical importance of unconscious frames. We frame our messages and actions. What meanings do we attach to stimuli?

Different Meta frames

  1. meanings are ideas we hold in mind
  2. beliefs are ideas we affirm and validate
  3. values are ideas that are important
  4. identity are our ideas about self
  5. “aboutness” is ideas about other ideas
  6. principles are our guidelines and essential to conclusions
  7. decisions are our ideas we cut off from other choices
  8. intentions are our motives, desires and wants
  9. outcomes are our ideas about goals and ends
  10. understandings are at mental support for our world
  11. expectations are our anticipations
  12. paradigms, models and schemas are more complex mappings
  13. metaphor and non-linguistic symbols

Out framing

Out frames are higher-level frames about other frames. Experts will usually have different overall frames than less skilled people. What Meta state or perception has been filtering out useful solutions? What overall Meta perception could shift everything?

The Modeling Process

Modeling Presuppositions

  • Every behavior comes out of an internal structure.
  • Order, sequence, amount and timing are important.

Modeling Procedure

Modeling almost always begins with strategy work. You need to slow down the process by asking good questions. Questions also directionalize the brain and install higher frames. An elicitation frequently works  as an installation.

  1. Listen to important words and synesthesias (combined representational systems). We literally describe what we do.
  2. Eye accessing cues – all behavior makes internal processes explicit.
  3. Logical questions – the strategy makes sequential sense. What is the difference between someone who has the skill and someone who doesn’t
  4. Use a notation to describe the strategy consistently – like musical notes describe a piece of music.

Meta Strategies

  • We are anchoring the frame or the context
  • Use context markers or cues as to which frame to use
  • Nominalizations and evaluations usually trigger the context
  • Framing involves setting a context or meaning to an interaction
  • de-framing involves pulling meanings apart
  • Reframing gives new meanings from different perspectives
  • pre-framing sets a frame prior to entering a context
  • out framing moves above all frames

Meta words are cues that the person is accessing a Meta state

  • of, about, regarding, in terms of, beyond, in light of
  • Use of the word self with a hyphen, for example self-confidence
  • Classification words
  • Use of quotes for example “and he said to me”
  • Using nested loops or stories

Logical Levels

  • Understanding logical levels enables us to
  • Distinguish description from evaluation
  • Take a more objective big picture view
  • Find the leverage points for learning and change (higher levels control lower levels)
  • Synthesize resources
  • Prevent fragmentation of different elements
  • Make generative changes (that affect the system as a whole)

There is a difference between list items (like the hierarchy of values) and those where an item is a member of the higher class (logical levels). With lists of values, there is no logical set of relationships between them.

Strategy Installation process

  1. Anchoring – wiring it to a contextual sequence
  2. Instructions – vividly imagining going through the process.
  3. Mental Rehearsal
  4. Rehearsing synesthesia patterns – overlapping accessing cues
  5. Game playing
  6. Pattern interruption to divert

Various frames can install strategies, particularly out frames. A great example of an out frame is the miracle pattern or “as if”. Another example is “this is just food; I refuse to allow it to mean status, prosperity or love”.

The majority of conversational reframes (Mind lines and Sleight of Mouth) operate as outframes.

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