by L. Michael Hall, Ph. D.
So What does "Going Meta" Mean and not mean?
I will list a number of things that going meta does not mean in order to highlight what it does mean.
First, "going meta" does not mean becoming unemotional. It especially does not mean that. This was one of the criticisms that several who wrote reviews in NLP World against the Meta-States Model. They assumed that "going meta" was that same thing as "being dissociated." Several reviewers even took potshots at me, asserting that only a very dissociated person could have come up with the idea of Meta-States.
Actually, meta moves often create much more intense emotional states. The move increases the amount of emotion and even kinesthetic engagement. Consider the meta-state of feeling joy of and about learning (the gestalt of joyful learning). This state is much more intense and emotional than just experiencing a primary state of learning. The same holds for fear of fear, fear of anger, wonder of curiosity, etc. These are much more emotionally intense states.
So what explains this? How can we go meta and end up with more kinesthetics and physiology involved?
Answer: When we go meta, we not only transcend the primary state, but we also include it inside of a new mind-body state. In this way, the second state coalesces all of its thoughts and feelings into the first state. Joy infiltrates the learning. Fear infiltrates the anger.
Conversely, what going meta does mean is that we are texturing the primary state with the thoughts and feelings of another state. When we do this, we thereby layer in a new quality of richness to the experience. This is why "respectful and considerate anger" represent so much richer an experience than just plain anger at someone or some thing. And when we texture in calmness, rationality, self control, etc. to anger, this texturing makes the primary experience of anger a very different experience. It changes the feeling tone of the primary state.
Secondly, going meta does not mean or refer to the collapsing of states. This is an easy mistake to make when first learning about Meta-States. Over the years I have heard this question hundreds of times. "When you meta-state, isn't this the collapsing of states?"
Yet the answer is, "No, it is not." The collapsing of states occur when we evoke two states and relate them to each other on the same level and do so at the same time. Then we are attempting to cue the nervous system and body to experience two conflicting states simultaneously. Feel "relaxed" and "tense" now! If we have anchored both states and set off both anchors at the same time, then we typically experience confusion and disorientation as our nervous system tries to go into one state and into its opposite. This disperses neurological energy. It reduces both states. It is for this reason that we have to return to the resourceful state and refresh it afterwards. In that way, we re-set a new anchor for it.
When, however, we access two opposite states and then set one over the other, the meta move sets up a new relationship between the states. Now one state (the one meta to the other) becomes a frame of reference for the lower state. Doing this constructs a new Neuro Semantic reality. Doing this allows us to create a sense of our personal worth as a given. It enables us to set the state of worth and value as a frame over all of the risks involved in making your dreams come true. This may even generate the sense of being "un-insultable." If that happens, then the Neuro-Semantic state sets the frame that every endeavor that doesn't succeed in just the way you had hope is not about 'you.' It's about the activity.
Instead of collapsing states, going meta means creating gestalt states like "un-insultability," resilience, proactivity, courage, etc. These states are "more than the sum of the parts" (hence the use of the word "gestalt"). It is in this way that Meta States takes NLP to the next level of becoming much more systemic in nature.
Going meta means that we are letting the levels coalesce. It is in this way that we create Meta Programs. We meta state our everyday states so often with a way of thinking, sorting, paying attention, etc. and eventually it becomes our meta program for information processing. Of course, when we know this, we also know how to change meta programs. This frees you from any confusion about you being your meta program! You are not. A meta-program is just a learned behavior.
Thirdly, going meta does not necessarily mean that we get more abstract, trancy, and fluffy. The coalescing of meta levels translates ideas and concepts into muscle patterns. That's the marvel and magic of the Neuro-Semantics Mind to Muscle Pattern. We didn't invent that process. We just described how it naturally happens and how you can take charge of that integration process.
Conversely, going meta actually describes a trance phenomenon and is therefore hypnotic in nature. This highlights the hypnotic nature of every meta stating process ... once we send a person inward and upward to accessing or building new frames-we are engaging in a hypnotic induction. This explains why you only have to meta-state a person a few levels and it invites an inward focus and the suggestibility of hypnosis. This also explains why former meta-stating structures operate in the same way that hypnotic suggestions operate.
When we consciously choose to go meta, this means that we have learned how to recognize and effectively work inside the frames of our mind... the Matrix of Frames that makes up our current "structure" or fabric of reality. This enables us to wake up to our own matrices... and to choose the ones you want to live within.
In these and many, many more ways, Meta States has enriched the meta move ("going meta") that Bateson initiated and that NLP employed. And it is the art of meta thinking that takes you from NLP into Neuro Semantics.