Neuro-Semantics: Its Models

[This article is adapted from the International Society of Neuro-Semantics (ISNS). Originally written by the co-developer of Neuro-Semantics NLP, Dr. L. Michael Hall]

With the introduction of Neuro-Semantics into NLP and then the ongoing evolution as Neuro-Semantics moves on from NLP, I’m often asked about Neuro-Semantics is and how it differs from NLP. I have addressed this to some extent in other articles (The Neuro-Semantic Different, Ten Years of Meta-States, etc.).

  • What is Neuro-Semantics?
  • What is and is not in the field of Neuro-Semantics?

Short and quick, Neuro-Semantics is the performance of meaning. It is how our mind-body system embodiesmeaning and how our meanings are expressed in our behaviors or performances. In this, Neuro-Semantics addresses the relationship between meaning (semantics) and performance (neurology) and speaks about the incorporation of meaning in our body. It is about performing our highest of meaning and about enriching our best meanings to our performances.

Neuro-Semantics addresses how to work holistically with our mind-body-emotion system so as to translate our best and most inspiring ideas so that they are in our muscle memory. Standing on the shoulders of the giants in the fields of the cognitive sciences, cognitive-behavioral psychology, cognitive linguistics, Korzybski’s general semantics, Bateson’s anthropological systems, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, and much more— Neuro-Semantics explores how we are meaning-makers all the way up the levels of our minds.

Within the field of Neuro-Semantics are a dozen basic models, all of them emerging from the Meta-States model. There are also some two hundred patterns for enabling people to take their performances to new levels of excellence and to add much more meaning to everyday life. Additionally, there are now over two-dozen official training courses and manuals that embody this field. All of the following models were created and developed by L. Michael Hall.

  • Given this, what are the models and patterns that make up Neuro-Semantics?
  • What are the content themes within Neuro-Semantics?

Neuro-Semantics began with the discovery of Meta-States in 1994 and the first developments occurred within the field of NLP as I applied Meta-States to NLP. This generated what we now recognize as some of the first Neuro-Semantic models. The remodeling of NLP models included Time-Lines (the meta-levels of “time” in Adventures in Time-Lines), Reframing (the remodeling of “Sleight of Mouth” Patterns to Mind-Lines), the remodeling of Sub-modalities in Sub-Modalities Going Meta and the Cinematic Features model, and the remodeling of meta-programs that put meta-programs in four categories in Figuring Out People.

After applying Meta-States to these various facets of NLP, we began using Meta-States to create new domains and applications. This began to define Neuro-Semantics as a separate field from NLP and began to take Neuro-Semantics into new areas.

Among the distinctive features of Neuro-Semantic that have been developed separating it more from NLP are the following.

  • Meaning-making: Inasmuch as we construct meaning at multiiple levels, we make meaning through representing, associating, evaluating, framing, metaphoring, etc. In the end, Neuro-Semantics is a model of how we invent and construct meaning in our Meaning Matrix.
  • Matrix as frames of meaning: Via our meaning making abilities, we create a matrix of frames around a thousand different subjects. Neuro-Semantics describes the frames of reference we use as we move through life and the frames of meaning that we construct.
  • Emotions: When something means something to us—we feel it in our bodies. The meanings show up as “emotions.” The meanings take the form of values, ideas, beliefs, understandings, paradigms, mental models, frames, etc. And what is an emotion? It is the difference that’s registered in our bodies between our mapping of the world and our experiencing of the world.
  • Semantic reactions and responses: We respond and react to the world according to the semantic structures of meaning that we have built regarding what things “are,” what they “mean,” and “what causes things.”
  • Systemic: Meta-state thinking involves a different kind of thinking, shifting us from linear to non-linear thinking. This systemic thinking arises from the reflexivity andrecursiveness of the way our brain works as we hae feedback and feed forward loops within all of our communication loops.

The models of Neuro-Semantics:

1) Meta-States

A model that maps out the workings of our self-reflexive consciousness. This is the kind of consciousness that enables us to step back from ourselves and to reflect on our experience of our thinking and feeling. Via the meta-stating process we create states-about-states, thinking and feeling frames about our experiences, and so create layers of embedded frames of meaning to create our Matrix of frames.

2) Meta-Programs Model

While the meta-programs were discovered and collected as a collection of perceptual filters governing consciousness, there was no systematic model that organized them until the model in The Spirit of NLP and then later, Figuring Out People occurred. Categorizing the filters in terms of cognition, emotion, conation, and semantic, the Meta-Programs model explains how meta-programs arise from meta-states.

3) The Time-Line Model

While Richard Bandler created the idea of time-lines, there was no model of the levels of time until Meta-States remodeled it in Adventures in Time-Lines. With the levels of time, distinctions could be made between at least 16 kinds or dimensions of time.

4) The Mind-Lines Model

A model that maps out the 7 directions that we can frame and reframe and so “send a brain” that invites the construction of new meanings. As a model for conversational reframing, Mind-Lines simplifies the directions of consciousness and the art of constructing additional perspectives for changing our response to the world. See Mind-Lines.

5) The Cinematic Features Model

We also have designated this the Meta-Modalities Model that remodels the old NLP domain of “sub-modalities.” The discovery was shocking and stunning. There are no “sub” in “sub-modalities.” The editorial features involve stepping back from our movies and editing them from a higher level using the various cinematic distinctions that we have called “sub-modalities.” See MovieMind and Sub-Modalities Going Meta.

6) The Frame Games Model

A more user-friendly version of Meta-States that speak about the two dimensions or levels of our games, the inner game of our frames and the outer game of our behaviors. Frame Games analysis involves detection, acceptance, and transformation. From this model have come numerous key books and training manuals. This Framing Model tracks the way we use our brain and nervous system to bring the experiences we have in the world into ourselves and use them as references, frames of reference, frames of meaning, and the frameworks for our personality. Out of it grew the Matrix Model.

7) The Matrix Model

A model the unifies all ofthe models of NLP and Neuro-Semantics into 3 process matrices of meaning, intention, and state and 5 content matrices of self, power, others, time, and world. The process matrices make up the cognitive-behavioral aspect of the model (Cognitive and Behavioral Psychologies) and the content matrices make up the developmental aspect (from Developmental Psychology). [Prior to the Matrix was the three-meta-domains model, which later became the four meta-domains model.]

8) The Levels of Culture Model

Using Meta-States and John Searl’s formula for the construction of social reality, the Levels of Culture Model provides a way to map how a “group mind” arises and the development of social reality from the meaning-making of individuals. This has led to the Cultural Modeling courses and various applications.

9) The Benchmarking Model

A model that uses the denominalizing process of the Meta-Model to operationalize terms that are abstract and that refer to intangible evaluations, values, and skills. Using drilling down questions, the benchmarking model offers a specific way to create KPIs (key performance indicators). Co-created with Michelle Duval.

10) The Axes of Change Model

A model that maps out how healthy, self-actualization people change through the change stages of motivation, decision, creation, and solidification. The Axes of Change handles the levels and dimensions of change based on Bateson’s work and Meta-States and describes the axes of leadership and sales as well. Co-developed with Michelle Duval.

11) Self-Actualization Quadrants Model

Also known as the Neuro-Semantic Meaning-Performance Axes model. A model that uses the meta-programs of self-actualization to identify the heart and soul of how self-actualization occurs as the synthesis of meta-program continua poles along the Axes of Meaning and Performance.

The Neuro-Semantic Self-Actualization model includes the Self-Actualization Quadrants which enables us to diagnose the relationship between meaning and performance and to use the quadrants to recognize that we all perform meaning and hence experience neuro-semantic states.

12) The Performance Analysis Model

A model that maps out with 24 questions a performance analysis to identify the stages and levels of performance and then enables one to profile the leverage point for the greatest transformation and empowerment.

The Patterns of Neuro-Semantics

Given these numerous models, there are now some 150 Meta-State patterns, some 20 or more remodeled NLP patterns, and potentially another 50 patterns unique to the twelve models, for instance, the patterns in Cultural modeling, Meta-Coaching, etc. As of 2005, there are approximately 200 plus patterns unique to Neuro-Semantics. Of these patterns, 95% were created by L. Michael Hall, and approximately 15 were created by others, e.g., Denis Bridoux, Douglas Adams, Stephen Campbell, etc.


CY Soh
CY Soh

CY Soh is a Certified NLP Master Trainer (NLPU), Licensed Neuro-Semantics NLP Trainer (ISNS), a speaker, and performance coach who works with leaders and executives to create personal breakthroughs, performance improvement, and achieve high-impact results. He is also a trader and a CMT charterholder.