The Newest Code of NLP

[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]

NLP is a code—it is a code about human subjectivity. It is a code about how our mind-and-body system structures our experiences, emotions, and skills. As a code, it enables us to understand and work with the dynamic structure of experience. Over the years there has been the classical of NLP and then the New Code of NLP. And now there is the Newest Code. This is a description of that Newest Code which offers new distinctions to enrich and enhance NLP and to take it to new levels of effectiveness as a meta-discipline that models the structure of human experience.

The First Code of NLP, according to Judith DeLozier, was the original coding that Richard Bandler and John Grinder created along with their original practice group of associates in Santa Cruz (Dilts, DeLozier, Cameron-Bandler, Gordon, Pucelic, Lewis, McClendon, Gilligan, etc.). What was that First Code? It was the basic NLP model that arose from modeling the communication expertise of Perls, Satir, and Erickson and so it centrally is the Meta-Model, the Representation systems, sub-modalities, strategies, the separation of intentions and behaviors, and the techniques that followed (six-step reframing, change personal history, anchoring, phobia cure, etc.).1

The New Code

Then in 1983, some 7 to 10 years later, Judith DeLozier and John Grinder brought out a New Code of NLP. It was in 1983 that they introduced some new distinctions for the field of NLP, distinctions which are now pretty much part and parcel of what’s considered basic or foundational NLP.

What was that 1983 New Code? Judith says it was state (best states and know-nothing state), conscious and unconscious relationship, balance of practice and spontaneity, perceptual positions, and multiple descriptions.1

Why did they create the New Code? What was the need or problem that they wanted to address with the New Code? They developed these distinctions as a response to concerns they had about many people in NLP “doing NLP on people,” not applying NLP on themselves which meant a high level of incongruency among NLP Practitioners, a ritualistic way of using NLP, and the failure of NLP that made the practice of NLP mechanistic, to be seen in a larger historical perspective.2

To these problems in the field, they asked themselves, “How are we going to get people to start thinking about where is the wisdom?” Judith explained in 1993 to an NLP group in London, “That is how Turtles All the Way Down got written in 1984.”1 John also said that he was motivated to create the New Code as an attempt to “correct its initial design flaws” as a solution to the most significant problems in the classic code of NLP.3

This means several things for us today. First and most obvious is that the New Code is no longer new. I have previously written articles asking, “When will the New Code no longer be new? How many years have to pass before it can be called an Old Code?” If the New Code was introduced in 1983, it is now (in 2008) 25 years old.

Secondly, given the state of the field of NLP today, this means that it is probably about time for another new code. In fact, given that the New Code1983 has not significantly affected the ability of NLP people to be more congruent or to “apply NLP to oneself” as John Grinder admits in his interview, perhaps it is time for the next level of a new code. Actually, the field of NLP is today much more fragmented than it was in 1983. It is no where close to creating a unified field. So, could it be that the time has arrived for the introduction of another new code? I think so. Here then is my 2008 introduction of the Newest Code of NLP.

What is the Newest Code? This is the code that I first introduced to NLP in 1994 with the Meta-States Model—a creative model that has since re-modeled most aspects of NLP. When it first appeared there were many NLP Trainers who felt that the Meta-States Model would eventually embed NLP within itself. One NLP Trainer wrote a review of the book Meta-States said that Meta-States would be the model that would “eat” NLP.Discovered in 1994, the Meta-States Model has outframed many aspects of NLP while simultaneously reframed and remodeled other aspects of NLP. Now because many people don’t know how Meta-States offers an entirely New Code for NLP and addresses many of the design flaws of the First Code and the New Code1983

This paper is an explanation of the pervasive re-modeling power of Meta-States for NLP. As Grinder said that he created the New Code to correct some of the design errors of classical NLP, the Newest Code continues in that tradition.

The Newest Code — Distinction #1 Higher Levels of States

NLP, as a communication model, focused on states, on neuro-linguistic states as an integrated mind-body system. As such it connected the way we communicate to ourselves through creating our representational movie to the states that our communicating evokes in us. Using the sensory-systems of what we see, hear, and feel, we make internal movies and then use the metarepresentational of language. From these processes we enter into various states, some resourceful, some unresourceful. These distinctions were modeled from the way Fritz Perls, Virginia Satir, and Milton Erickson used language which facilitated more resourceful and healing states.

NLP also made a few distinctions in states beyond resourceful—unresourceful. It distinguished uptime states of sensory awareness and downtime states of trance or hypnosis. NLP identified the temporal states wherein we live in the past, the future, or the present. Bandler introduced the chaining of states patterns as a way to move from one state to another when they are too far apart. By creating a series of in-between states and anchoring each, one can chain the two distant states together.

In the New Code, Grinder and DeLozier made distinctions of first-position states (experiencing he world from one’s own eyes and ears), second-position states (seeing and hearing from another person’s perspective) and third or meta-position states (stepping out to a position to see the system). As the 1983 New Code offered the Perceptual Positions which enriched NLP, it actually contained two meta-states within it, one of which even John Grinder has grudgingly acknowledged in his book

Whispering in the Wind.5

The Newest Code offers even more distinctions about states, the most critical being the layered nature of states that arise from our self-reflexive consciousness. When we bring one state to another state we create a meta-state. This enables us to now experience joy about our learning state and to create a joyful learning state. We can experience fear of our fear, fear of our anger, fear of being rejected, and a thousand other fear states. We can experience intentional playfulness and we can bring curiosity, wonder, love, respect, firmness, etc. to all kinds of first-level states. And so the mixing of states initiates states higher and more complex than primary states, we can create all kinds of richly resourceful meta-states.

Beyond primary and meta-states, however, is yet another distinction, gestalt states. These states emerge as states that are “more than the sum of the parts of other states.” Here the layering of states initiates a systemic response. So in courage we have fear at the primary state, but then perhaps commitment, passion, responsibility, etc. at the meta-levels and as they mix together, they generate what we call “courage.” In fact, most of the richest human states are gestalt states as also are the most painful distorted forms of personality disordering.6

The Newest Code identifies three kinds of states from these levels of states which enable us to now model such complexly layered states as creativity, leadership, self-actualization, charisma as well as schizophrenia and other painful states. (See The Structure of Personality). This corrects the design flaws of NLP’s first code and the New Code that esentially ignored the complex states created by our self-reflexive consciousness.

The Newest Code — Distinction #2 Levels

The Meta-States Model not only initiated new distinctions of the levels and kinds states in NLP, but modeled more thoroughly the unique kind of consciousness characteristic of human consciousness—self-reflexive consciousness. This initiated a new richness in the idea of “logical levels” that had been introduced NLP.

From the beginning, NLP introduced a few distinctions about levels. There was the levels of representations, at the primary level the sensory systems and then language and symbolism as the meta-representational system. Then Leslie Cameron-Bandler and Richard Bandler introduced the meta-levels inherent in Meta-Programs as they began examining a few perceptual filters. In the 1983 New Code, perceptual positions introduced levels of perceptions. Then Robert Dilts introduced the Neuro-Logical levels of five meta-levels (beliefs, values, identity, mission, and spirit) above the primary level (behavior, environment, capability).

Now in the Newest Code, we have a much more thorough modeling of the infinite process of self-reflexivity (or as the philosophers describe it, “the infinite regress”). Returning to Alfred Korzybski’s original work in neuro-linguistics and neuro-semantics (terms he originated) and his levels of abstraction, I incorporated his distinction into the Meta-States model. This means we can map things at multiple levels and that with every abstraction we make, we can step back to make yet another abstraction. Korzybski said that the process itself is infinite and described this as the process by which we create our human psycho-logics—our unique meanings which become our contextual frames.

Korzybski created the idea of our psycho-logics by putting a hyphen in psychology to recognize that our kind of reasoning (our “logics”) more often arise from the thoughts-and-feelings that we create as we reflect on our previous reflections. This structure gives rise to our beliefs, decisions, values, understandings, memories, imaginations, expectations, etc. and explains how these states are formatted. In the Meta-States Model each next layering of thoughts-and-emotions, as a state, follows our reasoning so we abstract or draw conclusion, however sane or insane that reasoning. As this creates our subjective psycho-logics, it simultaneously structures our next “logical level.”

This corrects the design flaw in NLP about “logical levels.” After all here are two nominalizations linked together to create a mental muddle because they are presented as a hierarchy using the rigid and unmoving metaphor of a ladder. Yet there are no explicit rules specifying the connection between levels. When we use the Meta-Model and denominalize this vague phrase, we find two verbs in “logical” and “levels.” First, the verb of layering one level of thought or feeling upon another. And we do this as we reason (the second verb, “logic”), that is, draw conclusions, make generations, delete data, etc. as we create our own unique model of the world as our mental map.
To sort out this meta-muddle, the Meta-States model presents the logical layering as fluid rather than hierarchical and infinite rather than a few steps. So in the Newest Code we illustrate this dynamic fluid swirling and spiraling of thinking-and-feeling with a spiral. With the spiraling of the meta-stating process, we can now more effectively model positive upward spiraling of states and negative downward spiraling. So when we spiral around in our thinking and emoting, we can now model this wild swirling of our states.

A design flaw within the original NLP code was the confusion of “going meta” with dissociation. Because we step out of one state when we transcend to another, Bandler and Grinder, Dilts and the other original developers all used the term “dissociation” and made it equivalent to the term “meta.” But these are not the same at all. Whenever we go meta, we step out of one state we simultaneously step into another. This means we are always in some state. The term “dissociation” is just a metaphor, a way of talking about a certain feeling.

The Newest Code includes a new understanding of how we create meta-programs in the first place—we create meta-programs by the coalescing of meta-states. They arise as the solidification of meta-states, that is, meta-states that have become embodied. When we mind-to-muscle some meta-states, they get into our eyes as meta-programs.6 If you meta-state a state of being specifically detailed, you create the detail meta-program. So with matching or mis-matching or any other metaprogram distinction.

The Newest Code — Distinction #3 Frames

From Gregory Bateson, the developers of NLP received the idea and terminology of frames and framing. This gave NLP its first frames: the relevancy frame, outcome frame, the as if frame, the meta-frame, etc. Accordingly, there were two forms of framing in traditional NLP, deframing and reframing. Via using the Meta-Model we are able to de-frame vague phrases and especially nominalizations. And via reframing, we are able to create the transformation that comes along with new meanings.

The New Code altered the original ideas of framing from Bateson and mixed it with the hypnotic processes of Milton and ended up with a fairly convoluted pattern creatively called “6-Step Reframing” because there are six steps to the pattern(!). John Grinder seems to still think of it as some kind of magical pattern created by his unconscious when he was sick and feverish while Richard Bandler dismissed it in the late 1980s as “just a pattern to trick therapists to do hypnosis with clients.”8

The Newest Code of NLP takes frames and framing to a whole new level. How? By recognizing that a frame is the mental context that we set as we meta-state new empowering psycho-logics into existence.

An example of this occurred in the first remodeling of NLP that I did with Meta-States resulted in the Mind-Lines model. Mind-Lines remodels the old “sleight of mouth” patterns to create a more conscious and structured way to reframe. It did that by specifying seven directions for sending a brain: deframing, reframing, counter-framing, pre-framing, post-framing, outframing, and analogous framing.
In the art of reframing meaning, this created a new psycho-logics. It did so by providing new structures about the structure of meaning (the “magic box of meaning” constructed of three linguistic forms). From that then a person has an empowering process for framing meaning in seven directions.

4) Modeling Subjectivity NLP Volume I (1980) NLP Going Meta (2005) Strategy Model Horizontal modeling Vertical Modeling 5) Reframing patterns 14 distinctions 26 distinctions Sleight of Mouth Mind-Lines (2005) Winning the Inner Game (2006) 6) States Frogs into Princes Meta-States (200) Resourceful States, (1979) States of Equilibrium (Burton, 2003) Genius states Strategies of Genius Secrets of Personal Mastery (1999) (Dilts) 7 Steps to Emotional Intelligence (2003) (Bridoux) Instant Relaxation (Lederer) In the Zone (Goodenough, Cooper, 2007) 7) Resourcefulness Best States Self-Actualization Model Self-Actualization Strategies of Genius Self-Actualization Quadrant Unleashed (2007), Self-Actualization Psychology (2008) 8) Time-Lines “Lines” for time Adventures in Time (1997) 2 time experiences 16 kinds and levels of time 3 time zones “Circles” for time 9) Personality Structure of Personality (2001) Therapy Dragon Slaying (2000), Games for Mastering Fear (2001) 10) Patterns Meta-State Magic Patterns Sourcebook of Magic, Vol I and II User’s Manual of the Brain, I and II11) Business Games Business Experts Play Coaching Meta-Coaching Series: I, II, III

Old Code New Code (1983) Newest Code 2008
Meta-Model States: Best States Higher levels of states
Representation Systems Know-Nothing States Meta-States
Sub-Modalities Conscious – Unconscious relationship Levels: Psycho-logics
Mindfulness, Reflexivity
Strategies Balance Practice and Spontaneity Frames: 7 framing processes
Pattern Perceptual Positions: 1, 2 and 3 Meaning: kinds, levels, scale,
Presuppositions Multiple Descriptions Axis of Meaning

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.