The Meta-Model is one of the elements of NLP that might take a while to master. Matt Wingett looks at how Dr Bandler uses it in real client sessions.
From time to time I have heard students of NLP express their bafflement at how to apply the meta-model. I have also heard those on the receiving end caricature it as a bullying series of questions that jump on vagueness in sentence constructions to challenge beliefs and presuppositions, making the client feel very small.
This is understandable if you go into using the Meta Model with a confrontational attitude. It's something to really be aware of, since used in that way the Meta-Model can alienate and anger a client, which in most cases is not what the Practitioner wants to achieve at all. In their Licensed NLP Practitioner seminar, Dr Richard Bandler and Kathleen La Valle are very clear about what the Meta Model is for: it should be used as part of an information-gathering exercise, which can also, be subtly used to start to make changes in others. The skill is making sure that you aren't "browbeating" your client with "challenges", but gathering information through clarification. Kathleen gives strong warnings against becoming a "Meta Monster" - someone who is wrapped up in the language of "challenging" Meta Model "violations".
Great examples of the fun ways the Meta Model can be applied can be found in Dr Richard Bandler's classic book: "Magic In Action". This volume is a series of transcripts of Dr Bandler working with clients. It is an extremely useful reference book for studying the way that Dr Bandler uses the techniques he teaches subtly and very finely, and I recommend it for anyone wishing to find out how to use the ideas in NLP with finesse.
The following extract is from his session with Susan, a woman suffering from "Anticipatory Loss". The session was was recorded - hence the mention of being "wired up" at the beginning of this extract.
Notice throughout this modelling session, how Richard keeps it light, injects humour and turns the whole process into a gentle, fun conversation. It is classic Bandler, and a delight to read:
Richard: Okay Susan. Now why don't you tell me what it is that you would like? I don't know. We just got brought here and wired up, so you have to give me a hint.
Susan: Okay. I have a problem with fear that is almost disabling to me at certain times. When I sort of go into panic attacks. What I would like to do is distance myself so that when I'm in the situation that I wouldn't experience the fear to the degree that I have it. Where I could control myself and make better decisions.
Richard: Is the fear appropriate? It's not like you're...
Susan: No, it's a fear of loss. It's a fear of losing friendships or close relationships. Even when I anticipate a loss that isn't even real I get a panic attack.
Richard: The situation that you are worried about being in is the one of anticipating and thinking about the loss?
Susan: Right. I guess, yes.
Richard: Do you lose a lot of friends?
Richard: I was going to say, maybe I wouldn't hang around with you too much.
Susan: No, I really don't.
Richard: When you first said loss I grabbed for my wallet here.
Susan: No, it relates though to people and not possessions.
Richard: So it's mostly about animate things?
Richard: Let me ask you a question. If I was going... let's say I had to fill in for you. How would you know when to have the fear? How do you do this? Do you do it now?
Susan: Yes. If someone... well I can in a way. For instance, if you told me that you were going to be here to meet me for this session and we were close friends so that it mattered to me, and then you were late...
Richard: It's been known to happen.
Susan: Then I might think that you weren't coming at all, and I would begin to get a panic attack.
Richard: Oh. With certain people it would be something that goes on on a frequent basis.
Richard: There are them that are always late. But how do you do it? How do you know, how do you get the panic?
Susan: Do you mean what feelings do I get?
Richard: Let's say I had to fill in for you for a day. So one of the parts of my job would be if somebody was late I'd have to have the panic for you. What do I do inside my head in order to panic?
Susan: You start telling yourself sentences like...
Richard: I've got to talk to myself.
Susan: So and so is late, look they're not here. That means that they may never come.
Richard: Do I say this in a casual tone of voice?
Richard: They're late... I think I'll panic now.
Susan: No, you start out slowly, because you start saying, they still have time. I'll give them another half an hour and if they're not here by then...
Richard: I'll panic. That gives you half an hour to change the speed of the internal dialogue.
Susan: But as the time goes on it begins to build.
Richard: What I want to talk about... do you make any pictures in there, too?
Susan: Yes. Pictures of whoever it is who isn't there. Maybe pictures of them...
Richard: Pictures of whoever it is...
Susan: The person who should be coming and hasn't come.
Richard: What kind of pictures?
Susan: Pictures of their face.
Richard: From the past, do you make new ones?
Susan: Ones of just what they look like, or maybe pictures of them in a wreck.
Richard: Pictures of them in a wreck?