Master NLP Practitioner & Gestalt Therapist
Changing Meta Programs
In theory, Meta Programs are easy to change. What takes some work is making sure the change is ecological -- that is, all parts of you want the change, it's contextually appropriate, and there are no higher level patterns which would either interfere with making the change or would operate to return any change to its previous state. Such patterns might include a person's hierarchy of values, limiting beliefs, self-other confusion, internal conflicts about life purpose or mission, spiritual conflicts, relational consequences, etc.
The principle here is that ecology trumps change. Given a conflict between a particular change and a person's deeper or higher ecology, ecology will automatically take precedence and prevail. This is a good thing, since it points to the power of our inherent ability as self organizing systems to protect ourselves from changes which we do not congruently want.
In the exercise below, internal congruency and ecology are thoroughly explored and checked. If you intend to do this process on your own, plan to spend at least a couple of days on it. Write out your answers to each of the questions, review them, take lots of notes, put the process down and walk away from it for a while, let it percolate, then come back to it and review and make changes again. Sometimes "sleeping on it" may bring new insights or internal communications about it. Take your time.
The final ecology check is that you will try the change on for a period of time to get a sense of what it would be like if you kept the change. If a part of you doesn't like it, you can decide not to keep it, or you can make changes to it so that it's fully acceptable to you. Even if you decide to keep it and change your mind later, you can always change it back using the same process, or make new adjustments to it.
Skill strengths which will facilitate use of this exercise include: good communication between conscious and non-conscious parts, the ability to associate into an imagined experience, the ability to "go meta" (disassociate) and think about the content and process at a higher level, the intention to be honest with yourself, and a sense of curiosity and exploration.
This process is adopted from the Hall and Bodenhamer "meta framing" approach to changing Meta Programs in combination with aspects of Dilts' spatial sorting and Grinder's 6-step reframe.
Making The Change (Steps)
STEP 1: Identify the Meta Program you wish to change.
a. Specifically identify and fully describe when, where and with whom you are using it that does not serve you well.
b. Specifically identify and fully describe how it does not serve you well.
STEP 2: Describe fully the Meta Program you would prefer.
a. Specifically identify and fully describe when, where and with whom you would like this new Meta Program to govern your perceptions, awareness and consciousness.
b. Specifically identify and fully describe how it will server you better.
STEP 3: Try it on.
a. Physically change your location to another chair or standing spot.
b. Imagine adopting the new Meta Program in a fully associated way.
c. Pretend to use it, sorting, perceiving, attending, thinking, feeling, etc.
d. Notice how it feels, how things look, how it seems, what thoughts occur to you. Feel free to walk around with it a bit if you like, experiencing what it would be like to use this new Meta Program. Expect that it might seem a little strange at first because it is new and unfamiliar. Notice what other feelings besides discomfort arise with it.
e. Imagine some specific contexts where you think this Meta Program will serve you better.
STEP 4: First Ecology Check
a. Step Out of the 'try on' experience and move to a new location, leaving it behind.
b. In this new location, adopt the state of mind of an detached but interested observer who can review, from a distance, the 'try on' experience you just had.
c. Check it out. What occurs to you right away?
d. Check it out from a standpoint of the low to mid neurological levels. That is, what will this new Meta program do for you in terms of perceiving, behaving, capabilities, beliefs and values.
e. Check it out at the identity level. What "kind of person" would it begin to make you?
f. Check out its broader effects. What effects would it have on the rest of your life and other people?
g. What effects would it have on your spirituality?
STEP 5: Second Ecology Check
a. Move back to the original physical location -- where you were when you were doing steps 1 and 2.
b. Go inside yourself and respectfully submit this question to your entire inner being and all your parts: "Does any part of me have any objection to making this change, or to making this change in this way?"
c. Allow yourself to be still and quiet for a few minutes as you openly wait for any new thoughts or objections to make themselves known to you.
d. If there are any objections, acknowledge them and say an internal "Thank you" for the communication. Make a note of them and continue.
e. Specifically identify how, when, where and with whom the old Meta Program served you in some positive way(s). What secondary gains does it provide that will be important to preserve?
f. How will you preserve them?
STEP 6: Take Care of Ecology
a. Address any conflicts, objections or incongruities. Use any other NLP processes that may be useful and appropriate, such as reframing or redefining, so that all objections are taken care of and you have resolved the old emotions, thoughts, beliefs, decisions, etc.
b. If you have difficulty addressing any of these incongruities, if any are persistent or difficult to resolve, Stop Here -- for now. You can return to this process after they have been thoroughly addressed. Consider exploring other NLP processes to address them in different ways. If you can use help with this, make arrangements to consult with a professional NLP practitioner until they are resolved.
c. When you're "good to go" and all of your systems give you the green light, continue.
STEP 7: Permission
a. Give yourself permission to install the new Meta Program for a specific period of time. This can be anywhere from several hours, to several days, to a week or two.
b. Make the internal agreement that at the end of that time, you can decide to keep the new Meta Program, extend it for a longer trial period, or switch back to the old one.
c. At this point in the process, a person can install a new Meta Program simply by giving permission to use it.
d. To strengthen it, move back to the physical location you used during the "Try it on" process (Step 3), and "map it across" to your original physical location. This is done by fully associating back into the "Try it on" state, getting the full sense of it again, then making internal arrangements to create a mental symbol or a few words which will represent the experience. Then walk the symbol or words over to your original position and take a few moments to accept and integrate the symbol or words into your consciousness. Allow it to "self-organize" in its own way, and allow yourself to experience the new Meta Program again.
STEP 8: Final Ecology Check
a. Go inside and check to make sure all is well and you are excited and looking forward to using this new Meta Program for the time period you have specified.
b. If any last minute ecology issues arise, temporarily put a 'hold' on your permission, walk the symbol or words back to the "Try it on" location, leave them there, and return to your original position and state. Then go back to Step 6.
c. When all is well and you are "good to go," continue.
STEP 9: Future Pace
a. Practice, in your imagination, using the Meta Program in as many future contexts as you like, until it feels comfortable and familiar.
b. Return to the present and enjoy your new Meta Program!