Michael Hall

Sometimes the problems that we struggle with, or that another person experiences, or that we experience with another person, occur in that invisible realm prior to, and "meta" to, thinking itself In other words, the arena of tension, conflict, or difference involves our very thinking patterns. I his raises several questions about this dimension of human experience, namely:

• What controls and determines the way we think in the first place?

• What governs our style and mode of thinking prior to the moment we actually "think?"

• How many thinking or sorting styles exist?

• How can we learn about and discern these invisible thinking stvles?

• Once we identify them, what can we then do about them?

The form or structure of our thinking, as our thinking style, exists at a level above (or meta) to our thinking itself. In NLP, we designate these thinking styles as Meta-programs, i.e., programs above the content programs. These "programs" arise in human development as we use our consciousness in sorting, paying attention to, and processing information.

For example, we can pay attention to the size of a piece of information from the tiniest detail to the largest level meaning (detail —global). I hose who regularly and systematically use the "detail" mode think from details to general understandings, use inductive thinking (they "chunk up" on the scale from specificity to abstraction). Those who typically think about "the big picture" (global meanings), move conceptually from "global" to specific. They reason deductively, rather than inductively. They "chunk down" the scale.

Another thinking pattern involves matching or mismatching. When some people process information, they sort for things that match. "What fits?" "How does this match what 1 already know?" Others mismatch. "How does this differ from what I already know?" "What doesn't fit here?" This Meta-program offers two different styles of thinking and leads to two ways of orienting oneself in the world. Now imagine how these two styles interface when people who use them marry! Though they may talk, they will probably each feel unheard and not validated. They will probably feel as if they don't talk "on the same wavelength" or channel.

Metaphorically, Meta-programs operate in human consciousness isomorphically to a computer's operating system. This suggests that the same inputted data will "mean" and evoke different things depending on the operating system of the computer (Windows, DOS, etc.). In human functioning, this leads to such questions as:

• What operating system does this particular person typically use?

• What other operating systems does this person sometimes revert to?

• What operating systems drive this person?

• What operating system would provide a better fit for this information?

Because we can "think" on several different levels, we develop Meta-programs. Content thinking describes what we think about— the details and context of our concern, "Where will we go for Thanksgiving this year?" Process thinking describes a higher logical level of thinking—the way and style of our thinking. See Figure 8.1 for a list of the NLP Meta-programs.

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