I do two activities to relax, one is to solve mathematics problems and the other is to create resource maps. “Resource maps” are diagrams (and models) that define, capture, explain, and illustrate relationships between key concepts. They can be concept maps, mind maps, or illustrative graphics. They may evolve as a “model of my understanding” of a subject, and often continue to evolve as a shared understanding among a group of people. Creating resource maps and solving mathematics problems reflect my visual-kinesthetic learning style: seeing and manipulating, whether it is equations or concepts. This article describes three different ways resource maps are useful to learners, trainers, coaches, and modelers:

Learn – Create to Understand and Reference the Material
Teach – Use with Visual and Digital Learners
Model – Model to Evolve Your Understanding

Although this article is primarily about resource maps, I’ll briefly come back to mathematics later (mostly as an analogy, if anyone is worried).

Resource Map Examples

Over the years my resource maps and other diagrams have appeared in many Neuro-Semantics books and a few training manuals. Here are four resource maps (from the Resource Maps page) that I will refer to in rest of this article. You may find it convenient to view each map as I discuss it. When you click on a link, it will open in a new tab in your browser.

Meta-States and Frames. A meta-state is a state about another state (e.g., curious excitement), and is triggered from within yourself. It sets a new frame of meaning (curious) for that original state (excitement). A “frame”, short for “frame of reference”, is the reference we use to understand and interpret something. Our frames govern our behavior. The Meta-States and Frames map explores the meta-states model within Neuro-Semantics. It relates meta-states to frames, and vice versa.

LEARN MORE: An Example of a Meta-State

Suppose you see a potential danger and feel fear. The state of fear is called a primary state since it is triggered from outside of you. Being human, you will probably reflect on that fear. Many of us have been ashamed of being afraid. That state “shameful fear” is a meta-state, a state about another state. Shame sets a new frame of meaning for that original state of fear. Now, your relationship with the state of fear is shame. How would you experience fear differently if instead you were curious about your fear?

Cognitive Distortions. This map illustrates a cognitive distortions model. Cognitive distortions are a person’s thought and behavior patterns that convince him or her of something that is not true, usually reinforcing negative thoughts or emotions. Blaming is a cognitive distortion when you, for example, chose to blame someone else for the consequences of your own behavior. The cognitive distortions map is useful to a coach who wants to understand how a client can get himself or herself in trouble, or to anyone who wants to understand how politicians can distort reality.

Well-formed Outcome. This map lists important questions, originally from Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP), that help you discover, state, and decide, and act on what you want. In the of 1939 movie, “The Wizard of Oz”, the film starts out in black and white when Dorothy is in Kansas. A tornado brings her to the Land of Oz, and suddenly the film is in color. When I first encountered the well-formed outcome questions in Neuro-Semantics, they were either just text (no graphics) in a manual, or summarized in a black and white funnel on a meta-coaching evaluation form. Since my coaching sessions are in color, I thought I would create a resource map of the well-form outcome in color.

Matrix Model. This diagram illustrates the Matrix Model, which is a systems model within Neuro-Semantics. It helps organize a large amount of information when coaching a person. It includes process matrices that help us create our mental maps of reality, and content matrices that reflect mental maps of ourselves.

Learn – Create to Understand and Reference the Material

For many people, especially visual learners who are trying to understand a complex topic, drawing a concept or mind map can help them clarify and cement concepts. For example, I defined and related the following words in the concept map “Meta-States and Frames”: meta-state, frame, meta-frame, and meta-level. I took what I knew and what thought I knew, and poured over many articles and books while creating that map; and, I learned from that experience as I will discuss later. This activity reinforced my belief that there is always something new to learn from a subject even if you think you know it well.

Resource maps may also serve as studies, similar to Chopin Études (which, I recently learned, is French for “studies”). Chopin’s Études illustrated his emerging musical techniques. Many people use them today as teaching pieces, although that may not have been Chopin’s primary intention. I thought about this while reviewing the Cognitive Distortions map. I created that map to catalog cognitive distortions and relate them to three characteristics of hopelessness: making things personal, making things permanent, and making things pervasive. My map did not explicitly address how to deal with a particular cognitive distortion someone encounters, especially when a coach hears one during a coaching session. I thought that new resource maps could serve as coaching études for coaches. Creating these maps might be a nice activity for local coaching study groups.

LEARN MORE: Creating an Études Map

Let’s do a deep dive into a possible étude map and see where it leads. Imagine we are a group of coaches relating our experiences and working on this map together. Suppose we create a new étude for the “all or nothing thinking” cognitive distortion. That distortion is evident in the statement: “I will either be a dismal failure or a complete success.” As a coach, I want people to see the gray areas, or the continuum (to use a mathematics term). If I was to create that étude, I would begin with the illustration of that cognitive distortion from the Cognitive Distortions map and include its connections (see that map): “either/or thinking can make things pervasive (undermines everything)” and “either/or thinking limits choices, and thus possibilities for solutions.”


The NLP meta-model reflects the linguistic patterns associated with cognitive distortions (see “Communication Magic” by L. Michael Hall, 2001). So, I would add associated meta-model responses that challenge a person who exhibits the cognitive distortion. For example, one relevant meta-model pattern is the “either/or” pattern. An example of its linguistic challenge could be: “So you have no other alternative except total success or failure?” (Another meta-model response, not related to the cognitive distortion, would be to ask for the meaning of the word “failure” to understand what, if anything, “failure” references in the world.) The “all or nothing thinking” cognitive distortion is also associated with the meta-program (perceptual filter) “classification scale” (see “Figuring Out People” by Michael Hall and Bobby Bodenhamer, 2005). Its distinctions are “either/or”, continuum (seeing the gray areas), and multi-dimensionality. By “distinction” I mean a person will exhibit one of those three possible behaviors in a particular context.

“Multi-dimensionality” means thinking in many dimensions at the same time. An example of multi-dimensionality would be to substitute the word “and” for “or”, and say: “I will be a dismal failure and a complete success (because persistence and learning from each failure can lead to success).” Perhaps a better way of phrasing that last statement would be “I fail and I learn; I fail again and learn more; … I fail and succeed.”

Another great example of multi-dimensionality is the first sentence of Charles Dicken’s “Tale of Two Cities”: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us …” (That first sentence continues to goes on and on; my guess it was because he was paid by the word.) I could also say, “Resource maps are useful and not useful” as I will discuss in the next session.

Since we can relate the cognitive distortion to a meta-program, we could use the “expanding meta-programs” pattern to help a client gain more flexibly in his or her behavior. For example that technique would help a person change his or her behavior from thinking in pure black or white terms (either/or) to considering the gray areas in-between. Finally, I would include in the map some examples to make it more concrete. The map is not meant to be complete (which is not really possible with models anyway); just an illustrative, learning tool.

I use many of the maps I create as references, especially the Well-formed Outcome map during coaching sessions. If I refer to a map long enough I can picture it when I need it.

Teach – Use with Visual and Digital Learners

Use resource maps when you want to appeal to visual learners and those people with a high preference for information. I discovered this during the twenty-five years I ran a monthly NLP Study Group in the Washington DC area. For example, we decided in 1998 that we would explore the first edition the Mind Lines book (by L. Michael Hall and Bobby Bodenhamer, 1997). Mind lines (also called sleight of mouth patterns) provide a way to increase the flexibility of a person’s beliefs through non-threatening, structured conversation. They support changing the frames around beliefs (e.g., from problem to outcome, or impossibility to “what if”). The Mind Lines book had few diagrams, and initially, for me, was difficult to understand, let alone present it to the group. While reading the book, I found myself drawing lots of diagrams, including a mind map, which contained all the mind-lines on one page.

When I shared these diagrams with my study group, I noticed it helped many of the visual learners better understand and remember mind lines. The auditory learners had no problem with the material. I introduced myself to Michael Hall for the first time in an email and shared the mind map with him. He added my mind map to the next edition of the book and asked me to draw a few more diagrams for the book. Then, he invited me to attend a prolific writing workshop as his guest, eventually leading to me becoming more actively involved in Neuro-Semantics; all because of my need to draw resource maps.

It is important to consider how to use resource maps if you are giving an NLP or Neuro-Semantics training. Many maps may be too complex or detailed to reveal as one slide. Most Neuro-Semantics trainings are not given as if you were in a college classroom showing one slide after another, perhaps leading some participants into an unwanted trance. It is important for a trainer to engage the audience, inducing appropriate states as needed to help them experience and learn the material. A trainer might sprinkle simple maps in his or her presentation to cement concepts. Resource maps also serve well as resource material in manuals, and can complement glossaries.

Model – To Evolve Your Understanding

I have left the best (at least for me) use of resource maps for last. A resource map is also a model that you can update and build upon as you gather more information and insights on the subject of the map. It is a place to add new understandings, and it evolves it as you learn more. It is like working on a crossword puzzle. You may work on it for hours and get stuck, unable to fill in any more answers. And, the next day you look at it and wonder why you hadn’t filled it some obvious answers the previous day. I’ll discuss two examples where I updated an original resource map because of new insights; one concerning the Meta-States Model and the other the Matrix Model.

A month after drawing the original Meta-Model and Frames map in March 2017, I realized that although it provided a snapshot of the definitions and relationships between concepts, it did not explicitly state the dynamic “meta-stating” process critical to understanding and using the meta-states model. Borrowing from mathematics, I would say it was missing the theorem: “When you meta-state, you are setting a frame; conversely, when you frame you are meta-stating” (paraphrase of a similar statement from Michael Hall, Neurons, March 7, 2016). I added that theorem to the map on May 23, 2017 and uploaded the new map.

I want to discuss how you can use this resource map to understand that “theorem.” As you read on you might find it useful to refer to that map. If you are not familiar with meta-state and meta-levels that map defines the terms. Let’s start with the first phrase “when you meta-state, you are setting a frame.” A frame is a reference we use to understand and interpret something. I showed my five year old great nephew Jack a picture of a brown lizard that I took while visiting Austin Texas. Curious about the color, he said he thought all lizards were green. I said, “what if I told you that some lizards change color.” He then became very excited and curious (perhaps, excitedly curious) and asked more questions. We then watched a YouTube video of a chameleon changing colors, and the questions went on and on, picking up speed. Have you experienced that while talking to a young child? He started with frame of reference associated with the belief that all lizards are green. Texturing his curiosity with excitement (and probably some other states only known to a 5 year old), he was open to changing that belief.

Before I go on, I need to explain the concept of a meta-level. In Neuro-Semantics mind-body states are consider holons, which is a concept coined by Arthur Koestler meaning “whole” and “part-of a whole.” As an example of holons consider the entities: atom, molecule, macro-molecule and cell…organism. Each is a holon because each is a whole entity in themselves and each is also part of a larger entity: atoms are in molecules, molecules are in macro-molecules, etc. Since they are holons with each containing the previous one, they are called a holarchy.

The meta-state “curious excitement” is a mind-body state which qualifies the state “excitement.” We assume each state can be associated with facets of experience (e.g., beliefs, decisions, and attitudes). A meta-state may change some of these facets. I will have a different attitude toward something if feel curious excitement than excitement. The meta-state sets a new frame, a meta-frame. Each new meta-state will qualify the previous one. Since these states are holons with each an entity in itself and also part of a meta-state (another state), they and their associated meta-frames form a holarchy. However, the term “meta-frame” could refer to entities that are not part of a holarchy, so Neuro-Semantics coined the term meta-level to refer to a frame associated with an entity that is a holon.

When Jack changed his belief he went to a new meta-level, where each meta-level embodies all facets of experience (e.g., beliefs, decisions, attitudes). So meta-stating had the effect of setting a new frame (a meta-frame) that included the belief that not all lizards are green. In fact, some lizards change color.

Now, let’s look at the statement “when you frame, you are meta-stating.” When I was talking to Jack, I was changing the frame and he was texturing and changing his state as we went along. However, I want to use another example to better examine the statement. When we use the phrase “when you frame”, it does not (usually) mean starting from nothing (e.g., there is no reference to interpret or understand something). It starts from an initial frame (e.g., a frame around the present state), which has its own associated meaning, beliefs, etc. and operates at a given meta-level. When some new experience changes some facet of that frame (e.g., meaning, intention, belief), I am at a different meta-level (by definition of meta-level) and an associated meta-frame to the original frame. I used aspects of the new experience to modulate my initial state, going from a level to a meta-level, from an initial state to a meta-state. Since meta-levels are frames, we can say “when you frame, you are meta-stating.”

Practical applications of meta-states is the subject of our training: “Powerful Tools for Self-Leadership.”

Many years ago I created a diagram of the Matrix Model, which appears in the book by Michael Hall (The Matrix Model). I looked at that initial diagram recently and recognized that it did not capture an important aspect of the content matrices: that they are all aspects of the Self. So, I updated the diagram to include that observation, adding a bit of color, and a short definition of each matrix.

Hopefully, I have conveyed the value in creating and using Resource Maps. Use them to learn, to teach, and to model.

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