Metaprograms, The Fundamental Bricks of Personality


There were three dwarves

Living in the hazelnut forest,

There comes the hoopoe and says:

Symptomatically, the dilemmatic idiosyncrasy is reverberating in an attenuating manner. Its protoharmonic abstruse echoes behind the semi-transcendence and dissonance of the incandescent medieval-like obscurantism, encapsulating the crepuscular syncretic and allusively metempsychotic vein of the alchemic transmigration towards the inner circumvolutions of the historical age that tend to form true paleontological valves towards the propensity of the past-ridden paradigms. My humble opinion….”

Imagine your brain. Now imagine that there are also some roads, like tram lines. Some are deeper, some are shallower, and others are downright invisible. These roads exist because you or others have created them in your mind and are hard-packed. They are hard-packed because you get used to “walking” on them repeatedly. Most likely, you haven’t even begun to know them because it was difficult for you to notice them. Well, they define your actions, build your abilities by repetition, and guide your decisions and attitudes in every context. Your life experiences, family, school, society, and primarily yourself have written these metaprograms without realizing it.

Some of these metaprograms are very well-known. Let’s take a few examples:

metaprogram scenario of thinking/scenario typeoptimism – pessimism, which shows the attitude you use to conceptualize your future about problems and the expectations you have as a response to these problems.

Metaprogram emotional response/movie positionassociated (emotional) –balanced – dissociated (rational), which shows the response of cognition to stress and the form of visualizing the purposes.

Sensorial representation metaprogram: visual – auditive – kinesthetic – digital auditive (language), which designates the way we experiment with the surrounding environment as a response to the practical information that we receive with our senses: images, sounds, tangible forms, taste, smell, temperature, and position.

Somatic metaprogram or energy levelproactive (example: a seller searching for clients using telemarketing on the cold market) – active (a seller advertising himself to appeal to new clients) – reactive (a seller relying on the clients that are coming to him further to the recommendations of his existing clients, to whose requests he replies) – inactive (a seller who isn’t even dealing with the clients who are calling him).

In the study of neuro semantics and neuro-linguistic programming, one avoids dealing with personality “as if it were an entity formulated in us, which makes us be the way we are […] Although linguistically embarrassing, it is useful to formulate the terms back into nouns (terms as programming, categorization, sorting, etc.).”.

In the opinion of L. Michael Hall, personality is not who we are but what we do.

Personality results from the content programs specifying what we think, believe, cherish, etc., plus our meta-programs or how we get involved in thinking, accepting, loving, etc. With these levels operating simultaneously (what and how), any thought, feeling, or response reaction that we perpetuate by continuous repetition will become a habit. As customary, it will leave our conscious attention to become one of the subconscious programs. In terms of behavior, it develops as a conscious, continuous way of processing and structuring the information”. This sedimentation into patterns is what we call meta-programs.

L. Michael Hall, Bobby G. Bodenhamer

Figuring Out People: Reading People with Meta-Programs (2005), pg. 39



Metaprograms are fundamental bricks of personality, unconscious mechanisms of filtering information. The human brain deletes distorts, and/or generalizes information by processing a map of each person’s perceptions of reality. Metaprograms describe reactions (attitudes and behaviors) manifested verbally or non-verbally by individuals in specific contexts.

John C. Lilly provides, in his 1968 book, Programming & Metaprogramming of the Human Brain, a definition from the beginning of NLP, a field in which metaprograms have developed until their incorporation into scientific instruments for measuring behaviors and attitudes with wide use in human resources (LAB Profile, iWAM, Identity Compass, Jay Arthur’s The Motivation Profile):

The human computer stores program properties. A stored program is a set of instructions placed in the computer’s memory storage, which controls the computer when orders are given for that program to be activated. The activator may be another system within the same computer, somebody, or a situation outside that computer.

The computer has metaprogramming properties with identifiable limits which are to be determined. (Note that self-metaprogramming is performed consciously using a metaorder language). Similarly, each computer has a certain level of ability in programming another computer.”

Within NLP, meta-programs were discovered in 1982 by Leslie Cameron-Bandler. The legend recorded in the NLP oral tradition says that one sunny day, Leslie LeBeau (then Leslie Cameron Bandler, the wife of founder Richard Bandler) and Connierae Andreas (another reference specialist in NLP history) were looking out of the window at the wonderful natural scenery where their children were playing.

Connirae Andreas exclaimed:

How beautiful!”

Yes, the outside scenery is magnificent!” 

No, I was referring to our children playing”.

Leslie then had a revelation, discovering the “first metaprogram”: the primary interest (whose filters are: peopleinformationplacesthings, and activities – to which, according to Patrick Merlevede’s considerations, money, systems, and tools are added).

In time, specialists who dealt with the development of this field were: Richard Bandler, Leslie LeBeau (who created the first structural model of metaprograms and are considered founders), Rodger Bailey, Ross Stewart, Shelle Rose Charvet, L. Michael Hall, Bob G. Bodenhamer, Wyatt Woodsmall, Marilyne Woodsmall, Patrick Merlevede, Robert Dilts. In addition, Richard Bolstad, Arne Maus, Elvis K. Lester, Mark Klaasen, Tad James, and Christopher Howard have significantly contributed to the field development.

Metaprograms are largely a series of scales of several types which help contextually identify the preferences to react, in a particular environment, to a specific stimulus, in a certain predefined way that can be predicted.

Since 1982, the field has been adopted by the specialists above, taught to a relatively limited number of individuals (estimation: thousands), to which an unknown number is added who have bought or read one or more of the leading books on metaprograms described in annexes. Although it has materialized into genuine interest, the field is globally known to a limited number of people, mainly due to the divergent views of the specialists, as well as the partially contradictory documentation.

To these, a particular difficulty relevant for any professional NOT in the NLP field is added to understand the profound operation mechanism of metaprograms. As for the development of unitary documentation on this matter and the creation of an instrument for evaluating the motivation in the working environment using metaprograms, the internationally renowned NLP specialists Leo Angart and Andy Szekely have stated that there is no interest because it is a far too complex field to be untangled by somebody. Unfortunately, this statement sadly characterizes the reality of the last four decades.

If you liked this article, then I also invite you to read

The Metaprograms Correspondence in HR Tools.

Marcus Victor Grant

Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant 2011-present. Translation by Cristiana Brezeanu of the article “Cărămizile fundamentale ale personalităţiiinitially published in Romanian on October 3rd, 2011, on Discerne. Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant, all rights reserved.

The materials published on this blog are covered by this disclaimer.

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