The Toronto Hypnotherapist

Hypnosis and Toronto Hypnotherapy with Allan Clews.

Old Blog

Behavioural Filters & Metaprograms - Monday August 27, 2012

Posted on August 27, 2012 at 8:45 PM

Imagine going back in time and watching two young hunter-gatherers get handed two identical sacks containing an equal mixture of blackberries and raspberries that they are then told to sort.

They both decide to sort for the blackberries.

One of them reaches into their sack and begins to remove every blackberry; while the other reaches into their sack and takes out everything that is not a blackberry.


They both achieve identical outcomes; even though one filters for the things that match, and the other for things that mismatch.

The various individuals who helped to develop the second-wave, or new-code phase, of NLP have identified nearly sixty such 'metaprograms' or behavioural filters. Ways we sort and filter our experience of the world.

Now I don't really like the NLP term 'metaprogram' because these are not 'beyond' or 'meta' programs. I see them more like what linguists call language parameters, which are more like simple subconscious binary-switches that can be flipped one way or the other. Though not to 'yes' and 'no', ‘on’ or ‘off’, but in this case to 'match' or 'mismatch.' Or to look for similarities or differences.

For instance, Linguists have determined that the difference between any language comes down to the way a limited number of binary switches have been set. So that a single binary parameter called 'head first' or 'head last' accounts for one of the most obvious differences between English and Korean. In one language the ‘head’ comes before the ‘complement’ and in the other it comes after.

So If this single switch is set one way, you will say ‘I ran there’; while if it is set the other, you will say ‘I there ran’.

Now Ouspensky quotes Mr. Gurdjieff encouraging us to study ourselves by engaging in self-observation.


Metaprograms are binary perceptual filters we use to help us make decisions by either focusing on the small details or the big picture. They could even be called our decision-making apparatuses.

So how do you make decisions. How are your metaprograms or binary-filters set?

Do you generally ‘Move Towards’ things you like or ‘Move Away’ from things you dislike. For instance, if you wanted to move, would it be because you wanted to move to a new neighbourhood, or would it be because you wanted to move away from where you are.


Are you a ‘Self-Referencer’ or an ‘Other-Referencer’; for instance if you were asked to clean a room how would you know when you were done? when it met your standards, or when it met what you imagined to be the standards of the person who asked you to clean it.

Are you a ‘best-case’ or a ‘worse-case thinker.’ Is this filter set so you see the glass as half-full or half-empty.

Do you prefer to focus on the ‘big picture’ or on the ‘details.’

If you were asked to describe what the experience of being on a rollercoaster would you describe it as if you were looking out of your eyes (associative) or would you give a more ‘bird’s eye’ explanation (dissociative).

I want to leave you with a parting thought.

I, you a parting thought, to leave want.

Whenever you see two, always think of three.

Whenever you, two, see; you, of three, think always.

So learn to play with these switches. Play with them one way and then play with them the other; and then step between them into the reconciling position. So if you go shopping, don’t just focus on what you want, or on what you don’t want, but focus on both what you want and what you don’t want. Allow some of the food to attract you and some to repel you.

Categories: Thoughts and Reflections, Hypnosis

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