Using Meta-States: Change Grief, Anger, and Fear
Down with rain up with flowers!
In an earlier blog I mentioned meta-states. In this piece I want to give you some pointers as to HOW you can actually use meta-states as a process. First I want to clear up some confusion. Meta-states have nothing to do with the word ‘Metta’ from the Pali language. The word meta, with one ‘t’, comes from the Greek, and means: above, beyond, the big picture. Metta, with two ‘t’s, refers to the meditative cultivation of unconditional love.
Actually, the Meta-State Process may have more to do with Metta—unconditional love—than is apparent at first; though the two words have no direct connection to each other. But I’ll leave you to decide that for yourself.
The ‘Meta-State’ process I want to tell you about here comes from our NLP training program. It is a way to help you to redirect your focus away from un-resourceful, unresolved emotions, towards positive emotions: and then to combine the two to develop a more fully proactive ongoing positive emotional and energetic resource. It is key for your own, or for your clients’ ongoing journey towards integration and emotional and spiritual wellbeing; if that journey is to be more than a quest for Band-Aids and quick fixes.
The activities involved in thinking and feeling are dynamic and nonlinear. Everyone has multiple ways of doing them. Thinking and feeling are interconnected, not always predictable, and infinitely more complex than we usually realize. The meanings we give to things (thinking), and emotional states (feelings) make up a system .. which you experience as yourself, as ‘I’. In going through this meta-state process I encourage you to create your own categories and distinctions. Use the methods, as you understand them from what I will describe; and then adapt them to suit what you intuit will work best for you. It will enable you to begin loosen up that rigid construct of ‘I’, and give you some more options towards becoming, ultimately, a master of your emotional states.
The Meta-State Process
Not so long ago I visited my elderly father in the nursing home where he now lives. I was feeling such intense grief that for a while I felt like I was drowning in it. I stopped for a moment to check in with myself. Then I made a choice to create a meta-state sequence. First I needed to find a quiet place, and take a little time to engage in some very specific self-observation. I began by looking for more than the experience of the emotion. I checked in with myself—body, thoughts, as well as my emotional states. We often imagine that by giving a word to an emotion that it is just one thing. But when you allow yourself to be completely present to it, you experience it as a system. So I checked in with multiple shades and nuances of the emotions I was feeling, as they revealed themselves to me, through the process of my observation. I could then begin to experience my grief more fully. Gradually I could take it to a higher-level state of joy, gratitude, and love.
Through the presence of an intense feeling of grief, I was able to shift, in a few steps, to a sense of peaceful inner calm. By asking, “What can I learn here? What is this grief telling me? What is the highest purpose for this emotion?” I uncovered compassion, nostalgia, love, and determination. In turn this allowed me to experience an ongoing and active acceptance of the situation, which then brought me back to the joy I used to feel in a more direct way when I was with my father years before. Then I expanded this joy in a specific way in order to create an anchor. The joy now spontaneously erupts whenever that grief is triggered again, creating a new, complex, and a more effectively positive emotion than the joy alone.
This meta-state process is not an analytic process, nor does it rely entirely on moving through a sequence of random emotions. It is not substituting one emotion for another; nor is it covering an emotion, or numbing yourself to it. It is similar to some meditation practices like Vipassana, but it involves more active engagement than is usually taught. It also requires that you trust your intuition. It is much more closely related to Psycho-magic than to either cognitive therapy or meditation. It works best when you have someone to guide you through it—at least initially. But you can certainly use the information here to great effect.
This process is strongly rooted in a deep trust in the human energetic and emotional experience. Imagine that every emotion is there for you as a gift, a healer, and a guide.
Meta-States on Your Own
If you have no-one to guide you, simply sit with the emotional state you want to shift and begin asking, “What can I learn here?” and “What is the higher level purpose of this?” The questions immediately change your relationship to the negative emotion. They move it to a meta-level, so that you can create a meta-relationship between the two states, negative and positive; and then move yourself to a meta-experience that is entirely above and beyond either of those emotional states as you would experience them on their own! The whole is more than the sum of the parts.
The essence of all NLP work is to effect rapid, positive, permanent change. The meta-states process produces new emotional experience that makes it impossible to engage in negative emotions in the old way. Naturally it is better experienced than described. This is one small piece of the work we use to empower our clients to live a creative, impactful, spiritually rich life. It is also part of the curriculum we teach in the Five Changes NLP training and Certification that we now teach.
Down with Rain, Up with Flowers!
Before my father entered life in a nursing home, one of the ways he used to express humor and beauty in his often difficult life was to write poetry and paint. Down With Rain Up With Flowers was a cycle of poems he wrote about the resilience of the creative force. What seems to dampen the spirit can actually regenerate it.
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