I want to start with a brief exploration of how prepositions work, because this provides a basis for understanding the experience of the word “meta.” Notice your image in response to the sentence, “She is on the bed,” and compare that with your images for the same sentence, but replacing the word “on” with “off,” “in,” “under,” “beside,” or “behind.” . . .
Next, notice your image of the sentence, “Buy some groceries before you drive home,” and compare that with your images for the same sentence, but replacing “before” with “after,” “when,” or “as.”
A “pre position” positions two things (“she” and “bed”) with respect to each other in space, or two activities (buying groceries” and “driving home”) with respect to each other in time.
In NLP generally, and in Michael’s writing, the prefix “meta” is used for many different experiences, with the general meaning of “about,” such as “meta-position,” “meta-model,” “meta-communication.” If you look up synonyms for “meta,” the most common is “about,” a preposition.
“About” has one meaning that is explicitly about location, as in “She looked about the room,” or “His things were scattered about.” A second, more general meaning is “on the subject of” or “concerning,” as in, “I was thinking about you,” in which some thing or event is described from a different position in space or time.
In one very interesting subset of uses the prefix “meta-” is self-referential, “about its own category,” “an X about X.” Meta-cognition is cognition about cognition, “meta-emotion” is emotion about emotion, “meta-discussion” is a discussion about discussion.
In the early days of NLP the prefix “meta” served a useful purpose, directing attention to important elements of communication that had been ignored. However there are now so many different meanings of the word “meta” that it has become almost meaningless.
I want to explore three very different kinds of experiences of “meta” or “about,” each of which has specific, but very different therapeutic uses. (There may be a number of other kinds of meta experiences, but three are adequate for my purpose, which is to demonstrate how ambiguous the word is.)
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