The Meta Model of NLP and Crossed Transactions in TA by Boris Bouricius, M.D.

by Boris Bouricius, M.D., NLP Practitioner and TA Practitioner


The Meta Model of NLP is very useful in making sense out of seemingly unsolvable problems as if by magic. It has it’s equivalence in TA in Crossed Transactions. but is much more specific in it’s description of when and how to do these things. I prefer therefore to use the Meta Model instead of crossed transactions in situations where I have the choice.

The Meta Model is a linguistic tool. I use it whenever somebody is faced with a paradoxical situation, a maze where he cannot find his way out. I test whatever is said with around 15 criteria. If one of the criteria seems to be applicable, I change in my head the spoken text in the way the Meta Model prescribes. If in this way things all of a sudden start making sense to me, I repeat seemingly exactly whatever the client just has said with only the change of the Meta Model in it. If my action is appropriate, the client changes his attitude suddenly often without realizing the he does.

In the meantime I use also my knowledge of TA in determining the ego state the client is in before I use the Meta Model. Suppose the client is an adult in age and thinks he is talking to me in an adult way, I mostly think he is not using his Adult (ego state, A) but either his Parent (ego state, P) or his Adapted Child (ego state, C) and uses, from a linguistically point of view, the language of that ego state. I make it after that clear linguistically that I am using my A(dult) with the aid of the Meta Model and cause a crossed transaction. TA teaches that the uncrossing of the transaction has then the highest priority and the client changes also to the Adult.

I hope to show in this article it that the magic of the Meta Model is that the way of applying the text in the prescribed way is that the language of the P(arent)or of the A(dapted) C(hild) is exchanged (in the sly!) for the language of the A(dult).


Thinking in the TA model of ego states, I came to the premise, that in conversation, both external and internal, as well as in writing, six basic questions are put, discussed and answered; also that these questions can be classified in the systems of both Transactional Analysis (TA) and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP); and finally, it will be shown that there are advantages in the use of such system of questions in daily life as well as in psychotherapy.

The 6 questions can be formulated as follows:

1. What is fun to do?

2. What can they be allowed to do?

3. Will you please help me?

4. What are you doing?

5. Given the fact that I am not allowed to do what I think would be fun, how can I take revenge for this on them?

6. How can I do ………?

In the TA-frame, these questions could be asked by people in the several ego states as stated hereafter:

1. by a person in the Natural Child ego state (C) of/to another person in the same ego state;

2. by a person in the Parental ego state (P), of/to another person using the same ego state;

3. by a person in the Adapted Child ego state ( AC) of/to a person using the parent ego state (P);

4. by a person using the parent ego state (P) of and to a person using the child ego state (AC);

5. by a person using the adapted child ego state (AC) to another person using also the adapted child ego state (AC);

6. by a person using the adult ego state ( A) to another person using the same ego state;

It is stated repeatedly by Berne in many of his publications that in all the communication several separate styles of communication can be discerned and that individuals occupying themselves with this matter should go to meetings of parents, children, parents and children in each other’s company, Berne did not specify how the styles could be differentiated.


In NLP, Bandler and Grinder, in their publication The Structure of Magic I, in whom they describe their Meta Model, they say that all communication can be tested with the aid of a number of criteria. If one of the criteria is met en seems applicable, they give for each of the criteria method to change the text. They claim that when the Meta Model is used correctly, previously seemingly unsolvable problems will (as if by magic) be solvable after the intervention. My impression is that Bandler and Grinder think that the form of the original text was not useful and could be discarded after applying the Meta Model.

The author of this publication claims that each of the textual forms meeting the criteria would be used in a useful way by one of the persons to put, discuss or answer one of the 5 questions 1 to 5 and that the difficulties met arise when the person does not use the style intended but one of the others. He claims that the methods indicated by Bandler and Grinder in their Meta Model, serve to convert the style used to that of the 6the question, A to A.

Thus the criteria described could be called diagnostic criteria and the methods as therapeutic methods to convert to more applicable A-A transactions. They could be termed as indications and methods to use “crossed” transactions as therapeutic means and that changes of ego states can be observed when the Meta Model is used correctly.

Leslie Cameron Bandler gives in her book, They Lived Happily After” in an appendix an overview of the Meta Model. In this, she mentions the usual processes of generalisations, distortion and deletion. which people use in modelling the world. After this, she mentions the categories of the META-MODEL: gathering information, limits of the speaker’s model, semantic ill formedness.

In the first group, there are 4 distinctions: deletion, lack of referential index, unspecified verbs, nominalisations.

I think the deletion will be normally used by a child asking it’s parent: may I do this. Omitted is: what the child wants to do. So it is the stimulus of a C-P transaction. If the person asking this is not a child, the use of the Childlike e.g. state would be inappropriate to another grownup person. The response of the person using the Meta Model would be the start of a cross transaction: what is it that you want to do? Uncrossing the transaction would have priority, leading to a change of ego state of the first person to the Adult and an A-A transaction.

Example of Deletion

A tells B (or himself): I don’t understand. Deleted is what is n0t understood. If this were not deleted, A would be in the A. Now he is in the C and makes B go in the P, if he was not in it in the first place. Thus, the deletion might a signal of a crossed transaction and also of asking B to assist him): Question 3.

Next on the list is the lack of referential index of the Meta Model.

Example: A says to B: nobody wants me. Using the TA frame, A would be in the C, either because B was in the P or causing B to go into the P. Again, the Question 3 is involved. (Follows the unspecified verb of the Meta Model, for which the following remark is en example: he rejected me. This, from TA point of view, would be the stimulus for a C-P transaction, and again the area of the no. 3 question is entered.)

After this comes the nominalization, much used by politicians. Here, the A may be involved, but only after A and B have agreed on the process, which is represented: my patient has a cancer and needs radiotherapy… (Surgeon to radiotherapist). Any times, it is the start of a P-C transaction: I have made my decision and you will have to do… It may also be a C-P stimulus: I need help. Finally, it may be used by politicians to other politicians, in a P-P transaction.

In the questions frame, nominalisations fit into the numbers 2,3,4 and 6.

Within the category: “limits of the speakers model” come 2 subheadings: universal quantifiers and modal operators of necessity.

The universal quantifiers of the Meta Model: “I never do anything right”. I think that there is a C speaking, and the purpose lies in the scope of question no. 3.

Modal operators: I cannot do it. This may be A at power or C. The main criterion would be whether the listener’s A thinks it to be impossible mechanically: if A says: I cannot fly, he speaks true, because the human being cannot fly. Very often it will be A’s C which is operational and question 3 is involved.

Similar analysis can be done in the last category of the Meta Model, the semantic- ill formedness (a nominalization!). The result of such action would be that A, P or C can be operational in the speaker, involving one of the questions number 2,3,4, or 6.


From the foregoing text it seems to the author that it is clear that both in TA and NLP a means exist to change the formulation of seemingly unsolvable problems so that they become solvable. The TA uses its frame of work of the ego states and the transactions between them, NLP uses the Meta Model.

The Meta Model seems a very useful tool to reach a result quickly. The crossed transaction-method gives a better insight in the whole situation. A useful procedure would be to keep an eye on the whole situation with the TA model. Whenever a crossed transaction seems indicated, to use the Meta Model instead and anchor the result.

Once more, TA and NLP seem of complementary use. It seems useful to use both frames of working simultaneously. There is no strain to do this for people with proper training; they work both in the field of communication within human systems.


Berne, Eric, Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy, Grove Press New York 1961

Bandler, Richard & Grinder, John, The Structure of Magic I, Science and Behavior books, Palo Alto CA, USA 1975

Cameron-Bandler, Leslie, They lived happily ever after, Meta Publications, Cupertino CA, 1978 oc,p 174

BORIS BOURICIUS, MD, NLP Practitioner and TA Practitioner, Retired family doctor.
This page and all contents ©2005 by Boris Bouricius and the NLP and Coaching Institute, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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