The Art of Dropping-Down Through Experiences

The Art of Dropping-Down Through Experiences
Even Stuttering While Rising Higher.


How to Meta-State
the NLP Drop-Down Through Pattern

Bobby G Bodenhamer, D.Min.
L Michael Hall, Ph.D.

We first applied Meta-States to the subject of stuttering a couple of years ago. That led to an article that we published on the Neuro-Semantics website ( More recently, Bob has worked with several individuals around the issue of stuttering and found that sometimes in one session, those who had stuttered for decades stopped. It was amazing. Of course, it did not always work that quickly. Sometimes in as many as four sessions (No doubt some will need more than four sessions.). And still that's incredible especially when you consider what the professionals working in the field of stuttering think and say about it.

With that success rate, we began exploring some of the key factors in stuttering and the neuro-semantics of the relief. Some of the case studies have been dramatic, as dramatic and exciting as "curing" a phobia in a few minutes. This does not mean that every case can be resolved that quickly, although some will. Our experiences with people who stutter have led us to discover several things. Discoveries and Understandings


What better evidence do we need that we can mind-to-muscle ideas than stuttering? The experience of stuttering shows that we can embody an idea to such an extent that the idea or principle becomes completely incorporated inside a person's very neurology and physiology. The tongue, throat muscles, muscles governing breathing, etc. all learn the lessons well. And the principle? The ideas that's embodied involves those that create panic attack, "It's bad to speak non-fluently, always be on your guard against any speech that is not perfectly fluent, it means you're inadequate and inferior."

This fits with what those who have explored this field have written. (Bloodstein, 1975) has written that stuttering is―

"... an anticipatory struggle reaction that is manifested as tension in the body and that shows up as fragmentation of the stutterer's speech."

Similarly, Sheehan, and Sheehan (1984) said in their analysis of stuttering. "... stuttering is an approach-avoidance conflict." Wendell Johnson (1946) using General Semantics demonstrated that stuttering is a learned phenomenon, one that is typically "taught," and one that involves the meta-level structure of a fear or dislike of non-fluency and unwillingness to tolerate the hesitating.

A Demonstration

"Robert, I want you to recall the feeling, memory, or a state that's behind your stuttering, something that you feel each time just before you stutter."

"Okay, I know what it is."

What are you feeling?

"I'm feeling intense anger."

And what are you feeling anger at or about?

"It's about being teased when I stuttered as a child. I hated that."

Where in your body do you feel that intense anger?

"It is in my chest and here in my arms."

And you say intense, how intense or how much do you feel that?

"It is very intense, it feels hot."

And, Robert, just drop down through that ... and what do you feel underneath that?

"Sadness is below that."

Good, and just be with that sadness for a moment and what is that sadness about?

"The sadness is about being hurt by my peers at school. They really hurt me... And it's a sadness and heaviness here..."

Good, and now ... drop down through the sadness and what do you feel underneath the sadness from being laughed at?

"I have anxiety and a sense of panic ... my heart is beating much faster."

Robert, what are you feeling in that state?

"I have a kinesthetic sensation of this state in my belly... And also here in my neck and shoulders, and the same sensation is here in my jaw, throat, and chest."

Good, and drop down through the anxiety and panic ... and what do you feel underneath the that?

"Pain ... I have a sensation that feels like I'm being 'restricted.' It's hard to describe. It's like I'm being held back.

Just stay with that emotion for a moment and now go ahead and drop down through that sense of being restricted and held back and what do you feel underneath that?

"Now I have frustration ... Yes, lots of frustration. Just frustrated.

Good, and as you now drop down through the frustration, what do you feel underneath the frustration?

"Hmmmm ... Ah ... I can't tell exactly ..."

Thee was a pause here, briefly and then Robert went immediately into his resources.

"Bob, I'm feeling a feeling of lightness."

That's good. And drop down through the lightness and what do you feel underneath the lightness?

"Lots of things ... lots of feelings. I feel joy, happiness. I feel a sense of elation."

Great. Tell me about these feeling of joy, happiness, and elation? What's is it like?

"In addition to the feelings, I'm also getting a visual image of myself."

I elicited more of the meaning frames around his resource state of "joy, happiness and elation." That resource state also included "relaxation, peacefulness, contentment, and freedom of expression." By asking him these "meaning frames," I was not only getting more information from him for use later in the therapy, but also, by eliciting meaning frames, these frames would anchor in these resources and make them more powerful and meaningful to Robert.

As I validated that, I gave him more time to stay in these good resourceful feelings. Later I used this image as an anchor as I had him apply his resources back to his original difficulties. All I had to do was say, "See that picture of you being ..." and then mention the following frames which was part of his joy― relaxed, peaceful, content, and freedom of expression.

"Now, Robert, how does seeing yourself as relaxed, peaceful, contented and free transform and enrich the intense anger?"

I repeated this question on each of Robert's negative frames. As we continued to empower his resource state, he saw the picture of himself growing taller and taller. It really developed into a powerful resource. I then moved to slowly and deliberately meta-stating the negative frames. As we did―

Anger and Rage became Contentment, peace, harmony and happiness.
Sadness became joy, happiness.
Pain and Restriction became supple. He often used "supple" in the sense of flexible and limber after reframing pain and restriction. limber.
Frustration became "it just went away" and he became really excited about taking this out into "real life" and working it including telling his class that he was meeting in about an hour after our session about the experience he just had.

Debriefing the Drop-Down Pattern

In Robert's case, he went through the following series of states as he dropped-down through one after the other:

1. Intense Anger

2. Sadness

3. Anxiety / Panic

4. Pain

5. Frustration

6. Pause (where typically the "nothingness," void, or emptiness occurs)

7. A feeling of "lightness"

8. Joy, Happiness, Elation which included relaxed, peaceful, content, and freedom of expression.

In thinking about this pattern, doesn't it make sense that the ideas in his head about non-fluent speech and being teased about it and his higher frames of dislike about that ended up as kinesthetic sensations in his belly, neck, shoulders, jaw, throat and chest? Does it then surprise us that what we call "stuttering" then shows up as a kind of panic attack in this way?

So with the kinesthetic sensation of feeling blocked or restricted, and from the point of view of organ language, his speech has become blocked or restricted. I have found this as extremely important in working with those who stutter. Which also leads me to feel 100% convinced that stuttering is nothing but a panic attack expressing itself this particular way. The therapy I do is exactly the same as with panic disorder― right out of the same text book.

While we use the label of "stuttering" or "panic attack" ― there is a similar structure in terms of the mental frames and the physiology. In the experience of stuttering, we have a state of anxiety that's expressing itself in breathing and in the muscles of the chest which control breathing as well as the muscles around the larynx. It's really that simple. And once the person reframes the meta-level structures that drives the panic over speaking and what other's think, the stuttering disappears.

The Drop-Down Through Pattern
Meta-Stating by Dropping-Down Through Painful Experiences:

1) Identify the experience and emotion you want to transform.

What emotion, feeling, memory, or experience would you like to transform so that it enhances your life?
Are there any emotions or experiences that undermine your success that you would like to eliminate?

2) Step Into that Experience.

For the purposes of transformation, recall that experience and step into it so that you see what you saw, hear what you heard, and fully feel what you felt. Be there again. .... Good.
Where do you feel this in your body?
What does it feel like?
How intense are you experiencing this emotion?
Good, just be there with it for a moment, noticing ... just noticing it fully... knowing that it is just an emotion and that you are so much more than any emotion...

3) Drop Down Through the experience.

This may feel strange, but you do know what it feels like when you drop ... so feeling that feeling of dropping, just drop down through that experience until you drop down underneath that feeling...
What feeling or emotion lies underneath that emotion?
And now just imagine dropping down through that feeling

[use the language and terms that the person gives you.]

And what feeling comes to you as you imagine yourself dropping down through that one?

[Keep repeating this dropping-down through process until the person comes to "nothing..." That is, to no feelings ... to a void or emptiness.]

4) Confirm the Emptiness

Just experience that "nothingness" or "void" for a moment. Good.
Now let that nothingness open up and imagine yourself dropping through and out the other side of the nothingness.
What are you experiencing when you come out the other side of the nothingness? What or whom do you see?

[Repeat this several times .. to a second, third, or fourth resource state.]

5) Meta-State each problem state

Use each resource state to meta-state each problem state.
And when you feel X about Y, how does that transform things?
And when you even more fully feel X ―what other transformations occur?
Valid and solidify: just stay right here in this X resource and as you experience it fully, what happens to the first problem state (#1)?
When you feel this (fire anchor for each resource) ... what else happens to those old problem states?

6) Test

Let's see what now happens when you try, and I want you to really try to see if you can get back the problem state that we started with.
When you try to do that, what happens?
Do you like this?
Would you like to take this into your future?
Into all of your tomorrows and into all your relationships?

Caveats about the Pattern

In terms of trouble-shooting the use of this pattern, there are a few concerns as you work with people and coach them through this process.

1) About "getting to the bottom."

Sometimes people will reach a point near or at the "void" where they say things such as, "That is it. There is nothing else." Or, "I am at the bottom. There is nothing else below. I can't go any further." If this happens, then ask them if they have a visual. I invite the person to say something like, "I am on the ground. There is nothing below me."

When this happens then we can say, "Good, just imagine opening the earth up and dropping down through that."

In any Neuro-Semantic or NLP pattern, our basic approach is that we do what we have to do to coach a person to continue dropping down through. Use their metaphors and feed it back to the them in a way that will lead them to open up whatever is blocking them.

2) For intense trauma, use another pattern first.

If the person is experiencing a great deal of emotional pain from a memory, use some other meta-stating patterns to loosen up the frames before using this pattern. We don't want to lead a person to associate into some extremely painful experience when there are easier ways of doing it. I (BB) have found with this pattern that it provides a great "cleaning up" pattern for finalizing your work.

3) Track the person's states all the way down.

If you have an excellent memory, make a visual image of a ladder and state in your mind__ and to them, each state. If not, then jot down on a notepad each state the person drops-down into. Sometimes there will be as few as 5 and sometimes as many as 20 or 30.

4) When to end.

If the person still has some "negative" emotions after you have taken him or her through the process, then simply repeat the process. That is, recycle through those feelings as you did with the first negative feeling. You may have to do this two or time times. Do it until the person does not experience a negative feelings.

Understanding the Meta-Stating Structure
of this Pattern

How Do we Meta-State when we Drop Down Through Experiences?

We typically think about meta-stating as going up. That's the metaphor. We make a meta-move above and beyond an experience and then bring a resource to the original experience. This sets a new frame for the experience or emotion. In doing this, we transcend and include the first experience and embed it inside of a broader and more extensive resource.

This comes from Bateson's meta-connection and from the Meta-States model of the levels of the mind and so from Korzybski's Levels of Abstraction although he had his abstract levels upside down.

Yet all of this is just a metaphor. It's just a way of talking about things― a way of thinking, conceptualizing, and imagining. Can we turn this metaphor back upside down and still meta-state?

You bet.

In NLP, the Drop-Down Through pattern does this. Tad James was apparently the first to introduce it to NLP, we put it in our book on Time-Lining (1997). And yet it is actually a meta-stating pattern. Bob has that illustrated with Robert in the demonstration. Now we want to explain what we each see in the pattern and how it actually works as a meta-stating process.

The idea of "dropping down through" and the feeling it evokes works as a meta-frame. In the pattern we essential take this feeling, idea, and metaphor and use it as an operative frame. So we invite participants to

"... just drop down..." "Feel yourself falling through that old experience, that old emotion ... and just go with this ... and drop down through ... there you go... and what's beneath that feeling?"

In this languaging, we are inviting the person to go higher deeper (or deeper higher) as a trance phenomenon. This is a new distinction recently introduced in the Meta-Trance trainings. I pulled it out of some of the language patterns of Erickson not in the NLP patterning of Erickson.

I noticed that Milton would sometimes ask his clients to do two opposite things at the same time. In slow time he would have them go faster. In fast time, he would suggest that they go slower. When I tried that on, I found it very trancy. That led me to experiment in some of our closing inductions at trainings.

"And now, just for the purpose of enjoying the learnings of the day and to let them solidify within your mind, I would like to invite you to float down deeper. .. and deeper still because we have been rising up in our mind to higher levels and frames of mind ... to our highest intentions and as you float down deeper now with those highest intentions, you can feel deeper higher in just the way that allows you to step into those highest and most expansive perspectives and then feel higher deeper in a way that solidifies them into your core now ... as you move out into the world... "

In the same way, when we invite a person to float down and to drop down and to go through a thought, an experience, an emotion― the downward feel combined with the realization (the higher frame) that that emotion arose from yet another thought or emotion ... we combine the going deeper higher trance. Framing that we can back up to the originating emotion, we backtrack the negative meta-stating the person had created in his or her history.

And what was before that?
And what was before that?

This replicates, backwards, the process that created the dragon state ... and subtly starts pulling it apart. That's why this pattern is a Dragon Slaying/ Transforming pattern and explains why Bob has gotten so much mileage from it in dealing with physiological problems such as stuttering. In this, it reverses the syntax of the problem, very similar to what happens in the Phobia Cure pattern.

The nothingness state of the void is another interesting meta-state to bring and set as a frame over our experiences. We get through by backing up to when nothing was going on ... no particular thoughts or feelings. Then we can metaphor it with the sense of emptiness, a void, or whatever. This essentially helps us empty our mind and emotions and move to neutral.

Then, because we have moved down from negative to neutral, by presupposition, if we keep moving in this direction, we have to move to positive states. The continuum has been set up and so it naturally and easily follows that we will now continue to drop down into positive states that will be much more resourceful. So every time we drop down through the next experiential state, we drop into an even more or higher resource state.

All this is ... is meta-states standing on its head.

We could change the metaphor and invite the float up through pattern.

"And now just feel yourself floating up ... getting lighter and lighter ... lighter than air. ... floating ... that's right, floating right up out of those old emotions and up into something higher, something lighter, something more expansive, something that invites you into a higher state of mind― perhaps a higher state than you ever been in before ... now .. because you can, can you not... that's right... floating all the way up."

In this, the metaphor doesn't matter all that much. The magic isn't in the metaphor as if there were some holy metaphor. What's important is that once we frame with a metaphor, we can do things with it, we can experience things with it, we can make significant transformational change. Dropping down through an experience implies, suggests, and facilitates moving to a new place as does floating up to a higher state.

When we facilitate change, movement, difference and get a person to construct new experiences, we can then use those very resources as new frames of mind. If there's any magic, that's the magic. We trust that the person moves into (drops down through) and into the very resource states that he or she needs. So we then use those and apply those to the original problem.

"And when you fully step into and experience this resource... how does that change the problem that you started with?"

Meta-Level Magic

It's been a number of years now since the first time I saw Bob run the Drop-Down Through pattern. It occurred when he had a whole group of people finishing their NLP Master Practitioner training. He introduced this pattern on the last day as he demonstrated it with one person, then the whole group wanted to have him coach them through it! It was powerful. After several people sat in the chair and kept dropping down through things, I almost got the impression that there was something magical about that chair.

Maybe it was a secret door to another universe!
Be careful when you set in that chair, you never know where you might end up!

Yet in watching the processes, it was clear to me that while we all thought about the metaphor as taking us down ... down ... down into the foundation of an experience. When we popped out the other end ... and dropped on down into positive resources ... it was like Dante's trip.

Do you remember Dante's trip? At a cave entrance at Jerusalem he saw the sign marking the gateway to Hell. "Abandon all hope, ye who enter herein." And down, down, down... the circles of hell Dante went ... deeper into the problem ... past the fire, the brimstone, etc., until he came to the most unimaginable source of evil... to Satan. And Satan in that poem was frozen in ice in the center of the earth. You've heard about when hell freezes over? Well, that's the picture Dante drew when he wrote his poem in 1400. Every attempt of the giant Satan to get free ... as he flapped his wings ... made the ice freeze even more. (What an imagine of impotent evil!)

As Dante continued his journey having reached the center, all his movements forward thereafter was actually up and out the other side of the planet ... where he emerged at the foot of Mt. Purgatory and when he got to the top of that mountain and the Garden of Eden on top, Beatrice took him on a trip through space, first to the moon, the Mars, then the starts. But that's another story.

Going down and coming up. Going up and coming down to a new core of values. Going higher deeper now ... you know what that's like, do you not?

Transforming Neurology

I know why Bob really likes this pattern and think about it as one of the most powerful ones. Why? Because he has been using it to actually transform meanings that have been installed in muscle like stuttering. This is what we mean by "neuro-semantics." Taking the term from Korzybski who coined that and "neuro-linguistic," we have been modeling how meanings are transferred and installed in muscle. It happens all the time and our Mind-to-Muscle pattern taps into this mechanism of our mind-body-emotion states.

It can happen with the idea of "don't stutter," "don't hesitate when you notice yourself being non-fluent." This is the structure of stuttering as general semanticist, Dr. Wendell Johnson noted a long time ago in his now classic work, People in Quandaries. Stuttering always involves becoming conscious of non-fluency. Yet since all of us are non-fluent everyday, there has to be something else that creates "stuttering."

We have to dislike, hate, or forbid the non-fluency. We have to give it a negative and painful meaning. And when we do, either by being forbidden to be non-fluent (which some parents and teachers are highly skilled at pointing out and enforcing!), or by defining it as meaning something painful like, "being stupid," "being inadequate," "lacking confidence," etc. Then we can create a meta-state structure of refusal to tolerate non-fluent speech and so become highly aware and conscious of every non-fluency and find it painful and intolerable. After that it only takes weeks, months and years of practice and those semantics will get into our physiology so that the way we breath and the way we use our tongue and mouth muscles support this negative meta-state.

Stuttering becomes neurological. It becomes a neuro-semantic state. This is great because it means that we only need to change the semantics (the meanings) and the neurology will change. During the winter and spring of 2001-2002, Bob used the Drop-Down Through pattern with 5 individuals who stuttered, mostly over the phone from all around the world, and within one to four sessions (typically 2)― they stuttered no more.

Summary: The Neuro-Semantics of Stuttering

We have used the basic NLP principle that every experience has a structure to flush out the basic structure of the experience of "stuttering." In doing so we have refused to mindlessly accept the labels and medical model definitions of its cause or cure. In doing so, we begin by refusing to identify people as "stutterers" as if they is who they are. We also refuse to buy into the fatalistic frame, "Once a stutterer, always a stutterer."

Similar to our work, The Structure of Personality (2001) we then de-nominalize the form and structure to look at the four meta-domains that give us a description of processes and "personality:" language (the Meta-Model), perception (Meta-Programs), states and reflexivity (Meta-States) and the cinematic features of a person's internal Movie (Meta-Modalities or "sub-modalities").

Just because stuttering so happens to be the end-result of the coalescing of the meta-levels and meta-frames into muscle (and so a great example of how we mind-to-muscle ideas and meanings), doesn't make it unchangeable. That happens with every idea (belief, value, understanding, meaning, expectation, etc.) that we "install" as a motor program. That's what happens all the time in a mind-body-emotion system.

And if we created it, we can un-create it and can create something much better! That's the power, the magic, and the excitement in neuro-linguistics and neuro-semantics.

Success Story #1
Two Month Follow Up ? Is It Working Long-Term?

After I had completed the consultations with Bob, I knew there would be certain milestones that would determine how effective the treatment was on a long_term basis. Those milestones included being placed in the usual "high stress" situations that would normally result in stuttering. Some examples are serious one_on_one conversation concerning uncomfortable topics, Management meetings, Company meetings, and several other speaking situations that I previously thought of as "threatening." Over the past two months I have been exposed to each of these "threatening" situations and spoke fluently through each milestone. The final milestone was met on March 21, 2002 when I was scheduled to give a presentation to the Board Members of the Company I work for. Now, prior to working with Bob, stuttering in this situation was a 100% certainty. However, even that meeting was unable to produce the stuttering again. I have tested my fluency in every situation that used to produce stuttering! And, I am happy to report that it appears to be a long-term success. The biggest difference between stuttering and fluency is that fluent individuals do not think about stuttering.

Linda Rounds
March 2002

Success Story #2

Neuro-Semantics and the NLP Drop-Down Through Pattern offer great possibilities in the treatment of stuttering. Most traditional speech therapy has centered around modifications at the behavioral level (i.e., breathing, easy onset of speech, light articulatory contacts, etc.). The perceived stigma of stuttering and overwhelming urge to "not stutter" often overpower the behavioral level strategies. Periodic relapse after treatment is common. The missing Holy Grail from traditional speech therapy has been a consistent, swift, and thorough reframing strategy for meta-states to alleviate the pre-stutter phenomenon. Success with the cognitive aspect of stuttering (i.e., fear, avoidance, limiting beliefs) is essential to lasting change. Situation and word-specific anchors form along the time-line of stuttering development. As an NLP practitioner and person with a residual, mild stutter, I was game to explore the Drop-Down personally. I have experienced a rapid and significant increase in spontaneous fluency after three telephone consultations with Bob.

Tim Mackesey, CCC-SLP
Speech Pathologist

Success Story #3

I met Bob while taking the Meta-NLP class at Gaston College. I have had for the majority of my life an uncontrollable stuttering problem. While in class, I learned how to apply Neuro-Semantics to controlling my stuttering. How do I know it worked? After having a long conversation with several people, it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn't stuttered at all and that I had talked great. I use to be horrified of calling people on the phone. Now, I can call people without the anxiety and the stuttering. In fact, I suddenly found myself calling people more frequently.

Lawrie Crawley
Bank of America
Charlotte, North Carolina

Additional resources on the subject of Stuttering

For more information about using Neuro-Semantics with stuttering, go to our web site and read two articles on the subject with both based on case studies of those who stuttered who overcame their problem in just a matter of a few sessions. The articles are found at:

1. "From Stuttering to Stability: A Case Study" by Linda Rounds with Bob Bodenhamer.

2. "Meta-Stating Stuttering: An NLP Approach to Stuttering" by L. Michael Hall, Ph.D. and Bobby G. Bodenhamer, D.Min. -

3. New Page for People Who Stutter on the Neuro-Semantics Web Site - 

4. E-mail Discussion on Yahoo Groups. The Institute Of Neuro-Semantics, Meta-States, NLP &; General Semantics sponsors the Neuro-Semantics of Stuttering Yahoo Group. Announcement and Discussion List to provide support, information, education and training on Meta-Stating Stuttering utilizing Neuro-Linguistics, Neuro-Semantics, Meta-States and General Semantics Models -

This list will serve as an information exchange and a discussion forum for overcoming stuttering utilizing each model and will provide information on upcoming trainings, additions and editions to each model and developments in each field by contributors.

Questions and comments, updates, noteworthy announcements about stuttering and the use of Neuro-Linguistics, Neuro-Semantics and the Meta-States Models are welcomed. The list manager/owner, Linda Rounds, is responsible for approval of list members and messages posted to the list as this is a moderated and private list. For information on the list, contact


Bloodstein, Oliver (1975). In J. Eisenson (Ed.), Stuttering: A Second Symposium. New York: Harper & Row.

Korzybski, Alfred. (1941/1994). Science and sanity: An introduction to non-Aristotelian systems and general semantics, (5th. ed.). Lakeville, CN: International Non-Aristotelian Library Publishing Co.

Overdurf, John; Silverthorn. (1996). Beyond Words Audio Cassettes.

James, Tad. (1989). Master Time Line Therapy Training Manual.

Hall, L. Michael (1995). Meta-states: A new domain of logical levels, self-reflexiveness in human States of consciousness. Grand Junction, CO: ET Publications.

Hall, L. Michael. (1996). Dragon slaying: Dragons to princes. Grand Junction, CO: ET Publications.

Hall, L. Michael Hall and Bob Bodenhamer, "The Drop Down Through and Mind Back Tracking Techniques" on The Institute of Neuro-Semantics Web Site at 

Johnson, Wendell (1964/1989) People in quandaries: The semantics of personal adjustment. San Franciso, CA: International Society for General Semantics.

Sheehan, J.G., & V.M. Sheehan (1984). Avoidance-reduction therapy: A response suppression hypothesis. In W.H. Perkins (Ed.), Stuttering disorders. New York: Thieme-Stratton


L. Michael Hall, Ph.D. is a psychologist licensed as a LPC in the state of Chicago, trained in the Cognitive-Behavioral model, developer of the Meta-States model, prolific author, entrepreneur, and international trainer.

Bobby G. Bodenhamer, D.Min. is an international trainer in Neuro-Semantics and NLP, author of numerous books, ordained minister, and director of the First Institute of NS in Gastonia NC.

2002 Bobby G. Bodenhamer, D. Min. and L. Michael Hall, Ph.D. All rights reserved.