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Neurologic Levels

February 7, 2019 and August 9, 2021

    I published this rather lengthy blog post in 2019, and I'm posting it again because of its relevance.

In the mid-fifties, Gregory Bateson, anthropologist - social scientist - a linguist and much more, developed the idea that natural hierarchies occur in our thinking, learning, and communication processes. Then, in the late 80s, Robert B. Dilts, author and Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) Master and Master Trainer, applied Bateson's concepts to the development of what he termed 'Neuro-Logical Levels.' 

The NLP Neurologic Levels hierarchy consists of six levels, usually stacked in a pyramid. These levels are Spirituality, Identity, Beliefs and Values, Capabilities, Behaviors, and Environment. 

The following are some personal theories and graphics after playing with the levels and making some discoveries along the way.

0882642001628525996.jpgHere is the traditional pyramid. Here are some things to question. 

First, why would Environment be the most prominent and bottom-most layer? This makes sense to a degree, as it is a foundation. But it is an earthly one. 

And why is the Vision level the smallest, albeit on top? The real success of solution-focused coaching depends on the Vision level. Yet, vision seems relatively insignificant up there.

The foremost thing to understand about this pyramid is alignment. If all levels align, then all aspects and parts of a person are aligned as well. 

And the following quote by Saint Germain in Unveiled Mysteries by Godfré Ray King is valid.

"When you thus use all the constructive processes — it is impossible for your plan — not — to come into your visible world."

'Use all the constructive processes' means you have clarity on all the levels, integrating them in a balanced way. Good to know, right? 

* * *

An essential thing to know is any level at which change or improvement is made causes an impact upon all the levels beneath it. 

0084091001628526150.jpgThis pyramid with an arrow represents this. So, for example, if a change or improvement happens at the level of one's Vision, then all six levels are impacted. 

But a change at one level does not necessarily impact any levels above that level. Say a change occurs at the Values level. Then only that and the Capabilities, Behavior, and Environment levels below it are congruently and consistently impacted. This pyramid with the smaller and lower arrow represents this.


Let's play with alignment. Here is a misaligned pyramid. 


Let's say this pyramid represents a person whose vision is small and unfocused, whose identity is unclear, whose values and beliefs conflict with each other. They probably have inconsistent abilities and are all over the place concerning their behavior. Luckily, they live at home still, and that's about the only stable thing in their life. Not much is happening for this person in this world that is noteworthy. This misaligned pyramid might represent this person. 

This Vision is light. When it falls, it will make a slight bump sound, if anyone notices. 

You get it with alignment, right? 

On to Being versus Doing. 

Most of us have heard these words from the French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience."

Would you rather identify with your physical body or your eternal spirit? Do you want to wear a meat suit or embody being a powerful, energetic aspect of Something-Larger-Than-Life? That might be God, Spirit, Creator, Law of the One, Cause of Being, Source, Love, or whatever you call it. How does one connect with what might be larger than life? In other words, do you want to be a Human Doing or a Human Being?


A Human Doing lives mainly in the bottom three levels of a pyramid. This person functions by responding to these questions: What-to-do, How-to-do-it, Where-will-it-happen, and When-will-it-happen. 

A Human Being lives mainly in the top three levels. This person functions by giving thought to these: Why-am-I-doing this, Who-will-I-become, Who-else-is-impacted, and With-Whom-or-What-will-I-connect. 

Each person tends to find their place of comfort in a doing-being balance. And a mindful person will practice awareness as to where they are at any given moment in time.

If one believes we must have a pyramid, which might be debatable, what would it look like if we flipped the pyramid?


Now, Environment is not so significant; as in, where you do something or when you do it are not as important as what you do and why.

And Vision is impressive. Have you ever noticed if you can't see something in your mind's eye, it does not happen to or for you? You might experiment with that. It is helpful to know whether a future event will unfold for you. Or not.

And what might this inverted, aligned pyramid be like when a change happens? First, a shift in Vision leaves a wider impact arrow to cover even more of the levels beneath it. Think about that: a changed Vision ripples into every area of life. 0140993001628526475.jpg

A change in Values has more impact downward, as shown in the half-arrow pyramid.


Consider the below-inverted pyramid, misaligned. Hmm. It appears that a fall in this one hurts more. Have you ever had your vision squashed? This pyramid might show how that feels. Like when Vision hits the ground, it might feel like an earthquake. And look what else it takes down with it.


One of the things an effective coach does is ask questions that cover all layers of these neurologic levels. Most positive changework occurs in the upper levels. 

* * *

Aligned pyramids, inverted and not, are contagious, meaning not only can levels align within a person, but a person's alignment impacts others. For example, one may intuitively sense if a person's pyramid is aligned, it feels good. And if a person's pyramid is off-kilter or tumbling, one might find oneself wanting to help that person or distancing oneself from that person.

How one could use this inverted Neuro-Logical Levels pyramid is as follows. First, think of something you want to do or, better yet, the new way you want to be. Then, ask yourself these questions.

  • Where do I want that? In what situations? (Environment)
  • What am I doing when I am that? How do I behave when I'm like that? (Behavior)
  • What abilities and capabilities do I have onboard that will allow me that? What new abilities do I need to gain? (Abilities)
  • Why do I want that? Why is that important to me? Exactly, what motivates me to go toward that? (Values)
  • How am I being when I am that? Who do I become when I do that, or am that? How will others be impacted? (Identity)
  • How will gaining that impact the connection I have with that which is more significant than me? How will this contribute to my Higher Self, my religious or spiritual aspect? (Vision)