spaghetti meatballs and the flexible meaning of words

NLP and Reframing…Meatballs?


Meatballs are Snow…

…Meaning and what it means.


Meatballs are snow.
Spaghetti is rain.
All together they are thunder
And Lightning!!!

I’m curious. What did you think about when you read those three lines? A few people I’ve read it to tell me they started thinking about how meatballs and like snow and spaghetti is like rain. Some say “Well, meatballs are bigger and rain, when it comes down, looks kind of like spaghetti noodles.”

We Seek Meaning

You see, humans are meaning-seeking beings. We ascribe meaning even when there is no meaning. Why is this important? Because the meaning we put on things can have a dramatic effect on how we feel and what we can accomplish.

You’ll often hear people who have been in a car accident or disaster and escaped with minor injuries describe themselves as lucky. “It could have been much worse,” they’ll say. Well, if they were so lucky, how come they were there in the first place? So are they lucky or unlucky?

When you examine it in any depth, you’ll see that many events or series of events can be thought of as lucky or unlucky. It all depends on the meaning you put on those events. We choose the meaning we put on events.

Why meaning means so much.

Again, the meaning we choose to put on evens can have a dramatic impact on how we operate in the world. Are people out to get us? Is the world a playground? When something happens in a foreign country do we view it as happening to “them” or do we see it as happening to one of “us” (humanity). It’s all a matter of the frame or meaning we put on it.

I have an idea about meaning. Meaning is something we make up. Since we make it up, why don’t we choose meanings that help us get done what we want to get done? And let’s do the same with our clients. Let’s help them frame the events around them to help them accomplish their goals. It’s called reframing…

The fact that they’ve tried multiple times to stop smoking and failed means they’re dedicated–not that stopping smoking is impossible. If their facial expressions are easily read it could mean that people can trust them. If they’ve experienced a traumatic past it could mean they have a depth of understanding that others don’t. Perhaps you get the idea.


BTW, “Meatballs” is a poem written by my nearly 7 year-old son. I believe it shows his incredible creativity!

About The Author:

Keith Livingston is the main instructor for Hypnosis 101. Keith has been studying hypnosis since he was a boy and doing hypnosis & NLP training since 1997.

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  1. Firstly I really like the poem. I have a son of a similar age and a lot of my material is either from him or inspired by him.

    I have not really thought about “Meaning is something we make up” in those terms.

    Thank you for your ‘food for thought”


    1. Thanks Andy,
      My son too is an inspiration to me. He’s my best teacher–even for things I don’t want to learn!

  2. i thought the peom was stupid, not to insult anyone but truly it was dumb . it didnt even rhyme, how can you call it a peom? have a nice day sun shine! talk to you soon

    1. Wow Vai. You’re kind of a moron aren’t you? You seem to have completely missed the point of the post.

      By the way, congratulations on putting down a poem by a 6 year-old. Good work. It also seems as if you don’t understand that something doesn’t have to rhyme to be a poem.

      Actually, I should probably thank you. You made my point. Look at the different meanings people drew from the post. Your meaning was “the poem is stupid.” Others got inspiration or food for thought.

      For everyone else reading this…

      I spend a lot of my time writing posts, articles and making videos to (hopefully) educate folks and help bring more understanding to the fields of hypnosis and NLP. I love NLP and hypnosis and love to share my knowledge. It’s helped me make profound, positive changes in my life and one of my goals is to help others do the same.

      A few months ago I ranted in an email blast about the trolls out there who have nothing valuable to add and who write insulting or just plain idiotic comments and emails. I wanted all of you who responded positively to know that you have my deepest thanks. To know that many of you value this blog, articles, videos and my newsletter helps me to keep doing it!


  3. Hi Keith

    No doubt, your son is having a great time during dinner.
    Keep up the very good work.
    It’s helping me a lot helping others.


  4. the downfall of nlp is the fact that all our realities are subjective and this includes our understanding of words and language.

    the genius of the hypnotherapist is to assist the client to by pass critical thinking and to enter a state of creative relaxation where only visualisation and imagery affecting the emotions create a new reality.

    my reality of meatball is koenigsberge klopse.
    just a laugh.


    1. Interesting viewpoint David. Thanks for sharing it.

      In my mind, NLP is based on the idea that all our realities are subjective and takes tremendous advantage of the fact that people’s understandings of words is also subjective. I don’t understand how that would be a downfall of NLP. Maybe you could expand your thoughts here…

  5. Hey Keith,
    I liked the poem and I especially liked your article and even further, I loved your response to the person who felt he had to express his negativity. I could say more, but then I would be on the same track and I am choosing not to go there!

    Love your work, Keith, maybe I’ll see you at NGHWA soon!

  6. Wonder if rude poster has ever heard of Haiku. It does not make a lot of sense to the conscious mind but it sure grabs the unconscious. Could definitely be that Keith is having a poem master growing up in his home.

    I have a dear friend and fellow NLP Trainer who states:
    REMEMBER, YA CAN’T FIX STUPID! Says it all, doesn’t it Keith? Geez, to insult a 6-7 year old who has accomplished what you cannot? Interesting. Not a belief I would care to adopt.

  7. Yes, we make our own meanings, but let’s never forget that thing outside us called “reality.” A map is only useful if it helps us navigate the territory.

    The only people who are truly successful at creating their own reality are psychotics.

    Which is not to say your meaning has to perfectly match reality. The people whose maps most match reality are pessimists – Oh, and also the clinically depressed, according to the breakthrough research of Martin Seligman.

    Damn! There’s that word!



    I hate balance! If I thought it would be helpful I’d become manic with every new project I undertake, like the early Robin Williams, bouncing off walls with creative energy, going non-stop for days. . .doing tons of cocaine, etc.


    Damn! Balance.

    Does Don Quixote HAVE to be insane? Are all mystics mad?

    I refuse to believe it. But I doubt they’re the ones to show us the way because they don’t know how they got there in the first place, or how to get home.

    Find a lodestone. A touchstone. Build a foundation made of granite first and then reach for the unreachable star.

    The unchangeable character of God is my lodestone. My foundation. Stretching. Climbing. Dreaming – from there – and the whole universe is open to me.

    That’s my meaning.

  8. Keith,

    Your son’s amazing poem reminds me of things said and written by the Erickson children as described in “My Voice Will Go With You”, by Sidney Rosen. Please thank him for causing me to see some things in a new way! And remember, if vai hadn’t posted vai’s comments, no one would have known how seriously depressed vai is. vai; ask for help!



    No intentions here to burst the magic bubble, however my initial response to the text presented did not impress either. Upon contextual review, it is admirable that your son has a creative spark, yet, I can understand “vai’s” viewpoint as well. While the rudeness in his/her demeanor is distasteful, this response was most likely based upon his/her expectations not original intentions. Perhaps he/she anticipated obtaining something more substantial from the post in exchange for the time he/she spent uploading it. Still we can always seem to find all types of characters online who seemingly have irrational reasons why they do the things they do.

  10. Keith,
    I would just like to add, creativity is a great resource for anyone at any age. I applaud you for posting the poem. Thank you for sharing.


  11. One of our pet peeves is the use of the terms ‘moron’ ‘idiot’ and ‘imbicile’ as if they are interchangeable. They are, my friends, precise technical terms. While we are perhaps best aware of their use in the messy vernacular in the short films of Howard, Howard and Fine, they originate decades earlier as a taxonomic ranking for substandard degrees of intelligence. For the layman, a simple mnemonic for their rank order is that they are also alphabetical from lowest to highest.

    Now if we turn our attention to the case in question, I think we can make a fair assessment based on the evidence. Towit: the words ‘peom’ and ‘rhyme.’ As we see, the word ‘poem’ is clearly written in the original post to which the subject responds, in fact, in the very last sentence, the location where it is mostly likely to be remembered accurately. The subject however, in two instances, fails to accurately reproduce the word, rather accidentally coining the awkward ‘peom’ which while colorful, has no known meaning. This categorical failure to reproduce a simple word seconds later invites us to zoom past the relatively mild evaluation of ‘moron’ to consider whether we are dealing with either an imbicile or, excitingly, have struck gold in an encounter with a full-blown idiot.

    This brings us to our second suggested marker, the word ‘rhyme.’ Not only is this challenging word used accurately (though without any evident knowledge of common forms of poetry such as free verse) it is spelled perfectly! Few words from the K-6 curriculum present a greater spelling challenge, lest we include consideration of its kindred ‘rhythm.’ (The complete absence of conventional vowels brings to mind both the parallel consideration of the meme, “This sentence no verb.” as well as the pairing of the two words by the esteemed G. Clinton (1993): “Rhythm & Rhyme, Rhythm & Rhyme, Rhythm & Mother”Loving” Rhyme.”)

    No! The accurate use, correctly spelled though ignorant, of the word ‘rhyme’ closes the case. We are dealing with neither a moron nor an idiot. Clearly we are engaged with an imbicile. Neither so dull as to be drooling on his or her shoes, yet not bright enough to fully function at any but the most base levels of civilized society. Indeed, an imbicile!

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