NLP Coaching: Changing Submodalities (Like to Dislike) - NLP World

NLP Coaching: Changing Submodalities (Like to Dislike)

How to Use NLP to Change Submodalities (Like to Dislike) 1/2

How to change the code of ice cream using the NLP technique of like to dislike in submodalities. In this video, Terry changes the subject’s coding of ice cream and replaces the associated pictures, feelings and tastes.

Submodalities are the fine distinctions or the subsets of the Modalities (Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, Olfactory, Gustatory, and Ad = Vakog) that are part of each representational system that encode and give meaning to our experiences. They are the building blocks of the representational systems by which we code, order and give meaning to the experiences we have. Submodalities are how we structure our experiences.

How do you know what you believe and what you do not believe? You code the two different kinds of beliefs in different submodalities. We create meaning by using different submodalities to code our experience, for example someone we like and someone we dislike.

Changing submodalities is a very effective and powerful way of changing the meaning of an experience. When we set a goal, for example, the more attention we pay to the submodalities, the more specifically refined it becomes. The finer our distinctions, the more clearly and creatively we can design our future.

Here is a longer version of what submodalities are:


The concept of submodalities had been part of NLP since the late 1970’s, but they were presented primarily as a way of enhancing experiences. Although association / dissociation was the key element in many of the more effective standard NLP patterns that had been taught for years, it was not clearly described as a submodality shift. It was only in 1983 that Richard Bandler explicitly began to reveal the structure of submodalities in general. He taught how submodality shifts could be used to change habits (swish pattern), change beliefs, and create motivation or understanding, and how submodality thresholds could be used to break locked-in patterns like compulsions, or to lock in new changes. In short, he outlined how submodalities comprise one way of understanding the underlying structure of all experience.

Bandler and Grinder constructed the Representational Systems of the VAK modalities with their qualities (“submodalities”). This provided a language for describing & modeling human experiences.
The concept of submodalities arose in the field of neuro-linguistic programming, explaining that human beings ‘code’ internal experiences using aspects of their different senses.

We have five basic senses: visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, olfactory and gustatory. In NLP, these are referred to as representational systems or modalities. For each of these modalities, we can have finer distinctions. We could describe a picture as being black and white or colour, or it could also be bright or dim. Sounds could be loud or soft, or coming from a particular direction. Feelings could be in different parts of the body or have different temperatures. Smells could be pleasant or offensive, strong or light. Taste could be sweet or bitter or strong or mild. These finer distinctions are called submodalities and define the qualities of our internal representations. Generally, we work with only three modalities — visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. However, you be working with a client on an issue where the olfactory or gustatory submodalities play a major role e.g. a food issue or someone who is a chef. People have known about and worked with submodalities for centuries. For example, Aristotle referred to qualities of the senses, but did not use the term submodalities.

For most people, research within NLP states that the brain often uses these structural elements as a way to ‘know’ how it feels about them, and what they signify internally. The link is stated to be bilateral – that is, emotions attached to a mental experience are affected by certain submodalities with which it is associated, and specific submodalities can also be affected if the emotional significance changes.

The discovery that the emotion associated with a thought is often functionally linked to the submodalities with which that thought is presented to consciousness, led to a variety of brief therapy NLP interventions based upon change of these key submodalities. In effect, voluntary change of submodalities on the part of the subject was often found to alter long-term the concommitant ‘feeling’ response, paving the way for a number of change techniques based on deliberately changing internal representations. NLP co-originator Richard Bandler in particular has made extensive use of submodality manipulations in the evolution of his work.

To match these subjective distinctions, Eric Robbie (an NLP trainer) demonstrated in 1984 that sub-modalities can be reliably distinguished from external behaviour – in the case of visual submodalities, subtle changes in the eye and facial muscles surrounding the eye are good indicators of specific visual submodalities; in the case of auditory, subtle changes in the muscles surrounding the ears perform the same function for auditory submodalities, and in the case of kinesthetic, subtle changes in the musculature of the body reveal subjective variations in that modality too.
Submodalities are key components to many of the NLP change techniques. Submodalities, by themselves or as part of other techniques, have been used to assist people to stop smoking, eat more of certain foods and less of others, address compulsion issues, change beliefs and values, enhance motivation, move from stress to relaxation, address phobias, etc.
What exactly is a submodality?

A submodality in neuro-linguistic programming is a distinction of form or structure (rather than content) within a sensory representational system. For example, regardless of the content, both external and mental images of any kind will be either colored or monochrome, and stationary or moving. These parameters are submodalities within the visual sense. Similarly, both remembered and actual sounds will be mono or stereo when experienced internally, so mono/stereo is a submodality of sound.

Submodalities refers to the subjective structural subdivisions within a given representational system. For example, in visual terms, common distinctions include: brightness, degree of colour (saturation), size, distance, sharpness, focus, and so on; in auditory: loudness, pitch, tonal range, distance, clarity, timbre, and so on.

Ordinarily, one can establish these by asking questions:

“This image – is it bright, or dim? Coloured or black and white? How much colour? Is it big or small? Is it near or far? In focus, or out of focus?”

“This sound – is it loud or soft? Is it high pitched or low pitched? Does it have a range? Is it near or far? Is it one point source or spread out? Where is it coming from? Is it clear or muffled?”
“That feeling in your body – where exactly is it? Does it have a size? A temperature? Does it stay the same, or does it move at all? Does it have a texture? Is it hard or soft?”

NLP asserts that far from being arbitrary or unimportant, these submodalities often perform a functional role, as a means by which emotions, related memories, felt-sense perceptions such as “importance”, and so on, are presented to consciousness by the unconscious mind, along with thoughts or memories.

NLP asserts that amongst the many possible submodalities, there will often be a handful of so-called “critical” submodalities which can functionally effect large-scale change, and that they differ between people, and can be identified by observation and inquiry. NLP states that a change within these critical submodalities will often correlate with a near-immediate subjective change in the emotion or other felt-sense with which a mental impression presents itself.

Submodalities are therefore seen in NLP as offering a valuable therapeutic insight (or metaphor) and potential working methods, into how the human mind internally organizes and subjectively ‘views’ evidence.

NLP Views of Submodalities

According to core NLP research, each person’s brain seems to code emotional significance differently through variations in mental “image” or representation. Examples found include people whose unconscious minds place black borders around bad memories, people for whom visual images seen dimly are less compelling than those seen brightly, people for whom a subjectively “good” memory is accompanied by one kind of sound whilst a “bad” memory is accompanied by another, and so on.

For most people, there will be a handful of such distinctions which are ‘critical’ to emotional perception, and thus to their mental processing. For example, these might be submodalities that distinguish optimistic thoughts from depressive ones, or which distinguish compelling and important thoughts from less compelling ones. For any given individual, a submodality that turns out to be critical in how a given memory or thought is subjectively experienced, is known as a critical submodality.

SubModalities: Like to Dislike Script

1.  Can you think of something that you like but wish you did not?  Good, what is it?  As you think about that, do you have a picture?  (Elicit the SubModalities.)

2.  Can you think of something which is similar, but which you absolutely dislike.  For example, ice cream and yoghurt. (Elicit the SubModalities. The location should be different!)

3.  Change the SubModalities of #1 into the SubModalities of #2.

TEST:  Now, what about that thing you used to like?
How is it different?

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