Submodalities are the building blocks in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). They are our representation systems’ qualities (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory, and gustatory). Consider, for example, the Taste representation system, in which case acid or salt is a submodality. You can use these submodalities to achieve a state of heart coherence rapidly.
In addition to Anchoring, another NLP technique, submodalities, can be particularly effective in achieving a desired state of mind or being. Our submodalities provide us guidance in the process of how we structure our experiences.
Why is it that you believe one thing and don’t believe the other? You code two different types of beliefs in different submodalities. We give meaning to a situation by using different submodalities to code it, for example, about someone we like and someone we don’t like.
Playing with submodalities
Changing submodalities is a very effective and powerful way to change the meaning and intensity of an experience. For example, when we set ourselves a goal, the more attention we pay to the submodalities, the more specific this goal becomes. The more refined our distinction, the more clearly and creatively we can imagine and design our future.
The other way around, this also applies to a negative experience. By playing with and changing the submodalities, we can change unwanted behavior resulting from this experience.
An example. What kind of car do you want? A Mercedes? -What color? White. -What type? E-Class AMG. -What kind of interior? Leather. -What kind of leather? White leather. Do you see? You can smell the new interior, feel the luxury leather seats, etc. The more and more specific you become, the more you can play with submodalities.
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What are submodalities in NLP?
Bandler and Grinder, the founders of NLP, had previously mapped the underlying “structure of experience.” These are the representation systems VAKOG (Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, Olfactory, and Gustatory). The submodalities are the aspects of these representation systems.
The concept of submodalities has been used within NLP since the late 1970s. Using this NLP tool is seen as a way to improve experiences. It was Richard Bandler (one of the founders of NLP) who explicitly used submodalities in 1983. He soon saw how we could break patterns, reframe our beliefs, and how submodalities could bring about new behavior changes.
With submodalities, the internal experiences are specifically coded with the aspects of the different senses. Examples are:
- You hear a loud bang.
- You see something vague in front of you.
- The intense scent is still in your nose.
It is the aspects of the sensory perceptions that cause a feeling or emotion. By changing these aspects, the effect, i.e., the emotion or behavior, can also be changed.
Fragrances can be pleasant or offensive, strong or light. Taste can be sweet or bitter or strong or mild. These finer distinctions define our internal representations. Our brain uses these structural elements as a way to “know” what kind of situation we are in. Is it threatening, does it feel familiar, etc.?
Bandler and Grinder discovered that emotion is functionally linked to submodalities. Their discovery led to a very effective NLP technique: working with submodalities.
Application for achieving heart coherence
By working with submodalities, you can also achieve a state of heart coherence more quickly. You can empathize with the desired situation more intensely. When you are going to focus on creating a warm and grateful feeling, submodalities can be a powerful tool to get into a state of coherence.
Imagine yourself in a situation where you felt very grateful. What were the sounds around you? Perhaps you felt a gentle, warm breeze on your skin? Or were there certain colors that made this experience so intense?
By concentrating on these qualities, you can intensify your desired situation and speed up and intensify the process.
Practice makes perfect. When you practice regularly to achieve heart coherence, you will notice that the process is getting easier and faster. When you are in a state of heart coherence, you can anchor this state so that you can easily evoke this situation and the accompanying feeling in situations where you “go wrong” with negative emotions or when you want to produce a state of heart coherence.
For example: as a child, you saw the house of your neighbors on fire from your bedroom window. The orange flames, the frightened voices of the neighbors who took shelter with you, the black clouds of smoke, and the smell of the steaming extinguishing water made a deep impression. All these factors have made that as an adult, you associate any fire with fear. This pattern is anchored deep inside your subconscious.
Most people are visually oriented, so visual submodalities are most commonly used. The others, i.e., auditory, kinesthetically, gustatory and olfactory, can be supportive in this. When you use multiple sensory submodalities at the same time, the experience is more powerful. It works the same as stacking anchors with the NLP technique, Anchoring.
In essence, an anchor is made up of different submodalities that give you a certain feeling through a particular trigger. The visual submodalities that you can use to de-intensify or intensify your experience are:
- Location: left, right, top, bottom, back
- Color or black and white
- Framed (nature of frame?) Or panoramic
- 2D or 3D
- Clear or hazy
- Form: global or specific
- Movement: Still, Photo, Slideshow, Video, Movie, Looping
- Style: photo, painting, poster, drawing, reality
You can play with these properties. When you picture yourself in a certain situation, you can intensify the colors, bring the object closer and make the image brighter. See for yourself what this does to your feelings.
The auditory submodalities are powerful support for the visual properties of a situation. Voices, in particular, especially emotionally charged voices, can leave an almost indelible impression, especially on children.
Working with submodalities can be a very effective technique in dealing with trauma or at least to relieve symptoms. The auditory submodalities you can use are:
- Mono / stereo
- Sound/voice properties: volume, pitch, tempo, rhythm
- Properties: looping, fade or reinforce, move location
- Voice: from whom, one or more?
- Background noise?
By “sliding” with the properties of a sound, you can make the experience more intense or less intense. For example, you can make voices sound less emotional. You can turn the volume down. Imagine being at the controls of the mixing console to determine how all these observations come in.
Do you get into trouble with your manager, and does he lecture you in a pedantic tone? In the evening, you sit on the couch moping about it. Close your eyes and empathize again. Now give him a helium gas voice and let Ravel’s Bolero sound as background music. I’m sure you can no longer take him seriously. Add in a few more custom visual submodalities (like clowns shoes), and you can no longer worry about it.
Kinesthetic submodalities are the emotional properties that a situation entails. Just think of a situation where you got shivers down your spine or where you immediately got a stab in the stomach.
It’s fun to play with the kinesthetic submodalities. You can experiment with their properties with which you can experiment to intensify your experience or to make the associated feeling less intense:
- Proprioception: somatic sensation, location, movement
- Tactile: pressure, texture
- Thermoception: temperature
Gustatory and olfactory submodalities
The gustatory and olfactory properties are mainly related to taste and smell. Imagine what it tastes like when you take a bite from a lemon slice or a delicious ice cream on vacation. That definitely brings a feeling!
Submodalities are essential components of many of the NLP-changing techniques. They can be used to help you quit smoking, lose weight, or tackle obsessions.
The main use of submodalities is to move from an unwanted state (mood or mental/physical state) to the desired state, for example, to feel calm, grounded, or experience a state of heart coherence naturally.
The purpose of submodalities is to intensify or de-intensify that experience. The more refined our distinction, the more clearly and creatively we can design our future.
Association / dissociation
But how do submodalities really work? Which mechanism or mechanisms explain the effects? Although NLP is still labeled a pseudoscience, it is not about whether something has been scientifically proven. A placebo effect can also provide an excellent result. In fact, it is all about the outcome, not about the how or what, because you yourself are the placebo!
Association is the “magic” factor in the use of submodalities. The better you are able to associate yourself (to enter into the commitment, to “go together”) with an (imagined) situation, the more powerful the effect will be.
On the other hand, it’s also essential to be able to dissociate yourself or “distance yourself” from a situation, for example, by looking at yourself from a helicopter view and thereby detaching yourself from your feelings and emotions.
Submodalities can be a powerful tool to put yourself in the desired state. Indeed, for achieving heart coherence, this NLP technique, together with Anchoring, can be of great benefit. In no time, you can also turn annoying feelings and emotions into positive ones.
The more often you apply this technique to yourself, the better you will be able to control your emotions. You probably know the saying, “let your thoughts be stronger than your emotions.”
Let the different submodalities work to your advantage. So, for example, have you had a nasty confrontation with someone? Picture this person, blur him, darken him and let his voice fade. You will notice that it’s becoming easier for you to create a permanently positive mindset.