An Insider’s Guide To Sub-Modalities

What we are going to be experimenting with, within the broader frame of the structure of human subjective experience, are called submodalities. Modalities are the representational systems: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory and gustatory.

We take information in from the external world using our five senses, and those same five senses are used internally to process information. We see pictures, hear sounds and have feelings on the inside.

When Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) first began to study subjective experience, the structure of meaning was found to occur in the specific sequence of representational systems a person used to process information. These representational system sequences were called strategies.

Sub-modalities are the fine distinctions we make in each representational system: the difference that makes a difference.

People use predicates (verbs, adverbs and adjectives) specific to the representational system they are functioning in. They will say things like, “She just tunes me out” or “I don’t see any alternative” or “I’m trying to come to grips with the problem.” Indeed, as you listen to the language people use, they are much more specific than that.

You must begin to hear the language they use to describe their experience and to take it literally. People will talk about “needing to get things in perspective” or “wanting some distance” from a problem.

These sub-modality descriptions will tell you more about what is influencing someone than if you make the grosser distinction of making pictures or having feelings.

To discover how sub-modalities function, the first step is to learn that they do indeed exist. The best way to do this is in small increments, slowly and methodically. Practice this with someone else; then you can learn to do it with yourself, and it is important to be able to do it with yourself.

The practice with another person is a kind of dissociation that makes the learning easier.

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AN INSIDER’S GUIDE TO SUB-MODALITIES by Will MacDonald and Richard Bandler