How to Change The Impact
Despite the complex name, it’s a really simple concept – NLP Submodalities just refer to the individual components of a specific memory – things like how big it is, how bright the colours are, how loud the sounds are and how far away the image is from you.
"I consider the model of Submodalities to be probably
the most significant thing I've done so far..."
Richard Bandler, Genius and Co-Creator of NLP
For most of us, the way we represent thoughts and memories in our heads tends to impact the way we feel. You think of a picture of you succeeding, you feel good. You think of something “scary”, and you feel bad.
It’s a little known fact, however, that you can easily change the impact of specific thoughts and memories. You can make good memories even better – bigger, brighter and more powerful – so every time you think of them you get a massive confidence boost and feel awesome. Conversely, you can shrink down crappy memories and push them away, instantly making them weaker – and again, make yourself feel better in the process.
NLP Submodalities are one of the easiest – and most powerful – NLP techniques to play with. It only takes a few minutes per memory too, so it’s well worth the investment of time and a bit of practice to use them yourself.
In this article I’m now going to run you through the three main NLP Representational Systems (visual, auditory and kinaesthetic – don’t panic, this is just the different ways we see the world and represent it internally through pictures, sounds and feelings) and explain the major NLP Submodality distinctions in each. After that, in my next article, you will learn some simple ways to put the theory into practice.
Playing with the visual aspects of a memory is one of the easiest ways to experiment with NLP Submodalities, and - for a lot of people - one of the most powerful.
When most of us think of a specific memory, we’ll see a picture of some sort. If I asked you now what you did on Friday night, I guess an image – or maybe a collection of images – will run through your mind. Odds are, you haven’t really stopped to consider this image in any detail before - but with a little bit of conscious effort, you can really have some fun playing with it.
Start now by choosing a specific memory – it can be last Friday night, if you like, but it’s better to try it with one of your favoured memories – maybe winning a competition or achieving something you’re proud of. It doesn’t really matter which you pick – but for the moment, just make sure you pick a good memory that has some positive emotional charge on you. When you’ve got one – and a picture in your head – move on.
One of the easiest NLP Submodalities to play with is size. First, let’s make the image bigger. Make it life-size and then even bigger than that. See the picture in all its infinite detail and then blow it up to be as big as a skyscraper. Really grow the picture inside your head until it’s as big as anything you’ve ever seen in your life – maybe even the size of a small planet or galaxy. Have fun seeing this picture stretch and stretch and stretch until it is positively gigantic.
Now, shrink it back down. See the huge image collapsing like a building being demolished, becoming smaller and smaller until gets back to its original size. Now take the memory and shrink it even further, to the size of a book, a postage stamp, and then a pea. If you’re scientifically inclined, make the memory the size of an atom or proton or any of those unimaginably petite structures. When you’re done, pop the image back to its original size and come out of it.
For most people, making a memory bigger will increase its impact, and making it smaller will decrease its impact. Therefore, if you felt better when the image was growing – and then lost the feelings when the image shrunk – you know that you are receptive to the Submodality of size. You can use this later to grow good memories and make them more powerful, and you can also use it to shrink the effect of bad memories by making them tiny and insignificant.
Note – if this exercise didn’t affect your feelings too much, don’t worry. For most people, between one and three NLP Submodalities are the game-changers, so if size is no good for you, just keep trying until you find some NLP Submodalities that do affect the way you feel. Conversely, if it did work, make sure you remember it for the exercises later!
The next NLP Submodalities we will play with are brightness, colour and distance. Again, pick your memory and then make it brighter and brighter. Notice all the little details you can see as it becomes clearer and more vivid. Make the colours as bold and as rich as you possibly can, until it looks as if someone has dashed gallons of the most beautiful and vibrant paint all over the picture inside your head. When the picture is so bright that it starts to sting your eyes, pull it closer to you. Bring the memory as close as you possibly can, and let it engulf you. Put some internal sunglasses on if you have to, but make sure the image is undeniably bright and right up in front of your face.
Now I want you to drain all the colour from the picture. See the image getting duller and duller until the crispness of the memory has all but gone. See all that colour fading into one dull blur, and see the picture get murkier and harder to make out. Now, flip the picture into black and white. Make it blacker and whiter again and again... and notice nothing but the black and white and notice how hard it is now to make out what’s going on. Now push the image further and further away until it is just a mere speck in the distance and you can barely make it out anymore. When you’re done experimenting, pop the image back to where it started and come out of it.
Did you notice any difference? For most people, the brighter, closer and more vivid an image is, the bigger the impact it will have. So when you made it brighter and clearer and brought it close to you, it should have increased the feelings associated with the memory. When you made it black and white and hard to make out and pushed it further away, the feelings should have all but disappeared. Again, if this is the result you had, make a mental note for later.
I’d say they are the main visual cues to play with for the best effects. Other visual NLP Submodalities you can experiment with include associating (seeing the picture through your own eyes) and disassociating (seeing the image from a third party perspective). Normally, seeing the picture from an associated view is more powerful, as by seeing something through your own eyes you are more likely to drum up feelings and emotions than by looking down on something. Therefore, good memories – associate. Bad memories – disassociate.
Also, try moving the image so it plays at full speed and then try stopping it completely. Typically, a moving image will have more impact that a stationary one.
Most people, when they think of a memory, also hear some sounds of some sort. This could be the actual sounds that happened on the day - or it could be your own internal voice, talking you through the memory. Either way, there are a couple of good ways to play with the sounds of a memory to change its impact on you.
First, try playing with the NLP Submodality of tone. For a majority of people, as crazy as it sounds, their internal voice is a critical one. It can be harsh and demanding and overtly negative. It can often wear you down through its constant bleeting and protestations that “things are not good enough”. It is frustrating, but most people don’t know there is something you can do about it – you can turn to Barry White.
Barry White, God bless his soul, had an incredible voice. His voice was gentle and powerful and caring and utterly sublime. So, the next time you listen to your own voice nagging at you in your head, and it starts to grate on you and make you feel rubbish... switch your voice for Barry’s. I kid you not – just try and get Mr White to nag at you and create the same negative response – it’s practically impossible.
The same nags that were so powerful a moment ago when they used your voice completely lose their strength when Mr White is nagging at you. It’s unreal – and will make you laugh when you try it. If you don’t like Barry (for whatever ungodly reason), try Bob Marley, Bruce Forsyth, Homer Simpson, Cartman from South Park, an over-the-top WWF wrestler or anyone else who will make you burst out into fits of hysterical laughter. Try it, and you’ll start to find it funny that you ever listened to a negative voice for so long.
Volume also often plays a part with NLP Submodalities. Simply put, the louder a sound is the more likely it is to have an impact on your feelings. Therefore, for good memories turn the volume right up (I often visualise a volume slider that increases the volume as I push it up), and for bad memories hit the mute button. Surprisingly enough, after a bit of practice your mute button is likely to be brilliantly effective. Try and play with this and see what works for you.
Finally, try and play with the location of the sound. If you have a nagging voice, find out where the bastard is hiding. If it’s on the left side of your head, switch it to the right side and tell him he has to stay there. If it’s at the front, send it to the back. For some unexplainable reason, if you kick out a nagging voice and make it start again somewhere else, it tends to be nicer to you. (And for the record, everyone has an internal dialogue, so I’d argue that it’s not-quite-insane to play with it and tell it what you want from it. After a while, the argumentative sod tends to listen, too...)
The final NLP Submodalities we will play with are kinaesthetic – these are the feelings and emotions that you associate with a memory. These, perhaps, are a little more “New Agey” than the ones we’ve already been through, but if you’re a kinaesthetic person (i.e. in touch with your emotions, and you use phrases like “I feel....” a lot), it’s certainly worth giving them a go.
First of all, when you think of a memory, find the location of the feeling. If it’s a good memory, find the feeling and swish it all around your body – up to your head and down to your toes. Play with the intensity too, by making it more and more powerful and really send it to every pore and every cell of your body.
Conversely, if it’s a bad memory, find the location of the feeling and push it all the way up to one of your hands or down to one of your feet. Then throw or kick the feeling (metaphorically or physically – try metaphorically if you’re in public, and very much literally if you’re at home alone) and banish it from you! Some less scrupulous people than me like to get the bad feeling up to the back of their mouths and then burp it out. I, of course, would never engage in such anti-social behaviour, but do whatever works best for you. Additionally, it goes without saying that you should turn the intensity of a bad feeling down before trying to banish it.
The final NLP Submodalities we’ll look at are the movement and direction of the feeling. If you pay attention to your feeling now, you’ll notice that it is not static – there will be movement, and it tends to cycle in a certain way. A great way to experiment with this is to reverse the direction of the cycle to see what impact it has... or to speed up the movement or slow it down. Try playing with this until you find what works for you.
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That’s an introduction to NLP Submodalities for you. Playing with these is a fantastic way to change the impact of specific memories, and I hope that you have fun and a lot of success with them.
I’ve tried to communicate NLP Submodalities to you in a clear way, as I’ve found a lot of material in NLP textbooks and online to be a little convoluted and very hard to understand, so my aim here was to make Submodalities accessible to the masses!
Do let me know what you think, and please take a look now at my next article on NLP Submodality Exercises to try out some specific and quick techniques to make good memories better, and make bad memories fade away. Thanks and good luck!
PS - If you liked this article on NLP Submodalities, there are plenty more articles on NLP in the list below.
An Introduction to NLP
How to Do An NLP Swish Pattern
What Is The NLP Swish Pattern?
NLP Rapport & Body Language
How To Get Your Swagger Back
The Power of Creative Visualisation
How To Visualise
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