All About NLP Submodalities (And How To Use Them)

Filed under: NLP Techniques

All About NLP Submodalities

In this post we’re going to teach you seemingly magical ways to change emotions in an instant. Once you learn this you’ll forever have better control over your life. If that sounds good, let’s start with an easy question ...

Can you imagine a world where everything looked the same color, people spoke in a monotone voice, or you could only feel one particular feeling?

That sounds pretty boring, doesn’t it? The variety of sights, sounds, and feelings are what give your life real substance.

That’s exactly what submodalities are. They are the building blocks of human experience. Here's one of our finest Youtube videos explaining all about submodalities. You can watch it now or after you've read this article. Whatever works for you 🙂

The prefix {“sub” in “submodality” means, “under or secondary in rank.”} So that means submodalities are below modalities. Modalities, in this particular instance, can be what you would call your five senses. Sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell.

In neuro-linguistic programming, those five senses are more commonly called representational systems. Your representational systems are how you understand and make sense of the world around you.

Representational systems come in three different categories and correspond with your five senses and are referenced as the V.A.K., where V stands for visual, A stands for audio, and K stands for kinesthetic. 

Kinesthetic is special, in this case, because it means touch, emotion, taste, and smell.

This Ain’t Your Mother’s Way Of Remembering Things

The way you experience reality is through your sensory organs, like your eyes, ears, and physical body. This also means that the way you story memories and process information is experienced through your senses.

Do this experiment.

Think of a memory that makes you happy. No really, take a few moments and really imagine that experience that makes you smile and feel joyful.

Now notice what you notice. Do you see a scene where you are enjoying the moment? Maybe you hear certain voices or sounds that make you smile, or you feel an emotion somewhere in your body.

This experiment you just did is proving that you remember memories and can only access them through your senses, or in this case, your modalities.

In a nutshell, modalities are your representational systems and are the big chunks of how you store memories. Submodalities are smaller building blocks of visual, auditory or kinesthetic modalities themselves.

Think of modalities as the box of crayons and submodalities as each individual color. Saying you have a crayon is less specific than saying you have a green crayon, for example.

Crayon Drawing Rainbow On Paper

Each of your modalities, like what you see, hear, and feel have smaller pieces within them that help create variety and give a much deeper meaning to the world around you.

Let’s go a little bit deeper into this topic with each of the different modalities, shall we?

Representational System #1 - Visual

Let’s go back to that memory you had that made you feel happy. We hope it was a puppy or something cute and fluffy, because darn it, puppies make everyone happy. At least, we think so anyway.

If you are like 60% of the population you probably use your visual sense the most. In neuro-linguistic programming terms, your primary representational system is visual.

That means your memories are mostly stored through images or movie reels. So when you recall a memory, you are more than likely seeing it in your mind.

It’s a pretty awesome ability, isn’t it? Look at you, ya visual stud!

Visual Stud

So when it comes to visual submodalities what do we mean specifically?

If the modality is the visual system, then your visual submodalities are all of the fine details of that visual representation in your mind.

Some of those finer details include:

  • Is the image bright or faint?
  • In color or black & white?
  • Does it have a frame around it or is it panoramic?
  • Is it vibrant or muted?
  • Does it look three dimensional or is it flat?

In your mind, go back to that happy memory and really focus on the finer details. Again, notice what you notice. Is the memory in color or is it grayscale? Is it three dimensional or flat?

Whatever way you access the memory and interpret it is perfect for you because everyone is unique in the way their brain stores the sensory data.

We won’t get into it here, but just know that there is something called eye-accessing cues which can help you tell if someone you are talking to (or even yourself) is a primary visual person.

Visual people often will look up with their eyes when describing objects, events, experiences, or details about a situation. They may look up and to the left or to the right or a combination of both as they talk. To learn more about that, check out our NLP Essentials course.

Another neat trick is that, most often, visual people will speak quickly in order to keep up with the overflow of images and movies in their mind. Remember the expression “a picture paints a thousand words”? Yeah. Visual people have a lot going on, and they go fast to keep up with their mental images.

If you’re mostly a visual person there is a chance that you’re highly creative or artistic, like seeing information in front of you so you can make a better decision, or you like to day-dream.

Representational System #2 - Auditory

Businessman Listening

Hello? Is this thing on? Can you hear me alright?

Ok, good! I’m so glad you are listening in because the auditory representational system has some really awesome submodalities associated with it.

A person who has audio as their primary representational system will often use words like, “hear, listen, and say.” They may say that things “resonate” with them, or that something “rings true”. 

Fun fact: The auditory system is the least common system to be dominant in a person.  It is widely believed that only 15% of people primarily use this system.

If you recall memories and your attention goes directly to what somebody said, you’re probably primarily auditory. If you think about past conversations with people and focus on the words and tone of voice, you may primarily use the auditory representational system.

For all of our audiophiles out there, the submodalities that you’re going to want to listen for are:

  • What is the quality of the tone?
  • Is the volume loud or soft?
  • Can you hear it up close or far away?
  • Is there an echo or is it flat?
  • How is the rhythm or tempo?
  • Are there any background noises?
  • What’s the ambience like?
  • Which direction does the sound see to come from?

Auditory people tend to speak a little bit slower than visual people, and they tend to enunciate very clearly. They can be easily distracted by noise.

Representational System #3 - Kinesthetic

Hand Shake

How do you feel about this post so far? Do you think you are able to grasp the information we are giving you? Are you getting more in touch with your representational systems?

If any of this hits home with you, then there is a good chance you utilize the kinesthetic representational system as your main representational system. This modality is all about feeling, touch, and emotion.

According to neuro-linguistic programming, kinesthetic includes touch and emotion, but also includes taste and smell. 

Some of the submodalities within the kinesthetic modality are:

  • What is the texture?
  • Is it heavy or light?
  • Soft or hard?
  • Where do you feel it in your body?
  • Does it feel good or bad?
  • Is the taste sour, bitter, sweet, or savory?
  • What’s the aroma?
  • How do you feel emotionally?

If you are the kind of person who has the primary representational system of kinesthetic, then you probably need to get a feel for any decisions before you commit to them. This means you might speak a bit slower because you have to really get in touch with your emotions.

Did we mention kinesthetic is slow? It’s actually the slowest representational system to access, meaning that if you are working with somebody in a therapeutic setting, it will take some time before your client can get into the feeling or emotion.

Using Submodalities to Change Emotions

Did you think we’d forget to deliver on our promise to show you how submodalities affect emotions? No way!

Remember: your submodalities, regardless of whatever representational system you use, are the key to how you interpret and process memories and experiences.

All memories and all experiences have an underlying emotional attachment to them. This means if you have a memory that is happy, like playing with a puppy, then chances are you probably feel the emotion of “happy” when you play with puppies.

Yorkshire Puppy

On the other side of that coin, if you experienced something negative or traumatic in your past, that memory or experience will also have some type of feeling that you associate with it.

Submodalities are the metaphorical way the brain is physically coding the information. This means that the emotion is also attached to the submodalities in a particular way. 

By changing the submodalities, you quite literally change the physical structure of the brain through a process called neuroplasticity. Because of this change, the emotional attachment is also changed. That's what we do with the Spin Technique.

If a visual memory is good, you can make it feel even better by cranking up the colors, making it more vibrant, and bringing it really close. This works the same way for audio and kinesthetic submodalities too..

In the same light, you can decrease your emotional sensitivity to negative experiences by changing the submodalities. 

For example, if you think of a bad memory that really bothers you, and you notice the image or movie is encoded as bright, close to you, 3D and panoramic, then change it!  Imagine making it dull, far away, flat, and perhaps out a nice soft frame around it. Maybe even make it blurry or grainy. Notice how different you feel.

There is so much more to submodalities than we were able to cover in this short tutorial and you probably are really jazzed about wanting to learn even more.

We’ve developed an incredible course just for that called NLP Essentials.

NLP Essentials will teach you everything you need to know so you can make your life better or improve the lives of other people.

Most NLP trainers give you a ton of information that can be overwhelming and lead to choice paralysis. How do you know what techniques to use? What if they don’t work? How can you be sure you learned it properly?

With NLP Essentials, there’s no fluff, just the essential principles and foundational techniques you can use immediately to get amazing results.

The best part is that it only takes a few hours!

Check out the NLP Essentials course page to learn more and discover just how easily you can start transforming the lives of other people and your own.