NLP Submodalities Explain The Detailed Dynamics of Your Five Senses

Have you ever heard of NLP submodalities?

Most people have not, yet they continue to be affected by the way submodalities store information in their internal representations of the world around them.

You’re probably aware that human beings use five senses to gather information from their environment. Now, some people believe that human beings are capable of a sixth sense, but for now this is out of the scope of what I would like to share with you.

The Five Senses in NLP: Auditory, Visual, Kinesthetic, Gustatory and Olfactory

Our five senses in NLP consist of sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing. Or, as more commonly referred to in neurolinguistic programming (NLP) and hypnosis, the five senses are referred to as visual, kinesthetic, gustatory, olfactory, and auditory.

Richard Bandler and John Grinder, the founders of neurolinguistic programming, noticed that the clients they were working with for personal development all had specific and unique ways of storing information from one of their modalities or their senses. Additionally, the information that each client was drawing out of their environment would be represented completely differently from another person.

An Example of NLP Submodalities / The Five Senses in NLP

An example of this might be the way a person stores information relative to the topic of the third-grade (as he or she experienced it). For one person, when she is asked to recall a third-grade experience and describe the dynamics of their experience it could have the following characteristics:

  • She sees a distant black and white picture of her sitting in a classroom
  • She can hear the faint laughter and voices of her schoolmates
  • She can see the classroom from various angles that mesh together like a video
  • She feels weakness in her legs
  • She feels tightness in her stomach
  • She can hear her teachers voice coming from the left side of her head and as she hears the voice she feels overwhelmed.

If asked where that experience is spatially stored, she points over her left shoulder and behind her. Saying, “back there”.

This is just an example of how submodalities are used to identify the powerful components of an experience. From a neuro linguistic programming perspective, submodalities affect the way that an experience is stored in our internal representation. It’s not unusual for a person to have submodalities that are disempowering within the context of something that they desire to do or be. And, on the other hand, submodalities that are overly empowering tend to exist within the context of habits, addictions, phobias, and general fears and anxieties.

Could a solution be as simple as changing the way we store information in our minds?

Most people work with personal development coaches or life coaches who are certified neurolinguistic programming practitioners and hypnotherapists claim that their major successes and ability to change life circumstances come from the process of reframing a situation. Much of reframing situation can be done quickly and effectively by changing the submodalities that exist in a person’s mind in a specific context.

Here is a list of submodalities in each of the representation systems of five senses:

NLP Visual Submodality (sight, images, spatial)

  • Associated (seeing through own eyes) or Disassociated (seeing self in the picture)
  • Location: to the left, right, top, bottom
  • Angle
  • Number of pictures
  • Size
  • Distance
  • Brightness
  • Color or monochrome (black & white)
  • Framed (nature of frame?) or panoramic
  • 2D or 3D
  • Clear or fuzzy
  • Shape: convex, concave, specific shape
  • Movement: still, photo, slideshow, video, movie, looping
  • Style: picture, painting, poster, drawing, “real life”

NLP Auditory Submodality (sound, voice)

  • Mono / stereo
  • Tonality
  • Qualities: Volume, pitch, tempo, rhythm, inflections, pauses, timbre
  • Variations: looping, fading in and out, moving location, direction
  • Internal or external
  • Voice: whose voice, one or many
  • Other background sounds?

NLP Kinesthetic Submodality (feelings, sensations, even emotions)

  • Vibration
  • Pressure
  • Steady or intermittent
  • Intensity
  • Weight
  • Internal or external
  • Location
  • Shape
  • Size
  • Temperature
  • Movement
  • Texture

NLP Olfactory Submodality (smell)

  • Ashy
  • Animal-like (Musky)
  • Burnt / Smokey
  • Chemical / Medicinal
  • Chocolate
  • Caramel
  • Cereal / Malty / Toast-like
  • Earthy
  • Floral
  • Fruity / Citrus
  • Grassy / Green / Herbal
  • Nutty
  • Rancid / Rotten
  • Rubber-like
  • Spicy
  • Tobacco
  • Winey
  • Woody

NLP Gustatory Submodality (taste)

  • Sweet
  • Sour
  • Salty
  • Bitter
  • Astringent

Try it yourself. Recall a specific experience when you had a great vacation. Go down the list and identify the submodalities of that memory. Next, recall a situation that was a social event or a vacation gone wrong. Go down the list below and identify the submodalities. Now contrast those experiences’ submodalities and notice what’s different.

* A quick side note. Through some of my random reading (trying to stretch the limits!) I came across the book The Magical and Ritual Use of Perfumes by Richard Alan Miller and Iona Miller. It’s amazingly insightful and the authors suggest that the olfactory sense is the only sense that travel directly to the brain’s limbic system, which governs emotion. Many researchers in various industries are constantly looking for new ways to harness our olfactory and gustatory senses since these are the least understood and quantified at this time. Funny how a little smell, pleasant or repulsive, will instantly trigger a response… 🙂

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