Submodalities. The Building Blocks of Experience

In this video, Michael introduces senses and submodalities.

Our senses give us information about ourselves and the world. The better we listen, see, feel, (and taste and smell) the better chance we have of  understanding what’s going on.

Submodalities are some of the qualities of our senses. They add more information and richness. For example, some qualities of sight are light or dark, focused or unfocused, colour or monochrome.

How senses and submodalities can alter our memories.

Our memories are built from sensory experience. Memories aren’t fixed, they change as we gain new experiences. By exploring the qualities of the sensory language of our memories, and changing them, we can change the memories themselves in ways that are useful to us.

The same can be said about imagination – both how we imagine things within our own minds, and how we paint a picture, through language, as we communicate our ideas to others.

Being aware of sensory language.

It pays to be aware of the great variety in the types of sensory language that we use.

A drummer, an artist, an athlete and a businessman are likely to describe memories in different ways. They have different sensory experiences and this is reflected in their language.

Some things can be described in digital, on/off, terms – For example, something can be either 2-Dimensional or 3-Dimensional, but not somewhere in between. Most sensory information, however, falls somewhere on a continuum; for example brightness or colour can only exist on a spectrum. Therefore, it is far harder to express it accurately.

A first step is understanding some of the qualities, or submodalities, of our senses.


  • Association (associated or dissociated)
  • Size (large or small)
  • Motion (still or moving, slideshow or movie)
  • Colour (colour or black and white)
  • Brightness (bright or dark)
  • Distance (near or far)
  • Focus (focused or unfocused)
  • Clarity (clear or fuzzy)
  • Location (top, bottom, left, or right)
  • Depth (2D or 3D)
  • Frame (framed or panoramic)
  • Number of images
  • Location (mono, stereo, surround)
  • Tonality (flat or engaging)
  • Tempo (slow or fast)
  • Pitch (high or low)
  • Pace (fast or slow)
  • Intensity (intense or soft)
  • Clarity (clear or fuzzy)
  • Volume (loud or soft)
  • Rhythm (regular or irregular)
  • Location (Where do you feel it?)
  • Vibration (Is it still or pulsing?)
  • Movement (Is it still or moving? If it’s moving trace the movement with your hands.)
  • Pressure (Is there any pressure? If so, is it light or intense?)
  • Shape (What shape is it?)
  • Size (How big is it?)
  • Temperature (Does it have a temperature? Is it warm or cool, or something else?)
  • Direction (Does it have a direction? If so describe it.)
  • Steady or intermittent (Is it steady or intermittent?)
Taste and smell
  • Taste / Smell (Sweet, Sour, Aroma, Fragrance, Salt, Sweet, Essence, Pungence.)

Senses and Submodalities Essentials

  • When we access a memory and identify its submodalities in closer detail, we tend to bring back the details of that memory and amplify its associated feelings.
  • When we change the submodalities of the memory we also change the memory and its associated feelings.
  • By making our images brighter, more colourful and closer, we amplify the power of the memory over us. By making them less bright, less colourful and further away, we weaken its power.
  • By associating into the image, we connect with how we felt. Disassociating and looking at ourselves in the memory makes us become more analytical and more distant from how we felt.
  • We can learn to ‘spin’ our feelings – sometimes, emotions present themselves as physical sensations that seem to move and loop somewhere in the body. By first recognizing this feeling, and then amplifying the movement through visualization, we give ourselves the opportunity to be ‘bathed’ and ‘massaged’ by good feelings
  • The more we can influence our own feelings, the more we can influence the feelings of those around us.

Suggested Senses and Submodalities Exercise

Write down 5 activities that you enjoy. Explore the submodalities of your most recent experience of each. Then explore the submodalities of your most intense experience of each. In what way are the submodalities different?

Go back to the beliefs part. Explore the submodalities of your strong beliefs. How may are common across all of your beliefs?

The next session considers Six Step Reframing

See Wikipedia on Senses

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Full NLP Techniques List

Key NLP Techniques Section Index

1: NLP Techniques
2: Affirmations
3: Amplify feelings
4: Bad memories (Dissolving)
5: Bad memories (Exploding)
6: Beliefs and belief change
7: Perceptual positions
8: Fast phobia cure
9: Hypnosis and meditation
10: Luck
11: Metaprogrammes, Profiles and Preferences
12: Modelling
13. Progressive dissociation
14: Self Compassion
15: Senses and Sub-modalities (This page)
16. Six step re-framing
17: Storytelling
18: Strategies
19. Swish
20: Time and timeline
21. Visual Squash
22: Values and value rules
23: NLP Techniques Summary

NLP Senses and Submodalities

NLP Senses and Submodalities