NLP contains many processes and techniques that can help you quit habits and behaviours that do not support you. One of those techniques involves discovering and changing the submodalities or finer details of the pictures that we hold in our heads around the habit or behaviour that we want to stop.

If you hadn’t realised that you made pictures in your head before, then: think about a habit that you have, whether you enjoy the habit or not. When you think of that habit, do you have a picture of it? Is the picture in colour or black and white? Is it near to you or far away in your minds eye? These are submodalities. By changing the submodalities or a picture we can change what it means to us:


“I consider the model of submodalities to be probably the most significant thing that I have done so far…” – Richard Bandler.

We are porous and think about the things that we absorb – the things that we experience in life. They are represented internally by the fusion of subjective data that is gathered and assimilated by our representational systems, our senses – our modailities. This results in internal visual images, auditory sounds and kinaesthetic feelings. The brain interprets, processes and codes this data – the fine, detailed integral parts of the sensory system representations are classified as submodalities; the way in which the brain re-interprets the gathered data. It therefore stands to reason that if the data is re-interpreted internally then the experience (which is after all a collection of thoughts, memories, perceptions and reflections) will also have changed. Our way of thinking about the things that we have experienced will therefore impact significantly upon our recollections, our perceptions; our likes, dislikes, hopes, fears, attitudes… our emotions, our emotional well being; indeed our mental health. Therefore the way in which we represent these thoughts internally will have an extremely meaningful impact upon our state and the subsequent way that we respond, and ultimately feel. Our internal representations and established processes need not be something that merely happens to us by default, something over which we have no control. We can use mental techniques to intervene and to change the process that is occurring; the submodality instigated patterns that we are running. Knowledge of this opens up fantastic opportunities for changing these patterns, the catalyst for changing the actual living human experience. This is in essence mind over matter – we can choose the meanings that we attach to our experiences.

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think” – Buddha.

Anyone can quickly and easily alter the subsequent impact of these thoughts and memories by choosing to change the representation of them; enhancing and intensifying the quality of positive thoughts and memories, and undermining and negating the unresourceful ones. In real terms good memories and thoughts can be made better; bigger, brighter, more colourful, clearer and stronger; volumes adjusted, sensations intensified. Bad ones can be shrunk, pushed into the distance, made black and white; silenced, feelings weakened and thus undermined. This offers tremendous potential for nullifying fear, foreboding, boredom, sadness and apprehension; and improving confidence, happiness, self acceptance, contentment and well being. The ability to utilise these techniques is inherent in all of us; once mastered they can be utilised in any situation and at any time! The best news of all is that once understood, the NLP Submodalities are in real terms quick and easy to influence, and offer almost infinite powerful potential. They can be used to change current feelings, or those that relate to posthumous past experiences; even anticipated future events. So many people live in the past, dwelling on negative historical life events; or look to the future with apprehension as they anticipate imminent crisis. However by changing the submodalities real changes will occur in the intensity of the thoughts and the feelings that are associated…and the meaning. This offers incredible potential for resourcefulness. We get what we focus on; we think therefore we are.

NLP Submodality techniques include;

  • Contrastive analysis – comparing different internal representations to find the drivers; discovering submodality differences.
  • Mapping across – having established the drivers through contrastive analysis one of the internal representations are changed to the other (liked to disliked).
  • Swish Patterns – replacing one internal representation (picture) with another to provide empowerment.
  • Disassociative Techniques – changing position, view and perspective by disassociation; used to diffuse negative feelings and phobias.

I carried out the like to dislike exercise twice; initially for myself and additionally for a friend. For the purpose of this text however I will refer to my initial preliminary personal experience – in this way I can better relate my introspection of the strength and contrast of my own submodalities, and the subsequent change process. The principle technique that is being utilised in this exercise is predominantly mapping across (changing one internal representation to the other).

Prior to commencing the like to dislike exercise I actually gave careful consideration to the thing that I like, but wanted to amend. Determining an outcome for the exercise is perhaps the most important part of it. Surprisingly, this proved quite a lengthy process. I eventually ascertained that my like for crisps (3 bags a day) was undermining my attempts to lose weight and become healthier. I then ensured that I had a copy of the submodality checklist to hand; this offers an excellent way to systematically account and structure the internal process that is going to occur. I then thought it good protocol and etiquette to ask my unconscious aloud for permission to make the change that I had determined – this is an important step as failure to do so may undermine the effectiveness of the change that is being proposed. The unconscious is a benevolent and powerful ally; I already know that I can achieve anything through the power of my unconscious mind. The benefits of tethering the conscious and unconscious minds can be likened to a pair of horses working in tandem whilst driving a cart; striving towards a common goal through unity and connectedness. United we stand; divided we fall!

I then proceeded with the exercise by utilising the script provided within the NLP course manual;


  1. I thought of the thing that I liked, but wished that I did not – in this case crisps. As I thought about how much I liked them I immediately had a very clear associated picture of an open packet of ready salted (red packet). The picture was large, centrally located and in bright colour. The picture was intense, very bright and focused; it was framed and still. Further to this there was an important sound – I could clearly hear the sound of the packet rustling and hear the crunch of the crisps, as if they were being munched! These sounds were loud but not located in any particular location. There was a resonance and clarity to the sounds; the duration was intermittent. I could almost taste the crisps, and as I explored the submodlity further I could feel them in my mouth. This made the experience more intense; I could almost taste them and I was aware that I was almost salivating. I was aware of the salt on my fingertips and imagined licking them.
  2. Next I thought of something that I absolutely dislike; this was greasy cooked chicken in thick dark gravy. I immediately had a picture, but it was significant in its difference to the previous submodality; it was also associated but located on the lower left side of my vista and was much smaller. The picture was black and white and actually quite dark and dim. Further to this it was still and framed. There were no significant sounds that I could detect. When thinking of this I was aware that I could feel a cold sensation; I associated coldness with the chicken. This led to my imaging putting it into my mouth; it felt intense at this point and I had a slight gagging sensation.
  3. At this point I changed the submodalities of # 1 and # 2.
  4. I now locked it in place. Instead of the sound of Tupperware sealing I found myself instinctively substituting this for the sound of a large old fashioned key being turned clockwise in a door mortise lock (a sound I am familiar with from my previous joinery work). This was particularly easy for me to concurrently clearly picture, hear and feel – powerful submodalities.
  5. I now tested the change that I had made; it was significantly different. The picture of the crisps was now relocated to the lower left side of my minds vista; it was small, dim, black and white and defocused. I could see myself in a disassociated way viewing the picture. There were no sounds. When I thought about opening the crisp packet I found it to be full of cold, greasy chicken in thick gravy. I could feel the intensity of the cold chicken oozing between my fingers as I squeezed the packet. It disgusted me. Even now I still experience this in the exact same way.
  6. As I future pace and try to imagine being tempted to eat the crisps I feel no compulsion to do so; they disgust me. I do not have any desire for them and know that they are counterproductive to my well being. I cannot even picture my future self attempting to eat them.


In hindsight the submodality that seemed strongest for me was predominantly visual. This is a little surprising as I have already determined previously on this training that this is my least favoured representational system. Interestingly, my preferred representational system, auditory seemed to be the least represented. I am a little surprised at this; but am ultimately delighted at the effectiveness of the overall exercise. The like to dislike exercise also appeared to be very successful when I invited a friend to partake; the exercise had proven to be a powerful introduction for me to change work utilising submodalities.

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