NLP Practitioner Training: Submodality Protocols

I’ve just started to develop a set of submodality protocols in order to enable trainees to go through processes that will yield more consistent results. In most NLP Practitioner trainings, I find that the quality control of the trainings themselves is poor, and an attempt needs to be made in order to develop trainings in a way that yields consistency not just of the trainer, but of the results generated by the processes espoused by NLP.


In NLP, preparation work about submodalities needs to be made for a variety of reasons. I find that if I jump into submodality interventions, I may not have much of a response because I’m dealing with an individual who has certain limitations explaining their model of the world verbally. A certain level of preparation needs to be done to talk an individual through the unconscious processes that are happening in the mind of the audience. I would encourage a series of three simple demonstrations.

  • The first demonstration should be a “natural submodality disposition” test, just to show that submodalities are a natural thing to them, not something the  practitioner put in their head. Tell the participant to think of two distinct items. I prefer to ask about something they like to do versus something they dislike doing. By asking them about the characteristics of the mental image, they can understand the submodalities a little better.
  • The second demonstration is the “mind-body connection” test. Individuals who are experiencing NLP the first time may not be convinced about the shift. In the picture of dislike, I ask them to rate how bad they feel about it. If they are at level 5, I then test one or two driver submodalities to intensify the sense of dislike (e.g. “what happens when you remove the color from the picture, and make the movie go slower?”). This is to show the relationship between the mental image and emotional state. Do remember that some individuals do not respond very easily to the mental image.
  • The third demonstration is the linkage of the submodality through triggers. This will show that submodalities are not a static element, but a dynamic element. I will ask them for a situation where they habitually did something, such as laze around instead of going to exercise. On one or two occasions they may have been able to exercise, and I want to know why they managed to do that. Often, it is because of the situation that triggered them. They may have seen someone running. They may have been told by their doctor to exercise or suffer consequences. Whatever the trigger, that is just ONE trigger. I’ll explain to a participant that a stable behavior is created through developing a series of triggers to lead to the same outcome.

Elicitation. This process requires the practitioner to know what kinds of questions to ask, but ultimately they need to know the Meta Model.

  • Start off by eliciting a problem state. For instance, a problem state could be procrastination (one of the top favorites). Most practitioners will start by asking details about the submodalities right away. Don’t do that. You need to know a bit about the context. They procrastinate for various reasons (i.e. find out the root causes/context), and the procrastination may be caused by elements in the environment and therefore ecological. One such example would be where an individual is procrastinating because the reward structure encourages last minute bursts of sales. I know some companies have incentives in the last quarter that unconsciously encourage sales people to wait until that quarter before actually taking action.
  • Once you know what the problem state is, you need to decide what the solution state is, and test it with your client. For instance, it is a common mistake for a practitioner to immediately assume that “motivation” is the answer to procrastination. Often, the solution state presents itself when you find out the root context or root cause. Sometimes, fear might be a better resource state to tap into. Sometimes, anger. Relaxation. Or humor. In the above case, it may appear that self-serving “fear” may be a better motivator than the others. I typically ask the client to test it out first before entering into the intervention stage.


  • During the time of the intervention, you, as a practitioner, need to make a decision about the end outcome of the intervention. Do you want this habit that needs to be propagated? Or is it merely a way to disconnect an old behavior/habit?
  • Examples of situations requiring propagation of new behavior: overly anxious people, suicidal thoughts, depressives, negative thinking, peak performance preparation.
  • Examples of situations requiring disconnect an old habit: compulsions, phobias and fears, overeating/snacking, smoking.
  • In the first case, you will need to utilize the submodality Swish Pattern to reinforce habitual patterns.
  • In the second case, you will need to utilize other possible patterns such as the Compulsion Blowout Pattern or the Mapping Across process
  • In certain occasions, where the individual does not appear to be resourceful enough to develop changes, there could be issues associated with the belief (a blocking belief) or other associated ecological issues.

Finally, as a practitioner, test your interventions. There are ways to test if the intervention will work and transfer in the long term. It is about enhancing motivation, developing a higher level of clarity of how to use the change in different moments of the future. This is commonly known as future pacing. One process you can use to integrate future pacing into your interventions is the Comparative Future Pacing technique.

NLP Techniques: Submodalities and subjective measure

It appears that some people have a belief that submodality work is actually based on an objective score. It isn’t. In reality, to be able to measure your submodalities requires one to have the ability to manage that expectation. Your subjective measure is based on your perceptions. So, for example, you may have the opinion that one room is bright and the other is dark. In reality, if we used actual measurements, you may discover that the latter room is actually brighter. But it doesn’t matter! What matters is that your perception tells you that the former room is brighter.

Your mind codes experiences based on perception, not based on reality. Submodalities opens up your awareness of this. In addition, don’t expect everyone to be able to use submodalities. There are a few people who need to take more time getting used to it because they have never played with their mental representations before. I’ve encountered people who are less sensitive to visual submodalities, but have a better olfactory sense for instance. They can “smell” things that create mental pictures. Thus, for such people, submodality elicitation will take a different form instead of the regular submodality checklist.

NLP Practitioner: Submodality Distinctions

Most people don’t pay close enough attention to submodality distinctions. I feel it’s important to highlight this because every time a set of submodalities are elicited, we must be aware of these three elements:


Every image will carry a state. This state is influenced by the representational systems, the physiology you carry and the words you use. This is often the focus of a change procedure. When you want to feel more motivated, you will be able to assess your level of success if your state has changed.


Every image will also be contextualized within the environment that carries that image. It’s something you can’t really change. See, if you elicit two submodality sets, one of procrastination and one of motivation, the one where you were procrastinated could be in the workplace context but the one of motivation could be in a travel context. In such a situation, you have to be aware that the environment remains the same. You want to be able to see the environment through ‘different eyes’.


This is something that is often not changed either. Often, the state will drive the behavior. Hence, you need to visualize the desired behavior being carried out after your desired state is intensified. This can be better seen when you explore the Swish Pattern as devised by Richard Bandler.

NLP Glossary – Submodalities (detailed)

Submodalities are like mind codes. The way it is explained is that it is a “sub” element of a modality, comprising visual, auditory and kinesthetic modalities of perception.Past
Creative Commons License photo credit: h.koppdelaney

What do I use submodalities for?

Generally, submodalities are used to change the way we represent or perceive information in the mind. While this can be quite heavy to understand, think of it as a new software that you want to install into a computer.

Your mind carries a “template” of thought. This “template” is filled with your experiences based on certain codes in your mental template. This template of codes can be found in this submodality checklist.

What parts of experience are coded by submodalities?

Situations represent the context of your experience. Submodalities are the structure of our experience. Submodality Techniques are the process you use to change your experience.

I’ll give a variety of examples to illustrate this.

Do you realize that there are movies that give you a different feeling, simply based on the lighting they use in the movie? For instance, a dark movie that brings out more mystery would be “Batman: The Dark Knight”. notice the visual effects bring out a much darker, ominous feeling.

However, looking at a much more lively and vibrant scene in a show like “Sex In The City”, you’ll discover the colors are much different. The mood and rhythm of the entire movie is different, bringing out a different flavor in the movie.

How do I use submodalities?

Since we know that submodalities are like the elements that movie directors use in order to shift the way we experience the movie, then it is clear that by creating these changes in our mind, we literally become our own movie directors.

Using The Submodalities Checklist I have on this site, you can easily compare and contrast the effect within the submodalities in your mind. So I’m warning you ahead of time, until you have received proper NLP Practitioner training, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to fully grasp the way submodalities can work, even though I’m giving a detailed description here. You’ll need supervised practice most of the time in order to gain the maximum benefit out of using the submodalities.

Submodality Comparisons

First of all, submodalities are a way to understand the way we think, and how we construct our reality. For instance, taking two different emotional states, you can discover their differences through contrastive analysis.

Contrastive analysis is the process in linguistics to compare sentences and to identify the difference it makes to our mental representations.

  • Statement #1: Happy young boys play enthusiastically.
  • Statement #2: Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

Notice both statements follow the exact same sequence grammatically, but one makes sense and the other does not, thereby enabling a linguist to determine the effect of syntax (structure of the sentence) versus the semantics (meaning).

In the case of linguistics, we use contrastive analysis with sentences. In submodalities, however, you use situations and contexts. Think of the time you are working at your office and compare the time when you were stressed and the time you were energized. You will be able to detect the difference between two experiences quite easily, and therefore know how they were coded.

“So what?”

By understanding the way they are coded, you can:

  • change the way you perceive and therefore experience a context.
  • shift a negative experience in that context and adjust it so that it appears more positive.
  • shift a positive experience in that context and adjust it to become even more positive and powerful.
  • utilize processes that make change more habitual and natural

Example: Submodality shifts

I had a client once who had a build up of panic just prior to doing a presentation. In his mind, the audience was bright, loud and big. All I did was to get him to adjust the audience in his mind so that they were of the appropriate size and volume that made him comfortable to speak to them. He reported that he could not change the size of the audience, but said he could make himself turn into a giant in his mind so that the audience was in awe of him. This shifted his emotional state when speaking on a stage.

Example: Submodality utilization

A client once asked me how to be more motivated. So I asked what kind of pictures and sounds she made when she feels motivated. Generally, it seemed that she made brighter and closer pictures (compared with less motivated ones) and said “yeah!” in her mind whenever she was motivated.

The client has just accessed a resource state, which I can now utilize.

In this case, I got her to think of the context in which she was not motivated, or in a place where she had to be more motivated. She said it was her work. As a result, all she had to do was to perceive the workplace as brighter and closer in her mind, and as she was about to get things done, say to herself “yeah!”. This created a very obvious change in her physiological state: face flushing, smiling, and posture shifted to become more upright.

Example: Submodality Process

Another client had a phobia of snakes. Taking the image of a snake, she freaks out and goes into a phobic state, tearing and screaming. After the image is taken from her, she regained her composure. We first shifted the representation of snakes by thinking of a way to represent the data in a more comfortable way. She changed the snake to feel smooth to the touch (instead of slimy) and her favorite color. We even got her to imagine that the snake was like a baby she could cuddle. We brought in a real snake and she embraced it like a baby with little effort, because now the perception of snakes (domesticated pythons) was much different than before.


There are many other ways to utilize submodalities, and even in this post, I’ve barely scratched the surface. To be able to become masterful at submodalities, the processes and strategies you learn to shift a person’s emotional state must be learnt. In NLP, many people have invented dozens of useful and powerful strategies that can be applied in different situations. I’d advise you to learn how to model.

Depression Help… From NLP (tadah…)

I’ll bet you encounter depression once in a while. Or, you might actually be someone who has been battling depression for some time. Maybe you have someone you’d like to help.

Next DimensionCreative Commons License photo credit: h.koppdelaney

Whatever the case, the perspective I’d put on this is that depression is normal. Yes, can be debilitating, but it’s normal. Millions of people go through it. Some people get out of it faster than others.

In recent days, especially after the announcement of major job losses in America, I’ve seen a surge in people seeking depression treatment or depression help. Somehow, many people are in a bad spot and just don’t know how to go about helping themselves.

To get out of a spot of depression, you’ll have to acknowledge that:

  • what you are going through is not your regular self;
  • it’s good to get out of the feeling of depression;
  • if you’re not doing something, you have too much time to think about things that are going wrong in your life.

Most of the time, depression comes about from inner thoughts and connections. You might not know where those thoughts came from. It’s often due to a response from observing (although unconsciously) the world around you, and then the propogation of lots and lots of thoughts associated with that.

If you have trouble expressing yourself, it might cause you to think “wait, let me sort out my thinking first, then speak”. But that might simply aggravate the sensation of depression, anxiety or anger. Or worse, all of them.

NLP has a model known as submodalities. By learning to shift our mental images, we get to change the experience we have in our head. For instance, making an image brighter or darker in our minds can help to reduce or increase the intensity of a feeling.

Test it out.

If you look at an image of yourself depressed, how about making that image brighter or darker? Which direction works for you? Then keep doing it!

Of course, it’s not easy for someone to do this who has never done it before (I know some children who do this very well, though). It’s about mental flexibility and the ability to see different perspectives. If you are able to shift your perspective, coming out with alternative, healing mental images is going to be easy.

This process, in NLP, is known as reframing. Putting on different lenses and seeing from someone else’s perspective can help you to put things in context.

If you need to process your thinking, though, drop me a message and I’ll see if I can help. 🙂

NLP Representational Systems

According to NLP theory, we have four major representational systems – visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and digital. A visual representational system means you prefer seeing over hearing or touching. Auditory, of course means discussing, talking or sounding things out. Kinesthetic relates to doing, moving and the like. and digital refers to sequential processes (e.g. a flowchart or standard operating procedures).

Identify your own preferences when you think of your favorite activities, the thoughts in your head, and basically come to awareness of how you get a sense of the world around you.

National Poverty Hearing: Oliver Letwin in listening modeCreative Commons License photo credit: cooperniall

The implications are tremendous. What if you could sell to a preferred representational system (PRS) and increase conversion rates? What if you could interrupt negative behaviors by jarring the PRS? What if you could identify a person’s PRS and use that to get them to enjoy something that isn’t within their PRS? 😉

To be sharp in assessing a person’s PRS, observe their behavior, including eye movements (will discuss this in another post), physiology, preferences for activity. Listen also to sensory words being used. Visuals tend to use “see, color, bright” words. Auditories use words like “hear, speak, harmonize”. Kinesthetics “feel, touch, weigh” their thoughts. HINT: these are definitely not exhaustive but you should listen to more people speaking so you can see patterns evolving over time. Get it? (hint, read the HINT).

NLP Techniques: Public Speaking And Stage States

Public speaking is one of the things I do most. Every day, I have to speak on a stage somewhere in the world. Well, most days. And even if I’m not on stage, I have to deliver some presentation on a teleseminar.

Some people are afraid of public speaking only because they don’t know what they want to get from it. Personally, public speaking is for me a way of stress release, not a stress in itself. Very often, I pour out my thoughts, ideas and suggestions to people in my audience. They learn what to do and what NOT to do. It’s therapeutic for both parties, I think.

At the same time, it’s a misnomer for anyone to think that they should build ‘confidence’ in public speaking. Confidence is one of many states you can use to speak. Don’t tell me you’d read “Little Red Riding Hood” only in a confident tone of voice! You definitely need a variety of states.

Barack Obama In BerlinCreative Commons License photo credit: matt4077

Think of the  of your presentation. What emotional state do you want people to be in, and craft your sequence of emotional states accordingly.

Essentially, this means we need to thinkof the process by which we generate emotional states. It’s not difficult to do, but I sure wish I learnt it a long time ago.

You can learn about state management in other posts, and do remember to pick out things related to physiology as well as internal representations.

There’s also an interesting concept known as nested loops which, in brief are simply stories chained together in a specific sequence to achieve certain states in people. I’ll have an opportunity to discuss this in a teleseminar soon, because it poses interesting implications in the area of copywriting, stage presentations and persuasive communication.

Ask me any question by commenting!

NLP Techniques: Submodality Mapping

In identifying emotional states, we sometimes need to have control over the way we code our minds. Coding is done at a very unconscious level and I believe strongly that if you want to increase our mental awareness of this, you will need to learn NLP in a practical setting.

Here are some submodality differences:

You’ll probably notice that there are some submodality codes that are different, and based on the profile, we can simply make the depressed image Bright, and Associated. Notice the difference in the feeling you get simply by doing this.

The initial feeling you will get is that the sense of depression will typically get lifted. This is because you cannot code depression in this particular new way and still have it mean the same thing. The coding structure would be congruent with confidence instead.

These are just some examples of submodality coding. There are quite  number of other variables in submodalities that you can explore and consider experientially.


NLP Patterns: Submodality Shifts

This one will be short – I just wanted you to explore the differences in your mental image placement.

Through A Childs EyeCreative Commons License photo credit: DownTown Pictures

For instance, you might want to think about something you like to do and something you dislike to do, and put them side by side in your mind. What did your mind prefer to do? Did it put your mental image of like on the left? If so, think of something you need to do and put it in the place where you like to do.


Notice what happens.

Tell me how differently you feel as a result of doing this!