Submodalities

“I recently read in the book My Stroke of Insight by brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor that the natural life span of an emotion – the average time it takes for it to move through the nervous system and body – is only a minute and a half. After that we need thoughts to keep the emotion rolling. So if we wonder why we lock into painful emotional states like anxiety, depression, or rage, we need look no further than our own endless stream of inner dialogue.”

~ Tara Brach

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote that we are “slaves” to our emotions, John Milton referred to the kingly merits of “reigning” over them, Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray wished to “use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them,” whilst Vincent van Gogh spoke of “obeying” our emotions as if they were the captains of our lives. And the consensus in the field of psychology agrees, in that depending on the research you read all of the statements above are correct and whether you are a slave to them or reign over them depends on whether you personally believe you can control or manage them or not.

The three commonly used methods in psychology for managing emotions are reappraisal, suppression and acceptance. Reappraisal works by reinterpreting the meaning of the negative emotion. For instance, if in a situation you find yourself experiencing anger, instead of saying to yourself “I am angry”, you would reinterpret that thought as “I am experiencing anger at this moment”. This method has been found to increase positive emotions in people, as well as resilience, improved relationships, greater self-esteem and general life satisfaction. Suppression, or avoidance, is commonly known as bottling up emotions and research shows this method of dealing with negative emotions does little to reduce their affect, takes a lot of mental and emotional effort and can lead to feelings of inauthenticity. Acceptance of emotions is the ancient spiritual and traditional method for managing emotions and is central to the practice of mindfulness. With this technique the emotion is willingly acknowledged, accepted and absorbed without judgement as a part of life and being. People who accept their negative emotions when they are stressed out experience less negative emotions and greater psychological and emotional health than people who don’t.

However, there is a fourth technique that can be effective in helping to manage emotions and that is by affecting our Submodalities.

Developed by Dr Richard Bandler in the 1980’s, Submodalities are the nuanced words that we use to describe the world we live in using our main senses, such as sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, and are also used to describe our inner world, including emotions, memories, thoughts and beliefs. For instance, when people get angry, they say “I saw red”; when someone is scared, they might say “their legs turned to jelly”; claustrophobics talk about “the walls closing in on them”; if something looks suspicious, it is often referred to as “smelling fishy”, and people who view a house for sale might use the term, “it didn’t feel right” to describe how they felt about it.

Far from being arbitrary or unimportant, modifying your submodalities is a powerful way to affect and change the way you think and feel about situations, memories, or future events. You can use them to change habits, alter beliefs, and overcome locked-in patterns, like compulsions and phobias. With just a little bit of imagination you can use them to build the desire you need to not only want to eat healthy food and take exercise, but to love to eat healthy food and take exercise.

With submodalities you can:

  • Reduce the impact of negative emotions
  • Increase the power of positive emotions
  • Change a negative feeling to a positive emotion
  • Combine multiple positive emotions into one unique ‘super’ emotion

Instructions

This exercise utilises a guided audio recording. You can access the free guided audio here:

https://www.teloshealth.co.uk/weight-loss-habit-extras

It will help you increase the positive emotions you need to help you start and maintain the habits of a healthy lifestyle and reduce the negative emotions you experience that restrict your desire to reach your goal. This adds Value to the Motivation Equation and reduces Delay.

You have 2 options to choose from for your submodality practice, but before you begin please read the instructions below and acquaint yourself fully with the submodality exercise. The script is written in italics and extra instructions and explanations are in normal font.

Option 1) listen to the prerecorded audio which will guide you through the submodality exercise. You can access the audio here:

https://www.teloshealth.co.uk/weight-loss-habit-extras

Option 2) record your own recording of the guided submodality exercise using the script in italics below, or have someone read it out loud to you.

To help you remember your submodalities you may need someone to take notes as you describe them, alternatively, you can record them on your mobile phone.

The instructions describe the following:

  • How to increase the power of a positive emotion
  • How to reduce or eliminate a negative emotion
  • How to change a negative emotion to a positive emotion

For reference, there is a list of submodalities at the end of the instructions.

NOTE: You can choose to follow the instructions to increase the power of a positive emotion and not take part in the second and third part of the exercise if you think it will make you feel too uncomfortable.

Be sure to have read all of the instructions below before you begin the exercise or listen to the guided audio.

This is a practical exercise and therefore you do not need to be in a full state of relaxation or trance to gain benefit.

Some people find this very simple to do and they can easily influence how they feel. You may only notice a slight difference, but the more you practice this exercise the better you will become and the stronger the effect you will be able to achieve.

The exercise is in 5 stages:

  1. Create a positive emotion submodality blueprint
  2. Fine tune the submodalities of the positive emotion
  3. Create a negative emotion submodality blueprint
  4. Fine tune the submodalities of the negative emotion
  5. Change the negative emotion submodalities into positive emotion submodalities

Before you begin, select a positive emotion that you want to work with. For example, is there something that makes you feel happy or loving, a time in your life when you felt empowered and confident, or maybe a song that stirs up enjoyable emotions?

Then pick a negative emotion that you want to reduce or eliminate. This could be a surge of fear when you think of unpaid bills, nervousness when you give a presentation in front of colleagues, or even a feeling that you enjoy but doesn’t serve you well, like the desire to eat chocolate.

If this is your first time performing this exercise, it may be best to choose something that isn’t too uncomfortable. If at any point you feel as if you don’t want to continue with the exercise, simply come back to the here and now and open your eyes.

Remember, there are no right or wrong answers. Just use your gut instinct or intuition when answering the questions. Usually the first answer that comes to mind is the best. If you really can’t see, hear, feel, taste, or smell anything, that’s perfectly OK. Emotions have a variety of submodalities and they are always completely different, just try your best and see what happens.

Use this in a place and situation where you can relax completely without any outside noises or intrusions.

Never listen to this audio whilst driving or operating machinery.

Hello, and welcome to the guided audio.

Close your eyes and relax for a moment.

Think about your chosen positive emotion.

It doesn’t have to be strong or perfect. You don’t even have to be able to see it or hear it. Just try to remember it and bring it to your attention, and as you do, make it as real as possible.

If you can’t do it very well or at all, that’s OK, it’s just an exercise and something you can practice and get better at, like with anything worth doing in life.

OK, open your eyes, count to 3 and clear your mind of that thought.

Close your eyes again and now think of the negative emotion. Take a moment to think about that memory or situation and as you do, make it as real as possible.

Open your eyes. Count to 3 and put that emotion to one side and forget about it completely.

Close your eyes and think again now about the positive emotion. This time, try to make it as strong as possible. Take some time to adjust and connect with it. Become aware of what you feel, hear, see, smell and even taste as you remember it.

As you notice different images, sounds and sensations, focus on them for a while and notice if you can make them stronger at will. Most people at this point discover that they can, even if it is only slightly, and then with a bit of practice they can make the feeling stronger and stronger.

The next step is to make a “submodality blueprint” of the positive and negative emotion. A submodality blueprint is a list of all the submodalities that describe an emotion.

What do you see in your mind’s eye when you think about the emotion?

Is the image you see in colour or black and white?

Are there just a few colours or lots of them?

Is the image bright or dark?

Is it sharp or blurry?

Is it near or far?

Is it 3 dimensional or flat?

Can you see a background or are there just a few specific images?

How big is it?

Where is the image? Is it to the left, right, above, or below?

Does the image have a border, or are there no real edges?

Is the image playing like a movie, or is it a still frame, or a number of still frames?

If it is a moving image, is it continuous or does the movie loop round and repeat itself?

Can you see yourself, or is it as if you are seeing the event through your own eyes?

What can you hear?

Where does the sound originate?

Do you hear it inside your mind, or is it coming from the outside?

Is it high or low pitched?

How loud is it?

Is it fast or slow?

Do you hear it on one side or both sides?

Are there any other sounds you can hear?

What do you feel when you think about the emotion?

Where do you feel it?

Is it in your body or outside?

What colour is the emotion?

Is it solid, gaseous or something else?

Does it have a temperature?

Is it moving or still?

Are there any other sensations you can notice?

Does the sensation start from one place and move to somewhere else?

Where does it move to?

If it moves, is it slow or quick?

Is there a smell or even a taste that you associate with the feeling?

Take some time to become aware of as many submodalities related to your positive emotion as you can.

OK, now you have a blueprint of your chosen positive emotion.

Now it is time to discover ways to increase the strength of the emotion by altering the submodalities. For instance, you may find that making the image brighter makes it stronger, or making it louder makes it stronger. As I call out some examples, try to increase the strength of the emotion as much as you can.

You can alter each submodality to increase and decrease the strength of an emotion. Typically, to make an emotion stronger you would increase aspects of the submodalities, such as size, brightness, and volume and to reduce the power of an emotion you would want to make them smaller, quieter, and further away. However, submodalities are unique to each individual person and therefore it’s important you take some time to learn how to best manipulate them to your advantage.

Here we go.

Does the emotion get stronger if you make the image brighter or darker?

Does the emotion get stronger if the image is in colour or black and white?

Sharp or blurry?

Near or far?

Bigger or smaller?

If there is sound, does increasing the volume make the emotion stronger or weaker?

Does the emotion get stringer if the sound is in stereo or mono?

If you feel the emotion inside your body try moving it to the outside.

Make it warmer or colder.

And if it was moving in one direction, change it for another or stop it moving altogether.

Play around and learn how to manipulate the submodalities and the strength of the emotion at will.

With practice you will find it easier to remember the submodality blueprint of the positive emotion and you will be able to bring it back to mind on command as and when required.

OK, open your eyes and forget about that emotion.

Now close your eyes again and bring to mind the negative emotion you chose earlier.

Let it get strong enough so that you are aware of it, but still comfortable enough to work with it in this exercise. Remember, if you start to feel too uncomfortable, you can just stop the exercise, open your eyes and stand up.

So, bring your chosen negative emotion to mind now and make it strong enough that you can notice it.

Become aware of what you can see, hear, feel, and even smell and taste again.

What can you see with regard to the emotion?

Is it in colour or black and white?

Are there just a few colours or lots of them?

Is the image bright or dark?

Is it sharp or blurry?

Is it near or far?

Is it 3D or flat?

Can you see a background or just a few specific images?

How big is it?

Where is the image, is it to the left, right, above, or below?

Does the image have a border, or are there no real edges?

Is the image playing like a movie, or is it a still frame, or a number of still frames?

If it is a moving image, is it continuous or does the movie loop round and repeat itself?

Can you see yourself, or are you seeing the event through your own eyes?

What can you hear?

Where does the sound originate?

Do you hear it inside your mind, or is it coming from the outside?

Is it high or low pitched?

How loud is it?

Is it fast or slow?

Do you hear it on one side or both sides?

Are there any other sounds you can hear?

Can you feel something when you think about the emotion?

Where do you feel it?

Is it in your body or outside?

What colour is it?

Is it solid, gaseous, or something else?

Does it have a temperature?

Is it moving or still?

Are there any other sensations you can notice?

Does the sensation start from one place and move to somewhere else?

Where does it move to?

If it moves, is it slow or quick?

Is there a smell or even a taste that you associate with the feeling?

What emotions would you describe whilst in that moment?

You now have a blueprint of the negative emotion. Now it is time to play with the submodalities and reduce or eliminate the negative emotion.

As I call out some examples, try to decrease the strength of the emotion as much as you can.

Does the emotion get weaker if you make the image brighter or darker?

Does the emotion get weaker if the image is in colour or black and white?

Sharp or blurry?

Near or far?

Bigger or smaller?

If there is sound, does increasing the volume make the emotion stronger or weaker?

Does it get stronger or weaker if you change the sound to stereo or mono?

If you feel the emotion inside your body try moving it to the outside.

Make it warmer or colder.

And if it was moving in one direction, change it for another or stop it moving altogether.

Play around and learn how to manipulate the submodalities and the strength of the emotion at will.

OK, now it is time to change the negative submodalities into your positive submodalities.

Imagine all the submodalities of your negative emotion changing into the submodalities of your positive emotion. Play with them until the submodalities of the negative emotion have been completely transformed into the positive submodalities.

Using the positive and negative submodality blueprints listed below as an example, you would begin by focusing on the negative emotion in your mind and with a little bit of imagination start to change the negative submodalities into the positive submodalities. So the flat, small, black ball would begin to change colour from black and grey to dark red. Notice its shape changing. A humming sound starts, growing louder as the small ball begins to turn into a large square. To finish with, you would fine tune the positive submodalities again to make them as strong as possible.

Example submodalities of negative emotion

  • It’s a small ball
  • Floating one meter in front of me
  • It’s black and grey
  • It isn’t moving
  • It’s flat
  • No noise
  • It makes me feel sad

Example submodalities of positive emotion

  • A large square
  • Inside my body
  • It’s dark red
  • Moving in a counter clockwise motion
  • Quite slow
  • Humming
  • I feel relaxed and strong

Once you feel you have done as much as you can or want to in this session, open your eyes.

You might need to practice this exercise a couple of times to get the hang of it, but it really is worth learning. The changes can take place fast or slow. You are in control, it is your mind, your emotions, and you should be able to change them at will.

List of submodalities

Visual

Brightness, size, magnification, colour or black and white, saturation, shape, location, distance, duration, movement, slide show or movie, speed, direction of movement, 3-dimensional or flat, 3rd person perspective or 1st person point of view, associated or disassociated, foreground or background, split screen or multiple images, aspect ratio, orientation, transparent or opaque

Auditory

Pitch, tempo, volume, rhythm, continuous or interrupted, timbre or tonality, digital, associated or dissociated, duration, location, distance, clarity, number, symmetry, external or internal source, mono or stereo, flow or continuity

Kinaesthetic / feelings /sensations

Pressure, location extent, texture, temperature, movement, duration, intensity, shape, frequency, emotions, feelings, sensations

Smell and taste

Sweet, sour, bitter, salt, burnt, aromatic, acrid, rancid, spicy, earthy, astringent, bitter-sweet, chocolatey, ripe, robust, savoury, sweet-and-sour, syrupy, tart

“Since most problems are created by our imagination and are thus imaginary, all we need are imaginary solutions.”

~ Dr Richard Bandler