A simple experiment in the use of Submodalities

by Steve Andreas

When I was a college student in the mid-1950’s, before the first Russian satellite Sputnik startled us with its beeps, I was very excited by the idea of exploring our planetary neighbors.  I can clearly recall a period of time during which I told several people, with great conviction, that if someone offered me a one-way trip to Mars, I’d take it.  (Of course I might have had second thoughts if there had actually been a spaceship then that could reach Mars.)

When I think of making that statement now, I can hardly believe I was so foolish.  It’s certainly not something I would do now.  One day when I was a little short on amusement, I decided to find out how I represented having said that.  I saw a very small, dim picture of a round steel door looking a little like an airlock, and a little like a round safe with a window in it, down and to my left (near where my past timeline is, but not on it) and quite far away.  I could dimly see myself making that statement, like a short movie clip locked securely behind that round window.

My next thought was “How can I use this?”  What current behavior gives me trouble and might be usefully represented as something I would never consider doing now?

First I made a short, dissociated movie of the troublesome behavior, and then broadcast a bulletin to all parts, to find out if there were any objections to locking this behavior behind that little round door.  After a couple of parts got alternative behaviors to serve their outcomes, there seemed to be no further objections.

When I began the process of opening that little door, I found it was easier if I brought it closer to me.  Then I spun the little wheel that retracted the locking bolts, opened the door and put the new movie inside.  At first the new movie struggled to get back out, looking a little like a frantic multicolored amoeba–a clear indication of a further objection.  After a little exploration it turned out that a part wanted to still have that behavior as a choice, just in case it might be useful at some future time.

Now the movie/amoeba went docilely into the safe, and I locked the door again.  As I did that, I got a nice feeling of relaxation and ease.

If you want to try doing this for yourself, or for a client, the details will probably be quite different.  I offer the following outline to guide your play and to protect your parts and your integrity.

  1. Think of something you can remember doing at one time, but you absolutely wouldn’t think of doing it now.  We all have lots of these; pick a particularly robust and significant one.
  2. Find out how you represent this behavior now, in terms of submodalities.
  3. Think of a present behavior/response that interferes with your life and that you’d rather not have.
  4. Think of that behavior in whatever way is appropriate to consider putting into the submodalities you found in step 2 above.
  5. General and thorough ecology check.  Ask all parts to carefully consider what you are planning to do, and offer you any objections that they have.  Honor and satisfy ANY and ALL objections before proceeding to the next step.
  6. Complete the transformation, being sensitive to any late-blooming objections.  Pause to honor and deal with ANY objections you encounter before proceeding.

Although this is only another example of “mapping across” with submodalities, it’s a simple and effective little method.  Those who use it should realize that while most NLP patterns add resources to change behavior, this one actually subtracts behaviors.  Because of this you need to be very sensitive to ecology, and use the pattern sparingly.  If you try this pattern with yourself or others, I’d like to hear about your experiences.

Steve Andreas is an NLP Trainer and developer of new patterns with his wife Connirae.  Steve and Connirae are the authors of Heart of the Mind and Change Your Mind–and Keep the Change, and co-founders of NLP Comprehensive in Colorado. Published with permission Copyright 1993, 1999 All Rights Reserved Steve Andreas