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Submodalities of Vision – A Complete List Of Visual Submodalities

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NLP broke into a brand new playground when Richard Bandler modeled submodalities. In the next few articles, we’ll be examining extensive lists of submodalities available in the three most used representational systems: visual, auditory and kinesthetic.

Today, we’ll look at submodalities of the visual representational system.

In NLP, we consider submodalities to be the particular characteristics or qualities of a specific modality. For instance, visual submodalities include picture size, picture distance, picture location, picture color, picture brightness and so forth and so on.

In the case of visual submodalities, a great analogy to use is your DVD player. Using your remote control, you can manipulate your image until it looks exactly the way you intend it to. You can shrink the image, zoom in, increase the brightness, sharpen the contrast and so forth. Likewise, you can do this in your imagination apparatus.

So, what are some of the visual submodalities that you can adjust to change your reaction to the pictures you make?

  1. Style: picture, painting, poster, drawing, “real life”
  2. Panoramic vs. framed picture
  3. Shape: concave, convex, square, oval, etc.
  4. Level of brightness
  5. 2-D vs. 3-D
  6. Black and white vs. color
  7. Focus (on certain objects) vs. Blurred
  8. Clear vs. fuzzy
  9. Movie vs. still frame
  10. Size of the picture (tiny, small, life size, big, huge)
  11. Size of the main object
  12. Associated (seeing through your own eyes) vs. dissociated (seeing yourself in the picture)
  13. Number of pictures viewed simultaneously
  14. Distance of the picture from you
  15. Sharpness of colors
  16. Contrast
  17. Angle
  18. Movement (stopped, slow, regular, fast, super speed)
  19. Location of picture (up, down, left, right)

For more information and guidance on how to use submodalities, enroll in the free course in dailyNLP Academy.

About the Author

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Martin Messier has been practicing NLP for 20 years. He was trained in NLP and Neuroassociative Conditioning by Master Trainer Rex Sikes and Tony Robbins. He holds a BA in Economics and International Studies and a Master's degree in International Political Economy.


  • Visual location – I keep reading about people who say “Move the location.” of an object.
    For example if I were to want to stop eating a particular kind of potato chip. The suggestion is to find something I am not fond of, say runny eggs and place the potato chips of the top of the runny eggs. Then change colors and so on. However everything I see is right in front of me as it it is “real life” I don’t see a small picture over here or over there. I take it there may be a step in the process I am missing. Some subtle step to see these pictures rather than seeing them as a sort of “real life” image.

    • Hey Earl! Good to hear from you.

      First of all, don’t worry about doing anything “right” in playing with submodalities. You play around with them and discover what works for you. Stress-free. Like kids in a playground.

      And while you’re playing around, you can try to put some stuff you don’t like on top of the potato chips and see what happens. And then you can also try playing around with the size of the potato chips. So you can take subtle steps in between and imagine you’re watching TV. To make your TV work the way you want it to, you grab a remote.

      So just grab the remote for your mind. Make it up. Make sure it’s comfortable in your hand and that it’s got the dials you need to get the job done. Get yourself a size dial. And a color adjustmente dial. Play around with them.

      What happens when you turn the color way up?
      What about when you turn the color way down?
      What happens when you shrink the size to tiny?
      What about when you have a GIGANTIC, humongous, immense potato chip in front of you?
      What happens if you bring the potato chip forward?
      What happens if you push it far away?

      Also, what would happen if you just grabbed that real-life image of the potato chip and wiped your butt with it? And while you keep looking at that potato chip, stick it in your mouth!

      That’s right. Grab the real-life image of the potato chip, wipe your butt with it and STICK IT IN YOUR MOUTH. You’re just playing.

      And so you continue to play with the dials and noticing what happens to the image of the potato chip. And play full out! Experiment with everything.

      Because at the end of it, all you really want is more control. And notice how much more control you have now and how easy it is.

      Play with the dials and let me know what you learn.

  • Hi Martin,
    today I had a client who could not do anything with the SMD’s in the picture he had. he could not move it closer or further away, could not make it black white and so on. How would you do a swissh technque with such a client?
    I hope to hear from you soon!

    • Hi Ingrid,

      That’s fairly common. Try the following suggestions:

      1. Ask him to create a remote control with buttons for each submodality. As he presses a button, the corresponding submodality changes in the picture.

      2. Play in a different representational system in which your client has more flexibility. Contrary to popular belief, you can swish in any rep system.

      Go play and let us know how it turned out!

  • Hi Martin, thanks for your reply. I did all that. My client is by any means allover in his AD system. He has an opinion about everything and it seems almost impossible for him to feel, hear, taste, smell or see something. I’ll coach him step by step by allowing him to feel, hear and so on until he’s ready for a swissh or another technique. (i hope my english is good enough for you to understand?)
    Greetings, Ingrid

    • Hey Ingrid,

      OK, we’ve got more info now. Here’s another tip: play with the analog qualities of auditory digital: change the voice, pitch, tempo, speed, location of the voice that is speaking.

      If even this fails, he might be mismatching you (and perhaps everybody else). You could give him some suggestions so that he learns how to do all of this himself. Make sure you get a strong unconscious signal that he actually WANTS to learn how to do this.

      Might not be time to swish yet…….

      Have you elicited his drivers yet?

      • Hi Martin, Ingrid,

        I run into such cases occasionally and it sometimes means the client’s conscious blocks him from accessing or changing SMD’s. It usually helps to apply a state of trance to get around this censorship.

        Have fun!
        Bas.

  • hi Martin, thanks again. My client tells me that he ALWAYS thinks. Sometimes is seems like an internal voice. I’ll ask him next time i see him if it;s possible to cahnge the tone, loudness etc. I don’t understand what you mean by”You could give him some suggestions so that he learns how to do all of this himself. Make sure you get a strong unconscious signal that he actually WANTS to learn how to do this.”?

    • Hey Ingrid,

      In some cases, clients may present resistance to ideas that come from others, ie their coach or therapists, particularly if they’re driven by self-importance. They might mismatch what you offer simply because it’s not theirs.

      A few weeks later they come back and tell you they’ve figured it out. Of course, it’s exactly what you’d suggested…

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