NLP Submodalities - what are they and how do you use them?


NLP Submodalities are, in my view, one of the most interesting and useful areas of NLP.

They are also an area which many people seem to struggle to understand, and others seem to think they know and don't really delve very deeply into them.

What are NLP Modalities?

Modalities are basically linked to the five senses. The modalities are visual, auditory, kinesthetic (feeling), olfactory(smell), and gustatory(taste).

In NLP, we tend to focus on the first three modalities, and most NLP submodalities techniques work specifically with these three.

What are NLP Submodalities?

A submodality is an attribute of a modality. For instance, in the visual modality, there are submodalities such as brightness, focus, and color/b&w.

If you think now of a time when you felt really happy, and see what you saw you will probably become aware of a visual representation of that memory. You may notice that the image has a position in space, a size, and you should be able to judge how bright the image is, and whether it is in color or black and white. These are visual submodalities.

So why are they so useful? Have you ever heard the following phrases:

  • I feel down right awful
  • The future is looking bright
  • I need to get some distance from this issue

Well the strange thing is that these statements actually link very closely to peoples internal representations.

When someone says that they need to get distance from something, the chances are that their internal representation of the issue is an image, and it very close to them.

Just think for a moment about something that makes you feel uncomfortable, and when you notice where the image is, push it further away. Doesn't that make it feel less intense?

The following exercises on this site all work with submodalities:

NLP Compulsion Blowout

Whether you are a compulsive eater, smoker, or just someone who wants to control a habit, then the NLP Compulsion Blowout is the exercise for you.

NLP Swish Pattern

Replace the unresourceful representations that gets in they way of you achieving what you want, with more resourceful ones.


See also: