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Can you see this?

By on March 10, 2015
Picture courtesy of Stuart Miles and

If you’re trained in NLP, you’ll be familiar with the concept of submodalities. A submodality is simply a  ‘quality’ of an internal picture, or some other internal experience. So for example if you imagine a picture inside your mind let’s say of your last vacation, you can take a look at that picture and notice where it appears to be  (I know it’s inside your head!); is it straight in front of you, or more to the left, or more to the right? The location of the picture is one of its submodalities. Another visual sub modality ( a submodality of internal pictures) is to decide whether the picture appears to be two dimensional, like a photograph, or three-dimensional?

Submodalities are used within NLP  because we believe the submodalities code information about the meaning of the picture, for the unconscious mind. So for example the unconscious mind might keep pictures of activities you feel confident about on the right-hand side of your visual field, and pictures about activities you feel less confident about on the left-hand side of your visual. These are only examples, your unconscious mind may use some totally different coding such as high-low or near-far or big-small.

It is unclear why or how your unconscious mind uses submodalities to code information about meaning in this way. However, regular readers of all blog will know that we believe that each submodality  has a specific area of the brain, or a specific set of neurons, which ‘create’ this internal experience. For example error is a specific part of your visual cortex that identifies where an object is when you look at it. Your brain naturally codes certain real-world  qualities according to these types of submodalities. For example an object is coded as ‘within-reach’ or ‘out-of-reach’ depending upon how far away it is from you. objects which are within reach are typically more interesting to your brain than objects which are out of reach, for obvious reasons.

The visual submodality of 2-D or 3-D is actually coded by specific neurons within your brain called binocular neurons. Unfortunately all this coding doesn’t work, and everything appears to be two-dimensional, a condition called stereo-blindness. We recently read an excellent article on the BBC website about a gentleman who suffered from stereo-blindness, meaning that for some reason his binocular neurons were not properly functioning. He then went to see a 3-D movie, which for some reason that science does not understand somehow turned on his binocular neurons and allowed him to watched the movie in three dimensions. Not only that, but when he left the movie theater he found that the entire world was now three-dimensional!

So what sorts of meaning does the brain and use the submodality of 2-D or 3-D for? In our experience 2-D pictures tend to feel less ‘immediate’, or in NLP jargon more ‘dissociated’. In contrast 3-D to spill more ‘associated’, easier to look at from different angles, and even to step inside and explore. So make your pictures 3-D if you want them to be more sensory rich, and more explorable, but 2-D if you want to keep your distance from them, for example a picture of that doughnut if you want to lose weight!

Here is the link to the BBC article:

BBC – Future – How a movie changed one mans vision forever

But this wasn’t just movie magic. When he stepped out of the cinema, the world looked different. For the first time, Bridgeman saw a lamppost standing out from the background. Trees, cars and people looked more alive and more vivid than ever. And, remarkably, he’s seen the world in 3D ever since that day. “Riding to work on my bike, I look into a forest beside the road and see a riot of depth, every tree standing out from all the others,” he says. Something had happened. Some part of his brain had awakened. BBC – Future – How a movie changed one mans vision forever

Picture courtesy of Stuart Miles and

Shawn Carson and the cafehypno editorial team
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