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Using Sub-Modalities to Cure a Phobia

September 14, 2014

Note: This is the second part of a series of pages on NLP.

One of the primary tools used in NLP is reprogramming our experiences using sub-modalities. That's what you did if you tried the exercise involving a negative event from your past (in part one of this series). You took away the color, put the memory farther away in your mind, and made other changes. The idea is that if you want to change a bad experience that still hurts, or change a good experience to make it more enjoyable, you look at how it's coded in the brain, and you change the coding.

You change the coding by changing the sub-modalities. If a bad memory is close to you and very large in your mind, for example, you put it farther away and smaller. If you want to look at broccoli like you look at ice cream, you find the way ice cream is coded in your mind. You identify all the sub-modalities and apply them to your thoughts about broccoli. For that matter, if you want to eat less ice cream, you might train your mind to see it in black and white, far away and unattractive.

Here's a checklist of sub-modalities, borrowed from Tony Robbins' book, Awaken the Giant Within...

Visual Sub-Modalities

Color or black and white?
Moving or still?
With you in it or watching it?
Near or far?
Large or small?
Below you or above you?
Two-dimensional or three-dimensional?
Moving fast or slow?
Isolated or in a larger context?
Bright or dim?
To the left, right, or center?
In focus or blurry?
With a particular focus on one thing, or general?
Containing anything that triggers strong emotions?

Auditory Sub-Modalities

How loud is it?
Where is the sound coming from?
Are you speaking or hearing others speak?
Are certain words important?
Is the sound clear or muffled?
What do you say or hear?
Are the sounds/words fast or slow?
What is the tone?
Is the sound normal or unusual?
Does anything about the sound trigger strong feelings?

Kinesthetic Sub-Modalities

Is it light or heavy?
Are there any vibrations?
Are there changes in size?
What is the texture?
Are your feelings steady or changing?
Is it hot or cold or alternating?
Is there pressure?
Where is the pressure?
Are you tensed or relaxed?
Is your breathing normal, shallow, or stopped?
Is there movement?
Anything that triggers strong feelings?

Understanding these sub-modalities, and using them to change your experience, is a classic NLP technique. The quick phobia cure described below shows one way to do this.

Fast Phobia Cure

In the book NLP: The New Technology of Achievement there is an example of a technique used to get rid of phobias. Some NLP practitioners have used similar techniques to cure people of their phobias in an hour after regular psychologists failed them for years. It can be tough to do these things on your own, and you may prefer the guidance of an NLP practitioner, but there really isn't any harm in trying this technique right now.

First you think of the situation or thing that causes you fear. Whether it is public speaking, spiders, or whatever, get it in your mind until you feel the fear a bit.

Now close your eyes and imagine yourself in a movie theater. See yourself on the screen, with the film stopped at the moment before you had the fearful response for the first time. If you can't recall the first time you had the fear, recall the most intense time instead.

Leave your body and float into the projection booth. Look down and see yourself watching the screen. As you watch yourself watching yourself in the movie, let it un-pause and begin to play a black and white movie of what actually happened in the fearful experience. See yourself going through the experience up to the point where it ends and you are safe again.

Now stop the movie and see it as a still picture of yourself safely sitting or standing there when the traumatic experience is over. Step into this still picture at this point, and go through the experience, but backwards and in color, as if time was suddenly reversed. Do this really fast - in two seconds or so. Do it again and again.

After repeating this backwards replay ten times, get up, take a deep breath, shake your arms and body a bit. Now recall the real-life experience again. If you still get more than a small fearful response, repeat the whole process.

Some people have reported amazingly fast results from using this technique.

Note: Part 3 looks at how to model success.

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