(Continued from the previous article, which discussed NeuroLinguistic Programming and verbal cognition.)
Being linguists at a time when transformational grammar was the most exciting thing going down, when Bandler and Grinder turned their attention to the non-verbal aspects of communication and thinking, they wondered ``If a lot of thinking is done in terms of images then how could one find a syntax of thought that would include the non-verbal components?''
Their first approach to this was in terms of what they called ``strategies.'' In NLP, by a strategy one means simply a sequence of images, sounds, feelings, and words that is used to achieve an element of purposeful behavior (internal or external).
The discovery of eye accessing cues made it much easier to elicit strategies from people. The NLPers discovered that a particular person would generally have a certain strategy for making decisions, for example, and would use the same strategy no matter whether choosing an item from a menu or choosing someone to marry. And NLPers claimed was that it was easy to help someone change the strategy he used for a particular purpose, and their belief at the time was that by doing this you could enable any person to become expert at any type of behavior. This is what is described in Neuro-linguistic Programming, vol. I.
Subsequent experience proved that although the idea of strategies was useful in some ways, the wild optimism of NLP vol. I was certainly not justified.
But even as when NLP vol. I was being published, Dilts and Bandler and others were discovering another part of the syntax of non-verbal thinking --- the idea of submodalities. What they discovered was that the sensory qualities of images are apparently used by the brain as a sort of coding, and that by changing whether an image was subjectively perceived as large or small, close or distant, black & white or colored, moving or still ... one could considerably change the subjective impact of that image on the individual.
In accord with the basic philosophical position that syntax is more important than content, the NLPers began developing a new approach to changing people's thought patterns. Rather than primarily paying attention to strategies --- to whether a subject first saw an image and then made an internal comment about that image and then had a feeling about it --- attention was given to whether brighter images had more impact for the subject than darker ones, whether closer ones had more impact than distant ones.
If a subject was found to respond more strongly to large bright images than to small dark ones, one then asked the subject to imagine an undesired image as very large and bright, and position a replacement image as a very small dark dot in it. Then on cue, the subject would have the dot expand (very very quickly) into a large bright image, replacing the undesired one. After five or ten repetitions, it was claimed, the pattern would be learned and the subject would never again think about the undesired image. This is Bandler's Swish Pattern, the father of all the NLP submodality techniques.
(The above is somewhat misleading. It is not just that images with certain sensory characteristics will have more impact than those with the opposite characteristic. The claim is that all sorts of information is encoded in submodality form. For instance, a particular person might encode sad images with a generally bluish tinge and make happy images pinkish. The Grief Pattern amounts to contrasting the way the subject imagines an image of a person being grieved with the way he sees the image of a friend who is absent but still alive; and then carrying the submodalities of the second image back to the first.)
I believe that the Andreas's book Heart of the Mind contains the most detailed inventory of applications of strategies and submodalities. There are strategies for motivation, responding gracefully to criticism, recovering from shame and guilt, and resolving grief. But in some ways Bandler's book Using Your Brain for a Change, for all its faults, presents the basic submodality ideas most vividly(!).
While I was going through master practitioner in Colorado a year ago I observed a videotaping of a strategy/submodality technique for freeing someone from codependency. One elicits the subject's mental representation for the codependent relationship. In this case, the subject saw all sorts of tentacles connecting herself to the other person and also had a sense of a copy of the other person being contained within her own body. Robert McDonald then had the subject imagine severing these ties and then building new ties connecting her to an ideal image of herself. He also had her replace the representation of the other person within her body with a representation of her ideal self. There was a bit more to it than this and the whole process took a little more than an hour. (See Chapter 3 in Heart of the Mind for the general idea.) Despite the fact that McDonald made a major blunder in the course of the work (the subject was visibly stricken), a conversation I had with the subject a few days later indicated that the process had been very successful, at least in the short term.