I think almost all of us have little tricks we do with imagery to help us function. One of the NLP videotapes I would most like to show scientific psychologists is called Future Pacing. It's inexpensive and I suspect not very popular, because it doesn't demonstrate any technique or show anybody being cured of anything. It's just a group of students being asked by a trainer (Steve Andreas, I believe) how they go about remembering to do an errand. A lot of the techniques people mention have to do with imagery, but the interesting thing is that they are all different. (I think a couple are as mundane as tying a string around a finger.) Some people on the tape claim their techniques work very well, some say theirs don't work very well at all. The trainer doesn't make any recommendations and no conclusion is drawn from the discussion, although there is a suggestion that some of the issues that came up will be relevant to topics that will occur later in the training.
In article <CF9LGr.8CA@news.Hawaii.Edu> I write:
>NLP claims that the mind ``codes'' images
(as well as other representations
>of the world) in terms of ``submodalities'' --- such sensory qualities as
>size, brightness, distance, location (which is to say, do I see the image
>directly in front of me, or is a little above my eye level, or to the
>left or the right?), color, three dimensionality. And that by changing
>these submodalities, one can change the emotional impact of the image,
A common exercise in NLP trainings is the following: ``Find an unpleasant memory and find a pleasant one. Compare the submodalities of the two. Now by changing only the submodalities, not the content, transform the unpleasant one so that it becomes pleasant.''
(Out of a class of 75 students, I and one other were the only ones who were unable to successfully complete this exercise. More than a year later, I realized that my problem had apparently been that at that point in the training I was no longer unable to find an unpleasant memory that had real impact. One of my main personal objectives for the training had been to get rid of all the crappy baggage from the past which I used to carry around so constantly, and sometime during the training I had accomplished that objective without even realizing it.)
I want to mention three submodality type situations and see if the scientific people have any comment. First, a mere curiosity. I have had the experience of being in a theatre, immersed in a movie, when for whatever reason I decide to ``pull back'' away from it, to ``zoom out.'' And at that point I see not just the movie, but I see the movie as images on a screen which is surrounded by the dark theatre. Now what makes me curious is that it doesn't seem to me that the occular mechanism of the eye would have this ``zoom lense'' capacity. So the zooming must be something that happens in the brain. So when one zooms in on something, does the brain in fact expand the image to fill one's whole visual field? Or are the surroundings (the dark theatre) still in the visual field, but one is ignoring them? I don't seem to be able to settle this question for myself by introspection.
Next question: Before I went through the NLP training, I used to have a fear of heights. I remember, for instance, once going up to the roof of a dormitory to watch fireworks. And as soon as I came out the door onto the middle of the roof (which was fairly large, with a fence around it), I was so terrified that I couldn't stay even for a few minutes.
On the other hand, I've never had any problem when I'm standing on the ground in looking at something which is 200 feet away. So my question is: What makes the difference between looking straight down at something 200 feet below and looking 200 feet away on level ground? How did my brain know that what I was seeing was down? Now one might conjecture that this had to do with non-visual cues: The fact that I was tilting my head downwards, for instance. And yet my own subjective experience was that there was something about the image when I used to look down that instantly triggered a queasy terrified feeling.
(As a footnote, I might mention that when I was taking gym in high school, I would often be lying on my back on the mat, listening to the instructor or whatever, and looking at the ceiling, which was thirty or forty feet high. And I sometimes played the mental trick of pretending that the ceiling was in fact the floor and that I was on the ceiling, looking down instead of up. This would result in a mild sense of unease, which would then cause me to abandon the game before I started feeling something like real fear. But now I wonder: just what did I do to my image so that it seemed as though I were looking down instead of up?)
Finally, a typical NLP submodalities situation. This is for someone in bereavement. Think of the person who has died, or who you are otherwise in grief for. Now think of another person who is still alive but no longer a part of your immediate life --- maybe they have moved to another city, possibly you will never see them or talk to them again, and yet when you think of them you have a fond memory rather than grief.
Now compare the two images and answer the question: When the image of the first person comes to mind, how do you know he is dead? Of course most people will first give an answer in terms of past history and the external world: ``I attended his funeral, I saw his dead body, I remember the day I heard that he'd died, etc.'' But how does your brain know, instantly, as soon as it sees this image, that this person is dead and is someone you feel grief about?
This is the subject of an NLP videotape called Resolving Grief, in which a subject is taught (in the space of about half an hour) to change his feelings about a dead friend so that he thinks of the dead friend with the same fondness he has for an absent but living friend. On the same tape, another subject is taken through the same technique with respect to a baby that died. It is claimed that by changing submodalities, any person can be taught to resolve grief in a healthy way, without repression, in a single session, and without needing to go through all the Kuebler-Ross stages.
Okay, this is clinical stuff and one can cite the absence of good outcome studies showing that it is really effective and is useful in a real clinical setting. (The videotape shows demonstrations done on students during NLP trainings.) However assuming that it works at all, even if it is effective for only a day or so (the videotape shows follow-up interviews done several months later), how can this process fail to have some interest for a scientific psychologist studying imagery?
``If alexandrian fires were to consume all the thousands of metres of library space devoted to the archive of behaviorist and pavlovian journals from the 1920s to the 1960s, I doubt that much of more than historical interest would be lost.'' --Steven Rose, The Making of Memory