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
Of all the submodalities NLP considers, probably the most important is association/dissociation. NLP uses the term ``dissociation'' in several different ways, all of which are fairly close to the root meaning of the word, rather than referring to the ``dissociative disorder'' studied by psychiatrists. Essentially, association means being immersed in one's own experience (present, remembered, or imagined), whereas dissociation means thinking of oneself in the way that one thinks of another person.
In terms of images, being associated means seeing an experience as if it were actually happening, through one's own eyes as a participant, whereas being dissociated means watching oneself go through the experience -- somewhat like watching a movie of it.
It has always been an article of faith in NLP that if one remembers or fantasizes an experience in an associated way then one will feel all the emotions involved in having that experience, whereas it one visualizes it in a dissociated manner --- ``from the outside'' --- one will be more emotionally objective, or at least one's emotions will be *about* the experience rather than the emotions had by oneself as a participant.
This is the basis for the very old NLP technique called V(isual)-K(inesthic) Dissociation. (As explained earlier, NLP often uses the word kinesthetic as a substitute for ``emotional.'') In this technique --- a form of desensitization --- the subject imagines watching a movie of himself going through a traumatic experience in his past (or confronting a phobic stimulus). NLP claims that with this technique, someone can be cured of a phobia or neutralize a traumatic memory in a single session. About ten years ago, the technique was jazzed up by adding a second step in which the subject associates into the experience and imagines going through the whole thing backwards, extremely fast (like a VCR backspacing). In this form, it is called the NLP Fast Phobia/Trauma Cure and is described (among other places) in Heart of the Mind by Connirae & Steve Andreas.
In traditional desensitization, a subject with a phobia of spiders might imagine watching a movie showing spiders. As I understand it, using this, it usually takes about a dozen sessions to cure a phobia. (I don't know whether behavioral therapists have even tried desensitization for neutralizing traumatic memories, although it would seem like an obvious approach). NLP claims that having the subject watch himself in the movie --- being dissociated rather than associated --- makes an enormous difference. As a further refinement, the subject is often asked to further dissociate by imagining floating out of his body in the theatre up into the projection booth, where he watches himself watching the movie of him confronting spiders. (In reality, of course, the subject is sitting in the therapist's office, so the movie experience is removed from reality by several stages.)
When one sees present, ongoing experience from a dissociated point of view, this is called an out-of-body experience. This actually happens to some people in the midst of daily life and I saw in my readings in the library yesterday that the scientific psychologists have taken note of this. I think I am accurate in saying that it is generally considered a pathology.
However, I didn't see any indication that the scientists have recognized the utility of dissociation as a tool used in the imagination.
Recently, the concept of association/dissociation has been refined in two ways. Many people in NLP are now instead talking about ``being in first position, second position, or third position.'' These three ``perceptual positions'' correspond to the three ``persons'' of traditional grammar: I, you, and he/she/they. An ``associated image'' would now be termed an image from first position and a dissociated image would be one from third position. One can also take second position, by looking at the experience through the eyes of another participant.
(The language of perceptual positions is also used in a more metaphorical way. I might talk about ``being in second position'' to mean that I am thinking about a situation from your point of view although I don't have a literal image (at least not consciously) of what your eyes are seeing. In my training last summer, Todd Epstein, who has a lot of experience working with alcoholics and their families, said that children of alcoholics become extremely adept at taking second position and therefore grow up to make excellent salesmen.)
Although the original idea of dissociating visually was to step away from one's emotional involvement in a memory or fantasy (or even imagined future experience), there seem to be some other reasons why looking at oneself from third position can sometimes have a strong impact on people. It is an approach often used by counselors and therapists, although I think many times without their even being quite aware of it. When I was doing suicide-prevention counselling, I sometimes did this by talking to my caller about herself in the third person. (``So tell me more about Jane. What sort of person is she? Is she the sort of person who ...?'')
This seems to have relevance to the use of imagery for learning skills, something which the scientists have commented on. In the NLP Behavior Generator technique, the subject imagines watching (or maybe even actually watches) another person who has a desired skill. Then the subject changes the image so that now he is watching himself perform the same skill. When this seems satisfactory, the subject then associates into the image, imagining himself actually going through the experience of engaging in the skill.
I've sometimes told dancers about this, only to hear ``Oh yes, I do that sometimes. Except I never thought to do the third step.'' From an NLP point of view, the third step seems like a logical piece of the technique, but I don't know how much it actually matters.
The utility of this for learning physical skills is now well known. But a fellow student in my NLP training said that she had used it (without ever having been taught it) to learn how to make small talk. And I once used it very successfully to teach a friend how to approach customers in retail sales. I had her imagine watching another clerk who she considered very good. Then I had her imagine seeing herself doing the same thing. She said ``I've never been able to visualize myself. But okay, I can do it if I watch myself from behind,'' which didn't seem very promising to me. Then she said ``Okay, I can see myself, but I can't hear any words.'' Since her whole problem was in knowing what to say, I was not very optimistic about the results. But the next time I saw her she said, ``What you did really worked! I'm getting along just great with the customers. And I don't know where I'm finding all these things to say, but the words are just coming out of my mouth.''
Recently, Connirae Andreas has questioned whether taking third position visually automatically means stepping away from the emotions of an experience. In fact, she suggests that it is possible to be in first position visually, second position emotionally (which is usually called empathy), and third position auditorily --- listening to the conversation as if it were two other people. She also suggests that even in one's present ongoing experience, while looking out of first position it may seem subjectively as if one is looking not quite out of one's eyes, but from a viewpoint a little away from one's body, maybe even from just a few inches to one side of the eyeballs, or from above.
Her recent Aligned Self technique simply consists of teaching a subject to take all three positions cleanly, without intermixing different ones on different levels. In first position, one looks at things from a viewpoint precisely out of one's own eyeballs, feels only one's own emotions about the situation, hears what is being said (and any sounds) coming exactly into one's ears, and locates one's (verbal) thoughts right in one's throat. Then one does the same thing in second position and third position. (In third position, one's feelings should be those of an observer, not of a participant.)
Like several others, I had a fair amount of resistance the first time I was taken through this. In first position, I didn't want to experience only my own emotions because I didn't want to give up my empathy. (One gets the empathy back by stepping into second position.) And I didn't want to locate my thoughts in my throat (I subjectively experienced them as coming from somewhere in my chest) because I didn't want to really acknowledge ownership of those thoughts, many of which I didn't really approve of. But when I totally aligned myself, and used that state of mind to remember some recent situations that had been troublesome to me, I seemed to see things much more clearly.
``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