An interesting thing is that a few months before I did the training this summer, a friend of mine did something that made me very upset and in the midst of my anger I was suddenly aware that I was creating a very definite picture, and that it was somewhat small and dark. And I thought to myself ``Gee, that's really interesting, I actually have a picture in my mind and am aware of the submodalities.'' But I didn't do anything about it then, because I was too caught up in being angry.
Then during the training this summer it occurred to me that it would be useful to remember that picture -- a genuine submodalities experience! And so I recalled the picture I'd had and tried making it larger and brighter. And to my amazement, as soon as I made it larger and brighter all the negative feelings associated with it disappeared.
Well, that was certainly interesting. Then later on it occurred to me that there's another picture that flashes through my mind from time to time when I think about a particular subject that always depresses me. And I realized that that picture is also somewhat small and dark. So I tried making it brighter and larger and all of a sudden it wasn't depressing any more. In fact, that picture has been associated for me with a feeling and a verbal thought something like ``I'm never going to be able to have that.'' And when I made the picture large and bright there wasn't really any explicit internal verbalization, but the feeling was something like ``Actually, I do know what that experience is like and I have actually had it from time to time and the reality of it is that it's not such a big deal.''
People are very different, so my experience may or may not be useful to someone else. I find that I can usually visualize more easily with my eyes open than closed. (For people who are good at visualizing it's usually the opposite.) And for me, trying hard really gets in the way. If you say to me ``Think of a time when you were really happy'' my mind will almost certainly go blank. It works much better if you ask me ``What's a time when you were really happy?'' or ``Have you ever been really happy in your life?'' (And since I'm a natural counter-exampler, what works best of all with me is to say something like ``Maybe you've never had the experience of being really happy.'')
Another thing that I think frequently has gone wrong with my visualizations is that I just didn't find the ``right'' image -- the one that has real impact. For instance, in the motivation strategy one is supposed to visualize what it will look like when the task in question has been completed. Eight years ago, when I went through this during my basic Practitioner Training, I tried to do this for the task of making up an exam. But when I tried to visualize the completed exam I got hung up because I couldn't know what the exam would look like until I actually had it made up. Then the people working with me had me imagine myself in the classroom passing the exam out. But the exercise really didn't seem to have much impact on me, as far as I could tell then.
At least a year later, I had just finished typing up an exam and I laid the typed copy on my desk and looked at it with a feeling of satisfaction and relief that it was finally done. And then I realized: Bingo! That was the image I needed for my motivation strategy: the image of the exam typed up and lying on my desk ready to be run off. And I was looking at the exam from just far enough away that I didn't need to see the individual questions.
In the training last summer we went through an exercise that approached motivation in a different way. I imagined myself in a situation in which I am very unmotivated, namely making phone calls to get information from people. Then I imagined myself about to grade a set of exams, which is something I don't procrastinate about even though I don't like it. And what I realized was that in the first case, my gaze was wandering all around my apartment, whereas in the second case my focus zeroed right in on the stack of exams and stayed there. I can't report yet on whether I can successfully use that idea to stop procrastinating about things.
Later on this summer when we learned the Forgiveness Pattern, I had no sense of any distinction of size or brightness between remembering a person I had been able to forgive and one I was not able to forgive. But what struck me was that when I thought of the person I could not forgive I had an image of her face, whereas the image of the other person was full body and farther away from me. Changing this (plus the other steps in the pattern) seemed to work to enable me to forgive the person I wanted to.
So if you can't see submodality distinctions, one possibility is that you're just looking for the wrong ones. Even if you can't really ``see'' your pictures, I think if you start recalling a lot of different situations that you have contrasting feelings about, you'll eventually notice some pattern in the quality of those vaguely sensed images.
Imagination is greater than knowledge. -- Einstein