While presenting APG in Israel, several NLP Trainers constantly asked me
about my view of Sub-Modalities.  “How can you say that they are not
sub-modalities, but meta-modalities?”  With two of them, I went over the
arguments over and over before they got it.  The thing that finally
convinced one of them was the very description of sub-modalities in the NLP
books.  I asked him to bring me some NLP books that he had which would have
a passage or a chapter on sub-modalities, then we could look at how
sub-modalities are described.  To his surprise, the so-called sub-modalities
are described using the meta-language so that the so-called sub-modalities
were described as “nominalizations,” “concepts,” “categories,” and
“generalizations.”  He was stunned. 

What is a so-called sub-modality?  Typical statements that we found were

If a visual image or picture is close or far then that is the distance

When you have a sound, it can be loud or quiet, so the volume of the sound
is a sub-modality.

A sub-modality may be digital, either you are in the picture or out of it,
or it may be analogue like fuzzy or clear to varying degrees.  In the first
case, associated or disassociated, in the second clarity of the image.

“…the degree of pleasure you have in that memory is a direct consequence
of the color, size, brightness, and distance of the visual image you hold in
your mind’s eye.” (An Insider’s Guide to Sub-Modalities, p. 2)

“Learning to manipulate the sub-modalities (like color, focus, size,
distance movement, pitch, volume, location) is the first step in developing
the flexibility to control your internal states” (Insider’s Guide, p. 18)

Given these statements, what can we conclude?  The authors are constantly
confusing a detail like “close” with the category that it is a member of,
“distance.”  Distance is not sub-distinction of anything, distance is a
generalization.  You can’t see “distance,” it is a concept.  You cannot put
distance in a wheelbarrow (the nominalization test of NLP), so distance is a
nominalization.  So with volume.  It also is a nominalization, a concept,
and a generalization.  You can record volume.  You can record a sound at a
particular decibel, but not volume.  And the same thing applies to the
concept of association and clarity.  None of these so-called sub-modalities
are “sub” to anything.

Funny, isn’t it?  NLP people talk about sub-modalities using meta-level
concepts.  You will find this everywhere in NLP literature.  Why?  Because
we are actually not dealing with smaller components of a movie, we are
actually operating at an editorial level.  This is the level at which you
consider the movie that you are representing and then start noticing how you
have automatically coded the movie.  Noticing gives you an awareness of your
representational code and with that awareness now comes choice.  How would
you like to code (i.e., choose the sub-modality distinction) for your movie?

In an excellent book, Introducing Neuro-Linguistic Programming (1990) by
O’Connor and Seymour the list of sub-modalities are listed as follows.  Can
you put any of these distinctions in a wheelbarrow?  If not, then we are
really talking about a meta-level distinction.  What has been called
sub-modalities are nominalizations and if so, then we know that we’re not
dealing with sensory-based descriptions, but generalizations and categories.

Amazing!  The so-called “sub-modalities” are described by words that are
nominalizations and generalizations all.  This is why we (Bob Bodenhamer and
I) wrote in the book, Sub-Modalities Going Meta (1999, 2005) that you have
to “go meta,” you step back and notice your code.  You have to do that just
to become aware of sub-modalities.  The code of your representational system
comes with some cinematic distinctions- first notice them, then choose the
ones that will be enhance your life.

Now whatever cinematic distinction you choose to use in your movie code,
that distinction in itself means nothing.  It only means whatever meaning
you give it.  Again, that’s why we noted back in 1997 that the so-called
sub-modalities work semantically.  They work symbolically by the semantics
that you give them.  If you treat distance as meaning “less real” and “less
compelling” then when you code a picture with distance, you experience it in
that way.  If you didn’t construct that meaning, the coding would not be
felt in that way.

When you take a “sub-modality” distinction and notice that it is a
nominalization which indicates a category or classification, then you have
to follow up by asking, “What is the standard?  What is the measurement code
and/or units that you are using?”

The category of duration is said to be short or long.  But short and long
are also nominalizations!  How are you measuring “short” or “long” by
minutes, days, years, centuries?  Is 30 days “short?”  By what benchmarks?
May 30 minutes is “long?”

The category of speed is slow or fast, also needs a measurement standard and
benchmark so we can tell if 100 miles-an-hour is fast or is it slow.  It is
“fast” if we are talking about driving a car or running.  But if our
benchmark is the speed of light (186,000 miles a second), the 100
miles-an-hour is incredibly slow.

This holds true for every so-called sub-modality.  The distinction is
actually a meta-modality which is why we call them cinematic features of our
movies and intimately related to meaning and, in fact, multiple levels of