Core Concepts


Usually our senses run independently of each other, we see visual information, we hear auditory sounds, and we feel kinaesthetically. There is no overlap or confusion, however sometimes these sensory systems become connected, either through neurological damage or through psychological connection.

In those cases colours can produce sound or taste (e.g. seeing red produces the taste of Bananas, blue the sound of a ringing bell), numbers and letters can be in colourful (e.g. all 6s are purple) or any combination. There is no logic, but there is consistency, the synesthesias remains the same.

Although the neurological reasons for synesthesia is beyond the scope of NLP those connections created as psychological shorthand however are well within the reach of NLP and dealing with them can be useful and problematic at the same time.

Synesthesia and Overlapping Sub-Modalities

Occasionally, when dealing with a traumatic memory we will discover that the internal representation of the client is jumbled. They may usually hold visual components in one place, auditory in another and so on, however with this memory everything is collected into a single location, mashed together as the mental equivalent of a ‘Gordian Knot’.

Recalling one part of the event recalls every part of the event. The content and structure of the representation is completely interlinked and it is impossible to modify any single component. In addition synesthesia is likely to be occurring, they will be ‘seeing’ the sounds, ‘hearing’ the smells and so they will be unable to process the thoughts and feelings as separate entities and they will be overloaded with sensory information.

In these situations sorting the representation into components and ‘moving’ them around can give the client the ability to re-organise and re-classify the memory of the event.

Working with overlapping sub-modalities is not overly complex, however it can be time consuming and frustrating as there will be a tendency to pull everything back together putting the process back to square one. 

Additionally the memory can increase in intensity when the modal information is relocated as the homogenisation process has been used as a protection mechanism against the overwhelming emotions of the event. In these situations a slow approach, dealing with just one modal form at a time can be the most effective approach, the downside being that the client may re-combine the memory in between sessions.

There are a number of specific NLP Patterns that have been developed to deal with the problem of overlapping sub-modalities but the uniqueness of each case will mean that often the Practitioner will be required to develop a separate approach for each individual instance.

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