The Wright Way

The Wright Way

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Of Cabbages and Kings

Modus Operandi

Representational systems in NLP are the sensual modalities. These tend to generally operate around our five main sensory systems - seeing hearing, touching (feeling), smelling and tasting. They are the visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, olfactory and gustatory modalities – or VAKOG for short.

Within each modality there are a whole range of descriptive words known as SUBmodalities. If we take the visual modality for instance we have bright and dark, light and shade, contrast, colour etc. Think how you describe the taste of an apple or lemon, a sauce, chocolate – or the multifarious ways we might characterise a sound or the surface of an object. There is a vast spectrum of words, across all spoken and written languages that we use to convey sensual meaning.

Within the wordless language of music there is also a whole range of harmonic modalities. Each one carries a variety of resonances, both simple and complex, that our bodies can understand, translate and make meaning of – on a level that is way beyond verbal description.

When we learn verbal language to help us understand and communicate with the world in general AND our own world in particular, we build ourselves a vocabulary of descriptive labels (house, car, dog, rain etc) plus we build ourselves a lexicon of sensory descriptors.

How broad and rich our linguistic capabilities become is more down to our sensory descriptors, for these are so much more than just labels for objects that we have learned. They are words we have learned to enable us to convey even more meaning when we translate from our inner sensory languages. 

Imagine you and I are standing together watching a sunset. If we just had labels then I would raise my hand and point whilst grunting the single word sunset. Your reply would probably be the same. We would describe our communication as primitive. With sensory descriptors I can tell you a whole range of what I see and how the sunset makes me feel on the inside – and you can respond with a description of your sensory experience of the sunset. Our conversation is advanced and sophisticated and whilst the unfolding sunset is still just the sunset, you and I have expressed to each other what it means to each of us. We have shared our experience and know more about ourselves and each other as a result.

Sensual Shading

Now, here, I’d invite you to consider my earlier use of the words “vocabulary” and “lexicon”.

The words are different ways of describing the same thing – in general - for they are just labels. However I used them to highlight the difference between “descriptive labels” and “sensory descriptors.” 
As you read the particular sentence where I used them, you picked up – on a number of levels – the point I wished to convey. By using the label “lexicon”, which you or may not have been familiar with, you saw that it was different and you heard the difference as you read it to yourself (on the inside). Two of your senses noticed and you gained more of an understanding of the meaning I intended to convey.
This happened far better than if I had just used the word “vocabulary” twice and shaded them each time in different highlight colours.

So, if you think about it, I can convey intentional and potentially persuasive meaning to you in ways far more subtle than if I were to colour my words in fifty shades of grey scale.

And this artifice is merely through my enabling and utilising your inner sensual language. I have set up a linguistic device that I know will be detected and made meaning of by two of your sensory languages. 

Persuasion and influence upon us by the written word operates at covert as well as overt levels. TV advertising for years just applied imagery with perhaps a spoken commentary or an acted script. A recent trend has been to put key words of the commentary on screen as well, because some of our attention – even if we are not perhaps fully aware of it – is taken by the written word.

With this in mind – let’s return to the sentence where I used “vocabulary” and “lexicon”.
If we are sat opposite each other and I speak the same words, then I can add in SO MUCH more to my persuasive intention, even at a covert level. I can use my voice tonality and inflexions; I can move around as I speak and add in some analogue marking to certain words or phrases. If we are sat near enough I might even touch your arm or shoulder and anchor those same words or phrases, thus adding in another level of sensory information. Whether you notice all of these goings on or not, you will pick everything up at a sensory level and your inner language will convey additional information and meaning to enhance your cognition of what I have said.
And doesn’t this all seem almost light years away from the rather primitive grunt of “sunset”!

The Friendly Spook

I have a friend who likes the idea of being in full control of himself, his persona, his identity. When he first discovered that I can use hypnosis he noticeably avoided eye contact with me – lest I “put him under”, to coin his own phrase. Although this was all within a social interaction, and we were there with other mates in a busy pub, all at once he felt slightly spooked by my presence!

I then moved and stood beside him, as we chatted away (ostensibly), and he seemed easier with this arrangement. Whilst I then reassuringly explained to him what actually happens when I “do” hypnosis, I was using voice, marking and anchoring to ground that reassurance - without our eyes ever having to meet. Of this, however, he was unaware. The thing was – in his understanding, his view of the world, the power of hypnosis is rooted in the eyes. He’s probably heard somewhere that the eyes are the mirror of “the soul” – and he wants to keep his “soul” under his control and away from any perceived threat!

These days he feels better about the idea of my controlling his mind. I certainly couldn’t do that with anyone – even if I wanted to. Yet, the idea of being subtle and covert with language – because there is not just verbal language – never seems to spook anyone, not even the control freaks. Language, it seems, is all above board, out in the open and “legit.”
As for the power of sensory languages – well, what’s all that about?

Clocking On

Some years ago I was referred to a lady who – I was informed – had depression. From the outset she told me two things about how she viewed hypnotherapy. One was that she didn’t believe in it, and the other was that she was a devout churchgoer and she felt it was against her religion. She knew someone in the church who had been really damaged by it.
This was an interesting paradox, I thought. However, I reassured her that we wouldn’t do any hypnosis if she didn’t want, and would she like to just have a chat instead? She said that would be fine – so I continued with the session.
We’d been talking for a while and I gained more of an understanding about her presenting problem which, on the face of it, seemed less like depression as time went on. 
She had a clock on her mantelpiece which had a very understated and background tick-tick sound. It seemed a shame not to use its attributes to be fair, so I did.  She liked the sound and the calming presence it had – she told me – so I invited her to listen to the silences between the ticks. Needless to say listening to silences, like that, is somewhat hypnotic – and she probably did something similar for herself just before dozing off in her armchair every afternoon or evening. It invokes a sensory language after all!


Often, when I am running fun cricket games whilst coaching children, I keep the scores for them by way of a continuous commentary. Usually, as we get near the end of the game, I let the commentary tail off so that they are not entirely sure which side has won. We’ll then finish and, as they gather round, many of them want to know “Who won, who Won?”
At this stage I’ll turn to the side and gesture towards an imaginary point whilst saying,
“If you want to know who has won then look up there at the giant electronic scoreboard!”
And they always, always, look to see.

This is overt analogue marking, where everyone knows straightaway that they’ve been tricked. I’ve directed their attention by invoking sensual language, and they’ve responded accordingly – at that level. Some will even respond a second time, if I repeat myself only a few seconds later. It isn’t about their gullibility as much as it is about the sensory language that has been invoked. 

When attention is described as “rapt”, then it is deep and engrossed. One dictionary definition of rapt is: “completely fascinated or absorbed by what one is seeing or hearing.”
Now at the end of the game I was running for the children, I had a high percentage of their attention. Not quite rapt, but almost! I had enough of their attention to be able to direct it elsewhere.

I have a fascination of and a high regard for magicians. They are real experts at directing our attention using sensory language. Whether they are on stage or in the street, we are attracted by their artistry, we have a curiosity about their dexterity, their sleight of hand. However, they need our attention – and the more rapt we are, the better it is. They set about cultivating that attention by wrapping us up in ourselves. It is very clever! And all the while, they admit – sometimes without even using words – they are going to trick us. And then they do! And we are amazed and baffled.

Special Eyes

Like all 3 year olds, my granddaughter Anja loves play. Play is everything. Play is KING! Even when there are accidents, things go wrong and there are tears – it is never for too long. After all, play is still there waiting for her to get back to. This is probably why bedtime is never entirely greeted with enthusiasm.
Recently she was at her Grandma’s playing with two of her cousins. They were in another room away from the adults, and we could all tell they were really absorbed in whatever they were up to. The thing was they then sneaked into Nanny’s Bedroom and noticed and started playing with some of her perfume.
All of a sudden Anja rushed into the room where we were, crying and with her hands over her eyes. “It’s gone in my eyes and stings,” she said between sobs. And as the other two cousins came into the room looking very sheepish, we could all smell the perfume by now.
It certainly must have stung quite a bit for her crying went on longer than usual.
“Anja,” I said. “I think your eyes smell really lovely. I think they’re the nicest smelling eyes I know.”
All at once everything went quiet and the crying stopped. Whilst Anja was figuring out how I or anyone could smell her eyes, I looked at her cousins and pulled a face. As they chuckled, Anja turned and they all ran back out to where they’d been playing before.

Playing Hard Ball

Quite often, mixing up sensual language by expressing the usual in terms of another, can have the effect of being a pattern interrupt. The person goes on a trans-derivational search (or TDS), to assemble information to make meaning of what has been said. If the TDS takes in sensory language then it can often disengage some or all the previous neural connections.

I noticed this when a young lad I was coaching was struck on the foot with a cricket ball. It was painful and he cried and cried and was inconsolable – until I took him to a mirror.
“Can you show me where it still hurts?” I asked. Still sobbing, he pointed to his foot.
“I want you to look at yourself in the mirror and tell me which one of you has got the sore foot.” As he looked at himself he sobbed one last time, and then started laughing.
“It’s a trick question,” came the reply.
“So, who’s got the pain?” I pointed. “You – or the You in the mirror?”
“No-one,” he said – and we got back to play.


By now you’ll wonder why it is,
Midst stories quite profuse,
I’ve titled up this article
With reference so obtuse.
For here I’ve writ of languages
And subtleties of use.

I thought I’d play a little trick -
A linguistic ruse!
Now note that in my final tale
A mirror I did use.
‘Twas then I thought of Looking-Glass,
And Lewis Carroll’s muse.

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