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
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

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
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
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
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

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
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
“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.