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How the NLP Swish Pattern began

The NLP Swish Pattern

The NLP Swish pattern uses an individual’s own submodality changes at high speed to shift that person’s attention from the content they have to see, hear or feel each time they initiate an habitual act. The sensory representation of the memory of performing the start of their chosen behaviour shifts instantly into a highly attractive and dissociated representation of the person as they would like to be at some time after they have changed. This creates a shunt that diverts the person from the act they wanted to change before they do it.

  • Submodalities are the components of each representational system.
  • Representational systems are the systems of sight, hearing, feeling, taste and smell that we use to remember and imagine, creating trains of thought and emotions.
  • The senses are sight, hearing, feeling, taste and smell used in real time as we access external events.
  • Visual submodalities include size, brightness, location, distance, depth of field, focus, hue, rate of motion (think photoshop editing).
  • Auditory submodalities include location, volume, pitch, timbre, bandwidth, distortion, rate of motion (think sound mixing desk).
  • Kinaesthetic submodalities include temperature, pressure, location, rhythm, amplitude, moisture, volume, area, motion.

Submodalities provide and create the meaning we make of the content of our representations, (images, sounds and sensations) and the meaning of a representation changes when we alter the submodalities with which it is represented. A NLP Swish changes both the meaning and the content of representations attached to the act we want to change. For the purposes of using a Swish to break an habitual act, we use two analogue submodalities in representational systems of the person’s choice. These should be driver submodalities that change the intensity of the experience simultaneously with their direct action on the initial representation.

“Submodalities provide and create the meaning we make of the content of our representations”

  • Analogue submodalities alter in a continuous flow, increasing or decreasing in smooth increments, like the dimmer on a light switch or the volume control on a sound system.
  • Digital submodalities alter in discrete steps or have an on-off switch.
  • Driver submodalities alter the meaning or quality of the content of a representation while simultaneously altering additional qualities of the experience by changing at least one submodality in a different representational system. This change is linked to the change in the driver submodality.

The principle of the NLP Swish Pattern is to create an automated shift of the person’s attention to their highly motivating and self chosen representation of themselves in the future after the change.

The story of the Swish

Christina Hall is one of the founding owners of the Society of NLP and has been an NLP trainer since the early 1980s. She was working with Richard Bandler, the co-originator of NLP, as a blend of executive assistant and associate trainer. She also had a life partner called Peter, who played a central role in the development of the Swish.

“Christina Hall is one of the founding owners of the Society of NLP”

One evening, Christina was driving home from an NLP training seminar. Peter was with her in the car and they were discussing Bandler’s demonstrations. During the conversation, Peter experienced a sudden shift in his internal images and changed state. The new state was markedly resourceful and Christina’s attention was alerted. She asked Peter what he did and he described his experience as follows:

He had been thinking about something in life size, moving, associated images close in front of him. Suddenly the image shifted from its life size movie configuration and dropped down to his left side while it shrunk to a black dot at the bottom left of his field of vision. Simultaneously a (different) black dot rose up from the same place at the bottom left and enlarged and placed itself across Peter’s field of vision, where the previous image had been. This was a dissociated lifelike image of who he would be or how he would appear ideally, after making a change to the content he was first thinking about.

Christina took this information to Bandler and they experimented with it. In due course it became what is known as the Standard NLP Swish Pattern. It worked well for some people, notably those who include size, location and brightness in their analogue driver submodalities.

The swish created a shunt from the present state image with its unique components of the unwanted behaviour, directly to an idealised dissociated image of the person after the change is established. This produced a state that was sufficiently resourceful and different from the state associated with the habitual behaviour to break any link with the unwanted behaviour. As a shunt, any residual link would be broken each time the person was exposed to the initial stimulus.

Some people found it difficult to shrink an image and move it sideways while darkening it and others found it did nothing for them. These people use different driver submodalities. Bandler discovered that a large number of them work well using size and distance. For them, the initial associated image pulls away as if on a bungy cord, while shrinking down to become a dot in the far distance. Simultaneously, the desired state image starts from being a dot in the far distance and rushes forward, enlarging to occupy the position formerly held by the first image. This is known as the Distance NLP Swish Pattern.

Finally, for those who do not include any of these options in their own driver submodalities, or who prefer to work in the auditory or kinaesthetic representational systems, Bandler chunked up from the two formats above to describe the patterns that guide them. In the Designer NLP Swish Pattern, the individual subject’s use of submodalities is elicited and a swish is created for that person, using two of their own analogue driver submodalities. This is the most accurate description of the NLP Swish Pattern.

The Standard, Distance and Designer NLP Swish patterns are taught as part of the syllabus on our postgraduate qualification in NLP, the 10250NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

By Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer

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Creating meaningful change and altering the way you represent the world

How The World Is Represented

When we look at the world or at our internal images, we are using the visual system. When we hear sounds in the environment or compose or playback sounds internally, we are using the auditory system and when we feel sensation, touch, our own muscle twitches or emotion related feelings, we are using the kinaesthetic system. We see, hear and feel our surroundings, but if we are attending to an argument we had with someone yesterday, we do not register everything we are exposed to. Our attention is on the recalled images, sounds and sensations associated with the argument.

We can change the meaning we attribute to the argument by exploring the sub components of our representations. These are known as ‘Submodalities’. If the visual system is a Modality then size, location, brightness, hue, motion, focus, and colour saturation are examples of visual submodalities. Auditory submodalities include volume, location, bandwidth, speed, pitch, rhythm and timbre (resonance). Kinaesthetic submodalities include pressure, temperature, volume, area, rhythm, texture and shape.

“We can change the meaning we attribute to the argument by exploring the sub components of our representations. “

The Making of Meaning

People make and code the meaning they attribute to experiences by representing the experience with specific submodalities. The exciting aspect of submodalities is that different people use different submodalities to make meaning. Thus, one person might discover that increasing the size of an image increases the intensity of the sensations they feel while another might find that moving the image to a different location in their visual field has a similar effect.

When we explore our individual application of submodalities in a group, it is fascinating to discover the different submodalities and combinations people use to denote different meanings for their experiences. Belief, alone, can be represented in many forms and some people code limiting beliefs (I wish that were not true) differently from generative beliefs (Of course I can rely on that being true).

Exploring our own submodalities brings this important part of attention to conscious awareness. For practical purposes, we can retain the memory of exploring our submodalities without overloading ourselves by attending to them constantly. When we want to change or enhance the meaning of an experience, we can attend to our submodalities long enough to map the changes. It is a matter of finding which submodalities in what combinations provide us, personally, with the particular meaning we are after.

Altering Meaning

Sometimes changing a submodality in one sensory system will alter a submodality in a different system. This is called a ‘Driver Submodality’ because changing it drives change in another submodality. Even though individuals use different submodalities to make meaning, there are some sufficiently prevalent combinations for advertising agencies to harness them in TV commercials. For example, natural gas used to be advertised on TV in the UK and more recently in Australia, using steel blue lighting to denote freezing cold conditions with people skating on the Thames or Sydney Harbour. When the skaters arrive home, the door opens and the gas fire lights as the lighting switches to golden amber, denoting warmth. If you are someone who creates a subjective temperature change with a change in colour temperature, this will be obvious. If not, what gives you a sense of warmth on a cold day, (other than crouching over a direct heat source)?

“Sometimes changing a submodality in one sensory system will alter a submodality in a different system”

Some people have a similar experience between sensory systems. In this case, they may see something which promotes a sensation or a sound, or feel something which promotes an image or a sound or hear something which promotes an image or a feeling. This is called Synaesthesia. Examples include seeing particular colours with numbers, seeing swirling colours when music is played, feeling a cringe when someone scratches a blackboard or feeling rhythms when looking at abstract or fractal art. A lesser known example is seeing the environment brighten, dim or change hue in response to smelling different substances.

It is worth discovering your own synaesthesias if you have them, as they can change the quality of your attention without your realising if they are running in the background. An administrator used the telephone extensively in her work. In the early 1990s, Australian telephone numbers acquired a nine (9) at the front to make them eight digits instead of seven after the area code. Shortly after this change, the administrator complained of feeling depressed. She and her partner knew about synaeshesias and they gave this one some attention. They discovered that she had fixed colours for numerals and each colour queued a sensation.Nine was an unpleasant grey colour with a dragging kinaesthetic and suddenly it prefixed every telephone number she used. They changed the synaesthesia and the depressing experience lifted.

Submodalites, synaesthesias and sequences of sensory representations all contribute to the quality of attention we bring to experience. They are also elements of how we use our attention.

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  3. Creating meaningful change and altering the way you represent the world
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  4. How you attend to the world can transform your performance in it
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(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

By Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer at INSPIRITIVE Pty Ltd.

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