NLP Memory Manipulation - Change the Content of your Memories


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We’re going to begin with something so obvious that once you get it, you'll be shocked at how many people don’t seem to be in control of it.

I have a friend who had a phobia of worms, not a very common phobia, and one that doesn't really make much sense.

I can’t remember anyone being attacked by a worm; I can’t remember reading stories in the newspapers about deaths caused by worms, and I've personally never had an unfortunate experience with a worm, but well - she was afraid of worms.

So when I managed to pick myself up off the floor and stop laughing, I had to ask her what was it that made her scared of worms because when I think about a worm, or see a worm, my response is, well, somewhat under-whelming.

So, this is what she told me:

Whenever I'm gardening, if I put a trowel in the ground and begin to pull it back, I visualize in my mind, a worm coming up with the trowel.

Its a really big fat worm, much larger than a usual worm, more like a fair sized snake.

I can see the slime all over it.

Then as I lift the trowel up, the worm is flicked upwards, really quickly and comes flying up towards my face, covering me in slime.

Sometimes it even ends up in my mouth.

Yuck. Now I understand why she doesn't like worms!

So even though this actual event never happened to her, and was ‘all in the mind’ the idea of it was so horrible that unconsciously she believed this was going to happen if she dug the garden.

One of the keys here is that your brain is not quite as clever as you think it is, and for some people it's not even that clever!

In fact your brain cannot really tell the difference between what happens on the outside and what happens on the inside.

My friend's brain reacted to the idea of a worm flying into her face in exactly the same way it would have reacted if it was a common event, and was really likely to happen when she dug the garden.

But don’t worry, because there is one important difference between the inside and the outside - You can change the things on the inside.

What if instead of visualizing a worm flying into her mouth every time she picked up a shovel, my friend saw a worm emerge from the earth, smile at her, thank her for helping him to the surface, and then crawl off on his way.

Would she still be scared?

And would that image be any less valid than the image of the worm flying through the air?

Definitely not – on both counts, though if she makes the image too 'cutesy' she may start gardening just for the sake of digging up worms – especially if she’s a bit on the lonely side.

Now before we turn this into a technique we need to cover a couple of simple NLP elements.

Firstly, whenever you remember a memory, you remember the event using representations of your senses (well what else is there?).

You remember what you saw, what you heard, what you felt (internally and externally), what you smelt, and what you tasted.

For most purposes, we’re only interested in the three of the five senses.

These are referred to in NLP speak as modalities, and the three we’re interested in are the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (feeling/body sensations) modalities.

Also, whenever you remember a memory, you are only remembering a representation of the memory; You are not remembering what actually happened.

You are remembering what you remember happening but through the filters of your beliefs.

In a sense you are remembering what happened in a manner that allows you to not have to question what you think about yourself. In other words, if you believe you have no confidence and you remember someone talking to you strangely before rudely walking away at a social event, then you probably reach the conclusion that it was your fault because you were boring, not because you were so loud you intimidated them - you reached the conclusion that matched your beliefs about yourself.

So, back to the technique.

I'll describe it in a simplified form and give a few examples and ideas, and then it’s up to you to take it as far as you wish.



Previous comments

Powerful around women?

Making yourself feel more powerful around people you find intimidating is good and useful, but doesn't feel right in the situation where I am trying to talk to a woman who makes me feel uncomfortable. What would you use for that?

Anonymouse, Near the cheese

Posted May 14, 2010 at 10:40

Custom States

Maybe you should check the article on NLP state management elsewhere on the site and create yourself a custom state. Put something like playfulness in to prevent you being too serious about the whole thing. Playing around with different states is really cool and a good way to build some flexibility into your behaviors.

Chris Harrison, UK

Posted May 28, 2010 at 05:33

No Title


Posted October 15, 2010 at 20:22

Amazing article

Amazing article. Thanks for writing it.

Jolly, US

Posted November 15, 2010 at 08:17


Thanks for your feedback Jolly.

Glad you enjoyed it!

Chris Harrison, UK

Posted November 15, 2010 at 13:32


This lesson was simple, yet filled with so much information. And reader friendly information at that. Excellent lesson, thank you so much.

rrobigold, Front Door

Posted November 23, 2010 at 18:42

Thanks rrobigold

Good to see the information was of interest.

Chris Harrison, UK

Posted November 23, 2010 at 21:19

Nice Article

thanks for this article. It would be nice to have a forum on this site.

Sasha, Toronto

Posted December 27, 2010 at 13:38

Thanks Sasha

Glad you enjoyed the article.

I have been wondering about adding a forum for a while, so this may be something I do when I get around to it.

Chris Harrison, UK

Posted December 31, 2010 at 10:30

Great Article

Thanks for a simple, readable,article that engages all the senses. Freeing the mind from the manipulation of memory, what's beyond this?

Courtney, US

Posted November 9, 2011 at 20:48


This was a great article and I especially like the explanation of the V.A.K. model done with such ease.

Thanks again.


Posted December 19, 2011 at 11:12

'In a sense you are remembering what happened in a manner that allows you to not have to question what you think about yourself.' - Could you explain the last part of this statement: '... that allows you to not have to question what you think about yourself.'


Posted April 20, 2012 at 23:12

Could you help me with a situation when someone makes me feel like they don't believe/ value/ respect/ love me? what do I change in such situation? thanks,


Posted April 20, 2012 at 23:30



What I meant by that phrase isn't really important to the NLP process, but when you remember something from your past you tend to remember it in a way that best fits with your beliefs about yourself.

If you believed you had no confidence but had a memory where you were really outgoing and enjoyed yourself then this would be at odds with your belief.

It's likely that when you remembered the event you would do so with some kind of mental filtering - either you'd remember the event as if you were less confident than you actually were or there would be something else given prominence in your recollection of the memory that gives you an 'excuse' for the confident behavior. An example would be that you remembered being quite drunk when you weren't.

Hope that Helps.

Chris Harrison, UK

Posted April 25, 2012 at 19:56

I'm finding it very hard to apply these changes in my mind right now, probably because I've always seen the human side of the people who are difficult for me to deal at the moment. What do you think I should do to make it easier? I really want to feel confident in front of these people and be able to deal with them naturally and honestly, without feeling that they want and can do me any harm (psychological or emotional).


Posted May 29, 2012 at 09:50


Surely seeing the human side should show you how vulnerable these people are - that they are not 'superior' to you.

As to people causing you harm - how often does that actually happen? Or are you making images of people doing things to you? If so then try the whiteout technique to destroy the image.

Chris Harrison, UK

Posted May 29, 2012 at 21:44