The Senses: Perception and Reality

¡Hola! Everybody,

I actually need to do some work today. I’ll probably spend 3-4 hours at the office. We’re in the midst of an organizational strategic plan and I have some “mind-mapping” to do (I use this software). In any case, have a great weekend, people…

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The Senses

One of my favorite topics is perception and how we make meaning our world. In our culture, we identify five main senses that humans possess (seeing, hearing, feeling, taste, and smell). In Buddhist psychology, the mind is considered a sixth sense, since it’s the process of the senses “rubbing up” against the mind that creates perception. But that’s for another day. Today, let’s simply say that we use the main senses to make, well, sense of the world around us. It should then that using all the senses regularly can help make you a better communicator. Senses help you assess situations, analyze events, and interpret your surroundings.

While it’s true that everyone shares the same senses, information is a very individual matter. For example, some people love the smell of poosie, while others can’t stand it. *grin* A good communicator seeks to know how people interpret their information and what their preferred sense is.

Consider a garden. One person may love the smell of freshly mown grass, another is lured by the color of plants, while a third may be attracted by the birds singing. A scene can mean different things to different people depending on their preference for each sense. While we register senses outside the body, the processinginside, creating individual interpretations of events. takes place

Of course, there are other factors to consider. For example, a party may mean something different to a drunk, someone in love, and someone looking to network. For the drunk, a party may mean an opportunity for more drinking; he or she may be filled with thoughts of drinking. For someone in love, her focus may be on the object of her attraction. Finally, for someone looking to network, a party may look like an opportunity for business. But let’s stay with the senses today because they are basic and extremely important to our perception of reality.

Here’s a brief breakdown of the sense preference:

Visual: What you see, pictures, use of color and decoration, a preference for information presented graphically and pictorially.

Auditory: What you hear, sounds, voices, music, being able to process information presented verbally.

Kinesthetic: What you feel, a preference for touch and experience things personally, learn well by trying and doing.

Olfactory: What you smell (aroma), linked strongly to memory and mood.

Gustatory: What you taste, responses linked to food and drink.

In everyday communication, the first three senses are used most frequently. Think of VHF to remember these three: Visual, Hearing, and Feeling. When the words/ phrases below are used, they give an indication of the speaker’s dominant/ preferred sense. Speaking to someone using the language of their preferred sense serves to increase rapport and enhance communication.

Consider which of the following words you use most frequently in order to discover which your preferred sense is:

Visual – Seeing:

I see what you mean

I get the picture

That looks right

In my mind’s eye…

Show me the money

Let’s take the long view

Keep an eye on things…

Auditory – Hearing

I hear what you’re saying

That sounds right

That rings a bell

Listen in to…

That sounds familiar

Tune in to something new

I need to hear people out

Kinesthetic — Feeling

That feels right

I found it easy to handle

That touches a nerve

I can empathize with

I’ve got the hang of it now

Hold on tight to reality

Come to grips with reality

In addition, each sense can be refined with more detail. These finer distinctions are called submodalities. You can fine-tune submodalities by adjusting the detail to change your perceptions (feelings/ emotions) when dealing with positive and negative situations. For example, by changing an image in your mind from color to black and white, you make it less vivid, and can then step back from the situation, disassociating yourself from the emotion. This is especially effective for anxieties and traumas. Alternatively, you can bring humor into a difficult situation by imagining the other person as a cartoon character. Changes can be made in the present time or afterwards when you think back to events and situations.



Color (black/ white)



Moving or still

Blurred or focused

Close or far away

Large or small

In a tight frame,

or in a panorama


Volume (loud/ soft)




Stereo or mono

Words or sounds

Pitch (high/ low)

Tempo & rhythm


Temperature (hot/ cold)



Texture (rough/ smooth)

Weight (heavy/ light)

Pressure (hard/ soft)



Using submodalities, you can change your perception of present and past situations. For example, if you picture a past event and it seems small in your mind’s eye, you change that pcture to be more panoramic and it will change your perception of that event. The same with color. Most traumatic events are vivid in their exacting detail. Change the vividness in your mind’s eye and it helps to disassociate yourself from the grips of the paralyzing fear that accompanies such memories. I have been able to work with people and certain phobias, such as fear of flying and heights. It’s also that can be used with traumatic experiences. Of course, you can’t start with “big” things. You start with less fearful or traumatic memories and work yourself up. I actually “cured” my ex boss of his fear of flying by using (in part) submodalities.




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