Stop smoking and lose weight Hypnotherapy and Neuro-Linguistic Programming: Oakland, East Bay, Berkeley, Richmond Jan Saeger: smoking cessation, weight control, San Francisco Bay Area, East Bay
Eliminate anxiety, fear, phobias

Markova stacks, part 3:
Patterns of communication and learning

Summary: How 6 natural patterns of human intelligence influence the way you and your clients think, learn, and communicate. Index to article.

Patterns of communication

Your Markova stack has a big effect on how you learn and communicate, and which tasks you find easy and difficult. Each stacking pattern has its particular strengths and limits. (See Part 2 for a list.)

Jan Saeger: hypnotist, NLP Health Practitioner, NLP Master Practitioner
My AKV Markova stack makes verbal pyrotechnics easy, but spelling problematic.
— Jan "yon" Saeger

For example, my conscious auditory processing (AKV) lets me effectively orchestrate high-speed verbal pyrotechnics such as confusion patterns. Wilma's ability to run auditory unconscious (KVA, VKA) makes her good at slower multi-level conversational NLP and metaphor, which depend more on auditory pattern recognition. Like many visually unconscious people, I find writing difficult — so I outlined the key points of this article, and Wilma wrote most of the text.

When listening to me talk at high speed about abstract concepts (no pictures or feelings), my auditory unconscious friends tend to space out, especially if I speak in a monotone. I can counteract this by supplying visual or kinesthetic stimulation: putting feeling in my voice tone, varying my facial expression, gesturing and moving around a lot, or walking with them while we talk. Or I can speak about feelings and pictures, or use visual and kinesthetic metaphors. Input in a person's more conscious representation systems helps them stay alert. If you want someone in trance, overloading their unconscious modality is one way to do it.

Information transfer between modalities

A person's subconscious modality acts as a bridge, and sometimes a barrier, between their conscious and unconscious minds. For instance, KVAs often feel emotions very strongly, but may have great difficulty articulating them. Many VKAs have trouble reading aloud because their visual input system is separated from their verbal output system. AKVs such as myself may have trouble reading, writing, or spelling.

Activating the subconscious modality helps information transfer between conscious and unconscious. People with K subconscious systems often jiggle their legs or stroke their faces while listening to a presentation, thinking deeply, or preparing to speak. When kids in school are told to stop jiggling, humming, or doodling, they may shut down their subconscious modality and stop learning or expressing themselves effectively.

By contrast, when people perform at genius level they generally utilize all three representation systems at once. They also activate both brain hemispheres, and experience simultaneous association and meta position. The latter seems characteristic of flow states as well.

Dawna Markova's book The Open Mind 1  devotes a chapter to each of the six stacking patterns. It includes a useful mini-manual about how to communicate effectively with people who use each Markova stack. You'll also find a wealth of information applicable to NLP in the chapter on relating to others.

Patterns for thinking

Markova thinks that once established, stacking patterns tend to last lifelong, unless a major life change or trauma shifts the stack. What my colleagues and I have observed contradicts this.

Most people do seem to have one pattern that they use consistently as their default. But while some people use only that stack, others frequently shift into a second stack that they use for specific tasks. Usually this reverses their conscious and subconscious modalities — VKA and KVA seem particularly prone to swap. 2  A smaller number of people utilize three or more stacks.

Major parts conflicts sometimes involve different Markova stacks. The parts don't understand each other because they literally don't speak the same language.

When someone shifts into a baseline state that is radically less (or more) resourceful than their former norm, this often marks a stack swap, often a reversal of the conscious and unconscious modalities. Conscious/unconscious reversal seems common in traumas, also. Sometimes a person will abruptly lose musical, artistic, or athletic ability that they learned in one stack, when they switch and can no longer access their skills in the new stack. 2 

Part 4: Eliciting Markova stacks > >

— Jan "yon" Saeger and W. Keppel
© 2004, some rights reserved
posted July 2004
Creative Commons License


  1. Dawna Markova. (1996) The Open Mind: Exploring the 6 Patterns of Natural Intelligence. Berkeley, California: Conari Press. ISBN: 1-57324-064-8. Out of print; buy used on Amazon. Jump back
  2. Personal communication from Dr. Michael Harris, who coaches gymnasts using NLP and hypnosis. Contact him at Jump back

Jan Saeger and W. Keppel are NLP Master Practitioners, NLP Health Practitioners, and NLP developers.


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