A 1998 Talk by David Grove

Edited by James Lawley
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The following verbatim transcript comes from a talk David Grove gave to the London Clean Language Practise Group on 11 November 1998. The group was founded by Caitlin Walker and Dee Berridge.

The content is fascinating. Both as a historical record of rare original source material and because of the ideas David was pursuing and experimenting with at the time. In particular, at this time David was enthralled with non-verbal behaviour and sounds, and “pulling back” time. However, before going on to those topics David starts with a discourse on the nature of Clean Language. Later on he also makes reference to some of his earlier “child within” work from the 1980’s. The transcript includes a couple of informal demonstration of David working with non-verbals. To make sense of it you need to imagine what is happening with the volunteer subjects.

Editor’s note: I was working from the original very poor quality recording. Especially in the second half David was prone to mumble and turn away from the mic to talk with someone in the audience. This means there are places where the tape is inaudible.

I have very lightly edited the text (mainly by removing ‘filler’ words that reduce readability) while always aiming to preserve David’s delivery style, which at times involves incomplete sentences and switches of direction. Where there was difficulty deciphering a word, or in my opinion, an extra a word was needed to preserve the sense of what David was saying, I have added it in square brackets. I’ve also highlighted when some of David’s key concepts first appear.

Because of the poor quality of the recording, producing this transcript was, believe me, a labour of love for the man and a tribute to his work.

James Lawley, 8 January 2023 (the 15th anniversary of David’s death).

Caitlin: Thank you for coming to this group which has met fortnightly for two years now to develop the ideas and [improve our skill].

David: I’m honoured to have the opportunity to come to England, and much humbled by your endeavour and study, and hopefully I can add one or two pieces that may be useful to you.

I just want to have a few words of introduction about how this has all developed; to set a little context here. Penny [Tompkins] and James [Lawley] whom I met a number of years ago with great reluctance, have actually wormed their way into my affections! (Laughter) Kind of tough to do! So from that association a lot of different things have flowed and meeting Caitlin is part of that and I think they’ve put me through my paces in some of our sessions.

Also, I sometimes think of them a bit like the Gestapo – they don’t let me get away with anything. (Laughter) I’ve got to do Clean Language prim and proper otherwise I get questioned “Well, why did you do it this way and not that way?” I’m bit nervous about tonight (laughter).

There are a number of other folks [here] I worked with over the years and I’m pretty awful at names so I’d like to start by asking you to introduce yourselves.

[Everyone introduces themselves.]

I suppose I am quite profoundly affected by what you have expressed here, particularly when originally these ideas were born from a very small beginning. I came into the field [of therapy] fairly late and I didn’t know enough at the time [not] to think that what a person says could be taken literally. [Br]Whereas most therapists at the time were interpreting or introducing some kind artifices into people’s communication, unbeknown to me, if a person says ‘It feels like a rock’, [I thought] there must be a rock. That’s where the first idea of Clean Language came about.

Then I also found, part of the genesis was the notion that if you ask a person the right question, it just feels right. You may not be able to explain it, but the question has what I call a physicality to it. So I often think that the physicality of the question and the way you ask it has some kind of formal shape to it. So this almost holographic form goes out from your speech or from your mouth and then is made physical – usually in terms of the other person’s body. It doesn’t necessarily speak to a person’s intellect directly but it may be deeply agreeable to a person’s heart or their soul. It does that in a spatial manner. The nature of a Clean Language question is that it doesn’t have to import through your ears in auditory form. It has what I call a physicality which goes out and goes to a place. Another feature of it, is that it has a locality in a person’s body or a person’s space which the question goes to. So there’s a physicality and a shape of your question. And the repetition and the rhythm and the repeating of the same phrasing and verb tense makes a sort of package:

And is there anything else about that rock, when it’s a rock like that rock?

Then the whole package goes directly to a place in the metaphor, for example the stomach. And so what happens is it sets up a triangulation. In normal therapeutic modality we think in terms of the transference and counter-transference between the therapist and the client. So there’s this shared expression: I ask you a question and you give me the information. If you think of that in terms of a locus; where is a locus in that interaction? In normal discourse it will be somewhere out here in the space between us. That will be about the average location of it and it will go backwards and forwards as we evolve that discourse.

Now with a Clean Language question, there is no locus out here. It is not a dialogic relationship, that’s a shared a conversation between two loci. A Clean Language question sort of appears in space and then it insinuates itself or invigorates itself into the body or a persons space out here. So that is what I mean by physicality. It impacts in a physical way and doesn’t necessarily engages you intellectually. And so this package goes out and impacts at a place. And so then what happens is a triangulation occurs between you, the location of the metaphor (or the experience where the person is accessing it) and the person that is in the room in the here and now. And so most aspects of Clean Language and metaphor are regressive in nature in that it goes and addresses usually some part of [your] experience rather than the age that you are right here in the room today. The triangulation [means] the transfer and the counter-transfer is between you as the therapist and the object of the metaphor. And the ego-state of the adult is really an observer.

So statements will be coming out of the client’s mouth before they know what they are saying. I am sure that you have experienced that phenomenon – you’ll only know if you’ve been asked a [clean] question. When the word comes out you only know retrospectively what it was, after you’ve heard yourself say it because you [only] have a certain amount of knowledge about the experience [before the question is asked]. Most of the answers to Clean Language questions can be put in the category of tacit knowledge – knowledge or information that you don’t know that you know.

I think that one of the activities and actions of Clean Language questions is that they go out and they are directed to sources of information other than that which you cognitively know, which is why it’s a surprise to you when the words are formed that come out of your mouth. So it [gets to] tacit knowledge, which is part of the excitement that you have expressed today. And it’s the syntax and the grammar of questions that you have enjoyed asking, that gives information that is new to the client.

If you ask the question, ‘Well tell me about it’, they tell you what they already know. If you ask a Clean Language question, it goes to a place and it gives information that is just outside their awareness. So it’s tacit knowledge that they find and it is usually only known a posteriori, or after the fact that it has been expressed. They hear it and then they know what it is they’ve said.

So usually they maybe a split second behind you in understanding what they have said because they are hearing it for the first time. So I think it’s that kind of information that the particular repetition and the grammar of Clean Language addresses. And so that’s what makes it compelling because you are getting information that’s new. It’s not immediately known to you and it’s another piece of the puzzle that you find.

It’s part of what I think of as this wonderful internal organisation of how we structure our world and we are [only] seeing snippets of it. And if you can gather these pieces together which are part of the mapping, which some of you have done, then there’s this awesome beauty of organisation and logic that befalls the esoteric bits of knowledge.

And so underlying these questions, when [I] ask them I’m always thinking, what kind of beautiful structure lays underneath there? I’m always seeing these jagged bits on top that [seem] not related in anyway, but once we can extend the significance of those bits of information downwards we can find that there’s this wonderful relational database in which all these things make sense. But we don’t have access to it because we are just seeing these little bits that we can pick up.

It’s this funny way of talking which speaks most closely to one’s heart or one’s anxiety that is able to evoke some of this information. And the reason why it’s such a delicate process is because I think some of this information is directly related to the age in which it was born. If you have a particular feeling of anxiety or fear or puzzlement or loneliness, it’s usually contextually related. So if you first got that feeling when you were two, then you’re not going to have many words to express it, compared with if you had that feeling when you were six.

So a lot of the first questions have to be so delicate and tentative because you are not really sure at what age this information was born when you get it. Some of it simply doesn’t have words and then when you ask a question you can see its gone somewhere because it [can] induce this very lovely child that’s trying to find a way out. And that’s very different than if you ask a question and someone can answer it very quickly – it’s quite likely the information is known. And if you ask a question and if they look at your directly and make eye contact with you then you pretty much know [it’s more cognitive].

I think that is some of the dynamics involved in this philosophical thinking about the nature of what’s elicited through Clean Language.

Number one is the physicality to your words. The repetition is so important. I think of the repetition as being the same as a drug reaction. A drug is never taken in its pure form, it’s always cut, whether it be alcohol or in pill form. So what it is cut with is an inert substance. When we are asking a question there is a lot of inert material packed around the active ingredients.

And when there is a rock like that rock, what would a rock like that rock be interested in doing?

So the active ingredient is just that word ‘doing’. If you asked, ‘Well what does the rock want to do?’ it just doesn’t feel the same as when you address that rock. And you address the rock without the definite article ‘the’. And the reason for leaving ‘the’ off is that if you just call it ‘rock’ and not ‘the rock’ then it’s more personal and you’re increasing the bond, the transference and the counter-transference between you and the rock, as distinct from the ego-state of the person.

So a couple of other aspects about the nature of what Clean Language does.

It induces the rock to speak back to you. And a metaphor is a container. It contains information that can be picked up and carried across. And so when you first get a metaphor, usually there is an owner to the metaphor. And the owner is not the person that is sitting in front of you, the owner is an element of that person, of their younger self. Because if you have a rock let’s say in your stomach, it’s a foreign body inside your stomach. But if you then go to the rock and you find something [associated with] the rock, and you do that by asking  ‘And how old could a rock like that be?’, then what you will find is there will be a body of a two-year old associated with that rock.

So for example, its most likely then that rock is outside the body of the two-year old, because it’s on their chest and they can’t breathe, which is the same symptom they feel when they get anxious. Can you hear that difference? So the rock that is inside your body is outside usually the body of the owner of that rock which is you when you were two. And if you investigate that rock further, then it gradually starts to evolve and transform into perhaps the body of a perpetrator.

So here the rock has gradually been picked up and carried across as a rock or as anxiety and then a memory develops. And then normally you can’t get the rock out of the client who is sitting in front of you’s body because it does not belong to them. So that’s why trying to excise feelings and metaphors just doesn’t work.

But what you can do is go back into memory of the owner of that rock, starting with the two-year old,  and you can work with that memory to let it complete itself – to finish that experience – and time moves on and then the perpetrator gets off the child. And then the next day comes and the perpetrator is not on there. And that’s one way you can remove that rock, so when the rock comes off that child and time moves on – remember the definition of where these some of these experiences come from is T-1, where time is frozen just before the worst moment – And if you move that experience forward there is no more rock on that child and therefore there will be no more symptom of anxiety in the form of a rock metaphor that will be expressed in the client’s [life].

So you can see how that’s a one-step removed process. Clean Language is the form that excites the activity of the rock and that brings forth that rock’s expression which in this case won’t be much because it belongs to a two-year old. So you never know when you start out what is going to happen, what you are going to find out. So I think that is some of the exciting adventure as well, because you’re only as good as your next question, and if you don’t get that one right then you are only as good as your last question (laughter).

I just thought I’d make a few comments on the philosophy, how I think about the nature of what these [question are about]. [Inaudible.]

I thought I’d make a few comments about choreography.

I’ve talked a little bit about language and the nature of what you would do and special needs words have, but there is this wonderful accompaniment with Clean Language that choreographs a person’s speech. And if you think about being information-centred rather than language-centred, then you have to enlarge the scope of what you pay attention to when a person uses language. Because sometimes there are just not the words to express it, but there can be an accompanying choreography which is trying to let you know that there is much more information in the behavioural cues that accompany the language or lack language than there is the expression of language as a semantic form.

So if we are going to be ‘equal information opportunity employers’ then it is more than just listening to the words, but it’s about what accompanies the words in terms of the behaviour cues that have this encoded information. If you like, a bubble of speech comes out of a persons mouth, and it occupies a certain amount of space because it comes out of person’s mouth and it goes towards you. But given that if you look at the space a person occupies, there’s this wonderful other material that also has a close correspondence to what it is the person is trying to language. It may a [David coughs], it may be a sigh, it may be a use of a hand, it may be where the eyes have to go to cue the information, it may be a rocking foot, but there will be some other information that will be attended to the speech which you can then ask those same questions to in a spatial way, rather than trying to elicit meaning from out of the words. Does that make sense?

So I thought I might do a few little examples of what kind of corresponding cues there are that choreograph information and what I think of as the punctuation that goes alongside the linguistic expressions. So to do that you need to think about how a person uses their space. They may put words into it or some type of behaviour. And so what is usually the most interesting bit is the kind of behaviour just before some words are spoken. It might in terms of the information accessed by the eyes, and very often it may be in terms of these funny little non sequiturs a person may use: ‘Why choose me’; ‘I’m going to have to think of something’; ‘Oh, I get [sigh]’. Those sort of little things, those little asides are so pregnant with information. The question is, why did they show up right at that moment?

[First Demonstration]

I’ll maybe just go around some of you who are willing to volunteer and what I’d like to start off with – I’m going to have to figure out some question to ask you.

What I would like you to pay attention to is that little piece of information that comes within maybe a split second before there is some speech. If there is no speech, then maybe you have quite a few seconds while that information is there. And what that does is gives you the ability to go with two different places, you can either go to the words that they use or you can go to the space. And very often the space has a lot more in it than the words do, but the words help set a context for what’s in the space, and the converse is also true, space is a context for those particular words.

I’ll start out with something, ‘Who would be willing to …?’

[Volunteer A] “I’m always willing.”

You’re always willing. Okay, I’ll just start out with a simple one like ‘How do you know you’re always willing?’ because you see we got quite a few cues. Let’s do all this together. We’re going to take this question very slowly, because we want this question to go [inaudible].

So what’s wrong with how we’re starting with this situation?

[Participant inaudible.]

Yeah but before we even go through what he is looking for – for one thing I haven’t delivered the question. I’ve only delivered it in terms of this didactic. At the moment, the question I’ve asked is meta. It is not until we [inaudible] that it is going to go in a physical way. He can be thinking about it but I tell you what, what he thinks about it now and probably what he will answer when we ask the question will be two different things. What’s wrong with the way we’re starting?

[Participant inaudible.]

Yeah, what were his words? “I’m always willing”. But how did he get the word ‘willing’?

[Participant] “From you at the beginning”.

You see, that’s the point. And had I said ‘Who would like to begin?’, then maybe someone else would have said ‘I’d like to begin’.

[Participant] “If you ignore the fact that he is using your words, he’s not using your gestures. You could still pay attention to what’s not yours.”

Yeah. And that’s what we are going to take, because he had a big smile and his hands were down here. In other words that information would be a lot cleaner than if we go for the linguistics. You see that, because the gestures were already there. And because I presupposed willingness was the main criteria, then it’s like, I got what I asked for. And I know he’s willing and I know he’s trouble! (Laughter.)

If I had said ‘Who would like to volunteer?’.

[Another participant raises their hand.]

So we have one over there! (Laughter.)

If I had said ‘Who would like to begin?’ Who would have felt …?

[Another participant raises their hand.]

So you would have done ‘beginning’.

So, ‘I would like to have a guinea pig’ (laughter). Who would have done that one? [Pause] Nobody put their hand up. Did anybody feel willing at the same time as he did [points to volunteer A]?

[Participant] “Yes”.

You did too. So you would have been willing. And that’s how even starting you can prejudice – even in this group, as you saw.

So given that, we’ll start off with our ‘willing’, because that was his statement. And so we’ll start with ‘And how do you know you are willing?’ Let’s do that all together.

[Whole group] And how do you know you’re willing?

We’ve got to take those eyebrows, because there’s not much in words coming out there. Now it’s a bit difficult – what question would you ask?

[End of Tape 1 side 1]

So when your eyebrows move like that, what kind of eyebrows are those?

Can you see how that is better than saying, ‘So when you do that squint …?’. And sometimes it takes me a while to figure that out because I know I haven’t got the right question. But if I say ‘So when you squint like that’ and I know it’s wrong or ‘When you move your eyebrows’. So you can ask the wrong question and when you know it’s the wrong question, just follow it up with another one. Because what happens with delivery is, if you pause and you leave a gap then they are going to fill that gap. Because of the nature of the questions they fill the gap [with what you just asked]. So immediately you sense that you’ve got the wrong question, just put an ‘and’ in there, because you know that can go, and then put a lot of inert stuff in. That’s what I was talking about the importance of delivery with packing inert words around it because it really enhances the active ingredient.

If you ask the wrong question and stop, believe me the wrong question will enhance the word ‘squint’. But if you leave that gap then he will go on a search for ‘squint’, but if you follow it with an ‘and’, he’s distracted away from that. So its a probability game that you get the right question and you can increase your probability if you ask the question two or three ways, and then I kinda trail off sometimes because I think enough is enough. And so I’ll ask a question and then it just sort of peters out. And what I’m hoping for is that they answer with an answer that they want to give me, which is not necessarily the answer in response to my question. I don’t ever want to be invested in my question being the right one. I want to always be edgy and I’m very unsure about the question. So if you give me an answer I’ll take that, whether it answers my question or not. How come that answer has arrived there? And not the one I was trying to [get].

We going to try and ask another way about eyebrows. We know we are going to put an ‘and’ in. Now whatever else happens after that I have no idea. So I want you to fill in the gap anyway you like that means the same thing and kind of displaces the emphasis on the first bit about eyebrows. Or maybe we’ll do it three times. We’ll do the squint, and then we’ll come in with the eyebrows, and then we’ll put an ‘and’ on the end and trail off somewhere else.

[Whole group] And when you squint, and when your eyebrows move like that, and … is there anything else about that movement?


So we have to put another question in there, so let’s do ‘What kind of?’

[Whole group] And what kind of movement could that eyebrow movement be?

[Volunteer A] “It was the wrong question. That’s what the eyebrows were [saying].”

So much for eyebrows, what else was there?

[Volunteer A] “The question about the eyebrows wasn’t wrong, the previous one was the wrong question.”

What was the one before?

[Participant] “How do you know you are willing?”

Oh, that was that wrong question. Where does a ‘How do you know?’ question go? Physically? It going to go to his head. So if we’d have said ‘What kind of eyebrows could those eyebrows be?’


So it didn’t look like that went [anywhere] either, any improvements?

[Participant] “What happened just before you were always willing? Or “What happened just before I asked you?”

[Volunteer A] “They’re cheating because they know me” (laughter).

I know you too and this always happens to me! (Laughter.) So that’s better isn’t it. So you went for the word ‘willing’. That’s going off the linguistic in this case rather than the analogue. So now I can go with another question.

And what kind of eyebrows could those eyebrows be, when they know it’s the wrong question?

[Volunteer A] “The eyebrows are much more in touch with what’s happening than the [inaudible].”

So now we’ve got some language there, ‘the eyebrows are much more in touch’, do you hear that now? And see the beautiful stuff here, we could go with this left hand because that had a lot.

[Participant] “Both hands moved.”

Yes. So in a couple of simple questions, now we are flummoxed because there is so much we could go for because we are not just paying attention to the words. And we’ve got some lovely words in there like that ‘in touch’. Let just put a ‘kind?’ on that:

[Whole group] And what kind of ‘in touch’ could that ‘in touch’ be?

[Volunteer A] “It’s direct knowledge without having to go through the processing of words”.

And you can see how intimately choreographed that whole thing is. And if we slowed this down we would be able to figure out the math or the structure of what this direct connection is and how these fingers are marking the concepts out.

And so one of the other elements that this kind of question does, is it takes time and it pulls it out. This stuff is really condensed and so we could take each of those hand movements and unravel them and as we do that we are beginning to distort time. [Inaudible] And so I think about these little bits that happen as the syntax or punctuation occurs in a time of less than a tenth of a second, which is the physical, neurological processing time it takes the nerves [to fire]. So this stuff is packed in units of time of less than a tenth of a second. So part of the attitude of asking these questions is that it stretches a tenth of a second out to two tenths, three tenths, four tenths, a second, two seconds. And the more you stretch time out, the more you get information other than concepts that is able to have a forum in which it can encode. So we know now there is a correspondence between this connection and between how his hand comes in.

[To volunteer A] Is there any comments you like to make?

[Volunteer A inaudible.]

So even those you might start off inauspiciously, if you go for the analogue, to those movement, that’s often where the real [meat] of the information is. So I figure more red herrings are exactly [what’s wanted]. Any kind of interruption or resistance is encoded information which is waiting to be born and so I’ve got to be a good midwife for that information. [Inaudible] And if I ignore it, the information may not have the opportunity to develop and be born. [Inaudible]

And so part of this physicality of Clean Language questions I was talking about, can go around – and what it will do is physically mark out the space here that his eyebrows and hands are using and it will make this space become positively hallucinogenic. And he is going to hallucinate in real time the structure of his [activity] because one of the things that this packaging of the language does is it also functions like a matrix. And a matrix is from mater, or mother or womb. And a matrix is something in which that which is inside is protected. And it is protected from everyday ordinary logic. So this information to begin with cannot exist on its own. And so part of the art of asking Clean Language is you construct this protective womb around this information and you are protecting it from everyday questions and normal language. And this is the essence of what’s sacred and what’s profane.

So you can profane a Clean Language experience by asking a normal everyday [question]. And that’s how you profane what’s sacred, just by doing a normal everyday activity in a sacred place, or at a sacred time. [Inaudible] So that’s when you feel the difference when your questions aren’t right, because it’s normal everyday question and you can feel the difference when you profane this protective space.

Can you see that his hands are now able to move much more freely in here because we’re leaving – our question has gone and has built this protective, almost like a virtual reality hologram that is sitting here at the moment, and all that stuff that’s there but we don’t know what it is. [Inaudible]

I’ve been talking meta to this.

[To volunteer A] So what else have you found out?

[Volunteer A] “It isn’t actually here where the hands were. The space where it was [?] is inside. So when the hands are doing that, they’re describing what’s inside. And when they do that, [it’s] what’s inside.”

So we’re getting quite a bit of – [To the group] So what’s a good question to ask right now?

[Participant] “Where inside?”

Now there is a question of timing, because we are talking spatially. And see what your question is doing, you’re going to the space inside. Now time-wise, is that before the hands or after the hands?

[Participant] “After”

It’s after the hands. That makes a difference where you ask that, maybe these hands have a lot more information and if we went before the hands what question could we ask him?

[Participant] “And what happened just before?”

And where’s that information likely to go in terms of locus? It might come out to me asking the question. And what’s the other before-time question?

[Participant] “And where come before?”

Yeah. You see the question that interests me is, how the heck do these hands know how to do that? These hands can describe this process thats inside here, out here. Those are interesting hands that know how to do that because he certainly can’t do it with his voice.

Can you see the difference in timing there? So if I go forward I am going to miss what his hands have to offer. And I also may want to provenance his hands. What’s the history of these hands that they know remarkable so much? So it is probably best if I [don’t] go inside here as I’ll have moved too far forward in time and I’m likely to get a lot less information than what I can get out of these hands. Now we are talking about very small units of time here. So now we get to a very special relationship [with] the timing of your questions. And I don’t mean just the timing of fitting them together, but I mean where you are going to place your questions in terms of the information he gave?

If you put a timeline there, can we see the hand preceded the destination inside. And if I go straight for inside then I am saying ‘hands we are done with you now, you’re not the important part.’ So that’s one of the reasons why to work with space you have to stop time moving forward. You have to arrest time. You can stop it straight where you got it by asking ‘What kind of hands are those hands?’ and that will make time be synchronous. And we are going straight down that same moment of time with those hands and extricating information that these hands have.

I can move backwards, in terms of physically or in terms of time. ‘What happened just before?’. So that could be an interesting question because that would bring time back or I could pull back, ‘Where did these hands come from?’ or ‘Where did these hands knowing come from?’. There’s a difference there.

‘And how did these hand know how to describe what’s going on?’. Sometimes you have to talk about it a bit to try and figure out the logic of it.

So do you understand that about the timing? So if you ask inside, I then will not get this information that the hands [have because] it is making time move forward too fast. So what will happen is that we will move time forward and then we will be into a conversation.

So if I arrest time and make it move back ever so little then I am stopping time from moving forward and what I am going to get is bountiful information that will come from this whole subtext that exits under the sort of willingness, and the eyebrows and the choreography.

And they probably have a lot more information because they are always there, aren’t they? They are always in attendance. And that’s what I mean by this close coupling of the physical, grammar, punctuation and choreography. They may just have a lot more information. So where in time is the information you are going to ask your question [to]?  You will get what you ask for. And if you didn’t get a very good answer when you ask inside, then you have to know where you asked that question so you can back it up.

So there is this notion of arresting time. So then you get to be able to plumb the depths where there’s much better information than if you make time run along horizontally or diachronically, ‘dia-’ meaning across time. So you don’t want diachronic information, because that information is familiar [inaudible], but synchronic information, that’s the information that happens synchronously or about the same time.

[To volunteer A] Did you figure anything else out?

[Volunteer A inaudible]

[Second Demonstration]

Let’s start with someone else now.

[To volunteer B] How would you like to begin?

[Volunteer B]: “I have no idea.”

Alright, so she shook her head didn’t she? So we could take that. Let’s look at the ways we could start. We could take ‘I have no idea’ or the way she moved her head.

[To the group] Now, how did I change what I just said?

[Participant inaudible]

I said she ‘shook’ her head. And then I changed a word, ‘she moved her head’. Do you see, because ‘shook’ has a more pejorative form than ‘move’? Because how do I know that this is a ‘shook’. Why am I calling that a ‘shook’? So I am trying to recover from that by going to a less – and part of this is about argue-ability. So the form of the question is – I want to ask a question that’s in a less arguable form. So she could come back and say ‘I didn’t shake my head, I merely indicated direction’. Whereas if I say, ‘So when you moved your head’, you see how that is inclusive of ‘shook’ and of the indication. It’s a much more inclusive [form].

So part of what I am looking for in trying to formulate my question is the degree to which my question could be answered. So a healthy dose of paranoia is really helpful. And I suppose I got that because I worked in front of an audience and it’s not great if the client comes out and argues with you (laughter). “I didn’t say shook!” [Inaudible]

[To volunteer B] Did you feel the difference?

[Volunteer B] “Hm-Hmm.”

So what was the difference?

[Volunteer B] “It wasn’t a shook [inaudible].”

So where did the word ‘shook’ go and where did the word ‘move’ go?

[Volunteer B] “Move went into the body, shook went into the [?].”

[To the group] Do you get that sense of physicality? I can recover from that. You heard the difference of course when I used the word ‘moved’.

[To volunteer B] So I would have been okay with that?

[Volunteer B] “Yes.”

You see I just did that switch when I repeated it and then I can recover from it and it is no longer arguable with. Because if you ask a question and the client is trying to reinterpret your words and your choice of words, then it gets very busy. [Inaudible]

And sometimes I just hope for the best or just wait for them to bring something up because I can’t get my head around asking a question that feels right. So a lot of it is about how the question feels than if it’s grammatically [correct]. Does it have a rhythm and [inaudible]? That’s much more important than [inaudible].

So we got the word ‘move’. Maybe we’ll go off that:

[Whole group] And what kind of move was that move when you moved your head and said ‘I have no idea’?

[Volunteer B inaudible]

And so do you remember that she said the word ‘move’ went to my body. And now we have a location, called [inaudible]. And what else do we have?

[Participant]  “A right hand.”

Yes. So maybe, we know we could go get a metaphor, but maybe the interesting stuff is if we arrest time a little bit and find out what kind of hands or fingers. So I don’t know whether they are fingers or hands, or pointing, which is it?

[Participant inaudible]

Because it is there. So what I am doing is backing up time, so I could [use the] mirror effect, but I got to have to have words to accompany that, otherwise [inaudible] . Tell me how to do it.

[Inaudible conversation with a participant who asks a question of Volunteer B]

And part of that is you have to give it a name. [Inaudible] And if you haven’t given that part, or that little child a name, then it’s not going to happen for you. And she’s got to do a very cognitive search. And also it’s not quite clear whether you’re going inside or you staying with the hands.

So at the moment, we know we could go in here and get what’s here, but it would be interesting just to stay with the hands. So let’s mumble around a bit, because I don’t know what to say:

And when you move your hands and point like that …

You see, it’s a ‘Kind?’ question. ‘Kind’ in German is what? [inaudible] I often think of that question – it’s a nice question because it tails off.

And what kind of hand could that hand be, when it comes like that?’

[Volunteer B] “It’s a hand that knows.”

All together:

[Whole group] And a hand that knows. And is there anything else about a hand that knows?

[Volunteer B] “It just knows.”

So as we’ve got an ‘It just knows’, what else do we know analogically? Something else out here. Since we’ve got a hand and we’ve got a ‘it just knows’, I’m not sure if that goes anywhere. Let’s ask ‘How old?’

[Whole group] And how old could that hand be when it just knows?

[Volunteer B] “It doesn’t have an age, it’s always known.”

[Whole group] And it doesn’t have an age –

I tell you what, we won’t do that bit because what you want to be thinking about is, if it is really young then I want to get real repetitive. But do you see how that could start getting kinda boring if you keep repeating those bits. Since we know this is going to be older I want a shorthand – and you see how that flows a lot better – because this is a lot more conversational now. She’s going up there, getting an answer and coming right back. So I now need to be snappy and now I know I’m not going for the child bit I’ve got to change the tenor of my questions. And so the last bit was?

[Participants repeat her last words]

Let’s pull it back:

[Whole group] And when it’s ‘always known’, where does it get its ‘always known’ from?

[Volunteer B inaudible]

[Whole group] And what kind of store cupboard could that store cupboard be, that’s up there?

[Volunteer B] “An Aladdin’s cave.”

[Whole group] And its an Aladdin’s cave, and is there anything else about an Aladdin’s cave that has a store cupboard in it that’s always known?

[Volunteer B] “I can go to it, and I don’t know what I’m going to find in there but I know I will find what I need in there.”

There’s so much there. And did you notice the beautiful choreography of that right hand? Because that’s the hand that’s pointing.

And what kind of hand could that right hand be when it’s [?] there?

[Volunteer B] “It’s doing that. It’s going to the cupboard, to look around, to find what I need and bring it back.”

We’ll ‘How old?’ that:

[Whole group] And how old could that hand be when it is doing that and looking around to find something to bring back?

[Volunteer B inaudible]

So you see how it’s doing that? So now we’re really getting a relationship with it.

So what’s it doing when it’s like that?

[Volunteer B] “Feeling around in the cupboard for the answer.”

And when it doing is doing that?

[Volunteer B] “Thinking about how to put the answer together.”

And so this is thinking about how to put the answer together, and this feeling around for the answer. Now I’m establishing a relationship [inaudible.]

[Volunteer B inaudible]

I’m a believer (laughter). Now what would your assignment be for her now?

[Participant] “Draw pictures of all the things it can do.”

Now think what he said “Draw pictures of all the things it can do”. Now we don’t know it can do ‘all’ things. It can do ‘anything’, not ‘all things’, do you hear that difference?

[To volunteer B] Can you feel that difference? [Nods] What was the difference them?

[Volunteer B] “Anything is much wider, it’s things that I don’t know, things that I couldn’t draw because I hadn’t done those yet. Whereas all things is things that it knows.

[To the group] What else can you tell us from that choreography?

[Participant] “Don’t know is out here and what she does know is up here.”

That’s right. All things she does know is like this, and all things she doesn’t know is like this.

There’s a difference and its this kind of interrogatory that we are getting into that we can learn all about this hand, and all the information it carries in it. And you see we got that simply by not moving time forward [but] by asking about the hand. I asked for an age and that didn’t work to begin with, so we just come back to the hand again which was making different movements. So we are learning quite a bit about this hand. So one of the things I want to know is – and we can just go off the last statement she made, this hand can do anything:

[To volunteer B] So list out anything that this hand can do. How many anythings can this hand do?

So you see how I’m making a noun out of a – I don’t know what an ‘anything’ is. But you see how I skewed that question so now I am saying there is this class of things called ‘anythings’ and that’s a noun. So under that, [I asked] ‘list all the anythings that this can do’. That way I don’t have to go through any of them and she gets to know all of them.

I can get an assignment and she can get a great deal of information out of that hand because it is speaks  directly to the language.

[To the group] Now what is a question that speaks directly to the hand?

We’re looking at what the hand would know. It had all these different positions didn’t it?

[To volunteer B] So you might like to find out what are all the different positions that this hand has. We know it’s searching for the cupboard when it’s like  that. When it’s thinking it’s like that. We know [inaudible]. So we know at least those four or five positions, so you could make a list and figure out what are all the other things this hand can do.

Can you see  I can get a lot of information from that question because I know it does at least four things and I can assume there’s probably a bunch of other things that it also does. That makes sense? Can you see by just taking those things like the language, like the analogue, and then I can give an assignment to both that helps to compel them and values this hand, and it values all the other things that came out of this. That way you don’t need to be so involved in [inaudible].

[Participant comment]

You can do that in the session and she’ll go off and spends maybe 5 minutes or 10 minutes with the ‘anythings’. Because when it goes down on paper you are taking it out of the hand.

Let’s take a short break.


[Participant] “A lot of the time when you were framing your questions you were sort of short circuiting a lot of the repetition that we have been taught in class and the practice group here.”

What a pain in the neck that is! (Laughter)

[Participant] “Well, I want to know what relevance it has.”

Part of it is, to begin with you need to have the discipline. So that you know that’s the form it takes, so if you get stuck, you know you can go right back to that long tedious three-times repetition. So one of the things you think about is that you are wrapping that experience with words and it’s bathing [inaudible], and you might just trail off. That’s one of the things. Then you get a sense, and that’s part of where you get the artistry, that you can shorthand it. And one of the things I suggest you do is just see how much short-handing you can get away with, because you can always go back to [the repetition]. You see, his stuff was older, so I can shorthand it a lot more than when we’re going here because [inaudible].

And this might be something for an exercise you can set. How much can you shorthand and get away with it? And part of it is this thing of intimacy. So I want the transference and count-transference to occur between me and it, whatever it is. If you think about any close friends you might have, how you have this shorthand between you. It’s the same deal, it sets up that intimacy that really helps establish [inaudible]. So I want to get the at shorthand in, not only does it make it makes it go faster but because [inaudible]. If this was a young thing, I’m right back to use repetition, in fact I’ll make it ponderously slow. So you have to make it suit the situation. But when [inaudible] then what happens is you can feel straight away that it goes quick [click, click, click] like that.

It’s exciting on your part to be able to do that, so you have to do it to suit the situation. How do you determine that? One is, if you do it too quick and they come out, then you know your shorthand [didn’t work]. And I might just drag out the shorthand a bit longer. I’ll stretch it but I’m not going to do all the other bits. And part of it is also a question of the emphasis. If the emphasis changed with the last thing she said, then I want to emphasise that rather than all the previous things. So again, that’s a basic tenant, that the last thing said is usually important. So I can double back and shorthand it.

Penny: Most people we train find it easy to ask shorter questions. Most people are used to doing that but they have to learn to slow down and actually listen to what someone says. It teaches people to listen so they can repeat not just the words but how it’s said. And that’s one reason for learning the ‘tedious’ part is to train people to listen.

[Participant] I like to suggest another reason I’ve found personally, which is that if you ask the full question and you go through the whole thing, it gives you time to think what the right question should be.

Absolutely. So you can do that. And that’s why I am saying, that’s the art. Because you need it if it gets young. You have to go back and be very comfortable asking that very long form of a question because it simply establishes a boundary that while you are asking a question, particularly for very young stuff, what you are doing is by making it so long, you are keeping out the outside world. Because as soon as you start they already know what you are going to ask, so by the time you get the second repetition they’re absolutely sure what you are going to ask. And so for those few precious moments they no longer have to pay attention to what you are saying or to anything else and it helps magnify what they are paying attention to. Because no other words can get out and there’s no other distraction and there is no other expectation to answer because you’ve got this preamble going.

So that is why it is so important to have the discipline and tenacity to hang in there. So you can test how much you can get away with when you know it’s more cognitive. So at the beginning I don’t do it until I’m sure I can shorten [my question]. The more adult you think the person is responding as, then you might have a much quicker response to it. [Inaudible] So if she was really slow and ponderous, I am really matching that.

[End of tape 1 side 2. Start of Tape 2]

… And as long as my words are there, then nothing else in the world is going to be there. And since they match with [your words], and you know what’s coming, then you’ve got permission to go on all these sorties to get more of a sense of [inaudible]. So that’s part of creating a sacred [space]. So that none of trying to make sense or interpret what you are saying comes crashing in. [Inaudible.]

[Participant] You asked, “And what kind of … could that be?” rather than “… is that?”, why did you do that?”

It just feels right. I’ll just repeat the two different questions and you tell me how it’s going to feel:

And what kind of … could that be?
And what kind of … is that?”

[Participant inaudible]

[Inaudible.] The ‘is that’ [presupposes] that you know what it is. So again, it’s a lot harder to argue against ‘could that be?’ than ‘it is’. Anybody else got an interpretation?

[Discussion with participant mostly inaudible.]

Particularly at the beginning, ‘could that be’ is [inaudible], so that might be part of the shorthand we were talking about.

[Discussion with participant mostly inaudible.]

Yeah, and because we don’t know what that is, then ‘could that be’ feel lot better because it hasn’t been formed yet. [Inaudible.]

[Discussion with participant mostly inaudible.]

Also, part of it is time. Because at the beginning, then I want to repeat probably three times its name. And then after I’ve repeated its name [inaudible] but it’s been honoured, then the next time it comes up I probably will only do it once. Because you repeated it three times and then it’s saying ‘Yeah, I am that. Damn I really am that’.  [Inaudible], that’s part of the art of shortening.

[Discussion with participant mostly inaudible.]

[Participant’s question about asking for an age the rock]

It’s only a probability that you will get an answer to an age of a rock. It’s just a way to test whether it’s a child within. [Inaudible.] You just want to keep developing the rock with ‘Anything else?’ and ‘What kind?’ and then – some of you have already covered this – so what clue am I looking for? So I’ve got this rock, I say:

What kind of heavy?[Br]Anything else about it?[Br]‘It’s hard.’[Br]And what kind of hard?[Br]‘Hard like a rock.’

so I’m not getting anywhere.

So when it’s hard, and it’s hard like a rock, is there anything else about that rock? [slows down delivery of question]

So I’m still going to that rock, what am I listening for that will determine that there is something more about this rock?

[Participant] “More attributes.”

No, ‘cause I’ve run out of that. I’ve ‘kind’ it, I’ve ‘anything else’ it.

[Participant] “A voice shift or a gesture.”

Yeah, what might a voice shift or a gesture imply?

[Participant] A perceptual location.

Yeah, a perceptual location and what might that imply? It comes back to the question about: How do you get a body? What am I listening for?

[Participants inaudible.]

‘I feel [sad].’ So what’s been introduced there?

[Participant] “A personal pronoun.”

So that’s what you are looking for. That’s why you stay with that rock. So you notice how I slow everything right down. I went right back to the basics and slowed it all down, ‘cause I’m waiting to see if that rock indeed has an owner. I’m letting that rock know, in spite of not getting a [inaudible], I’m staying right there with you. I’m not going to let you go. [Inaudible.]

Let’s say I don’t get a personal pronoun. Then I can’t develop any more from the rock, what can I do with it?

[Participant] “And where did it come from?”

Yeah, where did it come from? So here we are in synchronous time right now, and the rock is, ‘This is all I got, I got nothing else’. So then you can move time back [with] ‘Where did it come from?’.

And what kind of rock could that rock be, before it got hard and heavy?

You see how that indexes the problem? While I’ve got all these properties, if you pull it back –  and that’s where the ‘could be’ is important because you don’t know what it is. [Compare that to] ’What kind of rock is that rock before it got hard?’, whereas ‘could be?’ – and all of a sudden you’ve index back in time.

I often think of these questions, it’s a bit like making a movie and I’ve got to rewind it just one frame back and then my questions go to that frame and maybe one more frame back, and then they go there, and then I might go forward. You get that perceptually? How do you spatially put your questions in a place, and that’s where you get that new information from, rather than [inaudible]. And that was the trouble with his question. It was a sort of mish-mash of wonderful movement and stuff like that, but it didn’t have a proper [end to it].

There’s such a lot of complexity in just one simple statement. And if you just move time back then all of a sudden all these other potential possibilities appear.

[Discussion with participants mostly inaudible.]

So a lot of the metaphors I think of as being like [the backstory of a] script of a movie. [Inaudible.] It becomes this dense package of information, like this rock. So when you go there, the first thing you are going to get is this tightly dense, packed, concertinaed information. So what the pulling back does, it starts to unpack it. But you can’t unpack it going forward in time. You unpack it by indexing it back.

And why you are doing that is so you can get a lot more information that may then resolve the problem.  So normally [you’d think] to heal it you gotta go forward. But we are doing the archer trick. We’re pulling back the bow. We keep pulling back until we get an appropriate metaphor that is going to do the trick. And we take that and we pick it up and carry it across. So that’s the whole thing about pulling back. And a lot of time, pulling back is just about preparing and trying [to find] this great information that just lies one moment in time before the condensed moment. So it can be anything they give you. To begin with it is always going to be this condensed [mass], and if you just pull it back just little bit, you don’t need to go all the way back to [inaudible].

[Discussion with participants mostly inaudible.]

… wandering about physically and wondering – and it’s this notion that, if you give me a word, then I have permission to wonder/wander about its inherent properties. Because I know the rock is hard and I know it is heavy, so probably at some time it must have been lighter than it what it is now. There must have been less hard. So I wonder where the rock came from before it got hard and heavy?

If it’s a round rock, did it roll there? Did somebody put it there? How did the rock get there? It must have come from some place. If it’s a round rock did it come out of stream? Or is it part of a volcanic eruption? Or is it just [inaudible]. So it must have been somewhere else before it got on that chest. So where did a round rock like that come from? What kind of earth did it have? Did it come from outer-space?

[Participant] “You can do that when you are doing a demonstration with a group, would you actually do that with one person?”

Yeah. You can wonder/wander out loud and then you’re sort of going meta to it and then they say ‘No, no. It came from outer-space. It’s got nothing to do with the earth.” Because [often] people know more about what it isn’t than what it is.

[Participant] “You are going cognitive.”

Yeah, it is cognitive but it’s not, because I’m meta to it. That way they’ve got time while I’m doing this musing but I must be very disciplined and stay with them when [inaudible]. So all those properties I was musing about and then they reject [inaudible].

I can do the same musing about time. We know it’s round, so usually a round rock has a phenomenal age. You have a rock and its worn down. So what wore that rock down? Was it coming down a river? Did it come out of a glacier? Was it on the sea shore? [Inaudible.]

So that musing can be given as an assignment and you give all sorts of permission [inaudible].

[Discussion with participants mostly inaudible.]

It’s also different in a group situation. You have a lot less control than if you were musing to one person about their situation. [And what] can be very powerful is the vicarious experience of someone else listening to your musing. And that’s different than if you direct the musing to the whole group. [Inaudible.]

I’ve very much enjoyed this evening. I enjoyed puzzling you even further. My intention is not have you to be too terribly satisfied but to still be here because there is something else that’s intriguing you or to be expanded or played with. Thank you very much.


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