Coping with Un-safety

Developing a desired outcome
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The following transcript comes from our second workshop with a group Ukrainian psychologists and psychotherapists who want to use Clean Language and Symbolic Modelling to support themselves and their clients.

Transcripts of other demonstrations with this group are available here.

The aim of the session was to demonstrate how to use our Problem-Remedy-Outcome (PRO) model to facilitate a client to identify and develop a rich embodied experience of a desired Outcome.

The client’s responses and our questions were translated by Anna Stativka.

The session actually went further than planned since, half-way through, the client’s experience started to spontaneously change. We therefore switched from facilitating the client to develop and explore a desired Outcome, to maturing the change that was happening there and then. By following the effects of the change the client experienced her change process happening in real-time and discovered what happened as a result.

We have annotated the transcript to give you a sense of the way we use the PRO model throughout the session to:

  1. Model whether the client is describing a Problem, a Remedy or a desired Outcome
  2. Inform our choice of the feature of the client’s experience we invite them to attend to
  3. Select the Clean Language question that will be most appropriate for #2.*

The general flow of the session approximately follows the Symbolic Modelling Lite process:

The process is summarised in:

Lawley, J. & Tompkins, P. (2011). Symbolic Modelling Emergent: Change though Metaphor and Clean Language. In Chapter 4 of L. M. Hall & S. R, Charvet (Eds.), Innovations in NLP: Innovations for Challenging Times.

The PRO model is described in: Tompkins, P. & Lawley, J. (2006). Coaching for P.R.O.s., Coach the Coach (Feb.).


P = Penny, J = James , C = Client

The format of the Clean Language question are in bold to make it easier to see the structure of our questions.

When we capitalise Problem, Remedy and Outcome we are using the definitions specified in the PRO model. When these words are not capitalised they are being used in a more everyday way.

The phase numbers correspond to the above diagram.

* The keen student of Clean Language will have noticed that this 3-part format has the same structure as the ‘full 3-part syntax’ of Clean Language questions:

And [repeat client’s expression(s)].
And when/as [select one client expression],
(ask a clean question)?







Thank you for volunteering. 



I was going to return home. And this Monday I was supposed to go and check out from here. But then I get news that there was a chemical attack and I got back my feelings that everywhere in Ukraine is not safe. And I think that this feeling is not logical, I have ideas that it should be quite, quite okay. So I got a feeling that two parts of me are in conflict and then I have such a feeling that – kind of like the Earth is dropping from my feet, like down from my feet. It was a dream. And when I awake after that dream my whole day I feel not ok. My shoulders are tense and I feel bad.In this case, the metaphor for her “not safe” experience comes in a dream.



And when it feels like the earth is dropping from your feet, what would you like to have happen?

Start Phase 2 

Classic use of PRO format with the metaphor for a Problem experience.



I would like this to stop; that the Earth would not drop down.

This is a clear Remedy:

– It has a desire “I would like”.

– It references the Problem which is the earth dropping.

– The remedy is for the problem to “stop”.



And you would like this to stop, that the Earth would not drop down. And when this stops, then what happens?Note the PRO format presupposes the proposed Remedy can happen by not including desire words in the question.



And then I stop. I stop to collect my things. And I’m stopping to collect my stuff and I stay at home. I’m not running away.“To collect my stuff and I stay at home” is a desired Outcome since it states how the client would like to be, without referencing a Problem.



And you stop and collect your things and stay at home and not run away. 



And when you stay at home like that, what kind of ‘stay at home’ is that? 

Start Phase 3

Having arrived at a desired Outcome statement, we now start to facilitate the client to develop that into a rich lived experience.



I have two simultaneous pictures here and one of them is about the desired outcome where I live a normal full life. Another one is, it’s still unsafe to stay here and I have to collect my stuff and run away.The desired Outcome is now accompanied by a “simultaneous” Problem.



So you have two simultaneous pictures. One is leading a normal full life, and the other is feeling unsafe and wanting to run away. And when you have those two simultaneous pictures, what would you like to have happen when you have those two pictures?

Return to Phase 2 

We use the PRO model format to acknowledge the dual nature of the client’s experience and invite her to say what she would like when that’s her reality. This puts the client in control of the process and releases us from having to decide what would be best for her.



That only one picture would be left, the one with the full life.Second desired Outcome.



And you’d like only the one picture. The one with the full life. And what kind of picture is that picture?

Continue with Phase 3

Note, by asking about the “picture” metaphor we are inviting the client to attend to the form of her perceptions, rather than its content.



Now I’ve got an idea that I should be real and not want that picture to disappear, but to get some way to unite both picturesWith a little more contemplation, the client realises she “should be real”. Her third desired Outcome is based on the metaphor “unite”, and presumably replaces her second desired Outcome.



To get a way to unite both pictures, and to be real. And is there anything else about unite those two pictures?Inviting the client to develop the latest desired Outome.



I got the picture. I’ve seen my flat, my apartment which is filled with a joy but at the same time I see there my bags with the stuff. [Tears]Same structure as C9 although in one picture, rather than two.



So you have a picture of a flat that’s filled with joy, and your bags. And that’s a united – that’s a picture that’s united. Whereabouts is that picture?Rather than attending to either the desired Outcome or the Problem content, this questions invites the client to stay with the spatial structure of their inner landscape.



From one side, it is in my head like a film. On the other side it’s my body, kind of a warm feeling in my chest, and a kind of tension in my shoulders. That tension is not that bad, but it’s rather a kind of readiness or alertness maybe. 



So in your head, in your chest and in your shoulders. And so what’s happening in your chest when you have that picture that unites?Of the three locations we first invite the client to attend to the feeling in her chest. We had planned to also ask about the shoulders but other developments took precedent.



I feel a kind of warmth there. It’s a bit frightening, but it’s already there.More indication that the client is beginning to live in her desired Outcome perception.



And you feel a warmth there. And is there anything else about that warmth that you feel there? 



Now it’s more not about warmth, but about a kind of air which goes out from my body, from my stomach. So it reacts in this way.By continuing to attend to this feeling the client has had a chance to discover something new.



And it’s about air that goes out from your body. And is there anything else about air that goes out from your body? 



It feels like something not needed goes away and my breathing became easy.Indication that something is changing for the client, here and now.



So as that air goes out from your body, and it’s not needed, and it goes away, then what happens?

Start Phase 5

This question attends to the effects of “air goes out from my body” (beginning the ‘maturing a change’ phase of Symbolic Modelling).



I just found the right word. I was belching. I didn’t know before. I feel better and I breathe better. But at the same time I still feel some kind of heaviness around my stomachThe change is now accompanied “at the same time” by a likely problem.



So you feel better as the air goes out, and at the same time you feel some heaviness around the stomach. And so when you feel better, and you have some heaviness, what would you like to have happen?

Return to Phase 2

Acknowledging the dual reality of the client as in row J10.



I would like that heaviness to leave me and feel more relaxed.A Remedy and (fourth) desired Outcome.



The heaviness to leave and to feel more relaxed. And so when that heaviness leaves your stomach, and you feel more relaxed then what happens? 



[Laughing] A kind of pleasant feeling of myself in a field where there is no tension. But I don’t know where to go.Another dual experience but in a different metaphorical context, a “field”.



And feel yourself in a field where there is no tension and you don’t know where to go. And when you don’t know where to go and you feel yourself in that field then what happens?

Continue Phase 5

We could have asked ‘And what would you like to have happen?’ but since (a) shifts are happenings, and (b) the client says “I don’t know where to go”, our question acknowledges her dual-experience metaphor, and invites the metaphor to provide direction.



Nothing happens. I just want to stay in this experience and these feelingsFifth desired Outcome.



And you just want to stay in this experience – the more relaxed, like in a field with no tension.

And you want to stay in those feelings in that field. And when you want to stay in those feelings, where are those feelings?

Our use of repetition and the question are congruent with the client’s request to “stay in this experience”.



It’s around the body, around the body. 



And those feelings are around the body. And when those feelings are around the body, they’re around the body, like what?Invites the client to translate her body experience into a metaphor.



It’s hard to say where exactly, but this is the kind of feeling similar to a lullaby when you’re wrapped in a blanket and held in the hands of the mother. 



And wrapped in a blanket held in the mother’s hands. And is there anything else when you feel wrapped in that blanket, held in a mother’s hands, with that lullaby? 



The picture is changing and now I feel myself like a mother, and I even smell some kind of smell which small children, infants smell.The switch of perceiver (in this case, from child to mother) is usually a sign that a significant reorganisation is taking place.



So you now feel like a mother and … 



… and smell that smell of small children. 



And so when you feel like a mother, what happens to those two parts that were in conflict?With more time we would have facilitated the client to further develop the “feels like a mother” metaphor. However, in the time available it was important to acknowledge the earlier “conflicting parts” metaphor (C2).



They now peacefully coexist, like together. They are together and help each other.While the client was attending to one aspect of her experience, the two conflicting parts have, in the background, found a way to “peacefully coexist”.



So they’re peacefully coexisting together helping each other. And what happens – and when they’re coexisting what happens to the earth beneath your feet, when you feel like a mother?Inviting the client to notice what has happened to her original metaphor (C2) now that she feels like a mother.



I feel more steady [Pause]. The picture is changing not so fast. And though my legs are still going through the earth, it’s not as bad as it was before. And the particular place where I am, I feel more safe, more confident. [Pause] And though there is still a feeling of un-safety around, at the same time I feel that I’m able to manage with it, to cope with it.Notice how the pattern of the dual feelings continues (as in C9, C25 and C29) but its structure has switched to: ‘problem that I can cope with’.



So there’s still un-safety around and you feel that you manage to cope when you feel more safe, more confidence and steady. And is it okay if we stop here?Start Phase 6 



Yes. I feel much better. 



And it could be useful for you to do a drawing of this steady, safe, confident – your metaphor – to do a drawing of that, of being a mother, and a lullaby. 



Yes, I was thinking about this,. Yes, I will. I see the picture like in the grey and a bit foggy, but it gives me the feeling of stability. 



Okay, good. Thank you. 

After the session the client reported:

For me it was very, very important, that you paid attention to both my conflicting parts: The positive and the other one. And when we were talking about the positive one, I had an idea in the back of my head, ‘Ah do we talk about my other – what about my other part?’ But when you say it in the end, how are your both parts now? I had a feeling like relaxation, like phew. It’s like my integrity was restored.

A few days later the client wrote that she feels much better, with “firm ground under my feet”, and her nightmares also transformed and are not so scary now.

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