History of David Grove’s work 1980-2004

Unpublished manuscript
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Original manuscript dated 30 March 2004 compiled by Jenny Mote.
Published on this site, with slight editing and reorganising (by James Lawley), 31 July 2010.


1.   Anxiety disorders and memories
2.   Physiological symptoms represented as metaphors
3.   Clean Language
4.   Child within
5.   T minus 1
6.   Disassociation and fragmentation
7.   Eye and body movements in space
8.   Metaphor mapping
9.   Pulling back to T minus 2: preventing disassociation
10. Nouns and adjectives
11. Ancestral lineage and redemptive metaphors
12. The way of the noun: ontological development
13. Hieroglyphics and mission statements
14. Clean space
15. Chicken and egg solutions
16. Small world networks
17. A, B & C
18. Inner worlds

1. Anxiety disorders and memories

The interest began in working with phobia’s and the seemly-repressed memories overshadowed by the physiological anxiety responses. I found that you could recover the memories and resolve them by changing and reliving the memories such that the phobic response was resolved. However for some people the memories were such a small component of the symptom complex.

2. Physiological symptoms represented as metaphors

When asked to describe their experiences many clients’ density of information was in colourful descriptions, using rich metaphorical imagery. This lead to the development of believing a description as being literally real, by treating the metaphor as if it were as real as a memory. One could change the symptoms directly.

3. Clean Language

To create a reality in which the metaphors could be showcased on a mental stage required a new way of asking questions. The prime requirement being to elicit information without polluting the client’s model of the world with the presuppositions characterisations of the therapists model of the world.

Clean questions only ask questions which feel right, are easily answered and have the physical sense that the answer is coming from within the metaphor itself. If the metaphor is a rock in the stomach, a clean question feels as if it is going to the stomach and being answered by the stomach, rather than going through the ears and being processed by the brain. Clean Language always feels right to the client, does not set up any resistance or hidden agenda and does not evoke questions of trust

4. Child within

When working with metaphors and the consequent development of inanimate metaphorical landscapes an “I” pronoun would pop up which was the first clue that each metaphor had an owner (child within) who was encoded within the metaphor and the accompanying memory. Hence Clean Language began to recognise 3 types of information. Every question was asked discreetly and spatially to a child within, to the ground or memory, and to the metaphor. A different set of questions addressed these information sources separately. The objective became to free the child from being trapped within the metaphor and memory so that they could grow up in time, so that they could become integrated in time to the adult.

5. T minus one

Metaphor memory and child within represent information sources that are frozen in time, in the moment ‘T minus one’ (T-1). This represents a moment just before a worst moment, just before it happens. The purpose is to prevent the worst moment ‘T‘ from happening. It prevents the event. A consequence is that the feelings and memories are relived over and over again and the client is trapped within this closed cycle of recapitulation. Most conventional therapeutic interventions involve forcing the client to relive the experience by moving them through T and consequently resulted in retraumatisation. These attempts at a cure created more problems than they resolved.

The initial focus using Clean Language was to find a way around or over T, the worst moment, into a moment of time T plus one (T+1) in which the child is freed from being encased, reliving the memory and being trapped in a cycle of reoccurring symptoms, to where they can grow up and become integrated into the core of the adult. This technique had a forward motif, and a primary movement question was And what happens next?

This process recognised that you only had to move one of these information sources forward in time to T+1. If the child was too frightened then we could ask the metaphor to travel through the experience or we could impeach the ground – such as time, and make the night move until the sun comes up on the next day. The child would then be reunited with the dawn of the next day. Her body not having had to go through the experience. Instead the darkness of the night carried her through to the dawn. Thus the child is freed from the memory and feelings of that night.

6. Disassociation and fragmentation

When moving time forward the experience goes from bad to worse and as a result many clients would end up disassociating during the first session. This was “a blood and guts” procedure and required great adeptness on the therapists part to create solutions “flying by the seat of ones pants.” I realised there must be a better way. I took a 2 year vow of silence not to teach until I had figured out “what’s the deal with disassociation?”  and I also ceased publication of all training material [in 1993/4 – JL].

In a defining moment a child can no longer exist in the world as they are. One part stays behind a plane of bisection, a surface such as a lake or a window, while on the other side the other part turns around and develops into the person they are today. A part of them however is left behind and lost, usually indicated by amnesia e.g “the earliest memory I have was at six, walking home from school.” The rest of that’s child’s history is encased in the child who is still at that school.

A child disassociates with an upward motif floating like a cloud, a butterfly or a bird. When an experience is fast and dramatic and the client can’t leave their body voluntarily and disassociate, they fragment:

Explosive fragmentation occurs when they disappear into objects in the ground such as cracks in the door, flowers on a curtain, a light bulb.

Implosive fragmentation occurs when there’s no place outside that is safe and so they fragment into a metaphorical symptom some place in the body, a restlessness in the feet, a black hole in the stomach, a broken crack in the heart or a heavy rock that prevents breathing on the chest.

7. Eye and body movements in space

I realised if someone is going to disassociate they are going to go into thin air. To find out where they go the clients eyes need to be open. Hence the first radical shift of asking questions that keep the clients eyes open and prevent them from going into traditional trance states. This represented a profound change because until this time clean language facilitated deep-trance experience.

When client’s eyes are open several new worlds of information become available. By watching the line of sight and the angle that a persons eyes move just before they make a statement you can determine where that information resides before the words come out of their mouth.* By asking questions to that space (e.g. in the corner of a room) you can animate a 3D positive hallucination which could have metaphors, memories and an inner child. This is of course where the disassociated part inhabits.

Different sounds like clicks or sighs, and body movements such finger, hand or foot movements, are behavioural cues to a new language of space. They invite questions such as:

And what does that foot know when it taps 3 times?
What does the 1st tap know?
The 2nd tap?
The 3rd? And how old could that tap be?

Any movement or sound that occurs in the space which the client’s body occupies is considered a form of coded information. Clean questions unfold this information out of the body, give it a form in a place and bring it to life in the space outside of the client. Densely packed information that’s somatized in the body and eyes can be unpacked into space where a solution can be more readily discovered.

8. Metaphor Mapping

One of the benefits of working in a T-2 space is the client is much more in control of their experience and can become intellectually and emotionally involved in wrestling with the dynamical nature of the problem giving their problems a form in external metaphorical space. This gives a confidence in a client’s ability to find a solution. This is different from trying to shadow box with the capricious glimpses of unconscious upwellings.

A client can now construct on paper a representational map that is populated with actual memories and a metaphorical pyschescape, which these experiences inhabit e.g. “My life is like a rocky road and these obstacles keep blocking my path when things come out of the blue.” In this case we work with changing the nature of the blue where bad things come out of. The nature of the road also has to change e.g. to a river which can then flow around the rocks, where there are no longer obstructions but become interesting features.

9. Pulling back to T minus 2: preventing disassociation

A little girl is standing on the edge of the precipice and the rocks around the edge are crumbling under her feet and she is fighting with all her will not to be drawn into the dark abyss of this bad memory. Trying to find a solution in this frozen moment of terror (T-1) is extremely difficult therapeutically.

If a client’s information is in the moment of time T-1 and moving time forward to T increases the affect, the chances the client will disassociate increases. When time is moved forward a client goes into a trance and enters a world as if it were under a microscope in which the minutiae and excruciating detail are recalled.  To prevent this from occurring pulling back the client into a space and time called T-2 creates an observational platform from which a solution can be constructed.

When you pull back, the clients eyes remain open and you have a macroscopic birds eye view of the world. This is a meta position, one in which you observe outside the space of the experience, and also outside of the time of the experience.

You can pull back time:

And what happened just before …?

Or space:

And where did … come from?

T-2 is established by developing the ground or memory, and the body around the feelings or internal metaphors prior to the original information of T-1.

Pull back the child:Where did you come from before you were on that edge?
Answer:I don’t know I am too scared.
Pull back the ground:What kind of edge is that edge just behind where you are standing?
Answer:It’s hard and stony.
Pull back again:What kind of edge is that edge before it’s hard and stony?
Answer:It’s got soft green grass and a tree.
Pull back the child to the tree:Would that soft green grass and that tree be interested in you having you stand there?
Answer:Yes, but I can’t move.
Ask the ground:Would that tree be interested in helping you?
Answer:Yes, it could bend down and hold me in it’s branches

This space, T-2, has a much greater probability of providing a solution than the one of being on the edge.

Redefining the problem domain

If you start with the problem domain defined by the client’s perspective a therapist will become subject to the same laws of logic that have presented the problem in it’s current insolvable form. Any question, which moves the narrative forward or asks for explanations, may entrap a therapist into the logical sets that occur within the clients thinking box.

T-2 facilitates thinking outside of the box or problem domain and presents a very different perspective to begin the search for solutions. T-2 allows you to assemble resources that will help get through to T+1 and decreases the probability of re-traumatising the client. The healing direction is still forward. However, in this case you pull back – like an archer – to load up the solutions before you travel forward and around T into T+1.

Clean language questions now change and the emphasis is on:

Pulling back:
Where did that come from?
What happened just before?
Peripheral development:
Is there anything else?
What kind of?
There is no development of metaphors and the questions keep the person out of trance and their eyes open.

10. Nouns and adjectives

Now there is a complication in deciding what do you pull back? You can pull back the ground you can pull back the metaphor but what is the nature of the ‘I’ in “I’m scared”. If we pull back the pronoun “I” it needs to be detached from the adjective (that which is thrown at or laid to a noun) “scared”. The way of the noun describes a pulling back pathway in which the noun is detached from the adjective and a T-2 noun is developed with it’s prior adjective attached.

What kind of you were you before you were scared?

Answer: I was playing happily.

This is the first step and pulling back through the history of the different adjectives that were attached through the history.

11. Ancestral lineage and redemptive metaphors

Pulling back opens up a much safer platform from which the client can observe a particular experience. If there is a T-2 what must also be further back?

A major problem arises when trying to heal an early childhood trauma instigated by a perpetrator. There are not sufficient resources within the body of a small child to counteract the gross injustice of a perpetrator, particularly if the perpetrator was a family member.

The idea was born to try and find a way of finding healing resources within the perpetrators body. This meant that instead of pulling the child back you pull the perpetrators history back. This would often result in the imagery of the perpetrator as a child and the history that caused him to become what he was.

This pulling back establishes an ancestral lineage and the search to find an ancestral metaphor that will heal the wound inner child caused by the ancestral legacy. Thus the perpetrators ancestry is responsible to heal the wound in the child. This shifts the onus of responsibility for healing the guilt and the shame from the child to the perpetrator’s ancestry.

The aim of this procedure is to find a redemptive metaphor or ancestor to heal the experience.

This technique focuses not on the person but on the adjectives that describe the symptoms and on the content in the ground or environment of the memory.

An example of pulling back the ground:

He is going to hit me.
Where did his going to hit you come from?
From his anger
And where did his anger come from before he was going to hit you?
From his father
And what kind of father was his father just before his father is going to give him anger?

An example of pulling back the adjective:

I’m depressed
Where are you depressed?
It’s like a heavy cloud hanging over me
Where did that heavy cloud come from before it was hung over you?
It comes from my not being sure what to do in life
And where does your not being sure what to do in life come from?
My family
And what kind of family could your family be just before it gave you your not sure?
It’s an Irish Catholic family in a strange country

12. The pristine noun: ontological development

If you pull back the pronoun instead of the adjective a whole new dimension is revealed which has virtually no personal history in it. This procedure pulls back to find a pristine noun which is a time and place in which there are no negative adjectives attached to. You are one with the world and the world is one with you. You are scaled right.

What is amazing about pulling back the noun is that it leads into the history of your ontological development. This history is completely different to your personal history. It addresses the issues of your purpose and mission in life and is completely independent from your family and ancestry.

Many expressions of desire are an attempt to reclaim this pristine time. Unfortunately the adjectives attached to you when you are pristine have a fatal flaw. They are not able to stay attached to your pronoun. If you move time forward from your pristine moment, [with] And what happens next?, a defining moment occurs and you loose those adjectives forever. Pulling back before the pristine goes back to when you were born and the beginning of your personal life history. Your ontological history begins at this point with the question:

Where did you come from before you were born?

This goes back “from the whence you came”, and has a mythological narrative of an ontological genesis story. It is from here you find your original source. It is from here your original purpose and mission originate. It is from here a faulty or flawed mission may result in you having a much more complicated and fraught life. It is from here that healing the ontological nature of your being occurs. It is from here that you can re-mission a complimentary alternate being-ness that when brought forward changes the whole nature of your life.

13. Hieroglyphics and mission statements

If a client writes a mission statement, a purpose, a want or desire, there are two main functions that the mission statement can be used for:

The first describes your mission in life and this can then be used to compare with how your mission has changed during the different defining moments of your personal history. It can then also be used as a reference to your original mission or purpose deriving from your ontological history from whence you came.

The second purpose is as a tabula rasa, a surface upon which additional relevant information can manifest itself in the spaces between the writing.

If a client writes or draws on paper the act of out putting that information with the required hand/eye co-ordination is an activity that occurs in space. It is a function of the language of space. If the clients then places the statement or drawing in some place in the room and places themselves at some distance from the statement a psychoactive enrolment begins.

Psychoactive enrolment begins when the client’s locus of attention is drawn and held by a point in space. From this space new information begins to unfold and inhabit an area of the space, which becomes populated with images, sounds and feelings.

In the case of a mission statement psychoactive enrolment begins with noticing the structure of the marks and the spaces in between them, rather than the meanings of the words or sentences. The way the letter “I” appears, the different shapes of the individual letters, the gaps between the words. From out of these graphical depiction of the writing script images and memories are evoked similar to the accent pictograms of hieroglyphics. The facilitator asks questions:

What kind of I is that I?
What’s the difference between that I and the other I?
What does the space between those letters know?
What does the paper that that statement is written on it know?
What does the space around that paper know?

You do not ask what does that statement mean to you or why did you write that? Intelligence is the ability to read between the lines. The psychoactive enrolment is in the spaces between the letters and the words.

Each word has it’s own unique etymological ancestry. The client is asked to look up all the different words particularly unusual ones and to record all the different meanings. Some clients have actually healed their experiences through discovering a different definition of a word they originally thought had a pejorative meaning.

Spelling mistakes are noted and can reveal amazing coincidences.

Each letter also has it’s own history from Greek or Aramaic origins. A good alphabet dictionary can reveal relevant meanings from quirkily written letters. e.g. Why is that letter ‘t’ never crossed? Why is that dot over the next letter and not over the “i”?

“I want to be hapry — a Cypriot” wanting to be very English and hide her Greek origins. “I am always selling that word wrong.” On looking up the letter ‘r’ comes the Greek rho, as there is no ‘p’ in the Greek alphabet, so her Greek origins surface in the spelling mistake of a transposed p for an r.

Intelligence (inter = between, legere = lines)** is the ability to read between the lines. Space is what is between the lines and between the words and letters. Psychoactive enrolment occurs when a person’s attention is drawn into a space. Information begins to unfold from out of these specific spaces, This is different than trying to focus on a spot as the person initiates that. In psychoactive enrolment the space initiates the engagement.

N.B There are 5 analyses:

Examining the spaces between the words and the letters
Definition and etymology of the words
Definition and etymology of the letters
Changing observer position
The space in between observer and what is written

14. Clean space

Clean space was a natural development from mapping and following eye movement. Eye movement requires asking a question that goes out into the space where someone is looking. The question is asked to that space and not to the person. Metaphor mapping first involved one large sheet of paper but drawings were often unfinished at the edge so clients were asked to add more paper and logically extend what was already there.

As the maps increased in size they sometimes filled the whole room. As each memory or age was talked about I would have the client stand in that place on the map. From here it is not a very big leap then to use the room as the map and to move the person to gather information from each space where the eyes would have looked. Of course once you move from one space to another you see different things.

When a person moves into each space I think they recover their disassociated aspects. They then have another set of eyes to see. Space became the first part to answer the question “Where do people go when they disassociate?”.

Clean space represented a way of recovering disassociated aspects, which were trying to flee back to the from whence they came. I found by rotating the person in space that different information came from each angle. If I continued rotating the person not only were different aspects of the problem highlighted but the physical rotation undid the psychological notes.

Different spaces also held different body postures. The information contained in these postures could be unfolded in a solution space which often involves amazing feats of contortions and balance. It seems that space has a lot to do with being able to feel your way around the spatial medium and you only see or know your way when you have felt your way into the right space.

This intuitive seeing I now think of as “blind sight” – the ability of a hand to point exactly where a light is even though it’s not seen. It’s the physical movement of the hand in space that matters. It’s beyond what the person knows “I can’t do that because I can’t see it.” And yet if they try to point with the finger they can do it.

15. Chicken and egg solutions

Chicken and egg originally came from working with a Dutch woman who was born in 1944. Her metaphor was an egg which was on a cracked bombed and barren landscape. Her life history repeated the same pattern in which her life fractured four or five times and she was left as a vulnerable egg. Any attempt to heal this situation was thwarted.

In desperation I decided to pull the egg back and asked the fateful question “Where did the egg come from before it was the egg?” Her amazing reply was “It came from a big bossy brown hen.” I then asked “What would this hen do if it could go to that egg?” The hen’s reply was “It would sit on that egg for another year, until the war was over and then it would let the egg hatch.”

This solution represents a redemptive metaphor. It’s sourced outside of the cosmology of an egg world. Everything that’s a problem for an egg is not a problem for a chicken.

The ways of accessing this class of metaphorical solution are:

Finding a space outside the network – One of the special positions, often a sweet spot, stands outside of the other spaces and from this view point you have a perspective which is cosmologically different from any other space. From this space you can philosophise about of your life and your existence, and it’s complex patterning.

Locating a spatial edge e.g on the other side of a mission statement – It is then possible to stand the person outside of the edge and have them look back in. This becomes a meta state and again allows a view from outside of the logic of that cosmology.

Pulling back – Either a perpetrator until they are outside of the memory, and then pulling further back until a redemptive metaphor is found. Or pulling back a metaphor, such as a stone in the heart, can arrive at a solution which is contained in the prior history, and lies outside of the problem domain of the heart having a stone in it. (This is the equivalent of the chicken solution for the egg problem.)

The 9-dot problem is a useful example of a thinking-outside-of-the-egg solution.***

16. Small-world networks

I had been to a drumming workshop at a folk festival in Oxford. The instructor explained that the off beat was not the next beat but the adjacent beat. When you have the on beat that’s a march, and when you have the off beat it makes a dance. I tried to figure out what it meant for a year. I even did a one day workshop on the topic – at least that was the title, but practically nothing was said about it and I went onto another topic instead.

Then I read Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Science of Networks by Mark Buchanan [in 2003 – JL] and realised that the key algorithm to generate a space network was the asking of an adjacent question. If a client is at A and the mission statement of where they want to go to is at B any question which takes you toward B is a next step question. An adjacent question lies along side A and therefore has to do with qualities of A and not qualities of leaving A to get to B. Paradoxically this confers a blessing upon the qualities of A, whereas a next-step question implicitly devalues A because what is at B is more desirable than what is at A.

By asking a series of adjacent questions each along side the other gives an iteration that produces enough nodes such that the network itself creates the solution.

17.  A, B & C

In search of a navigational metaphor to help describe these worlds, I thought “What is the basic element of a journey?” The basic element is that you want to go from A to B, and what stops you and needs to be negotiated is the journey itself, the space between A and B, C. If a question is then asked to each of these three spaces it defines the boundary of a world within which each of these positions sits.

One or other of these worlds contains inner or outer phenomena, producing a series of expanding concentric worlds. I then discovered, by treating each of these spaces as equal to A, B & C, that the intelligence and observational powers could be released by the process of crossing over. This connects and lets the information flow between these previously discrete worlds.

18. Inner worlds

Inner worlds was a result of trying to simplify the journey metaphor with John and Jenny [Mote]. The main idea being a primary world which is invaded by secondary and tertiary worlds. While watching bike tracks crisscrossing, the idea of a world zipping and unzipping came to me as a mechanism for describing this invasion process.

The goal of a journey is to explore these worlds and recover the wisdom so that it can be encoded into the primary inner world. The next phase is to add a variety of psychological functioning and to determine the usefulness of this model by it’s ability to describe and predict accurately psychological phenomena.

Once this is accomplished then:

  • How well does this model serve as a useful therapeutic tool?
  • How can it help those interested in self discovery to know thy self?
  • How can it help navigate and chart the unfamiliar territories of the inner mind, body, heart and soul?
  • How can these inner worlds explain psychopathology so that therapists can use it as a clinical tool?
  • How can it be used to heal the effects of trauma?
  • How can it be used to empower clients in the healing process so that they are fully informed, engaged and intrigued by the marvellous adaptation of their inner worlds, to the vagaries of our life?
  • How can these psychescapes help make intimate sense of their reactions?


The field of self-help needs to consider the following:

What other criteria will be needed to establish the model’s fitness?

What useful self-help products which are user friendly can be produced?

What will this develop into ??????

Editorial notes:

* Penny Tomkpins and I organised a ‘Lines of Sight’ presentation for David on 20 April 1995 at The Great Eastern Hotel in London.

** Technically, the Latin etymology of ‘intelligence’ derives from inter between + legere choose’ or ‘pick out’.  ‘Between the lines’ in Latin is inter lineae. And ‘read between the lines ‘ is inter lineae legere.

*** An example of the 9-dot problem is given in Quadrant 4 of David’s article: Proble Resolution Through Metaphor Therapy.

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