The following annotated transcript comes from our twenty-first webinar with a group of Ukrainian psychologists and psychotherapists who want to better use Clean Language and Symbolic Modelling to support themselves and their clients living through the horrors of war.
The sessions have evolved into a mixture of training, supervision of client cases and live facilitation. The annotation gives some idea of what we take into account in deciding which Clean Language question to ask, and when.
Transcripts of other demonstrations with this group are available at: cleanlanguage.com/list-of-transcripts-with-ukrainian-therapists
The client’s responses and our questions were translated by Anna Stativka.
This transcript is illustrative of a number of features:
- Working with a highly stable but unwanted symbol that has “the smell of hell”.
- Working with ‘spiritual’ aspects such as “soul” and a “previous life”.
- Acknowledging the client’s difficult internal reality.
Key: C = Client, P = Penny Tompkins , J = James Lawley.
The format of the Clean Language questions is highlighted in bold to make it easier to see their structure.
|And what would you like to have happen?|
Yes I have some business. I paint mandalas. I draw mandalas and I had one exhibition already and now I’m in the process of preparations for the next exhibition. And my mandalas are not only drawings. They are a whole method or technique. By this I mean that it’s a method of psychological or therapy work with mandalas. But I have no clients yet for this work with mandalas; no gallery that would be interested to exhibit them and no interest from other people in this method.
I don’t see the client for whom my method would be useful. And when I don’t see the client for whom this mandala method would be useful, I cannot go forward. I don’t see [a way] that would be useful for me to get money for this. I would like to, inside myself, see the type of clients for whom my mandala method as a psychotherapy method would be useful and attractive.
|Description of the current situation, ending with a clear desired Outcome.|
|And when you’d like to see inside yourself the types of clients for whom this could be useful and attractive, where inside yourself would you like to see that type of client?||Inviting the client to attend to the spatial aspect of her desired Outcome (dO).|
|[Right hand touches forehead] Maybe somewhere here, but not inside of me, but somewhere in front of me at some distance. I would like to see this client somewhere here [points in front].||Redefined desired Outcome.|
|Not inside your head but maybe somewhere in front. [Client: Yes] And whereabouts in front?|
|Five to seven meters in front.|
|Five to seven meters in front. And you would like to see inside yourself the types of clients for whom your mandala method could be useful. And you’d like to see the client, not inside you, but in front of you, five to seven meters. And is there anything else about ‘would like to see the client inside yourself’ and ‘five to seven meters in front’? Anything else about that?|
For most people, the different between ‘inside’ and ‘5-7m in front’ would be a significant perceptual shift. So we’re wondering: ‘what just happened?’
Since we do not want to make the choice of either the first or the second desired location, this question invites the client to consider both.
|When I concentrate on this question, I begin to see that the client is not a problem. The problem is that when I’m thinking about this client I begin to feel something heavy here [touches forehead]. I want to close my eyes and I understand that maybe in this place I’m searching, looking for this client, but this place is very uncomfortable at the same time.||The client’s realisation clarifies what “the problem is”: The place where she is searching for the mandala-client is very uncomfortable and there is “something heavy” there.|
|And so you’re searching for the client there, and it’s uncomfortable. And when it feels heavy there, what kind of heavy?||Since the client’s attention has switched from her dO to a Problem, we follow her attention and, for the time being, invite her to stay with the embodied experience of a Problem which has the attributes of “heavy”.|
|It’s difficult to hold my eyes open. My movement loses activity. I don’t want any emotional contact with people. And I feel a headache. It’s not a sore headache, but a headache.||Immediately a number of unwanted experiences are activated.|
|And it’s difficult to hold your eyes open. You don’t want emotional contact with people, and you feel a headache. And when all of that, what would you like to have happen?||First, we acknowledge the client’s experience. Then we invite her to discover how she would like to respond “when all of that” is happening.|
|I would like to feel lightness. I would like to feel opportunity for free movement. And I would like to feel clearness, clarity.||The client is able to formulate a desired Outcome.|
|And so that heavy that you feel there, does that heavy have a size or a shape?||Usually, we would continue with facilitating the client to develop this latest dO. However, before doing so, we invite the client to identify a form for “heavy”.|
|It has colour, a terracotta colour as in building-bricks. Very unclear borders. It’s heaviest in the centre, and towards the sides the colour becomes more blurred.|
|Blurred towards the sides, and it’s a terracotta colour. Anything else about a heavy that’s terracotta with blurred borders?|
|It has volume. It has a rounded shape. And I feel the smell of hell, how hell smells.|
|How hell smells. It has a smell, and it has a rounded shape, and terracotta colour, and unclear borders. And when it has all of that, that’s like what?|
|Sulphur [Face scrunches up. Ugh]. I don’t know it’s like what.|
|And when it’s difficult to keep eyes open, and movement, and no emotional contact, where does that come from that it’s difficult to do those?||The client clearly knows this unpleasant experience, and so we switch to invite her to consider the source of her Problem.|
|I have very interesting images and I’m afraid that there is something connected with my previous life. Not previous life in this life, but previous life in another life.|
|A previous life. Connected with a previous life. And so when it’s connected with a previous life, what kind of connected is it?||Rather than immediately going into “my previous life”, this question invites the client to attend to the “connected” – i.e. the relationship between her current symptoms and her previous life.|
|This as an experience of my soul.|
|An experience of your soul. And so when there’s an experience of your soul, whereabouts is your soul?||Locating the newly appeared symbol.|
|There are several places where my soul can be. If it’s inside it’s here [touches chest]. Or it can be above or beneath. And now it’s here [touches chest].|
|And so when your soul is there now, what would your soul like to have happen now?||Given “soul” can have “an experience” it’s reasonable to presuppose it can have an intention.|
|My soul wants a clear sea. A clean and clear sea.|
|A clean and clear sea. And is there anything else about the clean and clear of that sea?|
|I can talk a lot about that! [Laughs. Takes in a deep breath and blows it out.] Different colours. A lot of very clear and cool water. A lot of cool water. [Client shows one of her paintings.]|
|So when there’s a clean and clear sea with a lot of beautiful cool water, what happens in there [gesture to client’s head] when you want to see clients for your mandala method?||The client says she knows “a lot” about this experience. Given that, rather than develop the “sea” symbol straight away, we wonder: when she has this, can she have what she originally wanted (2C)?|
|This terracotta thing, it kind of closes myself from something, and because it closes, it doesn’t give me an opportunity to to move.||This suggests Soul’s dO cannot happen while Terracotta is enacting its current function.|
|So, when there’s the clear and calm sea then the terracotta closes and then you don’t have the opportunity to move. So when that closes, what would that terracotta like to have happen?|
Thus we invite the client to attend to Terracotta’s intention for “closes”
(which prevents the “opportunity to move”).
|She wants to exist.||“Terracotta” is a “she”.|
|She wants to exist. And what kind of exist does she want?|
|She’s okay with this situation. She likes it.||Terracotta is getting what she wants.|
|So she is existing. And where does her ‘want to exist’ come from, when she is already existing?||The client has mentioned her current experience is “connected with my previous life” (20C), so we wonder about the ‘origin story’ of this symbol|
|[Pause] I was born with it.|
|Born with it. And so when you were born with this want to exist, whereabouts is that ‘want’ that you were born with?|
|In the same place.|
|In the same place.|
|And even when I was a small embryo, and when my soul got into my body, this terracotta thing was in the same place.|
|And so, when you were born with it, and it wants to exist – do you or she want to exist as a heavy terracotta thing?||Checking whether Terracotta want to exist in her current form.|
|What is your question?||Clumsy question that didn’t land.|
|Does she want to exist as a heavy terracotta thing? Does she want to exist in that form? [Client: Yes] So she’s getting what she wants?||Reformulate it.|
|Yes, she’s got what she wants.|
|So is there a relationship then between the terracotta heavy, and the difficulty of opening your eyes, and the no movement, and the no emotional contact? What’s the relationship between those?|
Continue to clarify the role terracotta is playing in the system.
(With an unnecessarily complicated question)
|When she’s here, this terracotta colour is here, it presses on my eyes and I cannot see. And I carry this terracotta colour inside of me, and I use a lot of energy for carrying it inside. I have no pleasure from it.|
|So what would you like to have happen when that terracotta has existed since you were born?||Now it’s clear what Terracotta is doing, the effect she has and how long she has existed, it’s time to find out what the client would like.|
|[Sigh] I don’t want to carry it anymore. I just want here to be easier and light.||The client repeats dO from 12C.|
|So the terracotta heavy thing, where did she come from, before you were born?||Continuing to explore the ‘origin story’ as in 35F.|
|I never was talking about this. Maybe there is some sense in it, but I don’t know what it is. I cannot describe this place, I cannot. It’s not my business. I’m a very small being for this [question].||Client is saying: Not to continue with this line of questioning.|
|OK. And given you are a very small being, and given you don’t want that heavy thing, and given that heavy terracotta has been there since you were born – and she wants to exist there – and is existing there, what would you like to have happen when that’s the way that it is right now?||Hand it over to the client to define the direction of the session “right now”?|
|[Pause] I would like to free my head from this terracotta thing. [Big exhale]||Similar answer to 48C.|
|Yeah, you would like to free your head, and the terracotta is in your head, and it’s been there since you were born and wants to exist there. So then what would you like to have happen when that terracotta has been there for all those years?||Of course the client doesn’t want Terracotta there, but her reality is that it is there. And it has been there all her life and has no reason to change. Therefore, this and the previous question hold the client’s attention on how she would like to respond to her unwanted current reality.|
|It’s difficult for me to imagine my life without this terracotta thing, but I agree to try it.|
|You agree to try to imagine your life without it – when you’re free of it. So what kind of life could that life be … [client interrupts]||We start facilitating the client to create this new imagined life.|
|Yes because it’s my head. I am the owner of my head! The rent contract is over!||Likely a pivotal moment in the session.|
|So what kind of life could that life be when you are free of the heavy terracotta?|
|I imagine that events are going very fast.|
|Anything else about that life?|
|It’s fascinating. There are a lot of colours in it. [Pause] And now I’m imagining this life and it’s a bit scary. Is it possible to be like that? [Big exhale.] It’s a very strange feeling. This feeling is strange, but it’s familiar a bit for me.|
|And when it’s strange but familiar, where is that feeling?|
|[Hands touch shoulders] It’s kind of a surface feeling I’m feeling here.|
|Anything else about that surface feeling there, that strange but familiar feeling?|
I also have a feeling in my neck, in the back of my head. And this kind of feeling that there are a lot of colours inside, but this feeling is unstable. And these colours they are changing all the time. Very very – like that [holds up same picture as 28C]. Like that. [Exhales]
It’s a feeling of waves. This is a feeling of waves and it’s like a clear sea somewhere near Maldives. And it’s like this clear sea has pushed away this terracotta thing. Pushed it away. Pushed it out.
|And when that pushes it out, then what happens?||We follow the direction of the changes the client is describing.|
|[Exhales and yawns] This terracotta thing loses its senses or its meaning that it had. And it falls down onto the bottom of the sea and transforms into an object, like other objects, like corals or stones on the bottom of the sea. [Yawns repeatedly]|
|And then what happens?|
|[Sigh] Something is moving in my body, and there are tears in my eyes, and I have this yawning. [Yawns and exhales]|
|And as your body moves, and tears are in your eyes, and there’s yawning, what happens there in your head?|
|Something unstable and something is moving inside. [Yawns and sighs] I like this process! [Coughs] Because this process is effective. There’s movement and this process needs some time, needs some time.|
So take all the time that you need to find out more about this process, and that movement that’s happening now, and a feeling like a wave in a clear sea. And get to know more about all that, and begin to wonder – what happens next.
Are you okay if we leave you to do that?
|We give the client what she needs.|
|Yes, we can stop here today. And I will give time and space to this movement and I feel there will be positive changes here [smiles].||Session ends after 45 mins.|
Six weeks later the client reports:
I was grateful for work done with me last time. After this work I observed tectonic shifts in my work.