Problem Resolution through Metaphor Therapy

An overview of David Grove’s quadrants
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Edited from notes provided by David Grove and partially written by Rob McGavock


One purpose of this handout is to convey a sense that the problems people experience over and over again, that replicate, take up physical space in the realm of the person’s ‘psychescape’. One might think of a psychescape as a landscape in which all experiences of influence reside for an individual. Each problem that a person is experiencing takes up a certain amount of space physically, psychologically, cognitively and ‘affectively’.  The space that a particular replicating problem requires is the ‘problem domain’. Elements of the problem to be healed can be carried inside and/or outside of the person’s body.

As you will discover in this workshop, the locus of information can be found by noticing where the client looks, what gestures they use, what phrases  are spoken and even what sounds are made just before they speak.  It is intriguing to note that the entire history of a particular problem can be unfolded from one glance, one gesture or one expression.

Developing questions that help information take form can be asked to begin the process of locating experiences in space thereby illuminating the client’s psychescape.  As information is developed the client can then be invited to  ‘map’ the information by drawing on paper. As this map becomes ‘psycho-active’ its elements begin to evolve and once the mapping process has started it may continue with very little interaction by the therapist.  The map becomes the co-therapist or guide illustrating not only what needs to be done, but also what healing has taken place.  Some people may choose to sculpt.  Others may be requested to physically walk to the area from which they are sourcing information in order to explore what is there for them.  All of these methods can reveal pertinent information that exposes the mechanisms of the problem ultimately leading to a healing.

Another intention of this handout is to demonstrate that there are at least four realms within which the problem domain can co-exist. They are integrated but can be separated by distinct characteristics and features. These four realms, or ‘quadrants’, can be very useful for gathering specific information which becomes a guide to a solution that is exactly right for the problem.

The quadrants provide a sense of the holographic nature of problem domains and provide a context for understanding how the mechanisms function in a matrix of space and time. The objective of this therapy is to find a solution to a particular problem domain by tracing the undesirable symptom back through time to its originator. A powerful ‘redemptive metaphor’ can then be discovered prior to the origination that can be utilized to heal the etiology and its entire evolution into the client’s life.

Clean Language

The primary medium for the delivery of the healing art is language.  Therapeutic language must be a sacred language in the sense that it has to be bracketed off from the profane language of everyday speech.  Clean language asks questions that do not contaminate or attribute or characterize a client’s experience.  It is a language that enables the therapist to enter the client’s unique model of the world.  It is the therapist’s job to get the questions right. Every question is based on the client’s last response.

Clean language is used as a tool to:

  • Prevent contamination of the client’s own experience by the therapist’s own assumptions and biases.
  • Minimize resistance.
  • Translate feelings out of words into physiological imagery.
  • Accurately pinpoint questions and statements that reflect the client’s model of the world.
  • Communicate effectively and efficiently with non-conscious processes.
  • Work effectively with ‘childwithin’ symptoms using the child’s primary processing language (Quadrant II).

Clean Language guidelines:

  • Ask questions that can be accepted or rejected equally.
  • Use the same verb forms and tense as the client.
  • Do not use the definite article ‘the’.
  • Use pronouns only in keeping with the client’s usage.
  • Ask questions that allow choices and solutions to come from the true source of the information.

(Note: for a fuller description see: The Philosophy and Principles of Clean Language by David Grove).

Description of the Quadrants

Quadrant I

Quadrant I is dealing with information that is conveyed in words.  Words carry meaning and in everyday language the meaning is conveyed horizontally across time – that is diachronic – so that stories and ideas are told. The locus of attention is out in the space between the two people, and the information given is used to express ideas or symptoms. Examples of Quadrant I ways of working would be various cognitive therapies.  The insights gained may help the ‘inner child’ get out of his/her hole but does not heal the wound. We hear the words one at a time and then reform them so that we can make sense of them. Simply stated, Quadrant I includes all that is in the cognitive realm; semantics, words, meanings. In Quadrant I ideas are discussed, information can be attained and there can be an intellectual understanding. The focus of attention is in the here-and-now.  Past experiences may be discussed in this quadrant, but the emphasis will be on the adult client cognitively.

Quadrant II - Child Within

Quadrant II deals with the ‘old stuff’; the ‘inner child’, metaphors, and the use of Clean Language belongs here.  How do we get from Quadrant I to Quadrant II?  The motif is no longer diachronic; in Quadrant II time is frozen and the motif becomes vertical, going downwards.  The types of questions employed in Quadrant II do not move time along; they go downward into a moment in time.  Just as a microscope enlarges space to enable the viewer to see what is there on a microscopic level, the questions employed here go downward into a moment in  time to expand time.  This enables the therapist to know what is really there to work with.  Whereas in Quadrant I we go along a line, in Quadrant II we go down between the lines.  The definition of ‘intelligence’ is ‘to read between the lines’.

So if the client is saying “I feel sad” and we ask the question “why?” or we say “Let’s explore your sadness”, then we are inviting the information to be given in words.  We are moving it along, going back into Quadrant I.  In Quadrant II we would ask: “And when you feel sad, where do you feel sad?”  This stops the need for explanation and instead it gets into the metaphorical world.  A Quadrant II question takes a feeling word like ‘sad’ and instead of leaving it in words it moves it closer to the experience by using metaphor and imagery.  This is closer to the physiological feeling.  Quadrant II drops ‘sad’ downward into the body.  It locates the information within the boundary of the body.  It is biological.

And when you feel sad, where do you feel sad?

In my heart.

And where in your heart?

In the center.

And what’s it like when it is in the center?

It’s like a weight.

And what kind of a weight?

It’s like a rock.

This is descriptively based language.  If it is a metaphor then it can be drawn.  Now we are using a primary processing language.  Now the ‘rock’ stands for sadness.  We need to perform an operation to get the rock out of the heart so that the client won’t say ‘I am sad’ again.  A metaphor has certain qualities; it originates from the Greek word metaphora, container.  A particular type of metaphora is the amphora, a container with a rounded or pointed bottom.  An amphora can only be set in special places that are designed to hold it.  It cannot be placed successfully on the ground.  Thus the rock is the amphora; we have to go into the rock to get it to give up its information, to confess its strengths, and then transport it to its true place.

Most probably there will be two things held in the rock, the ‘sadness’ and the ‘inner child’.  It is the inner child that is the actual owner of the metaphor.  When a feeling goes into metaphor it then becomes a foreign object, the rock needs to be outside the body, not within.  As long as the foreign object stays within the body so the feeling remains unresolved.  It’s just like when foreign toxins enter the body and the physiological defences are employed to try to fight them off.  In this case the psychological being cannot cope with the foreign body and as a result the client does not have the full use of their heart.  The rock takes up some of the ‘real estate’, if you will, of the heart and becomes symptomatic.

The owner of the foreign object is not always the inner child.  The owner may be found in the history that leads to a person’s life, in a person’s genealogy or culture (i.e. Quadrant IV).  The trick is to find out who is the real owner of the metaphor.  So the therapist may need to trace the metaphor back in time.  Anything outside of the body classifies as a memory, whereas a metaphor is inside the body itself.

Trauma/Time Key

T-1  = Trauma minus 1, the moment just before the worst moment of the experience.
T      = The worst moment of the experience.
T+1 = The memory is resolved, moment after the trauma.

In between the lines is the frozen moment (T-1), just prior to the traumatic event (T).  It is always frozen and it repeats itself.  When there is sexual abuse or other types of trauma the child will pull backwards in memory in order to protect itself from the worst memory.  For example, when in T-1, the child is cold and the trauma hasn’t happened yet: ‘It’s a cold and wintry night’, the child goes through the rest of its life being cold.  This means that T, the trauma, won’t happen; time is stopped to prevent T from happening.  T-1 is the current manifestation of the result of a trauma and it is somatic.

We must move the T-1 difficulty through T to T+1 to get a resolution.

So the therapist must get this child through this cold and wintry night to T+1.  When you are wounded as a child, then you have to be healed as a child.  In the Quadrant I mode the head may understand, but this doesn’t heal the rock in the heart.  You have to heal at the age of the wounding.  Quadrant I involves all of the material as you understand it now.  The way it was experienced then is in Quadrant II.  The information is put into metaphor and developed in order to understand all of its properties.  Now the metaphor can be invited to go to its true place and interact with the perpetrator in some way.  This transforms both the metaphor and the perpetration.  Then the fragments can be picked up and carried to T+1.  The T-1 is healed and the rock is no longer requiring space in the heart.  The ‘shell’ of the child that was frozen in time and cold is no longer stuck in that T-1 moment, no longer cold.  (N.B. Appropriate study is required to facilitate this process.)

Features of Quadrant II

  1. In Quadrant II we use clean language.  We talk in a way that a child understands without moving time forward.  (We do not ask “why?”)
  2. We look down between the lines as if we were looking through a microscope opening up a whole world below the words.  We magnify the world beneath, the deep structure underneath the word to find a tremendous amount of information. (For example, about the cold and wintry of that night.)
  3. Time doesn’t move forward until to get to T (trauma) and T+1 (resolution), then it is moved in the memory of the child not the adult.
  4. You find the moment frozen in time, T-1.  ‘What happens next?’ takes the T-1 from bad to worse as you approach T (the worst moment of the trauma).  You go into one memory inside the body and the client is regressed into childhood – the voice changes, they feel small.  Quadrant II work all happens in trance in order to get to the memory and the metaphor.  Usually the client has their eyes closed while working in this quadrant.

Quadrant II is mostly regressive child work, some Gestalt and working with the immediacy of the feeling.  It does not bring the pain of the child into the adult body, however.  The therapist works with the child concerning the trauma of the child, not the adult.

An annotated transcript Pins and Needles is an example of David Grove using a Quadrant II process.

Quadrant III - Perceptual Space

Quadrant III gives a macroscopic, not microscopic view, in other words a ‘bird’s-eye-view’.  The client stays out of trance, the eyes are open, the work is behaviorally based.  The therapist observes eye movements and the behavior of the client.  The therapist takes note of where the client is looking.  The therapist first asks questions that follow where they are going with their eyes and then questions that define what is there.

Where are you going when you go down there?

Down to the carpet.

Whereabouts to the carpet?

Down through a hole in the carpet.

What kind of a hole in the carpet?

It’s a dark hole.

Dark and anything else?

Dark and cold.

What kind of dark and cold?

A dark cold night and I’m scared.

How old are you when it is a dark cold night and you’re scared?

Now we have got to T-1 memory by using the behavior of the eyes rather than through the heart or though the feelings. Quadrant III gives the client more control than they have in Quadrant II therefore it is not so overwhelming.  The client doesn’t have to put the actual experience into words.  This plays a huge role in the prevention of re-traumatization of the client.

Features of Quadrant III

  1. It’s behaviorally based.
  2. It’s pre-verbal.
  3. It’s macroscopic, a bird’s-eye-view.
  4. It’s not in trance.
  5. It’s in the here and now.

Quadrant III answers the questions, ‘What happens just before you speak?’, and ‘Where do you go to, to get the (Quadrant I) information you speak cognitively?’.  Quadrant III maps ‘perceptual space’ and the way we perceive things before we speak about them.  Rather than wait for the words to appear, it goes to the pre-verbal source.  Before we speak, we look, there are eye movements, we clear our throat, wipe our lips, twitch, sign, make a ‘umm’ sound.  ‘Umm’ exists as a bridge between Quadrant I and Quadrant III, we use ‘umm’ to give us time before the words follow.

In Quadrant III a lot of insights and gestalts occur spontaneously and the client has more control.  In Quadrant III we format a client’s information before we come in with our interventions.  We pull back (to just before a person speaks) and see what extra information a person can give.  For the therapist, there’s not so much to do in Quadrant III because we say very little, we want the space to talk.  It has an immediacy for the client.  In Quadrant III we find fragments of ourselves.  When the client can look at the carpet and no longer see a hole, then healing has occurred.  The fragment has been reincorporated back into the body (T+1).  Quadrant III is not necessarily healing but it does have lots of insights.  Quadrant III work is more behavioral in nature; it is also Gestalt.

Mapping occurs in Quadrant III.  The information can be a bit tenuous at the beginning so it can take a few sessions of mapping before it is firmed up. Map before you intervene. When mapping, the dissociative bits normally come first, e.g. looking upwards.  These first angles show you how the client has tried to escape from their experience.

After healing has occurred the client’s map will change.  The dysfunctional elements will no longer appear on the map.  The ‘real estate’, so to speak, of the perceptual space is now available to the client instead of causing problems.  The net effect is very positive. (see below for More On Mapping)

Quadrant IV:  Intergenerational Healing

Quadrant IV is based in a client’s genealogy and ancestory.  Quadrant IV asks the question ‘Are there ancestral, or pre-morbid expressions of the symptoms you carry?’.  From whom does the symptomology originate?  Often the symptomology is not biographical to the client’s lifetime but rather originates from out of their lineage.  A traumatic experience that took place generations and/or cultures before the life of the client can be passed on through the generations to manifest in the client’s life, and then it continues to be passed on in one way or another by them.  More conventional modes of therapy would miss this possibility which can be found to be quite a common occurrence.

Two basic questions used are pulling back questions that deal with either time or space:


 And what happens just before … ?


And where did that … come from?

Use of downward developing questions as in Quadrant II:

And is there anything else (about …)?

And what kind of …?

When you are working in Quadrant IV you have to roll your sleeves up and grab the client and pull them back in time because it’s not natural to go backwards, we want to go forwards.  So feel that pull in your words: ‘So what happens just before?’ and ‘Where did that come from?’.  When you get stuck revert to developing.  Pulling back considerably expands the information; like a concertina that is all jammed up.  As you pull back you get more and more history as it unfolds.

Features of Quadrant IV

Quadrant IV is the historical realm of information.  (Remember T-1 is biographical to the client’s life so it resides in Quadrant II.)

T-2 is the first bit of information you get in Quadrant IV i.e. the information about the person’s childhood before T-1.  Before the ‘cold wintry night’, there was a warm fire.

T-3 is ancestral information relating to mother, father, grandparents and great-grandparents.

T-4 gives cultural and race information.

T-5 is back to the land and immigration.

T-6 is cosmology, religion, and the nature of the universe.

pulling back

In Quadrant IV we are looking for the healing down the ancestral line to heal the T-1 situation.  In Quadrant II, in working with trauma, we are working with just the one experience. If it is only one event then it is possible to heal the one memory.  But some memories have extensive roots and we have to get at the whole thing before it can heal.  So we need to look at what might be constellated around the one experience.  If we don’t, then quite often what we have is what seems to be a great piece of work but there won’t be much change in the client’s behavior.  In Quadrant II we get one memory and one event whereas in Quadrant IV we may get 10 or 20 events that lead to the current problematic experience.  We need to clean up the whole lot.

The redemptive metaphor is discovered by pulling time back from T-1 through T-6.  This powerful healing metaphor exists prior to the history of the trauma that began in a particular problem domain. In this respect the healing process is analogous to the 9-dot problem:

To connect all of the dots with four straight lines without raising your pencil, one must go outside the problem to solve the problem:

Once discovered and developed the redemptive metaphor is invited to go to T-1 to bring about a healing (and movement to T+1).  The product of this interaction is a new metaphor which will then be ‘washed through’ all the T- experiences in the lineage to heal each one of them.  This will cause the ‘expression of the history’ to change.  In other words, the client will no longer ‘carry the baggage’ of that experience.  A healing has taken place. An annotated transcript Paul’s Fear – A Quadrant IV Intervention illustrates the process.


  1. The client locates self and the therapist in the room (or outdoors). The
    conversation then begins by the client talking. (Quadrant I)
  2. As the client describes their symptoms, likely from T-1, (QII)
  3. Eyemovements, gestures, etc. are observed and a question such as, “Whereare you going with your eyes?” is asked to locate sources of
    information in space. (QIII)
  4. Then questions that define that space and develop information are asked such as, “What’s it like?, “What kind of ____?”, and “anything else about _____?”. (QIII)
  5. For the first 2-3 sessions the client develops their ‘map’ of their
    ‘perceptual space’. As their eyes source out of different directions or
    locations (perhaps in the same direction) each location is developed.
    There may be connections between some locations. The ‘map’ becomes the ‘co-therapist’. (QIII)
  6. A key word, phrase, feeling, gesture is ‘pulled back’ in time to T-2 with
    a question such as “And where did _____come from?” or “What happened just before_____?” (QIV)
  7. Then something about that source of causation is developed downward until it reveals its information.
  8. The subject of this source is now pulled back in time, again with a
    question such as, “And where did _____ come from?” This process
    continues all the way back through T-6. Remember ‘pulling back’ is hard
    work for the therapist and the client.
  9. A ‘redemptive metaphor’ is discovered outside of the ‘problem domain’ before T-6 occurred. It is found when there are no more traumatic information sources.
  10. The ‘redemptive metaphor’ is developed in order to discover all of its resources with the same developing questions.
  11. The ‘redemptive metaphor’ is invited to go to T-1 (in QII) to heal the client’s symptoms (and the result is matured to T+1)
  12. The product of the T+1 healing is now ‘washed through’ each T- experience in turn and then back again (and again if necessary) to heal the entire ‘expression of history’ that has been problematic. This ‘problem domain’ now no longer exists. The client’s (original QIII) space has been healed (cleared).

Summary of quadrants

Quadrant I

Discussion.  Information.  Understanding.  Cognitive.  Conversational.

Quadrant II

Childhood memories, for example, we go back and get the kid out of the bedroom.  The therapist has to be there.  This quadrant contains what is biographical to the client’s life. This information is contained within the body of the client. Inner child, memories and internal metaphors.  The information is biological, somatic.

Quadrant III

The ‘big picture’, a ‘bird’s-eye-view’. Behavior is observed in order to discover and develop information sources. Behaviors, gestures, sounds the client makes, and glances are carefully observed in order to begin to define the client’s ‘psychescape’.  The map effectively becomes the co-therapist. The map can also become ‘psychoactive’ taking on a life of its own. The map will also be useful for checking to see if a healing has taken place.

Quadrant IV

We go back generations to find the healing, to find the metaphor that is just right for the healing of T-1 in Quadrant II.  The quality of the metaphor will be redemptive – it redeems the experience. In Quadrants I, II, III, every detail is worked in order to find a resolution.  In Quadrant IV the therapist has to roll up his/her sleeves and find the redemptive metaphor by using the questions that pull the client back.  The redemptive metaphor is like a magic arrow; it does all the healing work once discovered.  It is invited to move through the traumatic history, to T-1 through T to T+1 and then back through each of the generation’s rendering of the original trauma. Remember, if a trauma has extensive roots the whole thing must be identified for a true healing to take place.

The quadrants are the four realms of the problem domain.  They have the distinct features identified on the previous pages.

The four realms are useful for the processes of: identifying the true etiology of current symptomology; organizing the sometimes very complex and voluminous information; defining the linkage of true cause and effect; and, discovering a redemptive metaphor that will effectively sweep through the generations for a healing.



  • And where are you going when you go there?


Cognitive, Conversational, Discussion.  e.g. “Tell me …”


Ask of the space:

  • Anything else?
  • What kind of?”
  • That’s like what?


The information is developed by the therapist questioning and the client narrating.


– Differentiating observations from ground and memories.
– Separating T-1 memories and naming them.


The developed information is then separated by comparing and contrasting.


Follow tics, eye movements, behavior, sounds, sighs, breaths.
– Map intersects of information.
– Locate safe places in space.
– Define boundaries of information.
– Identify resources in space.
– Interim T-1, a place for information to accumulate relevant to healing.


Carrying across.
– Homework.
– Making connections.


Releasing information from space.


Interpretations, insights, training, intuitions.


– Look for linkages between places on map.
– Return fragments into body of observer.
– Don’t allow memory to run-on, pull back to stop time moving forward.


Keep purely conversational.


To map perceptual space.
– De-activate psycho-active space.


Understanding, insights.


What happens just before speech.
– Non-verbal clean language, ‘bird’s-eye-view’.


Different points-of-view to old problems or issues.



  • And where did … come from?
  • And what happens just before …?


  • What would you like to have happen?
  • When you know … how do you know?


Ask questions that pull back both space and horizontally on time, then develop information downward into moments in time to get specifics.


Ascertain the metaphor that represents the symptom:

  • Where…? x3
  • Shape or size?
  • Like what?
  • What kind of?
  • Anything else?
  • How old?
  • What could … be wearing?


Separate out generational information.
Must all be chained and linked together.


Separate 3 types of information: metaphor, memory, and ‘child within’


Must pull back through generations, culture, cosmology to a ‘redemptive metaphor’ outside of ‘problem domain’.  Persist backwards.


Move time forward toward “T”.
– Expect recapitualions of the Explosion, Implosion, or Dissociation.


Carry ‘redemptive metaphor’ to T-1 to interact and then carry resultant metaphor thru the generations three times.


Invite metaphor to go to ground to interact.


Don’t stop too soon when pulling back.
– Pulling back is hard work.


Things always go from better to worse as approach “T”


To resolve the legacy of ancestral traumas and heal T-1 in client’s life, must heal the history of cause.


– To cross over all fragments of information to T+1.
-To change affect or somatic complaints.


A redemptive source of healing that lies outside the problem domain.
– Tacit knowledge.
– Stochastic movement.
– T-1 thru T-6.
– Retrochronic.
– Archaeological time.


Clean Language. 3 types of information: inner child, memories, metaphors.
– Modifiers.
– Classification of metaphors: transportation, antibody, epistemological, etc.

Mapping: Your co-therapist

We map in Quadrant III.  The purpose is to get an overall plan, a ‘bird’s-eye-view’ rather than going down into Quadrant II straight off.  When mapping everything is puzzling at first as we do not yet have all the information.  The client maps before they go into the ‘inner child’.  After they have mapped they get some wonderful gestalts that take a sweeping look at their life.  The process is not quick or flashy but it holds over time.

The first step is to create a clean space. The client finds a place in the room where they are comfortable.  The client also determines the therapist’s location in the room.  This is so the therapist doesn’t interfere by contaminating the perceptual space of the client. By creating a clean space for the client the therapist has given the client control of his/her own perceptual space.  A client can create an escape route from an impending past, anxious situation simply by looking in a different direction.  The therapist can physically occupy a safe space for the client to return to in the present.  Now the room can disappear and the client’s experience becomes like a 3-D hologram. The quality and nature of our questions keep the experience alive.  The space becomes the third party in the room, the co-therapist if you will.  This means that not everything has to depend on the therapist alone.  When the client is being worked with in Quadrants I and II there can be no third party to assist the therapist.

In Quadrant III the task is to unpack material that is very dense and confined to one space.  Angles or lines-of-sight of the client are critical to the process of unravelling information.  Distinctly different information can be located in different directions.  It is interesting to note that no matter where a client goes or what the setting, information is usually located in the same directions or locations in relation to the client.

In Quadrant III we bless the space by clearing it up, encouraging the clients to make it just right for themselves.  Now fewer questions are necessary.  In Quadrant I the therapist keeps filling the space with words and the locus of attention is the therapist; it is conversational.  In Quadrant III the therapist makes space available and the client’s eyes go to the space that corresponds to their response.

With mapping, if you ask the question, which directs the client into the spaces, then you expect the spaces to do the work.  The spaces will gradually unfold the information.  In mapping you as the therapist are no longer alone, but you are responsible for creating the core conditions.  This involves the use of clean language.

Let’s take the phrase “I feel sad” for example.  Now a Rogerian Therapist will be working mostly in Quadrant I where words are important, where the language keeps changing all the time, where self-absorption trance state is impossible.  So, a Rogerian Therapist might respond ‘let’s explore your sadness’.  This is not clean language because it introduces the notion of exploration, which is a construct that has to do with the therapist’s view of the world, and it also changes the dance.  Also, although it might be grammatically correct to talk abut sadness, it moves the locus and changes the sound and resonance of that word.

In Clean Language, if the client uses the word “sad” then you have to construct a sentence with “sad” in it.  By keeping to these necessary conditions a context, a space, is established in which sharing is possible.  So, in Quadrant III, there is a whole shift in the therapeutic relationship; there is no transference or counter-transference, because the locus of attention is in the space.  It is the space that is going to be interrogated by the therapist and the client and there is not much going on conversationally between the two of them.  The questions are not directed to the client but rather to the space.  It’s a subtle shift in the relationship but philosophically it makes a lot of difference.

The nature of mapping is that you don’t make much progress to begin with.  But once you have all the pieces on it, once you get all the bits lined up in the right sequence, then the actual intervention is not very complicated.  The map has a self-healing quality.  It gives the person a forum within which to wrestle with their stuff so that the direction in which they go is self-motivated and self-determined.  This is very different from the model that says that if you share your feelings and you explore the sadness you won’t feel bad.  Sometimes this does work but often it doesn’t.

With mapping, all information is relevant and what you would normally have to wait to be revealed in the therapy sessions is already there. Often, the first session can be hard going to get the map established.  To begin with the information can come out a bit tenuous and strange; but after that if it retains its consistency then you can be confident in its veracity. Once you have the map going, most of the work is done outside of the sessions. Mapping is superb because you spend the first half of the next session just going over what the client has already learned for themselves.  Where they stop talking to you about their map is where the session begins.

On retraumatization

When I started my work I worked with memories.  But some people don’t have memories; they only have feelings.  This led to metaphors.  With the feelings came the ‘innerchild’.  The feelings expressed were not the feelings of the here-and-now.  They belonged to the past.  You wouldn’t be crying those tears now.  The crying comes from the past.

When those tears come from the past and you do something to comfort the person or you make direct mention of the tears, then what happens is that as you pull them out of when and where they were crying into the present.  Client’s experience a big difference between the crying ‘then’ and the crying ‘now’.  It hurts when you cry ‘now’.  But when you keep them regressed and they cry as a 6-year-old or a 12-year-old, then that’s when you can use those tears for healing instead of causing more pain and suffering.

We want to get the tears out of the kid’s eyes so that they can do something with them. We are not trying to get them out of the adult’s eyes. It makes a dramatic difference to take the tears out of the kid’s eyes and put them out in their ground or their memory as opposed to taking it out of the adult’s eyes.  Again, it’s the whole business of making sure you keep to the right tense and language. If you are wounded in the past then you need to be healed in the past. Otherwise you end up splitting a person between feelings in the past and feelings being experienced in the here-and-now.  And that’s when it really hurts and that’s when you cry very real, traumatized tears.  Usually when you split somebody between the ‘now’ and the ‘then’, it’s very hard for them to recover. It’s hard for them to get back and they are caught between those two different time zones.

So what makes metaphor work so effectively?  I think that metaphors give us an agency that allows the client to pull apart a complex piece of material and to untangle it and to look at all the different aspects of it and then the intervening of the therapist can be relatively simple. Also, mapping plays an important role as a tool that presents an overview of a sometimes very complex matrix of traumatic experience without re-traumatizing the client.

Therapy: Looking ahead

In the next century clients will be more demanding. I don’t think that it is good enough nowadays just to have the crying and to assume that there will be healing. This isn’t necessarily so. And it might be that you invest the affect even more than before you visited and then it really turns into a mess. Cry once and it’s good if there is healing; cry twice and it may be making things worse or at best there is no healing.

There seems to be in the therapy field a shift which is similar to that which has taken place in medical science long ago.  In the late 1880’s and early 1900’s the emphasis in medical science was on the descriptive process of the disease.  It was enough to identify and to describe it.  Then there was the advent of antibiotic drugs.  This caused the whole field of physical medicine to shift away from the simple descriptive to the bio-molecular description of pathology.  Thinking turned toward the germ model, to the genetic causation of disease, and to the action of drugs at that level.

In psychotherapy, we have a need to shift away from describing things to looking at the actual structure of how particular psychopathological mechanisms work.  We have to move away from just talking about issues and sharing them and trying to recover some of the information that is on the descriptive level only.  We have to shift levels to one which is a lot more ‘process orientated’ and to the actual structure and mechanism of a person’s particular pathology if there is to be a thoroughly accurate healing.


© copyright David Grove Seminars, 1998

Rob McGavock can be e-mailed at and Brenda McGavock, PhD, is a clinical psychologist who specialises in Grovian Metaphor Therapy with a private practice in Columbia, Missouri, USA.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
body * { color: inherit !important; }