The Jewel of Choice

Maintaining an outcome orientation
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First published in NLP News, Number 9, September 2004

In the first session Penny and James co-facilitate the client – using her metaphors and symbols – to self-model her desired outcome and the effects of achieving that outcome.

In the second session they co-facilitate the client to self-model the way her metaphor landscape – the embodied system of metaphors and symbols – was organised and the process by which it could evolve.

In part 3, the client gives her impressions of what happened during the Symbolic Modelling process, and what happened in the following six months.

Session 1

The following is a transcript of a 30-minute session with a participant on a Symbolic Modelling training in 2001. We wanted to demonstrate how we use Clean Language and autogenic (client-generated) metaphor to facilitate a client to self-model their desired outcome. Our purpose was threefold:

  • First and foremost, for the client to have an extended opportunity to explore what they want, and to modify their desired outcome (if necessary) in the light of their self-modelling.
  • Secondly, once some clients have a clear sense of their desired outcome they don’t need anything else, they are ready to start implementing it. Even if originally they experienced their situation as a problem, self-modelling their desired outcome can simply supersede the problem.
  • Thirdly, if that’s not the case, then facilitating the client to have an embodied sense of their desired outcome almost inevitably encourages the emergence of aspects of the system which are not ready for the outcome to happen (as happened in this case at C27 below). This makes it clear to the client (and hopefully the facilitator) what they need to attend to for the system to start to change.

To facilitate the client to self-model their desired outcome required our questions, as long as was appropriate, to maintain an orientation towards their stated outcome – even when present or past circumstances emerged (see T3, T7, T28, T30 and T32). In other words, to repeatedly invite the client to attend to their developing desired outcome. We have annotated the transcript to give you an idea of the thinking and intention behind our questions.

(NOTE: All therapist-generated words are embolden to distinguish them from the client’s words and to make it easier to see the syntax of each Clean Language question.)


Where would you like to be?

[Clients sits on the floor]

And where would you like us to be?

Penny there [points to the floor in front and to her left] and James there [points to the floor in front and to her right].

And what would you like to have happen?

Standard opening questions, inviting client to establish the spatial configuration between themself and the therapists, and then to attend to their desired outcome.
C1I did a meditation retreat. I got in touch with an ideal being. I’d like to work with her. I’d like to bring her into the world. It’s hard to bring her out. But she wants out and I want her out. 
T1And you want your ideal being out.Slightly unclean as client had said “an ideal being”.
C2Oh, I might as well put her out. [Gets drawing and puts it in front of her.] 
T2And what kind of ideal being is that ideal being?Inviting client to develop the form of (or ‘describe the qualities of’ or ‘specify the nature of’ or ‘identify the class of’ or ’embody’ etc.) the symbol named “ideal being”.
C3She’s a very strong presence. I’m a little bit scared of her. I can feel my heart skip a beat at the thought of her coming out into the world. 
T3And she’s a very strong presence and you’re a little bit scared of her and your heart skips a beat is there anything else about that ideal being?We acknowledge the client’s feelings before inviting her to continue to attend to the symbol involved in the outcome.
C4She has a lot of attributes. With her strength she’s very gentle. She’s nurturing. She has qualities related to strength. 
T4And with her strength she is very gentle, and she’s nurturing, and when she wants to come out into the world, what kind ofworld is that world?Invites client to develop the form of the context of the desired outcome named “the world” (see C1).
C5A challenging world. 
T5And a challenging world. And is there anything else about that challenging world? 
C6A world where you have to be prepared for anything to happen. I have to be on my guard as well. 
T6And a world where you have to be prepared for anything and you have to be on your guard as well. And is there anything else about that world?Continues to invite “the world” to be more fully formed. If “ideal being” is going to come out into the world, she might as well know what kind of world it is.
C7It could be so much better. 
T7And that world could be so much better. And when she wants to come out into thatworld where will she come out into that world to?The world “could be so much better” but there is no eveidence that it needs to be for the client’s outcome to be achieved, so we direct her attention to the location where her outcome will be achieved.
C8Right here [gestures with both hands in front]. 
T8And when she comes out, right here, then what happens?Invites attention to move to a time after the event “comes out” and thereby consider the effect of achieving her outcome.
C9She’ll teach me at first. She’ll protect me and I’ll learn from her. 
T9And when she teaches you, and she protects you, and you learn from her, what happens to a world?The relationship (teach, protect, learn) between “ideal being” and “me/I” has been defined, and what will be the effect on “a world”?
C10It becomes safer.
T10And as a world becomes safer, and she protects and you learn from her, what happens to you?Returning to the effects on the client.
C11I become stronger.4th repetition of the “strength/strong” metaphor (see C3 & C4) and first time it is associated with “I” rather than “she”.
T11And as you become stronger, what kind of stronger is that stronger?We can take a hint!
C12Stronger. More present. 
T12And as you become stronger and more present, you become stronger and more present like what?Inviting client to identify a metaphor or symbol that embodies these qualities.
C13I got a picture of a really strong oak tree. 
T13And is there anything else about thatreally strong oak tree?Simply keeping attention on this (presumed) resource symbol.
C14I just immediately thought how many similar qualities there are as the big strong oak tree as with her — there’s a whole naturalness. 
T14And when there’s a whole naturalness to a big strong oak tree, what happens next?Invites time to move forward again to discover the effect of the effects.
C15I got a picture of me, me climbing out of the oak tree, but I can climb back in, and go out from it.Repetition of the “out” metaphor (see C1 & C2) only this time it relates to “I” rather then “ideal being”.
T15And is there anything else aboutgoing out from it when you can climb back in?Invites client to attend to “going out” at a time when she can “climb back in” (which might be very different to an “out” with no return to “in”).
C16It’s the best of both worlds. I can go into the branches and not be seen, or come out and play, but I have always got somewhere to go back to.Ah, so there are two worlds.
T16And when it’s the best of both worlds, and you can go into the branches and not be seen, or come out and play, but you’ve always got somewhere to go back to,what happens next?Invites time to move forward again.
C17I can be more like her and I don’t seem so separate. 
T17And when you can be more like her and don’t seem so separate, then what happens? 
C18I feel much more peaceful. 
T18And when you feel much more peaceful, where do you feel much more peaceful?Inviting client to attend to the location of the feeling.
C19In here [right hand to forehead]. 
T19And in here. And when in here, whereabouts in here? 
C20Inside, just where the moon is in the drawing [touches drawing with right hand]. It takes up the same space as where the moon is. It’s a very peaceful moon. 
T20And when you feel much more peaceful in here [replicates gesture] is there anything else about that moon that‘s very peaceful?Maintaining attention on the “moon” symbol at that location when she’s feeling “more peaceful”.
C21No one knows it’s there so it can be undisturbed. 
T21So you can feel much more peaceful in here when you are closer to your ideal being because the strength of the oak tree is like the strength of the ideal being and you have the best of both worlds when she comes out, right here.Accummulating descriptions so that the client further embodies her symbolic perception.
Note: This is not completely clean as (i) the therapist had forgotten the client’s exact words “I don’t seem so separate” (C17) and used “closer” instead; and (ii) the cause-effect relationship implied by “because” is an assumption by the therapist.
T22And when there is a very peaceful moon no one knows is there, then what happens? 
C23There’s something about the choice that gives me. I can choose how to be and don’t have to be told how to be.So the peacful gives her “the choice” to “choose how to be”. However, the “something about” implies there may be information about “the choice” which is not yet available to her.
T23And you can choose how to be and don’t have to be told how to be. And when you can choose, what kind of choice is that choice?We simply invite her to attend to the attributes of “choice”.
Note: It would probably have been more elegant to have asked about the verb “choose” rather than the noun “choice”.
C24No restrictions. It’s clean. 
T24And it’s a no restrictions and clean choice. And where could that choice come from?Inviting her attntion to shift to the sourceof “choice”.
C25My stomach’s giving me a clue. I do get a lot of gut instincts. It’s a choice — not sure where it comes from. It’s just there.The “not sure” confirms she is close to the limits of her current awareness.
T25And it’s just there. And when you feel more peaceful in here [replicates gesture], and you can choose how to be, and that’s a no restrictions, clean choice, and that choice is just there, where is that choice when it’s just there?Taking lots of time to concentrateattention on that “choose/choice” before asking for its location.
C26I have an image of a really old treasure chest with a jewel. I can shut or open it. The choice is the jewel. 
T26And a really old treasure chest with a jewel. And you can shut or open it. And what kind of jewel is that jewel?By asking about “jewel” we are still concentrating on “choice”.
C27It’s a gift. It’s really pretty. It’s a gift — from my mother.A new symbol “mother” appears.
T27And it’s a really pretty gift from your mother. And is there anything else about that jewel?But before we attend to “mother”, maybe there’s something else about that “choice/jewel”.
C28I’m scared of losing it if I open it and someone takes it and then I won’t have it anymore [tears].“Scared” makes a reappearance (C3). It seems there are two choices: first to open the chest and second to choose how to be (symbolised by the jewel). But she’s in a bind: if she takes the first choice she may lose the second choice!
T28And you’re scared that if you open thatold treasure chest and someone takes that jewel that’s a gift from your mother, you won’t have it anymore. And whenyou’re scared you wont have a gift from your mother anymore, what kind of amother gives a gift like that?We take plenty of time to acknowledge “scared” and the binding pattern, but we are facilitating her to self-model her outcome, so rather than attend to the bind at this stage, we return to the giver of the jewel, “mother”.
C29[Points to drawing] My ideal being. Um-m-m-m. [Pause] That’s funny. It’s beautiful. It’s really nice to feel this way.Several indications that something just happened.
T29And it’s really nice to feel this way, and is there anything else about mother?So we simply stay with the current perception.
C30What’s so lovely is to know she’s not gone. She’s more than a jewel in a treasure chest. She needs to come out so we can have each other. Not just someone to miss.It seems mother “needs to come out” as well as “ideal being” (C1) and “I” in the “big strong oak tree” (C16).
T30You know she’s not gone. And she’s more than a jewel in a treasure chest. And she needs to come out so you can have each other. And is there anything else when she needs to come out?It’s far from clear what’s happening so we maintain her attention on the outcome “she needs to come out”.
C31I can almost hear her say, “I am so glad.” She’s been waiting patiently. 
T31And when she’s been waiting patiently what kind of patiently?Developing the potential resource by asking for attributes.
C32A lot of sadness with it because she hurts when I hurt. That sort of patience. [Pause] But she can’t do it for me. I have to find the treasure for myself. It wouldn’t be a gift if she found it. 
T32And mother has been waiting patiently for you to find the treasure for yourself. And she can’t choose for you. And she needs to come out. And then what happens when she needs to come out?(Note: Technically, “she can’t choose for you” is an assumption by the therapist, the client actually said “she can’t do it for me.”)
C33The world’s a better place. [Pause] When I look at that drawing it has all the qualities she had. 
T33So take some time to look at that drawing and to notice it has all the qualities she had, and to add whatever you’ve discovered to the drawing. And then take some time to consider what needs to happen for ideal being to come out when you’re scared of loosing the jewel that’s a gift from a mother who’s been waiting patiently for you to find the treasure for yourself – the choice to choose how to be — when an ideal being wants to come out into the world.It seems the client has gone a good way to self-modelling both her outcome – ” I’d like to bring (ideal being) into the world” – and the effects of that outcome happening. Every indication is that she still wants this to happen and that the appearance of the symbolic mother has probably strengthened her desire. So we offer the client an assignment which invites her to continue specifying her desired outcome and to begin consideringwhat needs to happen givenher current situation — that she’s scared of loosing the jewel — for her to realise her ouctome.

Analysis of Questions

Once the initial arranging of seating was complete we made 34 interventions:

Basic Developing Questions

9 x Is there anything else?
7 x What kind of?
4 x Where? or Whereabouts?
1 x Like what?

Basic Moving Time Questions

6 x Then what happens? or What happens next?
1 x Come from?

Specialised Questions

1 x What would you like to have happen?
2 x When … what happens to …?


2 x Recapping statements
1 x Recapping and assignment instruction

62% of our interventions were ‘basic developing’ questions and a further 20% were ‘basic moving-time’ questions. In all, 4 out of every 5 interventions were drawn from the 9 Basic Clean Language Questions listed in our Less is More article. And if we factor in the two statements that simply recapped information, the proportion rises to almost 90%.

Below is the concluding session with this client, followed by a commentary by the client six months later.

Session 2

The following transcript is the second and concluding session with a participant on a Symbolic Modelling training in 2001. The first session facilitated the participant to self-model their desired outcome and the effects of achieving that outcome. The second session took place on the following day and lasted 50 minutes. During the session we facilitate the participant to self-model the way their ‘system’ is currently organised (their current reality, as Robert Fritz calls it), and the process by which it evolves. 


Much of the information in the annotated comments was not consciously available to us during the session. Many of the connections only became apparent when we studied the transcript. However, we were dynamically modelling the patterns of the client’s metaphor landscape. These patterns and their inherent logic not only ‘contain’ the foreground information of which we were aware, but also ‘hold’ a vast matrix of background information.

It is our belief that although this background information may have been outside our awareness, it is available to the ‘whole system’ (i.e. the intelligence and wisdom of the combined conscious and unconscious mind-body-spirit that comprises us, the client, their metaphors, the environment and who knows what else). In other words, “The system knows.”

TWhere would you like to be [gestures around the room]? 

Same as last time.

[All sit on the floor as before.]

T34And what would you like to have happen now?Inviting client to attend to her outcome for the session.
C35I feel quite excited. I would like to just try it out a bit. She feels so prepared and I’m still holding on to her a bit. So to try it and see what it’s like. 
T35And when you would like to just try it out a bit, what is ‘it’?Checking we are all still working to the same outcome.
C36I would like to see what it’s like to have a mother in the world. For it not to be separate. I would like to mother myself.Apparently her outcome has evolved and incorporated her insights from session 1.
T36And you would like to see what it’s like to have a mother in the world. To not be separate and to mother yourself. And what needs to happen for you to mother yourself?A specialised clean question that invites the client to specify the necessary conditions for her outcome to be achieved.
C37To not be so hard on myself. To actually have fun. Not to be self-conscious. To be a friend to myself.Four conditions identified.
T37And when you would like not to be so hard on yourself, and actually have fun, and be a friend, is there anything else you need to mother yourself?Are there more than four conditions? She might as well know them all up front.
C38It’s all wrapped up. Like being wrapped up and protected, so things that happen in the world don’t hurt so much.This is consitent with session 1: when ideal being comes out in to the world “She’ll protect me” (C9).
T38And when being wrapped up and protected so things don’t hurt so much, that’s wrapped up and protected like what?Inviting the metaphor into form.
C39It’s having my bubble — my space. It’s pink. I can choose who comes into that space and who doesn’t. 
T39And having your bubble, your space, andpink, and when you can choose who comes into that space and who doesn’t, where is that choose?We chose to ask her to attend to “choice” because it was central to session 1, “The jewel is the choice” (C26).
C40It’s my gut instinct. I rely on it or get hurt.Almost the same reply as C25 of session 1.
T40And when it’s your gut instinct you rely on or get hurt, whereabouts is that gut instinct?Continuing to locate “choice” — now also know as “gut instict”.
C41It’s in here [touches abdomen]. I do rely on it a lot. 
T41And when choose is your gut instinct,does it have a size or a shape?It is ‘clean’ to ask this question here because usually an “it” refers to a (metaphorical) thing, and things have a size or a shape.
C42I’ve met this little character before. How to describe him? A bit like Yoda in a way. When I discovered him before, lizard-like, yellow teeth and trying to get me. I’d locked him away. Now I do listen more to my gut instinct because he saved my life — literally. It was so horrible that I threw it all into the cave [gestures off to the left ]. I didn’t mean to throw him in too, but I did. I want to get in touch with that part because it’s, it’s very strong.She ends with a new (sub)outcome: “I want to get in touch with that part”. Note this part has the attribute “strong” which featured strongly in session 1 (C3-C4 and C11-C14).
T42And when you didn’t mean to throw Yoda in the cave too, where is Yoda now?Is Yoda in the cave or her gut?
C43Right now he’s here [gestures next to her, on the right] because he’s very inquisitive and knows he’s being talked about.Neither, and now we know he moves about!
T43And when he’s here, and very inquisitive, is there anything else about Yoda and gut instinct? 
C44He’s a bit of a cave dweller. His instincts I trust completely. It’s the only thing I completely trust in the world.Confirms the significance of Yoda’s “instincts” as a resource and introduces another, “trust”, especially as it applies in the context of her outcome, “in the world.”
T44And when you trust Yoda’s instincts completely, what would Yoda like to have happen?Inviting her to attend to his intention.
C45For us to be proper friends again. Really, not just sometimes reliable, but all the time. To be a part of my life.Remember one of the four conditions (C37) was “To be a friend to myself.”
T45And Yoda would like for you to be proper friends again. And can you be proper friends, and can Yoda be part of your life?Maybe it can just happen.
C46Yeah, but he was very very pissed off when I threw him away. I think he understands now why that had to happen. It wasn’t meant personally.Yes, but …
T46And he was very very pissed off, but it wasn’t meant personally. And Yoda would like to be friends. 
C47Yeah. He’s checking, but yeah, definitely. He’s making me suffer a bit for it! 
T47And how long do you need to suffer before Yoda and you can be friends?A specialised clean question that utilises the inherent logic of the metaphor: if Yoda wants them to be “proper friends” we can expect there will be a time when he stops “making me suffer.”
C48It’s like it’s his decision and not mine. That’s part of the game, part of making me suffer. But soon I think. It’s been long enough. 
T48And it’s been long enough, and Yoda wants to be proper friends again, and you trust Yoda’s instincts completely, and you listen more to your gut instinct. And what are you listening to when you are not listening to your gut instinct?This backtracks her attention to a previous statement (C42) and then constructs a clean question that utilises the inherent logic of the metaphor: If she “listens more” to her gut instinct there must be occassions when she does not, and is presumably listening to something else.
C49My fear. He is quite mischievous. He can get me into trouble. I’m afraid if I give him a full clean rein I could get into trouble.She trusts his instincts completely (C44) and yet “He can get me into trouble” — potentially a binding pattern.
T49And when you aren’t listening to your gut instinct you’re listening to your fear,and what kind of fear is that fear? 
C50Unless I have in place the protection — the bubble — which I am starting to feel from my mother, then I won’t be safe.A reiteration of the necessary condition specified at C38
T50And what’s the first thing that needs to happen for that bubble to be in place?

Inviting client to attend to the conditions under which the “protection/bubble” will occur.

(Note: Better to have asked about the “next thing” rather than the “first thing” as she has just said she is “starting to feel” the protection/bubble.)

C51I need to retreat and sit quietly with my mother and listen and learn to pick up the bits that hadn’t been tied up.Again four conditions.
(Note her previous references to “bits” in C35, C42, C44 and C47.)
T51And when you need to retreat, and sit quietly with mother and listen and learn to pick up the bits, you need to retreat to where?Lots of new metaphors, so revert to the basics of identifying a symbol’s location – its address in the Metaphor Landscape.
C52To the moon.First mentioned in session 1, C20-C21.
T52And you need to retreat to the moon. And then what happens? 
C53I’m far enough from everyone. Then it’s just her and me. 
T53And when you listen and learn, and canpick up the bits, what kind of bits are those bits you can pick up?Returning to pick up unexplored bits from C51.
(Note: Unnecessary use of the word “can” – twice!)
C54There were so many unfinished bits when she died. I want to be complete somehow.An additional (or restated) outcome.
T54And there were so many unfinished bits when she died. And where are unfinished bits now, that you need to pick up when you want to be complete somehow?Locatng where the “bits” are now.
C55It’s like my pink bubble is a balloon that burst. There are ragged pieces. I don’t know how to make it a balloon again. I can’t go with my gut instincts without it. 
T55And you don’t know how to make it a balloon again. And is there anyone else who knows how to make it a balloon again?Again constructing a question that makes use of the logic in the metaphor: even though “I” doesn’t know, another symbol might know (especially as ideal being, mother and Yoda are available).
C56It’s the Yoda with his hand in the air jumping up and down. It’s chicken and egg. I have to listen to my gut instinct in order to give it free rein, but I can’t give it free rein knowing the trouble its caused me. If I rely on mother as an external part, I will always be relying on her. She has to teach me.

The client has self-modelled the bind that first appeared at C49 and identified an extra dimension: The solution to “rely on mother” only means she will be constrained to “always be relying on her.” This seems like a confirmation of the conclusion she came to at the end of session 1: mother “can’t do it for me” (C32).

Although mother may well be able to teach her to rely on herself, that doesn’t necessarily resolve the bind.

T56And when it’s chicken and egg, then what happens?“Chicken and egg” is her name for the bind and refers to all the components and relationships encompassed by the pattern. This question invites the client to notice how she responds to being in her binding pattern.
C57There must be a way. My perception is that it’s ragged, but I have a sense I do have a space that’s around me. People can see it. I don’t know why I don’t trust it’s there.Note the reappearance of “trust” (C44) and the presupposition that if she did trust she wouldn’t be in the bind.
T57And you have a space around you, and people can see it. And you don’t know why you don’t trust it’s there. And what kind of trust could that trust be? 
C58Um-m-m. A trust that was taken away from me when I threw Yoda in the cave.She doesn’t trust because it was taken away from her. Presumably she needs it back.
T58And where is that trust now?Location
C59In the cave. 
T59And whereabouts in the cave?Location
C60Very deep in the cave. 
T60And trust is very deep in the cave. And is there anything else about very deep in that cave where that trust is?Location
C61It’s, m-m-m [sigh]. There’s this figure there I have always been really really scared of that’s holding it.Reappearance of “scared” (session 1, C3 and C28), except this time she has “always been really really” scared.
T61And what kind of figure is that figure that’s holding it? 
C62I know who he is. I’m really pissed off he’s still there. I’m less scared. I’m angry with him. I’ve done so much work on this and now I just want it over. 
T62And when you’re pissed off and angry and just want it over, what would helike to have happen?Identifying his intention.
C63[Pause] I don’t know if I can give it to him. He wants forgiveness. 
T63And he wants forgiveness. And you don’t know if you can give it to him. And what kind of forgiveness is that forgiveness?Developing the potential new resource “forgiveness” while acknowledging that she doesn’t know if she can give it to him.
C64I was going to say a long time coming. Actually it seems a small price to pay to get my trust back after all these years. I’m like Yoda. I don’t want him to know when I am going to give it. To make him suffer.The client is self-modelling the repeating pattern of relationships in the Landscape.
T64And where does your wanting to make him suffer come from, when it means he doesn’t give you your trust back?Attending to the source of her “want … to make him suffer” when doing so results in her not getting her trust back!
C65From when he annihilated my world. He burst the bubble. He made me suffer, suffer since I was 9 years old.First use of “my” world.
T65And he’s been holding on to your trust for a long time deep in that cave. And now he wants your forgiveness to give your trust back. And you want to make him suffer. And he wants forgiveness. And he has your trust. And when that’s how it is, what would you like to have happen?Given current reality, what’s her desired outcome?
C66For him to come out of the cave so I can see what he looks like. He’s probably not that scary. But I’m not going in there!A new outcome: She would likehim “to come out”. (Note Session 1 was all about Ideal Being, Mother and Yoda coming out.) And she recognises he’s “probably” not that scary.
T66And you want him to come out of the cave. And what does he want? 
C67Probably to come out too. It’s not a nice place in there. 
T67And what needs to happen for him to come out of that cave?Asking for the necessary conditions to achieve their (probable) joint outcome.
C6868He only knows the cave. But Yoda knows the cave. I’d trust him in there. He doesn’t want to, but he is willing to go. I would go with Yoda to a half-way point. 
T68And you would go with Yoda to a half-way point. And what kind of point is a half-way point?Attending to the boundary that now marks how far she is prepared to go.
C69It evens things up a bit. It’s not just for me to forgive. 
T69And when you would go with Yoda to that half-way point, what happens to the man in the cave?She’s prepared to go to a half-way point, and what difference does that make to him?
(Note: “…what happens to him in the cave?” would have been cleaner.)
C70He’s a bit scared what I will do to him now. 
T70And he’s a bit scared. And what kind ofscared is that scared?Developing the attributes of the new symbol, his “scared”.
C71It’s paralysing. 
T71And when his scared is paralysing, where is that scared?Locating the symbol.
C72In his feet. 
T72And in his feet. And is there anything else about his feet when paralysing scared? 
C73They’re stuck in the muddy back of the cave. 
T73And what kind of mud is that mud in the back of the cave?Developing the context “mud” for his stuck feet.
C74All his dirt and filth. 
T74And where could that mud come from? 
C75From what he did to me. He definitely wants to come out too.Now he definitely wants to come out, but he’s stuck by what he did to her. So how is she going to get her trust back?
T75And he definitely wants to come out too. And when he wants to come out too, then what happens? 
C76[Pause] I’m fighting it, but I feel a bit sorry for him. I want my trust back more than I want him to suffer. 
T76And is feeling sorry for him the same or different as forgiving?This specialised clean question invites the client to compare the two symbols and notice whether they are essentially the same experience. And if not, to recognise the difference.
C77They’re very linked. One has to come before the other. 
T77And what kind of link is that link between feeling sorry for him and forgiving?An alternative and probably more logical question would have been “And which one has to come first?”. Instead we invited her to attend to the relationship, “link”.
C78A time link. 
T78And a time link. And what kind of time is that time? 
C79A time link like a jig saw or a domino link. I am holding the domino of sorry [indicates she is holding the domino in right hand]. Even with all the work I’ve done on this I’ve held on to this domino. I need to just put it there. [Pause then ‘puts’ domino in front of her.] It’s not so difficult to do now.

Note the parallels between her “holding” the domino, and her “still holding on to” mother (C35) and the figure in the cave “holding” her trust (C61).

Until this moment she has been in the domain of “would like to” and “needs to”. When she ‘puts’ the domino “there” she enacts a change and, as often happens, discovers “it’s not so difficult”.

T79And now you’ve put domino there, then what happens?Immediately a change occurs we invite her to mature the change to the Landscape by evolving time forward.
C80It’s almost like that’s the package I leave on the mid-way point and it’s up to him. It’s like an exchange.
T80And can you leave that package at that mid-way point?We follow her shift from what ‘needs to’ happen, to what “can” happen. (Note: “can” is deliberate in this question, unlike T53.)
C81Yes, if I can get my trust back. It’s whether I can trust him [pause]. I think he wants to [pause]. I’ll leave the sorry. He leaves the trust.Yes, if … She needs her trust back to resolve the “chicken and egg” paradox (C56). But to do this she has to trust that the figure who annihilated her world at 9 will give her her trust back — another paradox.
T81And it’s whether you can trust him to leave your trust. And when you’ll leave the sorry and he’ll leave the trust, what happens to forgiveness?First, we acknowledge the paradox. Then we invite her to attend to the other end of the “link” (C77) just after the choice to trust.
C82Forgiveness starts building the bubble. It’s pink. 
T82And is there anything else that needs to happen for you to leave that package at the mid-way point and to trust he will give your trust back?

Checking if there are any more conditions and thereby directing attention to just before the choice to trust.

Asking questions about ‘just after ‘and ‘just before’ keeps her attention near to the choice point but not directly on it. We want her to have plenty of time to consider a decision that may change the way she has organised her perceptions for the last 30 years.

C83Yeah. It’s time. It’s time and I need to move on. My gut instinct is saying to me ‘yes he will do it’. And I’m not doing it on my own. I’m going to the half-way point with Yoda. 
T83And is there anything else that needs to happen when your gut instinct is saying ‘yes, he will do it’?Having waited all this time to “move on” she can do one last check.
T84And when your gut instinct is saying ‘yes’, take all the time you need to go to the half-way point with Yoda, and to leave the package, and to trust he’ll give you back your trust, and for him to notice what happens to mud, and for you to notice [pause] what happens next.Now that we have the go ahead, we slowly recap each of the “what needs to happen’s” in the order specified, and then (with metaphorical fingers crossed!) just wait.
C85[Long pause.] The cave isn’t such a bad place. I’m glad I didn’t have to go all the way there. Yoda’s good company anyway. I can get a sense. I don’t really want to look at him. Something is dissolving in the back of the cave. I don’t feel so scared. 
T85And something’s dissolving in the back of the cave and you don’t feel so scared. And then what happens?Changes are occuring to both the perceived, “back of the cave” and the perceiver, “I don’t feel so scared.” This is a signal to continue maturing the changing Lanscape — a process that had been interupted at C81 by “Yes, if…”
C86I’m curious to see what he looks like after all this time.Another change to the perceiver.
T86And when you’re curious, then what happens? 
C87I’m glad I’ve got Yoda with me. I can see a figure coming towards me. He’s wrapped a package quite nice really. He’s tied lovely bows on it. I haven’t really bothered with mine. He’s just a normal person. He’s just normal. Nothing special. He just looks like anyone. 
T87And as he comes towards you with that package tied with lovely bows, what happens next?He’s “wrapped” a package. At C38 she wanted to be “wrapped up and protected” in her pink bubble. It might have been a nice touch to ask: “And what kind of lovely bows?” just in case they were pink! But rather than interupt the flow of events we simply keep time moving forward.
C88He’s giving it to Yoda.David Grove says that a point of contactbetween symbols signals the ‘carring across’ or ‘transferring’ or ‘exchanging’ of ‘information’ or ‘resources’ or ‘essence’.
T88And as he’s giving it to Yoda, then what happens? 
C89I give him my package.Another point of contact.
T89And then what happens? 
C90There’s a sweet smell.The result of the two points of contact is a new metaphor …
T90And what kind of smell is that sweet smell?… which we pause to develop …
C91It’s like springtime.… into a new context …
T91And when sweet smell is like springtime, and Yoda has the package with your trust and he [look over to her left] has the package with your sorry for him, then what happens?… before continuing to evolve time.
C92We go our separate ways and that’s it. 
T92And when you go your separate ways, in which direction does he go?Attending to his “direction” either develops the new relationship of “separate” (so that it is as ‘real and alive’ as the previous connectedness), or provides an opportunity for another part of the system to react against the separating of the ways.
C93I don’t know and I don’t care.OK — we get the message!
T93And as you go your separate ways andYoda has your trust, then what happens? 
C94My mother’s at the entrance of the cave and she’s so happy for me [tears]. 
T94[Pause.] And mother’s so happy for you. And then what happens? 
C95She gives me a big hug.A third point of contact.
T95And she gives you a big hug, and then what happens? 
C96[Pause.] It’s like we all — Yoda, mother and me — are in my pink bubble. We can go out in the springtime where there are pink blossoms.

Another indicator of significant change is the crossing of a boundary or threshold between “worlds” (C36, C38, C44, C65), in this case, marked by the entrance to the cave. She leaves the current world to go into the cave, and by the time she comes out, things have changed – it’s “springtime”.

Paradoxically, the client had to go “in” the cave to get her trust back, before mother could be “in” her pink bubble and “go out” in the springtime. This enacted the client’s outcome in Session 1, “she needs to come out so we can have each other” (C30).

T96And when he has given you your trust back, and you go your separate ways, and a mother’s hug, and a sweet smell of spring time with pink blossoms [pause], what happens to a jewel that gives you choice?Consolidating the newly forming landscape by recapping the changes before asking her to notice if the effect of the changes have spread to an unmentioned symbol — the jewel (See Session 1).
C97I am the jewel [pause]. It’s all part of what fills the atmosphere of the balloon. My heart’s really fluttering. It’s waking up. It’s gone really funny [laughs]. 
T97[Long pause.] And when you are the jewel, and heart is really fluttering,where is your trust?Both checking and developing.
C98All around, inside. It’s in the space. It’s my choice whether people come in or go out. 
T98And when your trust is around, inside, and it’s your choice whether people come in or go out, is there anything else you need in relation to that ideal being you wanted to come out?Has she achieved her original outcome (C1)?
C99She’s out. I can still go in. I don’t have to be out all the time. It’s really up to me. I have the choice.Yes!
T99And take all the time you need, to know what it is like to have the choice, to be in or out [pause], now that heart is waking up [pause], and you are that jewel [pause], and you, mother and Yoda are in your pink bubble [pause], and trust is all around [pause], and it’s sweet smelling springtime [pause].More consolidaing by accummulating descriptions of the changed Landscape.
C100I’ve got my trust. It’s a trust that is tempered with Yoda who can vet things and I can trust that. 
T100And I expect you’ll enjoy getting to know more about that trust that you can trust.Returning to everyday conversation by reverting to a regular voice tone, making a statement and bringing in the “I” of the therapist.
C101Thank you both very much. And thank you everybody.

Analysis of Questions

Once the first change occurred – the client “put” the domino “there” (C79) – the remaining third of the session involved Maturing Changes (Stage 5 of the ‘5 Stage Process’). Just over half of the last 20 questions were ‘moving time forward’ questions which invite the client to attend the effect of each change as it happens.

Part 3

In the following, the client in the two ‘Jewel of Choice’ transcripts gives her impression of what happened during the Symbolic Modelling process facilitated by Penny Tompkins and James Lawley, and what has happened in the six months since.

Reading through the transcript of my journey within this foreign yet strangely familiar metaphorical landscape, I am struck by how much has changed since my two sessions with Penny and James.

The wonderful thing is that these changes seem to have happened in spite of myself and did not appear to be due to any conscious effort on my part. That may sound at first as if I am abdicating all choice to my unconscious, but I see it more as a working partnership.

When Penny and James asked the group if anyone would like to volunteer for a live demonstration, I casually looked about the room to see who it would be. What happened was not expected, I felt the flick of my pen as my hand jerked away from my body. I hoped that nobody saw, but as if in some auctioneer’s hall, my bid was not to go unnoticed.

I hadn’t the faintest idea what ‘issue’ was to be aired, but had to trust that something in me had presented itself as ripe and ready to be resolved. I was fortunate as it turned out, that I did already have a starting point, with the drawing I had made on a silent retreat I had been on a couple of weeks before. This Ideal Being was certainly making her presence felt and with her help, I was about to be introduced to my Symbolic World. (See drawing A.)

Drawing A: Ideal Being – from a meditation, showing qualities of Truth (sword), Receptivity (open hand), Mothering and Open Heartedness (baby at breast), Beauty (sitting on Lotus), Gentleness (deer), Clear-sightedness (hawk), Detachment / Cutting away the extraneous (knife)

Session One 

The session started with a choice, as in where would I like to sit and where would I like to place Penny and James. This, together with what I felt was the very supportive energy of the group, gave me a feeling of safety and the necessary level of control over the direction the session might take. As it happened my conscious self very quickly gave the driving wheel over to my unconscious, which seemed to be much more familiar with the terrain.

Every question asked seemed to be like headlights on my vehicle, that illuminated different aspects around me in such a way that there was no concern that my ‘imagination’ would not be up to the journey. What was surprising to me was how quickly I became fully immersed in what was being revealed. What I mean by that is how all of me was present, so that instead of simply observing, I was having real emotional and physical responses as we went along.

It was also very clear how events in my life had been translated into their symbolic counterparts and now had a life of their own in this world. This was particularly apparent to me in what has been highlighted as C28 in the transcript. The ‘scared’ of losing it (the jewel given to me by my mother) was a very real fear as it took me back to when, soon after my mother’s death, burglars got into my bedroom and stole every piece of jewellery my mother had ever given me.

The session however gave me back a priceless gift. I really felt that in some way my mother was returned to me and that the attributes assigned to her as my Ideal Being, were somehow now being mirrored in me. (See drawing B.)


Drawing B: Sketch of jewel in treasure chest, and me in yellow, protected by my mother figure in red. The moon shining on us for peace and safety.The Oak tree at the border of the two worlds, the sun shining to show the ‘outside’ world (more exposed).

I can see now how ready I was to complete a whole picture from the many fragments I had worked on in therapy for a number of years.

Thankfully this previous work had allowed me a certain sense of familiarity with some of the figures in my landscape. I found this particularly useful when I met again the Yoda-like character who represented my gut instincts, as the great level of trust needed to follow him into the cave had to have been built up over time. I recognised him from a therapy session I had years ago, where he was a spindly, wizened up little creature with yellow teeth and bad breath.

I had wandered into a cave full of skeletons and found that I couldn’t get out the way I had come in. I was aware then of something in my peripheral vision skipping around me.


Drawing C: The scene as it was, where I was stuck in the mud of the past, even though I was aware that the present and the future are glorious. The nine year old me had to be released from a state where she had simply given up.

When my therapist asked if I could face it, I turned and saw this grotesque imp hissing at me. When I finally found a passage out of the cave the imp tried to impair my route, until I yanked his foot and found freedom.

It was in a session that followed a few weeks later that I found out who this character was. In a Gestalt exercise, I enacted being in dialogue with this creature and we found ourselves sitting with our backs to each other.

My imp was fuming and told me how angry he was that I had thrown him into the cave, leaving him to starve and wither from the lack of light in this dark, dark place. This was his reward for saving my life. I realised that it was my gut instinct that had blown in my ear when I was a nine year old child paralysed with fear whilst a stranger on a ship molested me. Suddenly alerted, I found myself running for my life, pushing through all the grown-ups in the kitchen to safety. The window of opportunity to tell my parents was too small and the moment was quickly lost. I was trapped on this ship for another two weeks with this faceless abuser, but told no one of it until 21 years later. My way of dealing with the whole experience was to throw it away into the cave that was the back of my mind; unfortunately I also threw away my impish, trusting and childlike behaviour. (See drawing C.)

Session Two

I was asked if I wanted to carry on the next day and again something in me was very excited about the prospect. What happened in the 50 minutes that followed was extraordinary;

Through the use of Symbolic Modelling, my session with Penny and James re-established my relationship with my imp, which had grown older and wiser as he appeared now as Yoda. I also saw that I held the choice of releasing the now far less powerful figure of the abuser with the ‘feeling sorry for’ domino.

Drawing D: Feet showing two states: Right foot with anchor and green grass to ‘stay put’ / Left foot wanting to explore, full of curiousity – both aspects needed for balance.

Once the Trust/Sorry exchange had taken place (C89) I was amazed at the immediacy of the change in me, heralded by the sweet smell of Springtime.

I had my protective pink bubble again together with my gut instinct which would allow me to choose who or what I can trust.

And now…

The shift in me since the two sessions has been great. Now, if I do think back to the ship incidence, instead of feeling angry and unclean, I have no emotional attachment to the event at all. With my protection and trust back I feel more mature and more like an adult (well I am only 40 after all), able to stand up for myself and have my own say. I walk with my head up now, where before I always cast my eyes to the pavement, to use invisibility as my protection from the harsh world outside.

However the BIGGEST change of all is that exactly a month after the sessions I became pregnant!

With so many issues resolved within my 2nd Chakra (stomach/gut area) and the psychological plea to ‘mother myself’ voiced, it seems that the way was clear for me to receive the gift of motherhood.

I found Symbolic Modelling of immense help to me, freeing up energy that had previously been locked up in double-binds, disowned sadness and loss. That energy is available to me now according to the inherent logic of the metaphorical system. Through this, I feel that I have a better understanding of my world and the choices available to me – I am so glad that I ‘volunteered’.

November 2001

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