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The Jewel of Choice - The Client's View

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

The first session facilitated the client - using her metaphors and symbols - to self-model her desired outcome and the effects of achieving that outcome.

The second session facilitated 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.

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.)

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.)

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.

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.

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

To see the full annotated transcripts of the two sessions, click on links 1 and 2 below.

Penny Tompkins & James Lawley
Penny and James are supervising neurolinguistic psychotherapists – first registered with the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy in 1993 – coaches in business, certified NLP trainers, and founders of The Developing Company.

They have provided consultancy to organisations as diverse as GlaxoSmithKline, Yale University Child Study Center, NASA Goddard Space Center and the Findhorn Spiritual Community in Northern Scotland.

Their book,
Metaphors in Mind
was the first comprehensive guide to Symbolic Modelling using the Clean Language of David Grove. An annotated training DVD, A Strange and Strong Sensation demonstrates their work in a live session. James has also written (with Marian Way) the first book dedicated to Clean Space: Insights in Space. Between them Penny and James have published over 200 articles and blogs freely available on their website:
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