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First published in Rapport, journal of the Association for NLP (UK), Issue 52, Summer 2001

Report on the French NLP Congress 2001

XI ème NLPNL Congrès - Paris - January 27-28, 2001

James Lawley

The annual Conference of NLPNL, the French equivalent of the ANLP, took place on January 27-28, 2001 in Paris. I was fortunate enough to attend as one of the speakers and this article is a description of the format and content of the weekend.

The way the Conference is organised is different to its British cousin. Firstly, three presentations were given to the entire conference of about 120 delegates. This year, as all the speakers were English or American, each presentation was translated. In addition, there were a number of group activities which encouraged the delegates to share their experiences and to create an atmosphere of community.

The Conference was opened by the President, Dr. Jean-Gérard Bloch. Penny Tompkins and I were the first to speak, and it was both an honour and, since we had never been translated before, unknown territory. Fortunately we had the delightful and experienced Aude Limet translating and we soon established a rapport and rhythm.

Our presentation was entitled "Metaphors of Change". We introduced the idea and methodology for facilitating a person to self-model their own metaphors using David Grove's Clean Language, a process we call Symbolic Modelling. Being translated was relatively simple while we were describing the process. It got more complex once the demonstration started. I facilitated an English-speaking Frenchwoman in English while Penny meta-commented on the process and Aude translated all three of us! The effectiveness of Clean Language relies on the accuracy with which the client's words are utilised by the facilitator. This was graphically illustrated when the demonstration subject unexpectedly began questioning Aude's translation of her metaphors!

As often happens, the participants got a real sense of how the process works when they experienced it from the 'client's' perspective during the exercise. Once a person's Metaphor Landscape (the perceptual space around and within them which is populated by their symbols) becomes psychoactive and they have an embodied experience of the significance of their metaphors, they learn the value of self-modelling.

In the afternoon Joseph O'Connor presented "The Myth of the Well-Formed Outcome" in which he introduced some principles from system's thinking into the traditional NLP outcome elicitation technique. For example, he had the participants discover what happens when a 'random element' is impacts on an outcome. Each delegate threw a die to determine which of six questions or statements (prepared by Joseph) they should select and consider in relation to their outcome. There was an air of anticipation and excitement as participants scurried to discover their random element and then to reflect in groups on the meaning and difference it made.

On Saturday evening there followed a highly creative process of reflection and synthesis. The participants divided into groups of five or six in which they described their overall experience of the day. Then each group created a metaphor encompassing all of their descriptions, which they presented to the other delegates. A professional storyteller, Claire Descamps, who had been observing the Conference, took note of these metaphors and created an impromptu story incorporating every group's contribution. An entrancing end to the day ... except it wasn't. The group had to accomplish one more activity ... the Conference dinner.

On Sunday morning Dr. Don Beck from the USA introduced us to 'Spiral Dynamics'. Don, not an NLP'er, has developed his model from the work of Clare Graves and it is aligned with the ideas of Ken Wilber. In very simplified form, Spiral Dynamics proposes that individuals and societies develop in a natural progression of values and world views. If NLP were to incorporate the ideas of Spiral Dynamics it would mean taking into account the developmental nature of personal and cultural evolution. This could be a stretch for some NLP'ers because it proposes that not all values and beliefs are equally evolved and therefore some 'maps' are 'higher' and more advanced than others "since they encompass greater complexity in their value codes. They are not better or more worthy of respect. Each new map must, in Ken Wilber's words, 'transcend but include' all those who came before, and anticipate those on the horizon."

Don is not only a theoretician; he is actively involved in using Spiral Dynamics for cultural change. He was invited to No. 10 Downing Street in a search for ways to implement 'Third Way' initiatives in the UK and abroad. He has discussed racial issues with President Bill Clinton and reconciliation strategies with President Nelson Mandela.

In summary, the Conference was an uplifting, thought-provoking and thoroughly enjoyable experience for me. Apart from being held in one of the world's most beautiful cities, our hosts' gracious hospitality and the participant's willingness to learn combined to create a memorable weekend. We are indebted to Jennifer de Gandt of NLP Sans Frontiers for inviting us, translating our hand-outs, and generally looking after us, Joseph and Don.

One of the Conferences' key aims was the creation of an NLP community spirit and President, Jean-Gérard told me that he would like to foster greater links between the NLPNL and ANLP. I hope this happens and France and Britain further develop a European NLP Community.

James Lawley is co-author of Metaphors in Mind: Transformation through Symbolic Modelling. For access to over 50 articles and for details about how to order your copy of the book, visit



Jennifer de Gandt:

Joseph O'Connor:

Don Beck:

James Lawley

James LawleyJames Lawley offers psychotherapiy to individuals and couples, and coaching, research and consultancy to organisations. He is a co-developer of Symbolic Modelling and co-author (with Penny Tompkins) of Metaphors in Mind: Transformation through Symbolic Modelling, (with Marian Way) Insights in Space: How to use Clean Space to solve problems, generate ideas and spark creativity and an Online training in Clean Language and Symbolic Modelling. For a more detailed biography see about us and his blog.

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