Article from

These notes were first presented at The Developing Group, 6 April 2002

Perspectives to Model By
Penny Tompkins and James Lawley

Einstein's Theory of Relativity highlights that WHERE and HOW we perceive makes a difference to WHAT we perceive.  When you are Symbolic Modelling, do you perceive:

   From behind the client's eyes
   In their shoes
   Inside their skin
   As a fly on the wall
   Outside the system
   Like a cameraman
   Out of my own eyes and ears
   With my body
   By stepping into their model
   By taking on their information
   By osmosis
   By taking in information
   From a bird's-eye-view

We have noticed that people who are experienced at using Symbolic Modelling do not seem to perceive the client's information from any of the traditional NLP "Perceptual Positions":

First Position -
From within their own body, perspective and map of the world

Second Position -
From within the client's body, perspective and map of the world

Third Position -
From an independent observer perceiving the relationship between therapist and client.

So if they are not in any of these perceptual positions, where and how are they gathering information and constructing their model?  

Of course any "Perceptual Position" is only a metaphor because, as Michael Breen wonderfully informed us, "All modelling is self modelling."

The focus of this Developing Group day will be to increase your awareness of how you and others construct and work from a model based on the client's metaphors.  We will be exploring:

   When you are Symbolic Modelling:

   (a) Where is the focus of your attention?

   (b) Where do you perceive your model of the client's Landscape from?

   (c) How do you perceive your model of the organisation of that Landscape?  

Specifically, where and in what form is the client's outcome in your perceptual space?

Also, does your point of perception change during the Symbolic Modelling process, and if so, what determines when it changes and what difference does that make?

A more detailed investigation of this subject has been added at:


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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