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C101 [Laughs]  It’s in there, in there with the others [points to heart].

F101 Is it inside the wrapping?
Cleaner to ask: "Is it inside or outside the wrapping?"
C102 The truth is in there.

F102 What kind of truth is that truth that’s in there? Your truth?

C103 Some things you know to be true.

F103 And this is a know to be true.

C104 Yes, I know this to be true.  Not negotiable. Some things are not negotiable. This is one of them.
F104 So it’s not negotiable from your side. And they’re telling you to stay out of it from their side.  In fact they’re unified on that. So when that’s your truth, and it’s not negotiable, what would you like to have happen?
Recap current reality and then put the ball once again back in the client's court (see F30, F33, F43, F56, F89, F90).
C105 I’d like them to reconcile.
Back to square 1 for the forth time (see C31, C74, C97).
F105 I know that’s the like you’d want, the want inside the wrapping, inside the heart, and the fact is you want that, that’s what you’d like, that’s what your identity is invested in, and who I would see myself as ... [interrupted]
James shows a bit of frustration and uncleanly brings in his own "I". (Is this an example of 'parallel processing' with James' emotional reaction to the session reflecting the client's reaction to her situation?)
C106 A failure.
Ouch. The frustration turns to compassion as the client bears her pain.
F106 So you’d see yourself as a failure. So whereabouts is the self you’d see as a failure? How far away or close is that self?

C107 The longer it goes on the harder it gets and that self gets closer.
An escalating feedback loop.
F107 Hence the urgency.

C108 Hence the urgency.

F108 And that self is getting closer.

C109 The failed self.
F109 So how close is that self at the moment?
'Going live'.
C110 The failed self?

F110 Yes.

C111 Not very far.

F111 Whereabouts is not very far?

C112 Do you mean in meters?

F112 I’ll take any measurement.

C113 It’s just hovering over there [head points over left shoulder].
For the first time, a symbol is not in the heart but outside the body. Note it is "hovering" like the "cloud" (C25).
F113 Hovering over there [head points] and it’s been getting closer.  Anything else about the hovering of that failed self?

C114 It just follows me around.
F114 It follows you around and gets closer.

C115 Yes.

F115 And is there anything else when that failed self is hovering and getting closer and following you around. Is there anything about all of that?

C116 I think that about covers it.

F116 And when that failed self is hovering, and getting closer and following you around, what would you like to have happen?
Same approach as F30, F33, F43, F56, F89, F90, F104.
C117 [Laughs]

F117 I know you’d like them to reconcile ...
C118 I wouldn’t dare say that again! I would like to stop caring about it.
Same Remedy as C8 and C75.
F118 About?

C119 About my sense of their need to reconcile.

F119 You’d like not to care about it.  And what would that self [points over her left shoulder] like to have happen when it’s hovering and following you around?
Does the client know what the other self would like? As David Grove said, we should be 'equal information employers'.
C120 That self? [pause, body shifts and rocks] I don’t know.

F120 What just happened?
Another way to 'go live'. (see F109)
C121 What just happened? [Smile] What makes you think something just happened? [Pause]  I have a sense of that self being about to pounce. [Turns whole body left and points behind her] If I don’t keep my eye on it. It’s just waiting. Waiting for the axe to fall.
In answer to the client's question James just smiled. It is best not to answer a question like this because of the possibility of being diverted away from something important.
F121 So there’s an axe.  And it’s waiting for the axe to fall.

C122 [Laughs] It adds new meaning to ad nauseam.
This meta-comment went over our heads at the time! But maybe she is learning from her own repetition – "ad nauseam"
F122 So it’s about to pounce.

C123 I have a sense of urgency. Unless this gets resolved, the failed self will wrap itself around me and that will be the new me. I suppose that’s what I’m resisting. That sense of failure. It’s just all about telling myself that they can do whatever they want to do and that’s their choice.  That’s the path that they choose and if they live to regret it then – everyone makes his own experience. I don’t believe that.
"wrap" again (C24, C95, C96). "resisting" confirms our intuition (at F3, C8, F34, C100) – and now we have the client's metaphor for it.

Back to square 1 yet again.
F123 That everyone makes their own experience.

C124 Yes, I do believe that.
We could have asked 'How do you know you believe that?' since "I don't believe that" has been emphasised before (C86 & C123).
F124 Which bit don’t you believe?

C125 That intervention isn’t a better way. I’ve confessed that I was interventionist by nature.

F125 And they’ve asked you not to be. They’re united in that respect. And they’re resisting.
Not too clean here, projecting her "resisting" on to the children in an attempt to reiterate current reality yet again.
C126 They don’t know what I know. They’re young.  They haven’t had the life experience. They don’t know how important this is. They think it’s just [shakes head and shrugs] how it is. 2008 and 2009.

F126 No, they don’t know. Even though you’ve intervened.
Keeping current reality in the forground.
C127 I’ve tried.

F127 They still don’t know ...
And again.
C128 That’s right

F128 So what’s happening to that self over there now?
Keeping it live and in-the-moment.
C129 She’s hovering. She’ll pounce as soon as I say ‘Ah, what the hell. It’s their lives, let them get on with it.'  [Pause] Unless I accept it. Truly accept it. And change my sense of who I am.
Another part of the bind: If she let's them get on with it, failure will pounce and wrap her up. Unless she truly accepts – which she can’t imagine doing (C88)!
F129 And then what will happen?
Identifying the effects of her potential change.
C130 Well, then she’ll back off. Because I will have revised myself to realise that I’ve learned that some things you can’t change. Some things are as they are – and I’m not there yet. [Laughs] No.

F130 So either she’ll pounce or you’ll revise yourself and accept that some things are the way they are.
Acknowledging current reality.
C131 Yes.

F131 But you’re not there yet.
And again.
C132 But I’m closer. Closer than I was three months ago.
Ah, so there has been a change, but the more the client accepts "things are as they are" the more she has to face that her children might not resolve it before she dies.
F132 How do you know you’re closer?

C133 Because it doesn’t occupy my every thought.  Because I don’t try with them anymore. Or I curb my desire to try. Because I avoid the subject. Because I pretend it doesn’t matter. I can pretend that now. How are you mum?  I’m fine, I’m great. I couldn’t act it out three months ago. That’s an improvement. If that’s the path you’re going down. If you look at it from the perspective of – a different perspective – from what good mothering is, and then you can say it’s a deterioration  It just depends where you stand.

F133 And that’s your choice.
Realisng it is time to stop, James attempts to bring the session to a close by suggesting the client also has a choice. But that's not clean ...
C134 My choice?
... and the client rightly objects.
F134 About which path to take or which perspective to take.

C135 Well it’s my choice insofar as I’m already shaped and molded by my biography to be who I am.  Not to say I’m not still shifting, but [pause] I don’t feel I have that much choice. I am who I am [shrugs] - that’s what they say.  So there we are.  We’re all in our own corners being who we are - ripping the family apart.
We have been round the loops and binds several times and it seems the client will have got whatever they are going to get from this session by now. Also we were running out of time, otherwise we might have followed the "corners" metaphor.
F135 We need to complete this.
A cleaner way to finish.

Gave assignments to draw her Metaphor Landscape and look up the meaning and etymology (root) of a few words.

To finish, what’s been the most valuable thing about our time together?
C136 I suppose being forced to summarise it and reify it. Because most of the time it lives in here [right fist to heart]. It’s an emotion thing. Having to explain it while you [points to James] drag it out of me reifies it and I suppose makes it more amenable to change. Because it’s out there and not in me. I suppose. I’ll let you know.

Extra Notes:

Based on the client's opening metaphor of "banging my head against a wall" we might have expected the session to take the general form that it did. As a rule, an early metaphor for how the client has been approaching their problem is a reliable indicator of how the session will unfold – and, when the client operates out of a different metaphor, and indicator of the significance of that change. (See our article Meta-comments for more on these kinds of indicators)

With hindsight we might have started by developing that opening metaphor but we were attempting to demonstrate to the group how we usually start by working with a desired Outcome. Our guess is, given the nature of the client's binds, wherever we had started we would have arrived at a similar place.

Six months later the client said:

"In regard to where I am, 6 months later:

Less blaming of myself

More separated off from my son and daughter in law – not in loving feelings, but in terms of autonomy – I can’t influence them any which way. That’s how it is. They’re adults, forging their own life. At their age I would not have wanted my mother’s interference in my life!

In regard to my daughter: I see my role now more in supporting her growth towards maturity, independence, positive self-regard. It’s  a backseat role, and I’m comfortable in it. That’s something new for me, being historically very interventionist by nature.

Acceptance:  I suppose you could say I’ve moved closer to acceptance in the “serenity prayer” sense:  I  recognize that this is not something I can change. All I can do is change my attitude to it. That’s not an overnight thing, of course. But I feel it’s happening. I’m not filled with the kind of angst that I was when you interviewed me. There’s sadness, a bit of withdrawal, but the anger, the frustration,  has largely gone."

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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