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4. Second iteration: Modelling in the moment

Having observed Robert modelling Martin on the first day of the Northern School event we chose a focus for our modelling and agreed it with Robert before starting our interview. We used a process called Symbolic Modelling which we developed from our modelling of David Grove. We call the interview part 'modelling in the moment' because that's exactly what we are doing: gathering information, constructing a model and testing it in real time as Robert is describing and doing it. The eight video clips below demonstrate how we did this.

Our Outcome

Our modelling centred on the question: When Robert Dilts is modelling, how does he know what is essential? In other words, given everything Martin (the exemplar) said and did, how did Robert select the elements that ended up in his model and acquisition process?

We have chosen eight 2-3 minute clips from our interview, each of which highlight an element we consider essential to what Robert does. After each clip we describe some of what we noticed was significant. These clips show about half of the interview. A transcript of the entire interview is available in the Appendix, Section 10.


In this section we take you through our interview with Robert as the exemplar. You can use the eight video clips to imagine you are Robert doing what he is describing he is doing (rather than copying him as in the last section).

Clip 02 - "Guided by the feeling"

Clip 02 is from the beginning of the interview where Robert gives his "first answer" – a list of factors involved in the process of knowing what is essential:
  • "You feel it" and are "guided by the feeling".
  • It is "not a cognitive analysis".
  • It is not "the words themselves, you have to tell by the meaning".
  • It has to do with "what your goal is – what you are trying to get to" the "acquisition tool or process".
  • And, "what Martin [the exemplar] is doing – his goals – to create this type of healing among people who have been in conflict and trauma situations."
  • You "have to get enough of something that's necessary and sufficient enough to produce the result".
Interestingly from the very beginning of interviewing the exemplar, Robert is considering the end product – an acquisition tool. What is more, his gestures clearly indicate where he locates this goal (up and to his right). Most novice modellers have to gather the information first, then construct a model, and only then can they consider an acquisition process. That Robert can do all this at the same time demonstrates his expertise.

CLIP 03 - "Like a radar that goes beep, beep, beep"

In Clip 03 Robert describes more about his selection process:
  • The feeling of significance is on the "mid-line".
  • "It is like a feeling of activation".
  • "I pay attention to my center [where] things register".
  • "I listen a lot to my center. It's different than listening to my heart".
  • "It's like a radar signal that goes beep, beep, beep .....".
  • "In significant times the center becomes activated" with a "quality of energy".
Robert is not attempting to feel what Martin feels when he is connecting from the heart. Instead he is noticing a "radar signal" that lets him know something is significant. How does he do that? By "accessing" or "listening to" his "center" he notices what "quality of energy" is being "activated" there. The "quality of energy" tells him what kind of activation-feeling it is. For 'significance' it's like "a radar signal that goes beep, beep, beep ....".

The metaphor "radar signal" is symbolically represented by his gesture and the beep, beep, beep, beep sound he makes. (It sounded more like a Geiger counter to us, but that's not what Robert called it.) Like all metaphors it reveals much about a person's inner world. Although Robert didn't say it, the entailments of the metaphor suggest:
  • A scanning process that comes from the area of the navel.
  • Being able to detect what can't be seen (Robert calls this "deep structure").
  • The signal is variable (analogue) as his "beeps" change in volume, pitch and speed. This likely makes the signal highly sensitive to small changes in relative significance.
Having begun to identify how Robert selects for significance (and located it), we now want to keep his attention where it is so that he (and we) can find out more.

Clip 04 - "I mark it inside"

Whatever activates Robert's center is "marked into memory" and "connected to my center". These then "become more likely to be a part of me". It seems Robert has a three-step selection process:

Listen to/access center
Notice a feeling of activation (indicating significance)
Mark or register what the exemplar said or did that activated the feeling.

You can see from his gestures that for Robert selecting for significance is a highly embodied process. Robert also externalises what he has selected as significant by making notes on paper, but the main marking is something that happens inside.

In this clip Robert uses his first Mozart analogy (a form of metaphor) to illustrate how notes would come to Mozart, and only those ones that he hummed were selected: 

Mozart   Robert Dilts
Notes that come
= Words of exemplar (data)
Feeling from tone
= Feeling of significance
Notes he hummed = Marked as significant

Clip 05 - "Backtracking things that have been marked"

In Clip 05 we discover there is a fourth aspect of Robert's selecting-for-significance strategy. This involves "testing" the exemplar's descriptions he has marked to find out: (i) "Are they still there?" (ii) "Are they still significant?" and (iii) "Do they still feel resonant?". He does this by repeating and backtracking (a form of recapping) what he has marked by "pulling them back out" of his memory bag (à la Mozart) and noticing if he still gets his signal for significance.

Now we have the key elements of Robert’s strategy: he keeps his modelling outcomes in mind from the very beginning (i.e. to produce an acquisition tool); he keeps his attention on his center and waits for his radar-like signal to be activated by an example of significance; then he marks that bit of the exemplar's content/process in memory by connecting it to his center. And at various times he tests whether what he has marked is still significant, by backtracking and running the whole strategy again.

Initially we were surprised just how much Robert spoke while modelling Martin. Now we know the purpose it serves. By backtracking he is running the exemplar's process through his system and internally testing for significance over and over. Of course this also gives the exemplar a chance to confirm the accuracy of Robert's model-in-creation – which is an external test.

Having selected, marked and tested what is significant, then what does Robert do?

Clip 06 "This fits with this"

Once Robert has marked enough significant things "they start arranging themselves". He again draws on a Mozart analogy, this time to explain how he is noticing when things "fit". When "two notes love each other" they are paired together. Then at a higher logical level he fits the pairs together until "there's some kind of field created". Thus two levels of fitting are taking place.

We surmise that Robert has already begun this process because part of "marking" involved determining whether the thing that has a feeling of significance had "resonance" with other significant things. As the fitting process progresses it "starts to involve much more cognitive mind" because now he is organising the information.

Clip 07 "Phases one, two, three"

Robert describes his process in "phases". Congruently, the first thing he does is to make the purpose of each phase clear:

Phase I
To identify "What is significant to explore in phase two".
Phase II "I'm still looking for what's significant but now I've got more information. I'm kind of trying to fill in, that has to do with the notion of exploring a direction, also beginning to try to get a picture of what the process is."
Phase III "To construct a movie", to discover "Can I do what he does?" and to "install it" in me.

Robert uses the same process to model himself as he does when he models an exemplar. That is he "backtracks" what he has described before providing more detail and filling in the gaps. For instance he adds information about Phase II: the "notion of exploring a direction" and getting "a picture of what the process is."

In Phase III Robert creates a movie of what Martin has described. Most significant is Robert's statement "I'm getting second position, not with the Martin who is sitting here answering me, but with the Martin in my movie who was doing what he does."

We think this distinction is vital because it is not trying to 'be' the exemplar in the room. Robert is saying he creates a movie of the situation Martin works in (e.g. with paramilitaries), and imagines himself in the movie doing what Martin is doing, and saying what Martin is saying.

In this way he is "installing" the strategy in himself, which means he will have "already rehearsed aspects" that will form part of the acquisition process for others.

But how does Robert know he has done enough modelling? How does he know whether what he has is "necessary and sufficient"?

Clip 08 - "Can I do it?"

Robert continues gathering information, fitting parts together and constructing the movie until he has "a feeling, a congruence" that he can do what Martin has described he does. We guess it probably takes less time for Robert to get this feeling than for most of us because of his vast experience of modelling. He doesn't have to know exactly what the exemplar would say and do, because he is "always filling in the gaps". All he needs is to have "a certain level of detail in that movie to fit; step into it; and then sho-o-o, and I know that my body and my words can follow, can do that chunk."

If he doesn’t have the congruence feeling he wonders, "Where does it feel vague?" and he asks more questions to fill in gaps. Phases I, II, III are cumulative, not just sequential. 

Clip 09 - "Both associated and dissociated at the same time"

In the "process of making a movie all these things start to fit together" as a unit. When that happens the "process flows" through the movie. This is a different kind of "fit" from that in Phase II because it is at a higher, more inclusive level. This is more about organising and in particular sequencing the parts that have already been fitted together.

Clip 09 also demonstrates an unexpected extra piece of Robert's modelling process. He doesn’t just put himself into the movie he has created, at the same time he also imagines himself in the "audience" watching the movie. This is an interesting dual perceptual position. He’s in the movie as Martin, and also out in the audience watching and considering the process.

Phase IV - "Putting it together into a model"

You can now see how most of the content of each video clip relates to one of Robert's three phases:
Phase I     Clips 02-05
Phase II    Clip  06
Phase III   Clips 07-09

The rest of the interview related to how Robert later organised the information he had gathered during the interview with Martin. We call this 'Phase IV'. We have not shown any clips of this since it relates less to our topic of selecting what is essential. However, you can read the transcript of the interview in the Appendix, Section 10, and see our not-yet-complete model of Phase IV in Section 6.

Although we had observed Robert modelling, and listened to his explanation of what he was doing, and listened to his answers to questions from the audience, some significant pieces in how he models had not been made explicit. Our short interview demonstrates how Symbolic Modelling can facilitate an exemplar to go beyond what they think they know.

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