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First published on 30 April 2022

Starting to Feel the Movement of Life

James Lawley & Penny Tompkins

The following annotated ranscript comes from our third webinar with a group Ukrainian psychologists and psychotherapists who want to use Clean Language and Symbolic Modelling to support themselves and their clients. The aim of the session was to demonstrate Symbolic Modelling ‘live’.

Other transcripts from this series are available here:
The client's responses and our questions were translated by Anna Stativka.

The client's and our reflections on the session follow the transcript:

After the session the client reported:
I'm grateful for your work and this problem was a big deal for me for many years. I tried to deal with it with different methods and maybe now it's time for this problem to be solved.

Our post-session reflections

In retrospect almost the whole session was facilitating the client to identify, develop and experience the “impulse”, the “spark” that starts the “feel the movement of life” process. Why? Because we were following the logic of the client’s metaphors. The client’s original metaphor was an “ignition key”. Without an ignition key doing its job, a car can never be driven. Even before that, an inherent feature of the client’s original desired Outcome, “I would like to feel the movement of life”, that a movement has to start somewhere and requires something to set that process in motion (in this case, a “point/impulse/spark”).

While we acknowledged the client’s problematic symbols and events – “movement of life that you have too little of” (P7); “you see the boot that smashed that sparkle” (J27); “scared to carry inside sparkle inside because the boot could come and smash it” (J39) – we did not invite the client to dwell on them. Problems are noted, to be included later – if necessary.  In this case it wasn’t necessary because the client got sufficient insight and change of feeling without delving deeply into the problematic aspects of her experience.

In the following days and weeks the client will discover whether her experience in the session was sufficient to start a new trajectory. If not, then the problematic symbols may need to be addressed in a later session.

We do not assume problems have to be solved before a client can start to make valuable changes in their lives. In fact we start with the opposite premise: that people have sufficient resources and capacities to make productive changes from the first session (even if they continue to have problems).


Penny and James 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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