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More on Mapping — your co-therapist

We map in Quadrant III.  The purpose is to get an overall plan, a 'bird's-eye-view' rather than going down into Quadrant II straight off.  When mapping everything is puzzling at first as we do not yet have all the information.  The client maps before they go into the 'inner child'.  After they have mapped they get some wonderful gestalts that take a sweeping look at their life.  The process is not quick or flashy but it holds over time.

The first step is to create a clean space. The client finds a place in the room where they are comfortable.  The client also determines the therapist's location in the room.  This is so the therapist doesn't interfere by contaminating the perceptual space of the client. By creating a clean space for the client the therapist has given the client control of his/her own perceptual space.  A client can create an escape route from an impending past, anxious situation simply by looking in a different direction.  The therapist can physically occupy a safe space for the client to return to in the present.  Now the room can disappear and the client's experience becomes like a 3-D hologram. The quality and nature of our questions keep the experience alive.  The space becomes the third party in the room, the co-therapist if you will.  This means that not everything has to depend on the therapist alone.  When the client is being worked with in Quadrants I and II there can be no third party to assist the therapist.

In Quadrant III the task is to unpack material that is very dense and confined to one space.  Angles or lines-of-sight of the client are critical to the process of unravelling information.  Distinctly different information can be located in different directions.  It is interesting to note that no matter where a client goes or what the setting, information is usually located in the same directions or locations in relation to the client.

In Quadrant III we bless the space by clearing it up, encouraging the clients to make it just right for themselves.  Now fewer questions are necessary.  In Quadrant I the therapist keeps filling the space with words and the locus of attention is the therapist; it is conversational.  In Quadrant III the therapist makes space available and the client's eyes go to the space that corresponds to their response.

With mapping, if you ask the question, which directs the client into the spaces, then you expect the spaces to do the work.  The spaces will gradually unfold the information.  In mapping you as the therapist are no longer alone, but you are responsible for creating the core conditions.  This involves the use of clean language.

Let's take the phrase "I feel sad" for example.  Now a Rogerian Therapist will be working mostly in Quadrant I where words are important, where the language keeps changing all the time, where self-absorption trance state is impossible.  So, a Rogerian Therapist might respond 'let's explore your sadness'.  This is not clean language because it introduces the notion of exploration, which is a construct that has to do with the therapist's view of the world, and it also changes the dance.  Also, although it might be grammatically correct to talk abut sadness, it moves the locus and changes the sound and resonance of that word.

In Clean Language, if the client uses the word "sad" then you have to construct a sentence with "sad" in it.  By keeping to these necessary conditions a context, a space, is established in which sharing is possible.  So, in Quadrant III, there is a whole shift in the therapeutic relationship; there is no transference or counter-transference, because the locus of attention is in the space.  It is the space that is going to be interrogated by the therapist and the client and there is not much going on conversationally between the two of them.  The questions are not directed to the client but rather to the space.  It's a subtle shift in the relationship but philosophically it makes a lot of difference.

The nature of mapping is that you don't make much progress to begin with.  But once you have all the pieces on it, once you get all the bits lined up in the right sequence, then the actual intervention is not very complicated.  The map has a self-healing quality.  It gives the person a forum within which to wrestle with their stuff so that the direction in which they go is self-motivated and self-determined.  This is very different from the model that says that if you share your feelings and you explore the sadness you won't feel bad.  Sometimes this does work but often it doesn't.

With mapping, all information is relevant and what you would normally have to wait to be revealed in the therapy sessions is already there. Often, the first session can be hard going to get the map established.  To begin with the information can come out a bit tenuous and strange; but after that if it retains its consistency then you can be confident in its veracity. Once you have the map going, most of the work is done outside of the sessions. Mapping is superb because you spend the first half of the next session just going over what the client has already learned for themselves.  Where they stop talking to you about their map is where the session begins.

On Retraumatization

When I started my work I worked with memories.  But some people don't have memories; they only have feelings.  This led to metaphors.  With the feelings came the 'innerchild'.  The feelings expressed were not the feelings of the here-and-now.  They belonged to the past.  You wouldn't be crying those tears now.  The crying comes from the past.

When those tears come from the past and you do something to comfort the person or you make direct mention of the tears, then what happens is that as you pull them out of when and where they were crying into the present.  Client's experience a big difference between the crying 'then' and the crying 'now'.  It hurts when you cry 'now'.  But when you keep them regressed and they cry as a 6-year-old or a 12-year-old, then that's when you can use those tears for healing instead of causing more pain and suffering.

We want to get the tears out of the kid's eyes so that they can do something with them. We are not trying to get them out of the adult's eyes. It makes a dramatic difference to take the tears out of the kid's eyes and put them out in their ground or their memory as opposed to taking it out of the adult's eyes.  Again, it's the whole business of making sure you keep to the right tense and language. If you are wounded in the past then you need to be healed in the past. Otherwise you end up splitting a person between feelings in the past and feelings being experienced in the here-and-now.  And that's when it really hurts and that's when you cry very real, traumatized tears.  Usually when you split somebody between the 'now' and the 'then', it's very hard for them to recover. It's hard for them to get back and they are caught between those two different time zones.

So what makes metaphor work so effectively?  I think that metaphors give us an agency that allows the client to pull apart a complex piece of material and to untangle it and to look at all the different aspects of it and then the intervening of the therapist can be relatively simple. Also, mapping plays an important role as a tool that presents an overview of a sometimes very complex matrix of traumatic experience without re-traumatizing the client.

Therapy: Looking Ahead"

In the next century clients will be more demanding. I don't think that it is good enough nowadays just to have the crying and to assume that there will be healing. This isn't necessarily so. And it might be that you invest the affect even more than before you visited and then it really turns into a mess. Cry once and it's good if there is healing; cry twice and it may be making things worse or at best there is no healing.

There seems to be in the therapy field a shift which is similar to that which has taken place in medical science long ago.  In the late 1880's and early 1900's the emphasis in medical science was on the descriptive process of the disease.  It was enough to identify and to describe it.  Then there was the advent of antibiotic drugs.  This caused the whole field of physical medicine to shift away from the simple descriptive to the bio-molecular description of pathology.  Thinking turned toward the germ model, to the genetic causation of disease, and to the action of drugs at that level.

In psychotherapy, we have a need to shift away from describing things to looking at the actual structure of how particular psychopathological mechanisms work.  We have to move away from just talking about issues and sharing them and trying to recover some of the information that is on the descriptive level only.  We have to shift levels to one which is a lot more 'process orientated' and to the actual structure and mechanism of a person's particular pathology if there is to be a thoroughly accurate healing.


© copyright David Grove Seminars, 1998

Rob McGavock can be e-mailed at and Brenda McGavock, PhD, is a clinical psychologist who specialises in Grovian Metaphor Therapy with a private practice in Columbia, Missouri, USA.
David Grove
Until his untimely death in 2008 David innovated numerous therapeutic methods and he conducted training seminars in the USA, UK, France and in his country of origin New Zealand. In 1989 he co-authored with B.I. Panzer, Resolving Traumatic Memories: Metaphors and Symbols in Psychotherapy. He was the originator Clean Language, Clean Space, Emergent Knowledge and a host of other processes.
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