“Clean Language – Symbolic Modeling” Example.
Like most therapeutic conversation, at the surface this interaction between coach and client appears to be nonsense. It may well be just that, but what we can be sure of is what is being expressed verbally does not always indicate what is happening experientially. Similarly an observer of an MoM interaction may well be left bemused as to what on earth is going on. So I thought this would make a good study for a MoM analysis of the interaction.
Coach: “And you’re under the piñata now.”
Client: “Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Yeah, so I’m ready to receive that answer.”
This is an interesting statement that reveals a few things about the client and whatever the answer is that she is ready to receive. The “answer” is active, and the client is passive. The answer transmits to the client, the client acts as a receiver. If we were to generalise this across contexts, we could suggest that this is a common trait in the client’s life. This may well not be true, but would be an interesting point for provocation. I’d suggest that the client is a great listener in life, but not such a great do-er, she’s patient and has probably been too patient. In fact, in this instant, so much so that she has become a patient.
As a point of provocation, this idiomatic transform from being “ready to receive” to become a psychotherapy patient fits the reality perfectly, because this is exactly her position and current identity.
Coach: “You’re ready to receive. And is there anything else that needs to happen for you to be ready to receive that answer?”
This is a bit of a paradoxical question and is the sort of thing I’d expect from a hypnotist. Essentially, the message being communicated is, “you are ready, and you are not ready.” What the client is missing is the answer, or definition of what that answer might be and require. In absence of this information, how can the client know what else she needs in order to be ready.
Now, with this question, her readiness is cast in doubt.
Client: “Well, I think what I’m saying is that I want, I want that answer. I want someone to give me that answer. And at the same time, I know that can’t happen. It’s got to come from me.”
And so the client feeds back the paradox. She wants the answer to be given to her by someone else who possesses the answer, but at the same time she thinks she knows that it has got to come from her, the very person who presumably does not possess the answer. In terms of modal operators, there’s the modal operator of possibility “want” in conflict with modal operator of necessity, “got to.”
Now, she is ready to receive, and this was encouraged with the question “is there anything else that needs to happen for you to be ready to receive” and yet she cannot receive as the answer cannot come from her. That word “needs” is another modal operator, by the way, and not a modal operator of possibility. An answer in the negative to that question closes the scope and shuts down all possibilities from the communication exchange.
Coach: “Oh. And so you want someone to give it to you and you know it has to come from you. And is there anything else about that want someone to give and no, it has to come from you?”
Wait, what? I question the value of reflexive questioning unless it occurs for two precise purposes – creating a rapport where rapport otherwise may not occur, and demonstrating understanding by proving you heard exactly what the other person said.
Here, the repetition of the client’s words is being used as a technique and tagged onto a preset question. Ultimately, the formulae looks like this: <the client’s last sequence of words> PLUS <one of 8 preset questions> Use a soft but knowing tonality, and upon the delivery of the question, nod, smile and blink slowly.
And it is at this point that I realise what makes me so uncomfortable watching this interaction. There is a lot of smiling, but there is an absence of humour and I tend to have an association between the two. Smiling like this indicates…well, something else.
Client: “I’ve been, I’ve been so confused about it all this time that I would just, I would like for someone to come along and say, here it is.”
The client has moved to outcome, her solution to the problem. The thing is, we don’t have any clarity as to the problem itself. And the little verbal dance that follows encourages a further departure from an accurate assessment of the actual problem. My reasoning for this goes along the lines of, how do we know that the client even has this elusive answer inside them, or access to it? Maybe it is something blatantly obvious to someone else but not to her.
Coach: “You’d like to. You want to. Here it is.”
Client: “Yeah. Yeah.”
Coach: “And you know it has to come from you.”
Client: “Mm hmm. Mm hmm.”
Coach: “And when you want someone to come and just give it to you, and you know it has to come from you, what would you like to have happen then?”
I find this question quite staggering. The client has stated quite clearly and quite emphatically what she would like to have happen. The implication from this question is that the answers she gave previously were not satisfactory, or at least, not to the satisfaction of the coach.
This is a really common situation between therapists/coaches and clients, where the client’s own experience is cast into doubt quite inadvertently. If I were to go a bit further, the message here is actually, “you, the client, cannot be trusted to know your own experience.”
Client: “I’d like to have the intuition, the answer. I need to have it come from me.”
Just in case the coach didn’t get it, the client gives it again. I find this reassuring, personally, I’d be tempted to grab the coach by the ears and shout it so she can hear it properly.
Coach: “And you need to have it come from you.”
Yes, she did just say that.
Coach: “And so what kind of a you is a you, that an answer would come from?”
Wait…what? WHAT? What happens here is a sudden departure from the logical reasoning and a radical change of theme. This question could have actually been the very first question that the coach asks. I’ll show you:
>>>Client: “Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Yeah, so I’m ready to receive that answer.”
>>>Coach: “And so what kind of a you is a you, that an answer would come from?”
Now, an important point here on the use of pronouns. The client did not use the word “you”, the client used the word, “me”. It was the coach that made the transform of this “me” to a “you”. Read the transcript through again and you will see this. The coach is now pursing a “you” that she herself brought into the exchange.
If we correct for this, the exchange changes dramatically and would look like:
>>>Client: “I’d like to have the intuition, the answer. I need to have it come from me.”
>>>Coach: “And so what kind of a me is a me that an answer would come from?”
See how that works. It would change the dialogue to create a more genuine relationship. The “me” that the answer would come from would be, presumably, a coach who can actually provide an answer. The coach ducks the issue intuitively and maintains the illusion of a Clean Coach identity position which appears to be, “I cannot help you, you must help your self.”
Client: “It’s an intuitive me.”
Coach: “It’s an intuitive you.”
No, it’s an “intuitive me”, but the coach can’t say this unless she were to realise, understand and be comfortable with the transform that occurs by using this corrected sentence.
Client: “It’s a me that can, as we mentioned before, pull all these things together and, I guess, I’m the one that needs to fill up that piñata with all those things.”
Coach: “And you need to fill up the piñata.”
Client: “Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Put in all those things that I’m looking for, and then intuitively determine how this is all going to fit together and be the professional life that I’m looking for.”
I’m going to suggest that this sentence reflects little more than the client struggling to maintain some kind of rapport with the coach and can be disregarded. Although one interesting thing to note, she is doing the very thing she says she wants to do and is fitting things together.
Coach: “And so, is there a relationship between intuition and pregnancy?”
So what we have here is another dramatic departure from any logic that preceded it and another change of direction. She might as well have pointed to the sky and shouted, “LOOK, A BEE!”
Now if we pay attention to this question which is common in Clean Language, “Is there a relationship between A and X? The answer is of course always going to be “yes.” Everything in the universe will have some kind of relationship with everything else. The question is what is the nature of that relationship and how important is it for our purposes. To give the coach the benefit of the doubt, I’m going to assume that “pregnancy” was mentioned in the exchange prior to the timing of this video clip.
So, is there a relationship between “intuition” and “pregnancy”? I’ll offer a guess. Both happen, or are associated to happen, in women. Any two things occurring in the same body are going to be connected. In this client’s instance, pregnancy requires something to be supplied by another party in much the same way that the answer is supplied. She is ready to receive. An alchemical marriage is waiting to occur, a feminine archetype that has reverberated down the ages.
BUT, and it pains me to write this because I’d rather like to assume it is so obvious and needs no explanation. Whilst the answer may come from within, the necessary ingredient for pregnancy cannot do the same. It needs to come (sic) from someone else.
And yet I am left wondering if in fact the coach is far smarter than I may have given credit for. Pregnancy is about, literally, creativity. Life is created deep inside her, and new life is born. Maybe intuition is the same, with the right seed planted, she can create an idea, an answer, the answer.
Client: “Yes, yes, yes, but I prefer not to use the word necessarily pregnancy.”
Oh. OK, so I wonder what word she would use? Or indeed if this is even relevant.
Coach: “And your gut.”
Client: “Yeah, yeah. But it’s that whole notion of there’s something waiting to happen, and I know that that region is related because a lot of my thoughts, my – when I do get intuitive thoughts, they do come from there, so that’s where this is going to come from, so that’s, you know…”
OK, looks like the client is on the same train of thought. The gut feeling. That part of her body that is fertile and creative. But still there is the issue of that [viable] seed getting suitably planted in the first place. But before we can move on, there appears to be another verbal dance that must be played out first…
Coach: “And so you do have intuitive thoughts and they come from there when you have them.”
Client: “Yes, unfortunately, I don’t think I have them enough.”
Coach: “And enough.”
No, it’s not enough.
And here’s a thing to consider, she doesn’t think she has them enough. Now, I wouldn’t ask this question out loud, but I would wonder about the criteria of measuring this. How does she know she doesn’t have them enough? What frequency would be enough? And how realistic is her measurement and expectation of this.
Coach: “And is there anything else about enough?”
Client: “Hmm. I would like to have – to trust my intuition frequently, or let’s say more often than I do now.”
Now considering that the previous exchanges hinted that the client could not be trusted with regards to her own experience, we have two issues now added to the mix: The frequency of the intuitive thoughts and willingness to trust these thoughts.
So, personally, I’m a bit confused here as to the intended outcome – is it the frequency of intuitive thoughts or the frequency of trusting these thoughts that she refers to? But what irritates me is why this is even being discussed anyway. Remember the presenting problem is that of not knowing the “answer” that she doesn’t have within her and wants someone else to supply to her. But this has been lost from the interaction now.
More verbal dancing follows:
Coach: “And you’d like to trust it more.”
Client: “Mm hmm.”
Coach: “And so do you have intuition more often and not trust? Or is the enough not enough intuition?”
Client: “Hmm. That, well…”
Coach: “____ your gut.”
Client: “Yes, yes. I think, I think it happens more than I am willing to trust it.”
Coach: “And when intuition in your gut, whereabouts in your gut is that intuition?”
Client: “Hmm. At the center of it. At the very center of it, all things come together in there and that’s…”
Coach: “In the center. In the very center.”
Client: “Mm hmm. Mm hmm.”
Coach: “And whereabouts is the very center of your gut, where intuition and all things come together?”
Client: “That’s the spot that is connected to the universe.”
Coach: “And connected to the universe.”
OK, OK, enough now. Is this answer going to come from her, someone else or from the universe? If it is going to come from the universe, then it hasn’t done a particularly good job at supplying it so far. Also, the client’s experience of “the universe” is that it is a quality that is something external to her. This conflicts with “the answer must come from within me” position stated earlier.
Now remember those qualities of the client I mentioned; the client is a patient and good listener. She is largely passive and not proactive. She receives. Logically, it’s all a bit messy.
So, there is either a problem with the supply (i.e. the universe, or the transmission, is faulty) or there is a problem with her reception (i.e. she, or her reception, is faulty). The supposition here then is that the universe doesn’t care to help, or that she needs to be a better listener. i.e. she enters the “more of the same” and “game without end” strategy.
Thing is, this will actually feel pleasing to her, because it will indirectly validate her current coping behaviour.
Thus potentially, the client leaves the session feeling better, but nothing has changed. Before you know it, she too will have become a Clean Language coach, because it feels so right.
And she still won’t have that fertile creativity that supplies the answers from within.
Client: “Mm hmm. It’s connected…”
Coach: “It’s connected…”
Client: “I’m sorry. It’s connected to other parts of me that are also connected to, that my third eye, connected to the universe.”
There isn’t any aspect of a person that is not connected to the universe. We are part of it, inside it, a participant, every aspect of us is connected. But in order to understand our experience we tend to fragment it, to put it into little compartments of experience. And why does this client need to apologies for interrupting the flow and rhythm of the session in order to communicate this to her coach?
Of course, these specific connections of the gut and the third eye have a special kind of connection for her. This connection has a quality that is different and is special in some way. It is important, really, really important, and must be handled with the sanctity of the Holy of Holies.
One other thing with mentioning. There is a different between being connected to the universe and having the universe connected to us. The client’s statement is consistent with her passive/receptive stance. There is also inter-connectiveness, but that is for another day.
But anyway, back to dance:
Coach: “And connected to the universe.”
Client: “Mm hmm.”
Coach: “And third eye.”
Client: “Mm hmm.”
Coach: “And is that the same or different than the spirituality?”
I have no idea why this question is asked, or what it’s intended purpose is. It just seems so random. Unfortunately the suggestion delivered is that there is a difference that exists. Then, more dancing…
Client: “It’s the same.”
Coach: “That is the same.”
Client: “Mm hmm. Mm hmm.”
Coach: “And the very center.”
Client: “Mm hmm. Mm hmm.”
Coach: “And that’s connected to the universe.”
Client: “Mm hmm.”
Coach: “And that’s connected like what, when the very center and the universe?”
It’s at this point I will remind the reader that the client is asking for “… I want that answer. I want someone to give me that answer…” I don’t like the question that is asked here. “…connected like what…” This isn’t asking about the nature of the connection, but rather it’s about the nature of the components connected. But I am not entirely sure if either the client or the coach understand the difference here. We are in the realm of conditioned reflex conversation where everything has simply become so automated, that I don’t think anyone is listening or paying attention any more.
Client: “I see a rope, actually, with white light surrounding it that originates there and actually goes down to the earth through there and goes up through the top of my head to the universe.”
I bet it is not a rope.
Anyway, now we have a metaphor, albeit incomplete. But the problem is, this isn’t a metaphor for the presenting problem here, it’s merely a clumsy verbal representation of how the client experiences certain aspects of her spirituality. This is the problem about spirituality, when we try to describe it, we can end up saying things like, “Faaaar out!” and “It’s like we are all interconnected and one” and can sound positively loony. Problems can arise when other people start taking descriptions and metaphors as some kind of objective reality and object to those who’s description differs from their own.
It is also worth pointing out that this a neither a solution or an outcome to the presenting problem.
Meanwhile, the taxonomy of this metaphor should be apparent to any level 2 MoM trainee, and so should the inherent Boundary Violations which we will not go into here. Remember: To be treated as the Holy of Holies, right?
Coach: “And the earth, and then the very center, and up the top of your head and to the universe, and white light surrounding it, and a rope.”
Feeding back the client’s words in this way seems to be more reflexive than anything deliberate. Actions like this can start to form a rhythm, a dance between people where one or both parties fall into the rhythm. In and of itself this may be no bad thing, but there is a possibility that this rhythm traps both participants into a rapport which itself shapes and directs the access to information. Interactions of this nature are anything but “clean” and are actually highly directive. The paradigm for the communication is preset prior to the client even meeting the coach, and the coaches responses to the client are preset before the coach has even met the client.
The paradigm can be reduced to another simple equation:
<I, the coach, will ask questions and reflect back your answers> PLUS <You, the client, answer my questions and play along with me>
Client: “Mm hmm.”
Coach: “And is there anything else about that rope? Does it have a size or a shape?”
The tag question, “does it have a size or shape” is odd for 2 reasons. Firstly, a rope will always have a size and shape (but not necessarily a size or shape), so the question need not be a “does it have…” question. The question would be, “What is its size and shape?” But actually, if we examine the client’s description, she gives a good indication of this anyway. Secondly, the question, “does it have a size or a shape” is far from clean and serves to reinforce the falsehood of the rope.
To briefly explain: there is often a difference between our narrative (the story we tell) and our actual experience. We use words that match the cultural lexicon, we all tend to move towards a conformity with our language. It’s common sense really, otherwise we wouldn’t all be speaking the same language and things would get really confusing indeed. As a result, we tend to describe our more abstract experiences according to the cultural lexicon, making the occasional change here and there so that we don’t sound like a tripped-out hippy or florid schizophrenic.
These verbal adjustments are quite patterned and can be observed quite readily when we know what we are looking at.
Client: “Well, it looks like a rope, actually, but it…”
The client begins to tell us something more, but is interrupted because “size” seems to have taken precedence over the actual nature and function of the rope. We will never know what it was that looked like a rope. Well, actually we do. I invite MoM trainees think about what it might be and ponder on the rationale why this is the case.
Coach: “How big or how small?”
Oh, ok, apparently we are pursuing the rope. We will stick with “it’s a rope.” So let’s make it a rope again.
The reason this problem arises is dues to the rhythm, the beat, that the coach is trapped on the inside of. She is “being a coach” (or whatever) and inside that role certain things are more readily detected and heard, and inside that role, certain things get deleted. This is true for any role, including MoM (day 1 of the training details the four primary subjects that are intentionally deleted from the interaction) and there are of course the personal biases which inevitably occur. For me, the frustrating part here is that if the coach and remained quiet for just a few seconds longer, the entire interaction would be totally different from this point.
Client: “Um, it’s a fairly thick rope, but it’s just encircled with the white light, which makes it bigger. And – I’m sorry, I was just going to say, and it stretches from the earth all the way through.”
Several things worth noting here. We are definitely into the realm of the esoteric. The client has been asked twice now about the size of the “rope” question which interrupted a more effective description of the “rope” and here the client actually feels the need to apologies for adding in some vital qualities. Remember that thing about the Holy of Holies. Here we have a client who is apologising for their description of their spirituality.
Coach: “And from the earth and all the way through.”
The coach continues with her attention on the rope and ignores the white light, and appears to drop the detail that the white light does something to the size. Size had an importance before and now it is not so important.
Client: “Mm hmm. Mm hmm.”
Coach: “And a fairly thick rope with white light surrounding it.”
More emphasises on the rope, but at least the white light gets a mention now, even if the quality and effect of the white light is now dropped. Having been given importance, size had been dropped.
Client: “Mm hmm. Mm hmm.”
Coach: “And when white light surrounds a rope, then what happens?”
This question is doomed to create failure in the client. Metaphors such as this one lack all time predication, i.e. such metaphors do not have time built into them. So when we add time into such a metaphor, it is no longer the same metaphor. This is to introduce a element that breaks it down into something else. Now this is a deliberate effect that is utilised to advantage within the Metaphors of Movement to alleviate stuckness. But here something else is going on. There is a presupposition that implies that the white light surrounding the “rope” (it’s not a rope) causes something to happen.
We already know what the effect of the white light is, it makes the “rope” appear bigger. The client has already told us this. Thus the implication is that there must be something else that happens in terms of cause and effect.
Client: “That’s, that’s where my spiritual connection comes from. When that rope is intact and everything is working, that’s, I guess, when I get my intuitions. That’s when the intuition comes. I guess it’s not always working.”
I would hope that all IEMT and MoM trainees immediately recognise the two “guesses” occurring there. Up until now the client has been really quite specific about her experience and given the right setting would have been even more so as she found the right words to describe her true experience.
She is guessing in order to maintain rapport. I suspect that actually her experience is at deviance from the process of elicitation, and she is modulating the reporting of her experience to fit the process.
It is for this reason that MoM utilises “disrapport” where the emotional states of each participant is less reliant on that of the other person. Disrapport enables the client to experience their experience unapologetically, and also frees the therapist to be able to the same. It’s amazing to me just how uncomfortable this makes coaches and therapists who seem to think that the moment we dispense with the rules, everyone is going to start having orgies.
Disrapport opens up the scope for access to experience, as it is not uncommon for some therapists to discover that their clients have difficulty in accessing the state, or accessing the problem, or solution or whatever they presented themselves to treatment for in the first place.
It’s worth considering just how often clients realised what they should have said or covered in the session only after they leave. Did they realise this because the session enabled them to get to that realisation, or because they did not have the permissions to explore it during the session?