Appendix – SOURCE MATERIAL
10. Full transcript of interview with Robert Dilts
Conducted at Northern School of NLP, 7 December 2006
The timing of the start and end of the video clips shown in Section 4 are marked.
"..." in the transcript indicates a pause, or an unfinished sentence.
James Lawley: [To the group] So let me just by way of introduction say that one of the things that the Northern School take very much to heart in the philosophy of NLP is the idea of double and triple description. So this is an opportunity to get different descriptions of Robert as a modeller. Penny and I use a process we call Symbolic Modelling which you’ll notice is a cousin to the kind of modelling that Robert has been doing, but I think is sufficiently different to be able to produce some new information for you. Your focus, if we stay within the frame, will still be on Robert and hopefully our aim is to bring out some new information and deepen your understanding of one or two aspects of what you‘ve already got. But if you have any spare capacity you might notice how we’re doing our modelling and how it is similar and different to what you’ve already got. Did you want to add anything Penny?
Penny Tompkins: I do but I don’t know if this is the right place to do it so I’ll wait.
JL: We had a chat with Robert beforehand about the kind of piece [to focus on]. What’s been wonderful in these two days is that we’ve seen from the beginning all the way through, a whole quick [demonstration] of the modelling process, and so what we’d like to do is take a piece of it and go into that in more depth. [Turns to Robert] Where we thought we’d start is with the question ‘How do you know what’s essential?’ Because [on the previous day] we’ve heard you say that you identify what’s essential when you’re gathering information. And when you were producing your model last night you had to identify what was essential in that – so that’s a process that’s interesting, certainly to me as a modeller. So if we just start there and we’ll see where it goes. Is that OK?
Robert Dilts: Sure.
[2:40] START OF CLIP 02
JL: So when you’re modelling then Robert, how do you know what’s essential?
RD: Well ... I suppose my first answer is that you feel it. I mean guided by the feeling of what’s essential is not a cognitive analysis, that’s for sure. It’s not something ... you can’t tell by the words themselves you have to tell by the meaning, and then ‘essential’ also has to do with what your goal is. So essential for what? It’s essential for what it is you’re trying to get to [both hands pointing up right].
So I was saying yesterday that there’s this whole notion of, the end product is going to be some sort of an acquisition thing – a tool or a process. I’ve got to find out what’s essential on the one hand to create something [heart gesture] but also in terms of what Martin [the exemplar] is doing – his goals – to create this
type of healing among people who have been in conflict and trauma
situations. So what is essential? Modelling is always about: What is the difference that makes the difference? So what is it of all the things, that is the most key in this case to bringing about some kind of healing? So there’s always that notion of: So what is essential for the idea of what is necessary and sufficient? Because there’s some things that are not necessary and some things are necessary. So you have to get enough of something that’s necessary and sufficient enough to produce the result.
[4:43] END OF CLIP 02
JL: Lets take an example, when you were modelling Martin what’s the first thing that you noticed that was essential?
RD: Well he said this notion of “connecting from the heart”.
JL: So how did you know that was essential, then?
RD: Well, first of all because I think I asked him. I set the frame ‘What's the most important thing?’, ‘What’s the difference that makes the difference?’, and so partially just because the frame we had set was creating a little box that says what is something essential. Now that doesn’t always mean that the first thing a person says will always fit into that box; sometimes you have to specify it. Because sometimes somebody might even say something too vague to understand, but that seemed to me to be essential. Also I think whenever you’re doing modelling you need to have some type of intuition about that situation and of course I’ve worked in the area of healing quite a bit. And so that felt to me like something quite significant, the notion of connecting at the heart level.
[6:15] START OF CLIP 03
JL: So when it felt significant, that connecting at the heart level [Robert's right hand gestures out and back level with his heart], where did it feel significant?
RD: Um [pause]. In different places certainly. In there and there [pointing to chest and solar plexus] where you would typically expect. For me the mid-line.
JL: The mid-line. And what kind of feeling is that feeling in the mid-line when you had an intuition that this was essential?
RD: The best way to describe it is like a feeling of activation [right hand opening gesture from navel] – sort of like in – I pay a lot of attention to my center, the center of me [where] things register. In my map there’s a cognitive mind and a somatic mind. And somatic mind has different accessing cues than the cognitive mind. And accessing the somatic mind comes from the center. And so I listen a lot to my center [pointing with right hand to solar plexus area]. It’s different than listening to my heart. Martin says ‘listen to your heart’ which I also do, but it’s for a different purpose. So it’s kind of the center that goes a little bit like a ... I don’t know how you’d say it except it’s like a radar signal that goes beep, beep, beep, Beep, Beep, Beep. So it’s kind of like a feeling of activation like that beep, beep, beep, beep. It doesn’t make that noise.
JL: That’s what it’s like ...
RD: It’s like that [two-handed gesture from solar plexus] – beep, beep, beep. [Laughter]
PT: And is the activation cue, is that the same or different to the accessing cue?
RD: No. Well the accessing cue is the feeling in the center, putting your attention on the center, and different energies happen there and different things happens at the center. But in significant times the center becomes activated. It could be if you’re in danger, it could be if you’re excited. But there’s an activation of this place but the quality of energy will be different.
[8:58] END OF CLIP 03
Like, if you’re in danger it’s a different thing than if you are on to something – but it’s coming in the same [place]. It’s like you need to know, the analogy would be ... I think part of what we need to learn in life is – we’ve got lots of internal voices – which internal voices do you listen to? That’s your voice and not all the other things that people have told you. The voice that’s the voice of your own truth. The same thing. There’s a lot of feelings that you have. You can be scared and angry and have a whole lot of feelings at the same time. And which one do you act on? Well so for me it’s like there’s the center, the place where I’m going to pay attention to. If I go out of the center, then there’s all kinds of feelings you can have and you can get lost in feelings. A little bit like [participant] described being fractionated, so you go into the center. So the center is the access, it’s a channel. But the quality of that feeling that comes through there is different. Based on all sorts of stuff.
[10:08] START OF CLIP 04
JL: So when you access that center and you accessed that center, and you knew you were onto something with Martin, what’s the first thing that you noticed at your center?
RD: Well like I said, there is energy there.
JL: What kind of energy?
RD: This activating kind of energy that I was describing.
JL: Kind of like a radar. So you notice that. And then what happens?
RD: Well then it says, it’s like a marker. That this is significant and that path is going to be marked into memory and maybe sometimes I’ll write a note. In my notes there will be ... I kind of wrote down some things that Martin said in the session. So in 15 minutes it ends up like that [Robert holds up one page of his notes]. And those are just an externalised expression of [pointing to his center with right hand] something that’s felt significant [gestures up and down his mid-line].
JL: So you mark them down.
RD: So I mark it inside too. It’s not like it goes there [touches his notes] and I forget it. An analogy would be Mozart said when he would compose music that these things would come to him and he would get a feeling from the tone and if he got the feeling he would hum it, and the ones he would hum then were the ones marked as significant of all the notes that were coming. That’s how he selected notes. I think he said he was constantly looking for two notes that loved each other. So this one may be this resonance, you feel it, hum it [accompanied by three different hand gestures]. So that’s my humming [holds up his notes].
PT: The internal humming. And then there’s an internalised ...
RD: Marking that goes with this feeling of significance. Because there’s lots of data that comes. And how do you know which to make ...? When something gets connected to my center it’s going to become more likely to be part of me. So rather than this just be knowledge or data it goes sh-h-h, I’m going to register that and it’s going to go more into long-term memory.
[12:40] END OF CLIP 04
[12:42] START OF CLIP 05
JL: So it’s both marked and connected to your center. And when it’s marked whereabouts – if we take that example of the heart connection – whereabouts is that marked? Where do you mark that?
RD: Well I guess the center. There’s also stuff I guess that goes on cognitively, like I might repeat it. When I'm doing the backtracking ... the backtracking is another example of these significant things [right hand indicates a shape]. And a lot of my backtracking ... I’m not reading the notes I’m backtracking and pulling out [gesture from center] those things that have been marked sh-h, sh-h, sh-h, just to see them [hands wide apart at shoulder level]. Sometime I’ll look at them [his notes], but most of the time when I was backtracking with Martin I wasn’t reading from the notes, I was just saying them.
PT: So you’re pulling them out to see, to see what?
RD: The purpose is for backtracking. First of all: What is it that’s [significant]? Are they still the things that are significant? Mozart talked about ... he put things into his bag of memory and pulled them back out. That way [pulling out gesture], like you’re testing them. Are they still there? Are they still significant? Do they feel resonant? Sometimes they feel more resonant. Sometime it feels like you’ve got to change the wording [left hand twists back and forth], maybe the wording isn’t quite right. So to really capture what it is – that whole deep structure, surface structure. This is the whole notion of proper naming. What’s the proper name for what seems significant about this?
[14:25] END OF CLIP 05
JL: So there’s a testing of the resonance in the backtracking process and a pulling out. You’ve got the backtracking, you’ve got the feeling, the marking and you’ve got the external as well. And ...?
RD: There’s an interplay between the cognitive mind and the [somatic mind – gestures to right and up and down]. The cognitive mind can make associations but most of the sense of significance doesn’t come from there. It’s not a mental significance, it’s more of a somatic significance.
JL: And that somatic significance from that center, where does that come from?
RD: Where, do you mean in my body where, or a more generally abstract where?
JL: I’ll take anything, Robert.
RD: You’ll take anything [laughing]. So up to me to decide. I just meant did you mean it came from some other ... So ask the question again.
JL: So the activation and the feeling and that’s what lets you know what’s significant and essential, another way of putting it is where does that knowing come from, or where does that activation come from?
RD: [Pause] The most honest answer is I don’t know [looking up right]. It’s there, it’s one of those things that happens by association or resonance or something that it’s like, like I said, there’s a goal [pointing up to right]. I’m going to make a tool. There’s what Martin’s doing, he’s doing this kind of healing process. I’m trying to find what’s the difference that makes the difference, to produce those [two-handed point to both goal and tool]. And I’ve got the radar there and the radar is going to go ‘this thing is significant’. For all I know it comes from maybe there was a certain degree of congruity that Martin has when he says it. Maybe it’s something that rings with something that – because I’ve done healing myself. I go this just seems to fit with what my own experience is – it’s hard to say – it’s not a conscious process by any stretch of the imagination. It’s you know [shrugs].
JL: I’m just fishing. [laughter] You never know what you might get.
RD: What might come up!
[17:04] START OF CLIP 06a
There’s some kind of a field created by these different things – the intent and how exactly it happens I don’t know. It’s like resonance. This fits with this, fits with this, fits with this, [lots of gesturing in front and then out from center] ... that shooo, and I think it’s about a feeling of importance to me. [left hand over his solar plexus.] So, so ...
JL: So, so it’s a feeling of importance to you and you have a this fits and this fits and this fits.
RD: There are several outcomes that are going on.
[17:40] END OF CLIP 06a
And so we’re modelling and making some kind of acquisition tool. Also Martin is expressing things that are important for the very meaningful work that he does. So what are the really essential parts? What are the key parts that serve those things? And this seems like it fits there. Like I say, maybe I’m accessing my own, quote “intuition”, my reference experiences for also having been involved in working with people and stuff that’s meaningful for me in my life. So something will register.
JL: So when something fits, is that the same ... how you know that, is that the same or different to the resonance and the feeling in the center? That significance, is that the same or different to how you know something fits and how you know it’s significant?
[18:56] START OF CLIP 06b
RD: Your example of going back to the very first part, there wasn’t a whole lot of information for it to fit with. But definitely there is a phase where things start fitting. Going to the Mozart analogy he said that like in the beginning the notes are just coming and there’s some that he hums, and after he gets enough of them then they start arranging themselves [both hands gesturing above eye line]. So the first thing, I mean in the Mozart analogy, do these two notes love each other? [hands together] whew. Yes, all right, we’ll take those. Do these [other] two notes love each other? Yes, we’ll take those. Do these two? OK. Now then you start going ‘then how do these things [the three pairs of notes] fit?’ That’s different from a selection process and starts to involve much more cognitive mind to fit because now you’re [gesturing just above eye line] organising it.
JL: Just there [gesturess to just in front of Robert’s eyes]. Organising and fitting, which is more cognitive than the selecting [gestures to his mid-line].
RD: [Nods]. Right.
[20:00] END OF CLIP 06b
JL: [Turns to Penny] Do you want to ask any more about this? [Penny shakes head and James turns to Robert] Because I was going to take an example from further on in the process about you selecting what goes into the model. And to find out, is that the same kind of selecting or a different kind of selecting? So last night or maybe this morning when you were deciding on what out of that [points to Robert’s notes] was going to go into the model, how did you know what was essential or what was going to go in? How did you select from that?
[20:32] START OF CLIP 07
RD: Right, well there are different phases of the modelling process, right. Phase one is asking questions and for me the whole purpose of phase one is to go: What is significant to explore in phase two? So that’s a different information gathering process. In phase two I’m still looking for what’s significant but now I’ve got more information. So now I’m going to be going, he’s giving me these ideas about phase one, he was telling me about the structure of what he’s doing, what seems to be important. So in phase two, I’m kind of trying to fill in, there has to do with the notion of exploring a direction and then, also beginning to try to get a picture [hands form a 'frame' at eye line] of what the process is. Then in phase three I'm really asking questions to try to get to the acquisition part of phase three [gestures up right]. I'm asking for examples and so on and so forth. Then in phase three what I’m doing is, now I’m trying to construct a movie [gestures to same place as picture].
So in phase two I’m trying to get a picture. In phase three I’m trying to get a movie. And while he [Martin] is talking, I’m literally, 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. I’m not getting second position with Martin who’s here because if I were I’d just be getting into second position with somebody answering the questions. But I’m trying to get second position with what he’s saying, he’s describing what he does with people and I’m putting myself into him in that situation and: Can I do what he does? Does it feel ... It’s like a form of what you would call in NLP a New Behaviour Generator. You get a picture and you associate into it, go to second position with him, and does it feel like I can do it?
And so actually even though (I was explaining to someone at the break), even though it looks like I’m just sitting here asking him questions, it’s not at all a cognitive exercise for me. I’m taking his answers to the questions, I'm making an inner movie, putting myself in that movie because, and in that way it’s like a Behaviour Generator, because I’m already installing it. So this morning when I was doing the work with [participant] in the acquisition, I’ve already rehearsed aspects of that because when I’m talking to Martin I’m putting myself into it. What would I look like? How would I say these words? How do I open my connection to my heart to somebody? When he says ... when he was here going ‘well I open my heart’, that’s what I’m doing there. In second position with what he’s [describing he’s] doing. And then that’s all feeling, is that do-able? Can I do it?
Because that’s the first question of all modelling. What John Grinder said to Richard Bandler when he was first modelling him was ‘If you teach me to do what you’re doing I’ll tell you what you’re doing’. Not let me observe you and take notes and I’ll tell you, it’s when I can do it then I can tell you what you were doing. It’s the same thing for me, it’s like I’m trying to get it in the muscle.
[24:08] END OF CLIP 07
JL: And to do it not just here, but in the context where you might use it.
RD: Right, I’m imagining, when he was talking about being with these paramilitary people I’m imagining: What’s that context? What’s that like? What’s the energy in that room like? I mean I can only go to that to the degree that I have either my own imaginations or my own reference experiences.
JL: And you do that and ...
RD: It’s like reading a novel, you don’t just read it, it’s like you’re getting engaged in it and you’re building your own fantasy of what that, if you’re reading Harry Potter you’re getting the thing [gesture] not just the ... so for me modelling is like reading or writing a novel.
[25:02] START OF CLIP 08
JL: And so when you do that with Martin, you imagine being in that paramilitary situation, then what happens next, what do you then do with Martin? How do you use that?
RD: I just want to clarify one thing, I don’t imagine him in the situation, I imagine I am him in that situation, associated in his perspective.
JL: So you’re doing that and then he’s still sitting here. So then what happens when you’ve done that associating in that context?
RD: It's a feeling. It’s like a New Behaviour Generator. Does it feel like I can do it? In the New Behaviour Generator you have a reference of what you know what you can do and when you run that film you step into it: Does it feel like I can do it? It has to be based upon some test that says I’ve got enough to be able to actually do it. I can do it. Which I think is not necessarily always ... it’s a strategy I learned which was when I run a movie and I run through it, how do I know there’s enough there that I can actually do it? It’s something that I live every day. Now because I’m planning for a seminar I run through this, this, this, and then I go out and I do it. And I only need a certain amount of [gestures to movie], a certain level of detail in that movie to fit, step into it and then sh-o-o-o, and I know that my body and my words can follow, can do that chunk.
JL: And what lets you know you can do that in that movie?
RD: It’s a feeling.
JL: And what kind of feeling is that one?
RD: It’s like a feeling, it’s like a feeling, a congruence [hands vertically aligned].
JL: So the congruence is you can do it, and then what do you do?
RD: I’ve got enough. I’ll actually be able to do that.
JL: So what do you do if you don’t get that feeling?
RD: Then I’d ask more questions. Maybe figure out, where does this movie stop? Where does it feel vague? And either ask more ...
JL: Or are there any gaps?
RD: Are there any gaps. A VK [visual-kinesthetic] type thing. Sometime auditory, if it’s very verbally orientated. What am I saying to this person? What kind of questions am I asking? And again sometimes what happen is that Martin hasn’t given me the answer but I fill it in with what I would do. You’re always filling in the gaps. But if I could do it, even though I don’t know what Martin exactly would do, but if I can run the movie I can kind of get through and know what I would say, I’ve got enough.
[27:52] END OF CLIP 08
JL: So that helps you decide what question you’re going to ask next. Where does the movie start? Are there any gaps? If it’s vague that determines what question you ask next. And from the outside what it looks like is you backtrack that movie to Martin and then ask him to answer a piece about it.
RD: Right. Exactly. It’s a bit like being a director. You’ve got your storyboard, and you’re trying to get if there’s some missing piece. It’s like that.
JL: And what’s fascinating to me is that you’re doing that in real time while you’re interviewing Martin
RD: It’s like multi-tasking.
JL: So let’s check out this one other piece which was about selecting what was going to go into the model, which you did on your own. I don’t know if you want to take any particular piece. How did you know that you were going to select that to go into the model? What let’s you know that that should go in?
RD: To the model or to the acquisition?
JL: Let’s take the model for example. You have to decide what word you’re going to put up on there [points to where Robert had displayed his slides]. Let me ask you, you said you knew those three pieces were going to go in. Did you know that before last night? Had you already decided that?
JL: Oh, you already had.
RD: [Looks up right] As soon as he said those words I thought, that’s it, that’s a basic structure. That’s not the only – there are other bits. But that seemed to be significant.
JL: And the difference between the individual in the community? You knew that basic structure was going to go in, or not?
RD: That started coming a little bit later. But the community part of it, I knew there were pieces there. What happened this morning was I started. I got the sense Martin had said several things [that] seemed to me to be related. There was a thing – the outcome – connecting from the heart. Meeting people where they are. Then modelling the future. They were like key things that he had said. But they were more like goals, whereas the inviting, holding, exploring are processes, they’re activities. And then there was a query, oh there’s a connection. The connecting part was about inviting. Holding was about meeting people. This was about that. The outcome and the process, that makes a nice fit. So that’s about fit. That goes with that, that goes with that, that makes sense. Not only from a visual and auditory perspective, but you can feel the connection and then there’s all the details about how you do that – invite someone, reaching out, the goals, the bridge – all those things that he had said.
[31:09] START OF CLIP 09
But then again in this process of making a movie all these things start to fit together. They’re not data on a piece of paper [picks up his notes], they are now labels for a process. This [picks up his notes] is a surface structure, and then there’s deep structure and these cluster around their cues or clues about this deeper process. The process flows through it. And the words start to fit.
JL: So when there was that fit and the fit’s there [gestures to Robert’s space] that you were getting, is there a relationship between that fit and the movie you’ve created of you stepping in?
RD: Oh yeah. That’s the basis of the fit. That’s what I’m saying. [Picks up piece of paper] That’s data. Then the words start connecting to that movie. The words are secondary to the ... the words are not primary thing. That’s what I was saying before. It’s not about getting words precisely. It’s about getting the process precisely. And the words are cues, or labels for things that are trying to express a process. It’s the process, not the words. The process is this movie, this associated-type of movie. It's got both associated and dissociated. It's got both at the same time.
JL: So that movie is both associated and dissociated. I’ve got the associated. What’s the dissociated about the movie then?
RD: Watch it and be in it at the same time.
JL: How do you do that Robert?
RD: You just do it.
JL: So when you just do that, where do you watch it from – when you’re dissociated?
RD: It’s a little bit like being a sort of a member of the group, but not quite. A bit more up, like when Martin was talking about something I can kind of see him [gestures just above eye line] as if I was in the audience looking at him [in the movie], and then I can be in him.
[33:41] END OF CLIP 09
JL: OK, so you take the two. And do you [switching gesture] between them?
RD: Um [shrugs]. It’s not so hard.
JL: Not any more. Now we know how you do it, by taking the position of the audience and between that and imagining yourself as him.
PT: And when you get the outcome and the process, is that from being a member of the audience dissociated?
RD: [Pause] The outcome of the process, that came from taking key things that Martin talked about and trying to arrange them into a model. That’s a different thing, that’s finding a link between things that seem significant. I mean that’s ... let me see. There’s things that are related, in other words an activity of inviting is an activity, and it has ... in me there’s a relationship. Why do you invite something? You invite it in order to do something. Or why do you hold something? You hold in in order to make something happen. What are you trying to make happen? And then he’d also said, it was emphasised several times, meet people where they are and lots and lots of things he said about how you meet people where they are and the importance of that. So those things are starting to go together as a unit, and then some of that is from the associated experience. But also some of that is now from where you do get into a cognitive thing. When – I keep making an analogy to Mozart – he said that when there was enough stuff that he got all of a sudden then he would start to apply rules of point and counterpoint. He didn’t apply rules of point and counterpoint at the beginning. Not until you start to get enough that now you’re going to go, this is going to fit here, and this is going to fit there, because that’s counterpoint. And that is more of a principle. So for me those are more cognitive structures that have to do with models. It’s like Mozart had some intuition of music. And also trained in the structure of music. So for me it’s like there are TOTES. There are goals, these are operations. So these things have a relationship to each other. But the goal is not an activity. The activity is something you do to get a goal. Then these things that Martin has said that I’ve gathered as being significant start to fit into a structure. A goal is a goal in that sense. The definition of a goal is something I’m trying to get to. And that’s what I do to get there. So these words [picks up his notes] start forming themselves into where they belong in a process [gestures in front of him in same shape as model he presented]. But there’s the deep structure of a process. That’s the other thing I was saying about a tool. It’s a process structure. I know independent of any information I’ve gathered from Martin, I know what it takes to have a process. That comes from NLP training. And also just from experience.
JL: And so, is that knowing of a process the same or different as the significant knowing in the center?
RD: No, because a significant knowing is about how you determine what’s significant. And this is how you’re putting it together into a model [gestures in front]. That knowing of the process is ... a goal is a goal. I know what a goal is, versus an activity and that’s like a feeling of structure. That’s the fit part. That’s a different place. It’s like there’s a workbench. [In] my analogy with Mozart he gets the sound and then he says we’re going to use this instrument to play that sound because it’s [inaudible]. This counterpoint, that’s got to go there and that’s got to go there. That’s more of a cognitive process. Then sh-h-h-h. What notes am I going to use? The basic feel of this. Does that make sense?
JL: I’m tracking you. I might not look like I am, but I’m doing my own version of that for sure. Penny, is there anything else you want to ask? We just need about 10 minutes at the end to say a few words.
JL: Robert, thank you
RD: The only thing I’d say is that there is also in there, in terms of significance this whole notion of purpose that relates to – I think I said it the other day or yesterday – what is useful and what is meaningful. And that’s going back to one of your questions you were asking today. Looking for what’s useful and what’s meaningful. And meaningful has to do with a deeper desire about bringing transformation to people and bringing healing. That’s the deepest driver, to do something that’s going to make a difference for people. And the rest of this is about structuring it in a way that facilitates that. So the feeling of: this is going to make something meaningful happen. Anyway, and what you were saying in terms of your question – meaningful [touches his stomach], useful [gestures in front]. How to fit the structure of a tool [gestures in front], meaningful there [touches his stomach].
JL: At the center.
RD: And to have something that’s useful but not meaningful ... [shakes his head].
JL: It has to do both.
RD: The two simultaneous.
JL: All the way through the whole modelling process.
PT: [Turns to audience] Even that is congruent with the modelling process. Do you see the structure of that is there, a little fractal – how could it not be?
JL: Thank you Robert. Thank you for your patience in answering our questions.
view all featured events
a new book
1 Aug 2017
Special launch price
free reference card with every order
Insights in Space:
How to use Clean Space to solve problems, generate ideas and spark creativity
James Lawley & Marian Way