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"A Strange and Strong Sensation"
Symbolic Modelling - Change with Metaphor

A training video featuring Penny Tompkins and James Lawley

in both DVD and VHS video format

To order in USA, click: Crown House Publishing. To order in UK and elsewhere, click: Anglo American Book Company

Advances in contemporary psychology have matched recent breakthroughs in the science of self-organizing systems and complexity theory. This video offers coaches, psychotherapists and other mental health professionals an opportunity to experience the benefits now available through these innovations.

Symbolic Modelling is a new way of thinking about the change process. At its heart is Clean Language, a profoundly respectful questioning process developed by internationally acclaimed therapist David Grove.

This training video accompanies Penny and James' book, Metaphors in Mind: Transformation through Symbolic Modelling. It contains a film of a complete Symbolic Modelling session with on-screen annotation. The client discovers her personal metaphors and symbols and learns how these weave together to form a Metaphor Landscape. She is facilitated to identify the conditions necessary for organic change within this Landscape, so that new ways of perceiving herself and her world emerge.

Client comment, 4 months after the video session:

"Things are much calmer, more settled and more in my control. I have a stronger sense of my own identity. I know where I am and what my place is. So that's been very, very nice for me."

Contents of Video


1 min.

Client session (annotated)

48 mins

Client's comments:

- immediately after session

3 mins

- 4 months later

6 mins

Information and credits

2 mins

Client session (no annotation)

48 mins

Total time

108 mins

The DVD/video helps you follow the client's process by highlighting her key metaphors on-screen so that you can see how they arise and how they change.

Includes a 36-page booklet
with a full transcript and unique
three-perspective explanatory annotation

See the sample transcript and annotation below.

Published by The Developing Company Press, March 2003

ISBN 0-9538751-1-3

The DVD version has 19 Chapters allowing you to go to any part of the process directly. It does not include the "no annotation" version of the session.

ISBN 0-9538751-2-1


Phil Swallow

Production Assistant

Wendy Sullivan


Peter McAven

DVD and VHS video list price:

£30.00 (Pounds Sterling, includes VAT)

Client Metaphor 1
Client Metaphor 4
Client New Metaphor 1
Client New Metaphor 2
Penny & James

To order in USA, click: Crown House Publishing. To order in UK and elsewhere, click: Anglo American Book Company

Sample Transcript and Annotation

Following is a sample of the word-for-word transcript of "A Strange and Strong Sensation" annotated from three perspectives:

In addition to reading across the columns, we suggest you read the annotation one column at a time. In this way you can get a sense of:

Metaphors in Mind: Transformation through Symbolic Modelling contains a comprehensive explanation of the terms used in the annotation.

Not all of the observations in 'The Facilitation' column were in our awareness during the session. However, we believe the direction of our questions was influenced out-of-awareness by similar observations.

All facilitator-generated words are in bold to distinguish them from the client's words and to make it easier to see the syntax of each question. In the first column, C=Client, P=Penny, J=James.







And what would you like to have happen?

Standard entry question invites client to attend to a desired outcome.


I would like clarity on why I'm always late for things.

Client's answer is likely a proposed solution (rather than a desired outcome, see C19) as she would like "clarity" on a long-standing problem, "always late for things".

Does the client want "clarity" or does she want to change being "always late"? Insight doesn't necessarily lead to change.


And you would like to have clarity on why you're always late for things. And when you would like to have clarity, is there anything else when you would like to have clarity on why you're always late for things?

Full 3-part syntax:
And ....
And when ...,
[clean question]?

Could have been a little cleaner as client said "clarity", not "to have clarity".


I'd like to know why I put myself through that anxiety. Because I'm sure it's not necessary.

Similar structure to C1:
- to know/clarity
- why
- I's problem.

The client clarifies that being "always late" is undesirable.


And when you have clarity and you'd like to know why you put yourself through that anxiety, what kind of clarity is that clarity that you would like?

Acknowledges the client's "anxiety" before inviting her to develop the form of "clarity"--her proposed solution.

The 'that' in "that clarity" directs attention to this particular "clarity" and no other.


I can see it as a shape actually. It's something that's right here [horizontal gesture in front] and I don't know what it is.

Metaphor 1
Client knows the symbol's
attribute, "shape", and its location, but she does not know "what it is".

Currently, the symbol's name is "shape" and its address is specified nonverbally and by "right here".


And it's a shape and it's something right here [horizontal gesture in front of client] and is there anything else about that shape?

Invites client to attend to what she does know, "shape". (Using the shortened two-part syntax.)

The gesture acknoweldges the location of the symbol - from the client's perspective.


It's a bit icy.

Another attribute.


And it's a bit icy, and it's a shape and it's a bit icy and it's here. And is there anything else about that icy or that shape?

Continues to invite the form of the symbol to develop.


I want to touch it but I'm worried that it's cold, literally like ice.

Client specifies an intention "I want to touch it". "But I'm worried" indicates a problem.

It is seems likely that "icy shape" is a metaphor for "why I'm always late" rather than "clarity".


And you want to touch it, and you're worried that it's cold like ice. And that's the clarity that you would like on why you're always late for things?

Checking the relationship of the metaphor to the original statement (C1).




And when a shape, and icy and you would like to touch it, how far away is that shape?

This specialist question invites client to identify the precise location of the symbol.

Continues to develop the client's embodied awareness of her perceptual space.


It's here [gestures half a metre in front].

Confirms C3.


And it's here. And is there anything else when it's here?

Invites more of the symbol's attributes to emerge.


I think it's always there. I can't make it closer. I don't think I'd want to make it further away but I can't make it closer.

Clients' current reality is:
- "it's always there"
- "I can't make it closer"
- "I don't want to ...".


And you can't make it closer and you wouldn't want to make it further away and it's icy and [horizontal gesture] shape. And when [horizontal gesture] icy and shape, then what happens?

Invites client to consider the effect of "icy shape" by directing attention to the next moment in time.

Uses a gesture to reference both the name and address of the symbol.


So then I want to move it. It's like a bar. I want to shake it and make it move. But I can feel it then in here [touches stomach]. Something it does to me in here [touches stomach]. It must be connected.

Client's intention is "to move it". "But ..." again indicates a problem enacting this.

The symbol's form is established "like a bar" which is "connected" to a new symbol "it in here" (her stomach).

Same sentence structure as C5. The continued incompatibility between the client's intention and her state may indicate a binding pattern.

Client uses "it" seven times -- it's a challenge to keep track of it!


And it must be connected when you want to shake it and make it move and you can feel it in here. And when you can feel it in here, whereabouts in here can you feel it?

Establishing a location for the new symbol "it in here" starts the process of developing a metpahor for the feeling.


It's right here on my stomach.

The location of "on" is ambiguous.


And on your stomach. And when it's on your stomach, is it on the inside or the outside?

The reference to her body allows this specialist question to be asked.


It's like the front half of my body, say.


And like the front half of your body. And when the front half of your body, does that have a size or a shape?

This specialist question is allowed because 'its' characteristically have a size or shape.


Yes, well it's kind of like a scooped-out shape, a bit like a bowl on its side.

The client spontaneously identifies a metaphor.


And a scooped-out shape, a bit like a bowl on its side. And when a bowl on its side, and connected, must be connected, is there anything else about that must be connected when you can feel it?

invites client to attend to the relationship "must be connected"

This presupposes also attending to the two connected symbols, "icy bar" and "scooped-out shape".


Yeah. It's like if I could move the bar it would probably pull out the scooped shape, as if its linked to it. So I want to move it and make this thing shift a bit.

Evidence that the client is self-modelling.



And you want to move it and make this thing shift a bit, and if you move the bar it would pull it, and when it would pull it, and it's connected, is there anything else about that connected?

Continues to develop the form of the relationship "connected".



I don't like it. I don't like it. There are strands of whatever it is that's connecting it. And it's aggravating me. Now I know it's there, it's irritating.

The form of "connected" is established as "strands".

The client seems to be getting "clarity" but it is "aggravating" and "irritating" - be careful what you ask for!


And it's irritating and it's aggravating. And when it's irritating and it's aggravating now that you know it's there, what would strands like to have happen?

Acknowledges the client's "irritating" response, then asks for the intention of the symbol "strands".


They just want a break, as in have a rest. I think they'd like to go to bed. [Laughs] I don't think they like being there either.

"Strands" don't like "connecting" either.


And they just want a break and a rest, to go to bed. And it's aggravating now that you know they're there, and when they just want a break and it's aggravating, then what happens?

So what happens now that the client has both these new awarenesses?


Well then I wonder why it's all there in the first place. So now I can see it, I question it. But it feels a bit brutal to just try and force it and yank it out. It feels like it needs a bit of coaxing or a bit of understanding.

"It needs a bit of coaxing" specifies a condition necessary to fulfil the intention "want to move it" (C9).

More evidence the client is self-modelling.


And it feels like it needs a bit of coaxing or understanding and it would be brutal just to pull it out. And what kind of coaxing is that coaxing and understanding?

Developing new metaphor, "coaxing".

Although the client had said "force it", she had used "pull out" earlier (C13).


I suppose this scoopy-shape is kind of, it's attached on the inside, so if I pull it, it would just rip, so it needs easing. I suppose, I need to know that I don't need that thing there. Something like that. So that it can be eased out. But maybe it needs somewhere to go. This whole thing.

More conditions necessary for change:
- "it needs easing"
- "I need to know ..."
- "maybe it needs somewhere to go".

A "need to know" before enacting her intention.

More self-modelling.



It needs coaxing and understanding, and maybe it needs somewhere to go and easing. And when it needs easing, coaxing, then what happens?

Client knows the effect of "pull it". Does she know the effect of "easing"?


I'm not sure I need someone to, to help me with it. I feel it's only me here with this thing. I'd like to know I could hand it to someone who could do something with it. Not a real person, but , you know,something symbolic for me that felt safe.

More conditions:
- "I need someone to help me ... that felt safe".


Another "I'd like to know ...".


And something symbolic for you that felt safe that you could hand it to. And when there's the icy and the connected and the scoopy-thing and you'd like someone symbolic to hand it to, what's the relationship between all of that and always late?

Recaps components of the Metaphor Landscape. Then asks a specialist question about the relationship of "all of that" to the original problem, "always late".


It's as if it gets in the way of me just being in an ordered space [downward vertical motion] so that if I want to do something I can just do it. It's like I always have to deal with this thing and it's a hindrance. So I'm thinking of that in terms of if I was getting ready to go somewhere it doesn't quite allow me to be in just a peaceful space and get on with what I'm doing. This thing is there which I didn't know about 'til now.

Client identifies a name and function for Metaphor 1 as a whole: "a hindrance".

And Metaphor 2:
desired outcome for how she would be without this hindrance: "in an ordered ... peaceful space "where "I can just do it" and "get on with what I'm doing".

Presumably the "I didn't know about 'til now" indicates the client is continuing to get "clarity" about "always late" &emdash; her original request (C1).


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Last amended 11.1.07