Clean Questions and Metaphor Models

I was recently introduced to TED talks. They’ve been around a while but not particularly important in India. I feel underprivileged to have not attended any while I was in San Francisco. Anyway, I stumbled upon this really interesting talk by Caitlin Walker. She was into computer science doing her doctorate in artificial intelligence before she switched around completely and started working in linguistics!!

She is an American national, has a British father and was born in Africa. Having lived on three continents in her young age, she realised that rules were not true. She understood that when you move continents (and societies) these rules automatically change. Therefore those rules might be true for that society and time but not in the absolute. And, it is equally difficult to change those rules which have been ingrained into you for generations.

This led her to be even more enamoured by the tool developed by David Grove. He was from New Zealand developing a module of clean language. Which by the definition is a language of inquiry. A way to look into yourself and others in a different non judgmental way. It involved asking open ended questions. You have no preset outcomes. You have to accept whatever is told and build your questions around it. Without deciding what is good or not good about it. It starts with what would you like happen?

Once those questions are asked, you should come to a conclusion of getting your own metaphor to the problem. Your build your own personal landscape around the situation. And then with practice, not only do you get an insight into your own problems but also those of others. She goes on to give a lot of examples very profound ones about how this whole tool works wonders.

She gives her own experience with clean language. She was questioning her own choices and life decisions when someone suggested she go meet David Grove. She was very reluctant but attended a workshop anyways. While on stage, he asked for a volunteer and did the whole experiment with her. The conversation is as follows,

“what would you like happen”? The lady in question wanted to work on her despicable public speaking skills.

“What happens when you talk in public”?

She said, “I just loose my voice”.

“What kind of loose”?

“It just disappears to a hole”?

“Anything else about the hole”?

“I see my father inside it”.

And as it turned out the lady had internalise the grief of seeing her father shoot himself. The power and will of a little girl who had been unable to stop time and it was this power and will that was kept inside her for so long and she was finally able to release.

At the same workshop, one of the exercises was for the participants to ask these questions to others. Caitlin was asked questions by an old man. It turned out that she was seeking her own path. The path that she was actually supposed to follow. That’s when she realised that she was 90 degrees across from where she was supposed to be at. That night, when she hit the bar, she realised how impactful the whole exercise was because in four simple questions she knew why she was so unhappy and depressed and drinking a bit too much. Then she left her partner of 12 years and her PhD in artificial intelligence and embarked on a journey of her own calling.

The following example blew me away, personally. To pay three bills, Caitlin was working as a youth support teacher. She had ten kinds from the worst schools she had to deal with. Give them baseline assessments and individual learning programs. Instead, she tried the clean language exercise with them.

I am not going to write down all the examples but one which I thought most powerful was- most kids had a problem with temper.

“Like what?”

“I go red”.

“What kind of red?”

“Just maroon, a deep red”

“What happens just before you go red?”

“I am blue like my mother, like the sky.When I get up in the mooring, my dad is drunk. My  clothes smell of sweat because he’s not done the laundry and there’s not enough money for the bus or food. Is that why I have a problem with my temper?”

To which, Caitlin said she didn’t know but could find out more. And the student just goes on to find out for himself. He goes on to say that since he’s going to be late anyway, he will walk up to the little pond and breathe blue. Then become purple and this control his anger. He got his own personal metaphor, controlled his anger. And it was t him alone, they built a new cameraderie amongst themselves with each one being as involved rather than picking on each other in a rather destructive manner. So here, it worked wonders on potential juvenile delinquents and got them back to school and leading better lives!!

I am completely blown away by this concept. It resonated with my inner non judgemental self. It’s open and free. And it empowers you to be your own helper. It’s making you most independent and still empowers you to have a greater insight into others. It’s my dream to actualise the world to heal itself. A world without doctors, hospitals. A world with healers and independent people who are powerful enough to heal themselves. This just is one step in that direction!

WordPress, doesn’t allow you to upload videos or else I would. But here is a link to the video. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did Leave your comments down below. I’d love some feedback.


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