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Objects as Symbols


Practice Group Report

Following on from Clean Constellations last month, we decided to experiment with similar process, using objects (e.g. Lego bricks, Russian dolls, coins, stones) rather than people as representatives. Of course it then becomes a different process, but has the advantage that instead of needing a whole group of people to cooperate, it is possible to work 1-2-1.

We were using a cut-down version of Lynn Burney’s process; cut-down because many of the questions in large-scale constellations simply don’t work in a one-to-one context. We noticed that the client quickly became engaged with their landscape and that it was possible to add in regular Clean Language questions.

We really noticed the differences between the two processes. In the ‘real’ constellations process the client is obliged to stay outside the system, to be an onlooker, making occasional comments and suggestions. The representatives are doing a lot of the talking. In this scaled-down version, the client necessarily plays a more active role, being the only individual to voice what is happening, albeit from different perspectives – and in most cases, the client was inclined to fiddle with the objects-as-representatives, constantly moving and adjusting them until they were just the way they wanted them to be.

Another major difference was the number of representatives that tended to come into play. In the full constellations process, this is limited by the number of people in the room who are willing to become representatives. But when the client has a whole box of Lego or tub of stones to play with, they can bring as many as they wish into the frame. For some facilitators, this became a bit overwhelming or confusing and there were often too many to ask about individually. However, this didn’t seem to matter, because the clients knew exactly what each object was representing and where they were in their process.

This process also seemed faster than the full size constellations process. We each had 20 minutes as client and it seemed that in each case quite a lot of territory was covered.

On other occasions, when we have practised purely with Clean Language, much of the reporting at the end of the meeting has been about the content of people’s landscapes. On this occasion, there was a remarkable absence of information about the content of these symbolic landscapes. This may have been because each person spent only 20 minutes with the landscape, but may also have been that because we were looking at the process from the outside, we were less likely to embody it. Only one person reported an actual shift (in their tummy area). Others said they became more aware of the system that was represented and that they noticed new things, but they were not seem to be as engaged as people are when they are Clean Language clients or as they were in full size Clean Constellations.

At the end of the meeting we had a brief discussion about possible topics for future meetings, which are:

  • Working with drawings
  • When I am modelling at my best, that’s like what?
  • Modelling in the moment: what was the intention of that question?
  • Different models for working with groups
  • Conversational clean

Image by Jacqueline Macou from Pixabay

About Marian Way

Marian Way's avatar

A highly skilled facilitator and trainer, Marian, who founded Clean Learning in 2001, has developed and delivered training across the world. She is the author of Clean Approaches for Coaches, co-author, with James Lawley, of Insights in Space and co-author, with Caitlin Walker, of So you want to be… #DramaFree.

Marian is an expert Clean facilitator, an adept modeller, a programme writer and an inspirational trainer. She has a natural ability to model existing structures, find the connections between them and design new ways for people to learn. Marian was a leading innovator within the Weight Watchers organisation, which included developing the “points” strategy, a local idea that went on to become a global innovation. She is a director of both Clean Learning and Training Attention CIC, world leaders in clean applications for corporate, educational and community development. She designs our programmes and workbooks, leads workshops and teaches on all our courses. She’s trained people in Great Britain, Russia, Sweden, Germany, Australia, Japan and the USA. Marian is also a recognised Clean Assessor.

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