Metaphors of movement
Andrew T. Austin, therapist, author of a book The Rainbow Machine. He worked formerly as a registered nurse in the field of neurosurgery and neurology. Recently he is based in the south of England and travels a lot overseas to give trainings. We have conducted a short interview with him:
What are some of your good experiences in this field in UK, Poland and India? Are they any different culturally?
Poland and India are two of my favourite places to work outside of the UK. The similarities and contrasts are always interesting to me. As a trainer who teaches soft skills in the areas of personal development and psychotherapy, one thing that stands out the most is that people hurt the same way, no matter what their cultural background, and other people's desire to help is equally strong, again no matter the cultural background.
Poland and India have certain vibrancy about them. Poland now has a adult generation that has grown up in the post-Soviet era, and the economy is changing massively. The work ethic is strong and the desire to be better and to be the best is impressive. This makes for some fantastic workshop experiences where I often find enthusiastic groups of noticeably younger attendees that show a spirit I don't often see elsewhere in Europe. The entrepreneurial spirit of the young combined with the renowned Polish work ethic means that innovation is high and the future is looking good in Poland.
In India there is definitely an economic boom time happening. It's an exciting time and the country is changing amazingly fast and the amount of wealth is increasing year on year that it reminds me of the boom time of the 80's in the United Kingdom. Despite this, India retains its strong cultural identity that, I must admit, I find impenetrable at times. As a result, I sometimes wonder how eccentric I must appear to the Indian workshop attendees. But the Indian hospitality is legendary and the reception I receive there is second to none, working and travelling in India is quite magical.
The Mirror Box looks very fascinating illusion to overcome Phantom Limb Pain. How and when did you discover this method?
I first read about the mirror box in Prof. Vilayanur Ramachandran's book, "Phantoms in the Brain." It's truly a wonderful book which is of interest to anyone who is intrigued by the more curious aspects of the mind and brain. Ramachandran's observations in neurology have transformed the lives of so many people who would otherwise have intractable suffering, especially in the area of pain. On reading about the mirror box, I asked my father to construct me one and immediately started trying it out with patient who had long-term phantom pain following traumatic amputation of a limb. For the majority of people, the relief was almost instant and the effects long lasting, if not permanent.
Since the publication of Ramachandran's book, several other researchers have also "discovered" this method, some quite possibly having done so independently. I've seen the mirror box feature on a number of popular TV science shows, and also on the cult series, "House". As a result, phantom limb pain is increasingly rare as more and more clinicians become aware of this treatment option. More recently, the mirror box method is also being used to treat complex regional pain syndrome, which much like phantom limb pain, previously lacked an efficient treatment protocol.
My main interest in the mirror box quickly became an investigation into the occasions where the patient did not achieve any relief from this process. Several years ago, I set up a temporary website that collated data from different clinicians worldwide by asking them to report in their experiences with the mirror box. A number of variables emerged that have enabled me to successfully work with several phantom limb clients who previously appeared unresponsive the mirror box treatment process. From a clinical perspective, this has been quite exciting, and in conjunction with the media company Smart Dreamers, we have started producing a training video and documentary film outlining and demonstrating the modified use of the mirror box.
What is different in Metaphors of Movement that makes it so interesting for people?
A recent MoM workshop participant said that this work enabled him to hear people better. I know what he means, before I understood Metaphors of Movement, I think I only believed that I listened to people. People communicate significant amounts in metaphor, often without realising it and the most common response is, "oh, I know what you mean" and we place our own model of understanding upon the metaphorical aspect of communication, which often doesn't at all match what the person meant at all.
An easy example is if the person is said to be "towing the line." Now, until recently, I always heard that differently. I thought it meant, "TOEing the line", which is quite different. In groups, when I ask people to describe that they hear meant by "towing/toeing the line" an enormous amount of variables emerge. For example, some people envisage a straight line that runs from left to right in front of them - a line that mustn't be crossed. Others, envisage a line that runs from back to front, like a tightrope, for them it is very much a case of, "staying in line." Yet others have it as "towing a line" much as one would tow a boat.
There are of course other variables.
I recently consulted with some small business owners. An item for discussion came up of their "bale out" plan. All participants agreed that they needed a "bale out plan" but there was much confusion as to the best strategy. I asked them all how they conceptualised a "bale out" using the Metaphors of Movement protocols.
Several key conceptualisations emerged, awareness of which changed the understanding of everyone present.
- bale out of a sinking ship (much like rats leaving a sinking ship)
- bale out of an aeroplane (pull the eject cord, needs a parachute)
- bale out a sinking ship with a bucket (to keep it afloat)
It became apparent to everyone that not everyone thought of a bale out plan as being the same thing. Some would simply leave the company, whilst others would try to save the company.
All too often, such metaphors get dismissed as "just a figure of speech" and we impose our own meaning upon the communication. People speak, but no one really hears. This is a phenomena that I call, "shouting at the deaf."
Casually communicated metaphorical phrases are information dense and this density can be quickly deduced if only we can learn to hear what a person says, rather than impose our own meaning upon what is said. An example I often use in workshops is that of a depressive client who states that, "life is an uphill struggle and I don't seem to be getting anywhere."
I teach students to make statements that are common every day expressions that fit with the metaphor of an "uphill struggle" where progress is not being made.
- the person may be on a slippery slope
- they are trying to get to the top
- they are trying to get on top of things
- they keep backsliding
- everything has its ups and downs for them
- they are on a difficult path
- stepping up isn't getting them anywhere
And so on.
When we keep our communication within the logic of the client's metaphorical structure, the dynamics of the communication change dramatically. So, rather than the client presenting as, "life is an uphill struggle" and this being re-invented as "depression" by the listener, by taking the client at their word, specific solutions to the client's problem become readily apparent. In the case of the "uphill struggle" a change of direction might be required, rather than trying to surmount their difficulty, finding a way around it might work better.
There are already a number of excellent therapeutic models that use metaphors, including the work by Charles Faulkner and Penny Tompkins and James Lawley's "Clean Language" model. These are two areas of work that I highly recommend. In developing the MoM work I was keen not to reinvent the wheel, and I must admit to no small level of concern that there would be too much similarity and convergence with what I am doing with metaphors and what these other influential developers were doing also. What has been so pleasing is that I have had students of both models attend the MoM trainings and the feedback has been excellent, citing significant differences in both the material content in the application of the material to change work and clinical settings.
Which are the other brilliant methods which you have shared and had shown results for the therapies of the people you have previously worked with?
My model of Integral Eye Movement Therapy (IEMT), a development from Connirae and Steve Andreas’ work with Eye Movement Integration is rapidly becoming the treatment model of choice by so many therapists. The model exploits a neurological quirk that arises from the action of specific eye movements applied at a particular point of thought. Basically, what this means is that the clients thinks something as directed by the therapist, and moves their eyes in a specific manner. It’s odd, and it’s quirky, but it is astonishingly effective.
Where IEMT differs from its root of Eye Movement Integration is that the model is then built around 5 specific behavioural patterns – The Five Patterns of Chronicity. These are the patterns that people unwittingly engage when faced with intractable emotional hurt. I make no distinction as to whether these patterns emerge because of the chronic hurt (i.e. as an adaptation response) or are the cause of the emotional hurt. What we do now know is that these five patterns tend to make therapeutic change extremely difficult indeed. Thus the IEMT model addresses and resolves these 5 patterns of chronicity enabling very rapid change for so many people for whom previously change would have been considered possible.
What are the most common problems faced by people nowadays that you can successfully overcome?
Anxiety. No matter where I go in the world, the number one reported problem for which people want help is anxiety. It can manifest in all sorts of ways - stress, worry, fear, anxiety, panic attacks, obsessions, but basically anxiety seems to be at the root of so many problems. Just learning to relax isn't good enough - often these clients have heard it all, "just try to relax," "take deep breaths", "calm down". Therapy often tries to explore what the client is anxious about, but so often, the client isn't aware that they are anxious about anything. They are just anxious.
In addition to the psychiatric option of medication there are a number of treatment options open that client's report excellent results with. One such option is Nick Kemp's excellent "Voice Tempo Exercise", another is my own model of Integral Eye Movement Therapy using the Three Pillars model. This model developed from my observation that so many people with serious anxiety issues also suffered from serious guilt issues. Not necessarily from having done anything in particular, they just feel guilty really easily, often for no good reason. The other observation was that so many people with serious anxiety can also be 'highly strung' with quick tempers, and/or be very good at having a lot of internal anger. Thus by working with the latent guilt and anger issues, the anxiety issue can often be quickly addressed in just one or two sessions. for those that wish to know more about IEMT, they can visit the website: www.integraleyemovementtherapy.com
Andy's youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/andrew23blogs
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