Posts tagged: perspective

Philosophy, Booklists and The Tiger Who Came to Tea

Under the Rainbow at the Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival

Blue sky, white clouds and a rainbow over a beach scene

My day at the Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival began with John Gray on ‘The Soul of the Marionette: A Short Enquiry into Human Freedom.

book cover The Soul of the MarionetteThere were a lot of questions:

  • Can knowledge set us free?
  • Will we ever understand ourselves well enough to design a better version?
  • Do we really want to be free?

There weren’t a lot of answers but I did come away with a list of authors who might help with my research: Philip K. Dick, Theodore Powys, Gertrude Bell, Michel de Montaigne might help me see life a little more clearly which might mean less disturbed by the beliefs of the world around me.

I’m all for a closer examination of beliefs, their nature, their shifting sandiness and our unwitting of living as if they were true and this was a thoroughly enjoyable stroll in that direction.



On, then, to A Celebration of the Life and Work of Judith KerrA little girl opens to the door to a huge, lovable, cartoon tiger

What a life and what wonderful work Judith Kerr continues to create. 92 years old and as entertaining, gently profound
and moving as ever, Judith Kerr is an absolute delight.

I read ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ to children at school, to my own children, and now to my grandchildren and it has an irrepressible charm. Who knew that the illustrations include two versions of the father? I must go back and have another look.

And then, of course, there was ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’ and now we have ‘Mister Cleghorn’s Seal’ based on her father’s real experience of saving the life a seal pup and taking it home to his flat to live on the balcony.

I hope I can be so irrepressible, good humoured and lively when I’m 92.


“Can you remember a time before you could read?

Hilary Mantel’s Life in Books conversation picked up a thread touched upon by Judith Kerr who questioned the content of the Janet and John books she encountered in school.  Whether it was Janet and John, “John has two caps.”; Nip and Fluff “Nip is a dog. I see a dog.”; or Peter and Jane, it seems wonderful that we ever saw the point in learning to read unless, like Hilary Mantel, you managed to discover a world of books actually worth reading.

Amid this fascinating conversation books and authors tumbled like a glorious domino rally with one book prompting another until my notebook was almost full.  ‘Kidnapped’ clearly deserves revisiting as I had completely failed to notice the perfection in its form. Oliver Sacks, Beryl Bainbridge, and Ivy Compton-Burnett are all favourites of my own who were highly commended while I admit my ignorance re Molly Keane, Sybille Bedford and Alison Lurie.

I’ve added them all to my ‘must read’ list, and I still haven’t finished reading “John Aubrey – My Own Life” by Ruth Scurr so I’m ill-prepared for tomorrow!


Be my Outsider Witness

It’s day 9 of National Poetry Writing Month and, for the first time, I’ve hit a confidence wobble. I decided that the best thing to do was own up to my doubts and write about them. This gives me the opportunity to look again at my words and view process and content from a more objective standpoint.

I wonder what you might notice in what follows.  I’m inviting you to be my ‘outsider witness’.  You will spot things in the poem that are invisible to me.  By reflecting on what you see and hear in my words, I will gain a new perspective on my own experience and that could lead me off into all sorts of possibilities that I would otherwise have missed.


The Arrow’s Lost its Point

My song would be uncommon
but my refrain remains unsung
shut away in dusty books
wanting love.

Once it trotted at a rhythm
verses seemed to rhyme
but those which seemed remarkable
now go unnoticed.

My words are tired.
Lacking power to move
they darken on the page.
The arrow’s lost its point.

Once the pain of it was pleasure
there’s the rub
that sting can lose its venom.

While poison in the system throbs and courses for a while
the swell subsides
the itch will fade
that which had seemed irksome goes unnoticed.
Yet we are poisoned

Change work

Day two of the challenge to write a new poem every day for a month.

To give the whole exercise relevance to my coaching I have decided to offer some commentary on either the content or the process.  I’m hoping you will find this interesting and it might answer some frequently asked questions such as; What is coaching?, What questions might a coach ask?  What can poetry tell me about myself?  What is Narrative Practice and how is it used in coaching?  How will coaching help me to change?

What is particularly interesting for me from a Narrative NLP perspective is to watch out for themes and then to take a step back and look at the process as an observer.

Questions I might ask as coach could include:

What does this tell you about yourself?
What surprises you?
What doesn’t surprise you?
What might surprise a significant other person in your life?

Here’s the poem.  What questions would you ask me?



As cliff drops stone
to be pummeled by wind and waves
pebble piles on pebbles piled on pebbles
hiding strength.

In full sight of the enemy
they mutter in their shifting
a muffled murmuration promising
the secret agency of change.



…and now for the good news

Surely we are surrounded by safety… safe relationships, safe journeys, safe schools; isn’t the list endless?  Take a moment to think of just three ‘safe’ experiences you have enjoyed in the last couple of days.

It’s telling that when, in my research for this post, I searched for ‘safe travel’, statistics for accidents and fatalities consistently came top of the responses. I was looking for statistics for road trips made without accident; uneventful rail, air and sea journeys; people walking to school, or work or walking the dog without coming to harm. The default response to ‘search safe’ seems to be ‘find unsafe’.

I found the UK National Statistics Information Hub and, encouraged by the title, followed the link to ‘Child Safety and Wellbeing’.  In the 35 documents listed under Child Safety and Wellbeing I found only 3 references to positive participation, satisfaction, or emotional health and achievement. These were the exceptions amid multiple references to youth crime, sentencing and detention of young people, substance misuse etc.

It is not my intention here to criticise the Statistical Information services.  I am simply highlighting the fact that good news is so hard to find even while we are surrounded by it.  Look around you and see the evidence of children in secure families, play areas being used happily, successful youth groups, gymnastics clubs and street dancing etc.

Consider for a moment the millions of people walking in our towns and countryside freely and reaching their destination safely.  Isn’t the same true of thousands of rail journeys, flights and ferry crossings?

So why, if we turn on the news, or pick up a paper, might we allow one story involving ‘unsafe’ dominate our thoughts and feelings?

I suggest that it is because the version of ‘reality’ that has come to dominate the story – the narrative – of our lives is an unnecessarily negative one.  Once we realise this we can begin to see our life from a new, more balanced, perspective.

The good news is that there is an abundant source of good news all around us and all we have to do is allow ourselves to notice it.

The Dramatic Art of Narrative NLP


Dramatic Change is possible

The dramatic art of changing stories


In this short video Ben’s story Paul Zak tells the story of a father and his little boy who is dying of cancer and uses the storytellers’ dramatic arc to explain the neurochemistry of empathy.

The dramatic arc rises to a climax and falls to the denouement

the dramatic, or narrative, arc


While he uses the theory of mind to explain our empathy with others, I recognise its implications for understanding our own emotions and influencing, our own behaviour.

When you tell me your story, you offer an exposition of the problem as you currently perceive it.  Our conversation proceeds and tension increases (rising action) as we explore the problem story and begin to entertain the prospect of new, previously unguessed at, possibilities.

The climax is reached when new perspectives lead to a breakthrough so that the power of the old story is reduced (falling action) and you can begin to let go of old thought patterns and habits.

The denouement of the old, problem, story emerges as you identify new ways of being that herald a new direction for your life story.


The Narrative NLP arc rises through possibility from the problem story to a breakthrough and through letting go reaches a

The Narrative NLP arc



The Power of the A2 Switch

capital A and number 2 created with feathers

Someone very close to me who shall remain nameless is incensed by the habit of some speakers who
A . . . begin listing elements of an argument alphabetically and
2 . . . switch to mumerical or even
Continue without either.

I was amazed to hear Malcolm Gladwell make the A2 switch at the beginning of this conversation Blink but it triggered my curiosity.

And maybe that’s the point.

Perhaps some people are unfettered by the necessity of sticking to the predictable when they are thinking around an idea.  The breaking out of the alphabet or numeric sequence might irritate some of us but it may be an indicator of a free thinker. Perhaps their processing is non-linear, a little looser, more creative.

What I’m noticing at the moment is that the unexpected switch from A to 2 is grabbing my attention and anything that grabs my attention is worth considering.



War and Peace

The planet is suspended in a drop of oil

It’s all so arbitrary: war and peace; love and understanding; fear and loathing.

The view depends so much on where you stand. How would it be if, just for a moment, you stood somewhere unfamiliar?

You may see something different; something that you had never seen before although, having seen it now, you realise that it has always been there, just gone unnoticed.

What difference does this make?

Many differences might be possible and, for me, there is one that occurs everytime I experience this shift in perspective. it is both a feeling and an understanding.

A different view is always possible. Fear and loathing or love and understanding? War or peace?

When we make a conscious choice life feels less arbitrary.

Try standing somewhere unfamiliar.

Why add Narrative to NLP?

Why add Narrative to NLP?

Narrative practice is becoming increasingly popular and I think that part of the reason is that it makes so much sense to most people.

A narrative approach recognises the human tendency to make meaning of our experiences through story. When I ask you what you would like to talk about, or what’s going on for you, you respond by telling me a story.  Often you will add in other stories, stories from the past, to explain your feelings, ideas and responses.

Narrative Inquiry allows us to tell those stories more fully and in a wider context and facilitates new perspectives – we begin to appreciate how the broader context – the discourse – may limit others as well as ourselves.

My experience has been that people not only agree with this notion, but will often offer a story of their own to corroborate:

“Of course that makes perfect sense to me” replied a woman who had just returned to England after 45 years in Australia. “I would never have gone to Oz if there had been more for me here in the 60’s and I wouldn’t have come home now if it wasn’t for the fact that all my family is here. And I can see that was different for other people because their situations were different.  At the time I couldn’t understand why anyone would stay in England when they could go to Australia for £10.”

Try explaining NLP to someone in a couple of paragraphs and see if you get that level of engagement.  And yet the two models have so much in common.

Looking back along a timeline we tell our stories; different perceptual positions give us new perspectives and allow us to –re-author- our stories desired outcomes are stories of possibility.

From both narrative and NLP perspectives, the future is nothing but potential and is ours to create.  For me Narrative NLP is a way of being respectful of our past stories and creative with future possibility.  It’s a win win combination.

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