Posts tagged: story

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!


Thoughts on Transformation

These are some thoughts I collected over a recent weekend workshop.  Most of them are my own (others are credited where possible but if I have failed to credit you, please let me know and I will correct the image).


Narrative thoughts

What I’m wondering is, would these thoughts mean anything to you if you weren’t part of the weekend experience?

  • A conversation can always make a difference.
  • What you see of me is just the tip of the iceberg.
  • What I see of you is just the tip of the iceberg.
  • When you’re looking for the best (in human beings), miraculously, that’s what shows up.
  • Every time I retell the story I notice something different.
  • A rippling moon looking up sees a sister riding the sky.
  • If I peeled my image off the mirror, what would I see?
  • And if I drop the future it shatters into a million sharpened futures.
  • I don’t know. You don’t know. We don’t know. Not knowing is a great place to start.
  • When I am upset about something, that’s not what I’m upset about.
  • Transformation lies in things we would rather avoid.
  • We are constituted in conversation.
  • I came from a nowhere that might have been somewhere and sometimes I glance back.
  • The completion of a story is the beginning of a story.
  • We all have a story, we are not our story and the story does not predict our future.

 Is there anything here that speaks to you and if so, what does it suggest?

If you’re curious I recommend you check the programme out. Here’s a link.

I Always Knew it Wasn’t Me

docs in folderIt’s time to reconsider.

Reconsider the information that makes up your story.

Reconsider your notion of ‘truth’ and how things could be so different.

Reconsider the future.

Like the butterfly’s wing, each of these aspects of life as you have been living it will be linked and interlinked so that when you change one thing, you change everything.

Consider the story of the man who grew up believing he had had polio as a child. He stood with a slight stoop and walked with a limp.

Imagine the shock of discovering that it wasn’t you, but a complete stranger who had polio and somehow your records had become confused.

It wasn’t the relief and sense of release that he experienced first.

To begin with he was confused. Then he became angry but quite quickly he began to realise something about himself.

“Deep down I think I always knew it wasn’t really me” he says, “I knew I was stronger than they said. I knew I could do things they said I couldn’t do.”

Suddenly everything seemed to change for him. He grew an inch taller. He took more exercise, joined a drama group and made new friends.  butterfly

The limp took longer to disappear but as he recognised the relief, and embraced the sense of release from living someone else’s story, everything fell into place so that one day he realised that he no longer limps.

He is not sure when it finally disappeared but there’s one thing he is sure of; he doesn’t want his old records back.

Somewhere in the Psyche

Australian Aboriginal Rock Paintings which seem to include stylised animals, birds and human hands







Little Things Add Up

What fortune guides the traveller

in empty eggshell boat

sea songs and shanties

notes creating harmony

remains of a greater work

the song of the apprentice

small cherub wearing pickelhaube

sits among red flowers

little things not to be forgotten

raindrops adding up

ideas pushing boundaries

somewhere in the psyche

translating geology


drip drip drip


Little Things Add Up

When we are trying to make sense of something that has happened in our lives we collect evidence from things we remember. We take these memories, which we take to be ‘real’ or ‘true’, and put them together to create a story or narrative that makes some kind of sense.

 We then think, feel and behave in a way that is influenced by the narrative we have created.

But what if those story elements proved to be unreliable, or even untrue?

You can read the poem above and use the images, thoughts and feelings it suggests, to create meaning.

But what if you were someone else? Imagine yourself as someone else; someone you admire, whose opinion you trust.  Recall as much as you can about their life story.  Now reconsider the poem as if you were that person. some, if not all, of the lines will suggest something different to this person.

How has the meaning changed?

And yet the words are the same.

When you tell someone else your story, you begin to hear it differently and this can set you free to think, feel and behave differently. In this way narrative coaching gives you permission to be the person you want to be.


National Poetry Writing Month button


It’s the the 27th day of NaPoWriMo!

Today’s challenge involved plugging the first three words of a well known proverb or phrase into a search engine and skimming through a few pages of results, collecting (rather like a poetic magpie) words and phrases.  Those words and phrases would then provide inspirations and some of the source material for a new poem.

It was a fun exercise although there were several false starts before I settled on my chosen proverb. I’m curious as to whether the original phrase is suggested by the resulting poem. Possibly not.

Interestingly, I think I can see its influence all the way through. But then, I would wouldn’t I?



Trauma, Anxiety and Fear

 Yesterday’s prompt from National Poetry Writing Month was to write a tanka: a poem based on syllables, with the pattern being 5-7-5-7-7.  They work best when those final two 7-syllable lines contain a sort of turn or surprise that the first three lines might not wholly anticipate.

The reference to the turn, or surprise at the end triggered the memory of a story my father-in-law once told me.

I found myself returning to the question “what don’t you want to write about?”



Summer in Croatia

On boughs of my trees
unripened apples predict
sun, rain and harvest
while my husband and children
stiffen in the July breeze.


I didn’t want to write this poem, for all sorts of reasons, but I know myself well enough to realised that the terrible image would stay with me all day if I tried to ignore or deny it.

Sometimes it’s the things we don’t want to talk about that bring the greatest relief once they are out in the open.

Trauma, anxiety and fear don’t go away just because we don’t speak about them but once we let go of a memory which has been ‘haunting’ us, it loses its grip.  We don’t always realise what is holding us back but one way of finding out is to ask ourselves the question.

What don’t you want to think about?


My Prince

As can happen so often, I went a little astray today.

I thought I was looking at the National Poetry Writing Month poem starter for today and found myself reading humorous poems based on fairy tales. So I came up with this:

My Prince

a frog wearing a golden crown sits on a red velvet cushion

My Prince
I write to let you know
I miss you
even though
you are still here
right next to me
and to let you know
the pea
is now completely squished
it isn’t what you would have wished
I passed the test so long ago
and things move on
of course you know
there’s Little Prince
to think of now
and so I feel the time has come
to build an annexe just below
the ramparts where
I once let down my golden hair
and have the grounds man cut the hedge of thorns
really it’s for Princey’s friends
all those princesses with their frogs
and now that I’ve gone to the dogs
you’ll sleep better without me
and we can all live happily.

The End.


In fact today’s prompt refers to spaceship names and although I’ve searched for the page with links to fairy tale poems, it seems to have completely disappeared.

But it got me thinking, unexpectedly, about how ‘reality’ can seem to change around us. All relationships go through changes and it’s how we choose to respond to those changes that makes the difference between feeling like a character in a story or being the author of events.

In coaching I aim to explore this idea of ‘personal agency’. It’s very empowering.


…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



From present state to desired state via stories

A little boy bites his nails while adult lives are dominated by irrational but all-encompassing fears.

I’ve been watching LinkedIn conversations in coaching and NLP groups with interest recently. Many of the questions asked there revolve around the selection of techniques to address specific problems.  Questions along the lines of “Any suggestion for nail biting in a 6 year old?”; “How do you approach phobias?” and “I have a 30 year old client who is afraid of driving over bridges, what would people recommend?”

These questions are all about real people experiencing real difficulties, but the focus is on the problems.

Interestingly I have been working with two clients looking for the same outcome; “I just wish I had more confidence”.

With the first I found myself working with her internal dialogue, meta-positioning conversations both with herself and others, and re-generating positive messages she may have forgotten, disregarded or ignored in the past.

With the second, a single piece of timeline work released him from the hold of an experience that dated back to before he started school.

These were my NLP structured, intuitively accessed pathways for their journeys from present state to desired state and both were narratively influenced. Their present state view of themselves had been strongly informed by power they had inadvertently given to their “lack of confidence”. One of the many possibilities released by our conversations was that they could have been confident since childhood if they had picked up different messages.

Once these messages reappeared from wherever they had been hidden, overlooked or disbelieved, they began to gain strength.

Both clients have reported significant changes in their own view of themselves and both are exploring and nurturing their new confidence.

Narrative NLP is not about the problems. It is about the story you have been telling yourself.

So my answer to the technique questions is always the same; I don’t know what I will say or do until I have listened to your story.



A Personal Singularity

where past, present and future are collapsed togther we create a unique momentNarrative NLP = an experience in the moment + freedom from the hold of an acknowledged past + a future of unexpected possibility

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