When someone answers the question,”What’s up for you?” the response you receive will typically be a story or two about people and situations that are currently grabbing their attention. Inside those stories is often the kernel of a truth about the teller waiting to be revealed and coaxed to the surface. Here is a way to access that deeper kernel of truth.
Four Key Elements
The stories we tell contain these four aspects:
** Emotional charge
How do we distill the key elements from the story?
Note the Basic Outline
I will use a recent session with a client (shared with permission) to illustrate the point. When I asked what was going on in her life, she told me about the difficulties she was having with her mother, who had recently begun to get confused and clearly needed help as she entered this most fragile stage of life. When I asked how she felt about her mother’s situation, she replied that she experienced guilt because her mother lives 300 miles away and had made it clear that she didn’t want to be a burden to her children. In addition, my client had no desire to disrupt her life and move in with her mother, yet could not help but feel she was being remiss in her duties as a daughter.
When asked about what else was going on in her life, she said she was feeling frustrated because the man she had been seeing was not as available to her due to work and other obligations. And when I probed her for one more piece of her life, she shared that she was concerned about her company. She saw the possibility of needing to do a series of layoffs, and my client was less than thrilled at the prospect.
Distill the Key Elements
Let us peel back these stories. For PERSONS we have the daughter, the mother, the man and work colleagues. For EMOTIONAL CHARGE we hear confusion, need, guilt, care, frustration and worry. For PLACES there is the mother’s house 300 miles away, a work place and somewhere far away where the man visits his customers. For TIME we have some point when the mother might not be able to fend for herself and another when the company have to lay people off.
To convert the story into its truth kernel we distill into these four elements:
What if all the persons are telling us something about the speaker? What if we remove the apparent positive or negative charge and see what is present just as energy? What if all places and all time references are telling us about what is happening here now? We are left with I-Energy-Here-Now.
See A Way Forward
So what happens when we distilling all the characters, charges, places and times out of this client’s story? Underneath the daughter-mother story we can feel a deep caring, otherwise neither one would have felt guilty or worried. Underneath the woman-man story we can feel honesty and clarity trying to make itself available, otherwise neither would be frustrated or inattentive. The uncertainty surrounding the work situation might be an overlay of the same dynamic: life asking her to take a stand for herself.
You might enjoy trying this technique on yourself. Write a paragraph in answer to the question, “What’s up in your life?” Choose two or three stories, then have a look. Peel away the characters until there is only you. Where there is positive or negative feeling, peel away the charge—perhaps what appeared in the story as positive is also negative or vice versa. Distill the story as an essential dynamic of I-Energy-Here-Now. Turn it around and look at it from different angles. Some truth kernal will likely show itself. In my client’s example, she discovered that she was feeling uncared for in her own life and was the time was ripe to take a stand for herself. What is it for you?