Clarifying Meaning

These are various ways of sorting out what things mean. That can be very useful to do with anything a person has trouble with, or anything that is desired. Because, if one doesn't know exactly what it means then how can one solve it, or accomplish it? The fun part is that when one has cleared up its meaning, it no long is the same as one thought it was.

1. What does it mean? -

Simply clarifying what something means can be a powerful technique. It is done best from a friendly, open-minded insistence on being presented with realities, rather than with abstract ideas. Realities can be perceived with some kind of senses. They have perceptual distinctions to them. They are specific and exact, not general or vague. The idea here is to get the person connected with the realities that she expresses an interest in. Once she is connected with actual realities, they are rarely any problem. The problem is when words and symbols are in the way and one hasn't realized yet that they aren't real.

"What does that mean to you?"
"How do you define ___?"
"What experience does ___ relate to?"
"What do you perceive about ___?"

2. Outcome -

Clarifying what outcome one wants is a splendid process in itself. Often that is all that is needed. Or at least it is much easier to take action once one knows what the desired outcome is. These are the criteria that make up a complete outcome:

1. It needs to be stated in the positive. Getting rid of something is not in itself a valid outcome. What would one want instead that is valuable? It must be something specific and desirable.

2. There must be specific sensory input that would signify when the outcome is met. It must be testable whether or not one has it. And that should not be just an idea, but a specific perceptible evidence. How does one know that it has been accomplished?

3. The context must be specified. When is it wanted, where and with whom? To turn a desired outcome into reality we need specifics on where and how it will fit in.

4. The outcome must be within the individual's control. Hoping that somebody else will just behave differently is not a valid outcome. It must be something that the person herself is doing and maintaining. It should not depend on luck or somebody else's actions.

5. The outcome must fit into the ecology of the person's life. It must fit with everything else the person is doing or wants to do. How would having the outcome affect her life? Would there be a benefit from not accomplishing it? Are there any positive or negative side-products.

3. Creative Definition Procedure -

These steps can be used to sort out the definitions and associations of a word or concept. The idea is that a word isn't just defined by other words. Its meaning is the associations that a specific person makes with it. These steps can be used on a word that the client is particularly hung up on. They can also be used on common words that it is useful to sort out, like "love", "future", "death", "aging", "success", "failure", etc.

1. "What does the word ___ mean or imply?"
2. "Tell me some things the word ___ doesn't mean."
3. "Tell me some things the word ___ can be used to describe."
4. "Tell me some things the word ___ cannot be used to describe."
5. "What is the word ___ associated with?"
6. "What is the word ___ not associated with?"
7. "What is the word ___ similar to?"
8. "What is the word ___ different from?" (Find out in what way it is different)
9. "Is there anything that has influenced your understanding of the word ___?"
10. "Are there any beliefs that are necessary to give meaning to the word ___?"
11. "Give me a deliberately misunderstood example of the word ___"
12. "Exactly how could you convey your understanding of the word ___ to another?"
13. "How does the word ___ seem to you now?"

If needed, add:

14. "What's right about your definition of the word ___?"
15. "How does your definition of the word ___ help you to be free?"
16. "How does your definition of the word ___ help you get along better in life?"

4. Distortions and Deletions -

The statements people make are always somewhat distorted and delete some of the information. Language is after all just a symbolic over-simplification. There is valuable insights to gain by finding out what specifically it is that has been deleted or distorted. That tells us something about how that person's mind works. We are being presented with a Surface Structure in the language that the person uses. But noticing what is distorted or deleted and trying to recover it we can get an idea of what the Deeper Structure is. These are the most common distortions and deletions, and examples of how to deal with them.

1. Simple Deletion: Specifics have been omitted. The active agent or the object of the activity has been left out. Ask what or who we are talking about.

C: "I am angry"
F: "What are you angry about?", "Who are you angry at?"

2. Generalized Reference: People, things, and events are generalized. No mention of what specifically it is. Get the specifics.

C: "That doesn't matter"
F: "What, specifically, is it that doesn't matter?"

3. Comparative Deletion: Giving an apparent comparison without giving the standard that is being compared to. Find out what it is compared to.

C: "It's better to leave"
F: "Better than what?"

4. Lost Performative: The authority, source, or performer has been omitted. Value judgments without a source. Find out who the source is.

C: "It's good to be polite"
F: "Good according to who?", "Who is it good for?"

5. Modal Operator of Necessity: Something one should/shouldn't or must/mustn't do, that is necessary, or that one needs to do. The consequences and the exact cause and effect have been omitted. Explore the limits and consequences.

C: "I have to take care of her"
F: "What would happen if you did?"
"What would happen if you didn't?"
"What wouldn't happen if you did?"
"What wouldn't happen if you didn't?"

6. Modal Operator of Possibility: Something that one can/can't, will/won't, could/couldn't, may/may not do. It is possible or impossible. The causation is left out. Find out who or what causes what.

C: "I can't get better"
F: "What stops you?"

7. Cause and Effect: It is presented as if one person causes another person's condition, without specifics on how, and without anything the person can do about it. One's own causation is left out. Get perceptions, find counter-examples, expose the actual causation.

C: "She made me sad"
F: "How specifically did she make you sad?"
"What would happen if you didn't get sad?"
"Are there times when you don't get sad in that situation?"

8. Universal Quantifier: Something is generalized to being going on all the time or none of the time. Words like all, every, always, all the time, none, each, noone, just, only. The specifics and the exceptions are omitted. Counter-examples are missing. Find counter-examples or exaggerate the claim so it gets ridiculous.

C: "Noone ever listens to me"
F: "Noone has ever listened to you?"
"Can you think of a time when somebody did?"
"What would happen if somebody did listen to you?"

9. Unspecified Verb: general verb that doesn't say what is actually going on. Trust, love, like, support, help, etc. The specific actions that happened or that are desired have been omitted. Get what isn't specified.

C: "She doesn't like me"
F: "What did she do that told you that?"
"How, specifically, doesn't she like you?"

10. Mind Reading: Claiming knowledge of somebody else's internal state of consciousness, or expecting somebody else to know one's own state. It is likely be a distorted guess, or at least the specifics on how one knows have been omitted. Focus on what one actually does know or perceive.

C: "She doesn't care about me"
F: "How do you know that?"
"What, specifically, did she do that told you that?"

11. Nominalization: Process words (verbs) have been transformed into things (nouns). Thinking about something as a frozen thing, when really it is an ongoing action. Turn it back into an action (de-nominalize it).

C: "I don't have enough commitment"
F: "What is it that you should be committing to that you aren't?"

5. False Data -

False data is information that the person is operating on, but that are wrong or misleading or inapplicable. That is a good reason for having trouble with any area. False data would particularly be something to look for if the person does seem to have the skills and information required, but just can't seem to do the right thing in a certain area. First thing to do is to isolate an area that is likely to contain falsehoods:

"What have you heard about ___?"
"What data are you operating on?"
"Is there anything in ___ that doesn't make sense?"
"Is there something in ___ that you can't think with?"
"Is there anything in ___ that doesn't seem useful?"
"What are the main principles in ___?"
"Which data don't seem to fit in?"
"Is there any reason to not do ___?"

Then we need to weed out any exact false data in that area:

"Might any of those data be incorrect?"
"What false information have you received?"
"Has anybody given you input on this?"

When you get something that appears as a possible false datum, check it out"

"Who said that?"
"When was it, where were you, where were they?"
"What were the exact circumstances, what did you see, hear, feel?"
"How does that datum fit with what else you know?"
"Is that datum applicable to you?"
"What context would that datum fit in, if any?"
"Is there a better alternative?"

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