Nick Owen: Clean and aikido – A review of “Clean Language”

Book Reviews

Metaphors are woven so deeply and so commonly into the fabric of our spoken communication that we hardly notice how rich and patterned they are. Yet these metaphors carry within them the very strands of our deepest thoughts and feelings about the world and our relationship to it. If we follow the threads that our metaphors point us towards, if we take time to tease out and untangle their meaning and significance, then we discover a royal road to a deeper understanding or ourselves and others. The individual metaphors we each use offer the most extraordinary insights into our deepest and most hidden meaning making processes; they reveal with extraordinary vividness and texture just how we unconsciously design and construct our ‘reality.’

In their practical, hands-on, easy-to-read book, Clean Language, Wendy Sullivan and Judy Rees have done an exceptional job in showing just how to tease out and reveal the metaphors we live by and how to change, consolidate, develop, or transform them as we might wish. They reveal, in an easy-to-grasp, step-by-step approach, how working with, revealing, and consciously shaping, our metaphors can easily and effortlessly transform our lives.

In doing so they have taken the Clean Language and Clean Change ideas of David Grove, James Lawley, and Penny Tompkins, and created a powerful guide that makes this work both highly accessible and more mainstream. And it is written in a way that will benefit and attract both the beginner and the more advanced user.

I particularly appreciated the authors’ generosity in sharing so much of the process, as well as their integrity and enthusiasm. The activities are well thought out and useful and the examples and case histories offer a clear indication of the many possible applications of Clean over a wide variety of contexts.

Above all, I was taken by the aikido of the process: the way Clean works with the inner energy and natural strategies of the client without force or effort; the artistry and skill of the facilitator is in simply staying clean and attentive to the client’s world and outcomes.

The Clean Language process is powerful and artful precisely because it works with people the way they naturally are. It works because it recognises that each individual is a uniquely integrated system that is both deeply wise and elegantly self-organising rather than a collection of parts to be fixed. It works because it offers deep sustainable change, and because – ultimately – all our stories, and all our metaphors, come true.

Nick Owen, author of The Magic of Metaphor and More Magic of Metaphor
19 March 2009

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