Note gaps in the story or narr


How the Mind Fills in Gaps Can Be Key to Uncovering an Operating Metaphor

Gaps in Logic, Sequence, Understanding

Note gaps in the story or narrative, process or how the thing works, leaps of faith, or what you use to make sense of the Target Domain (problem, situation, or dispute). These are gaps in the information, logic, or reasoning in the Target Domain -- what the situation or the client's account has omitted but the listener has somehow filled in. Focus on those gaps that, when filled in, make the situation particularly important, interesting, vivid, juicy, frightening, hopeful, etc. Look particularly for "then", "so"... causation ("makes", "turned into", "out of this came", "as a result"), or unexplained sequences or time relations.

For example:
I asked a separated couple if they were both in agreement to go ahead with the divorce, or whether either had reservations. Wife said she was not sure it was entirely the best thing. Yet she said she was ready to proceed. She said she believed that she needed to work on certain issues, and that she probably could somehow have found a way to work on them within the marriage. But it wasn't happening, a lot of time was passing without change, and she believed it was important to move on. Husband didn't accept this, arguing that certainly they could continue to work on preserving their marriage.

In listening to this I noticed the gap between Wife's belief that it was best to work on the issues and her readiness to proceed with the divorce. She spoke coherently and confidently, so evidently it seemed whole for her. What was unwittingly unexplained was that something was wrong about her staying in the marriage and working on issues. I found myself thinking that staying where she was might be unsafe, scary, precarious, too inactive or something similar. The "unsafe, scary, precarious, too inactive" ideas give hints about possible metaphors.

To understand her account I had to fill in the gap with scenarios where people feel unsafe, etc. She was a mountain hiking enthusiast so I asked if she felt she might be too near a drop-off or a cliff to be able to try something new. She said no, that she felt she was down, underground where there was too little air and light or space to move; she had to get out. Husband was still not pleased, but was now better able to accept her decision.

Another Example Illustrating How Questioning Can Focus on Metaphor (not deconstruction):
A father, concerned about having enough time with his children to bond well with them as an active and responsible parent after years of depending on his wife to "be in charge" of the kids, told what happened typically. After school they often had activities, homework, etc. while he would help or transport them and make dinner. Because of the numerous comings and goings, interruptions, etc., he believed it was important that there be plenty of time so he would be with them through complete cycles of activities. This way, too, he would have the opportunity to solve any problems, himself, learn what he needed to know, let the kids see him as in charge, with his particular style, and they would get used to it and trust it. Not to have this would mean that he would only have "visiting" status and he would "lose" his closeness with them.

Besides "bonding", wife "in charge", "cycles of activity", "visiting status", and possibly "losing his closeness", which are non-literal (incongruities) in language, I noted certain gaps: Being with them for entire cyles of activity would cause the kids to trust his style (because he would solve problems, complete tasks, learn, gain authority). It seemed to be something about task-oriented competence to learn, solve, stick with it, complete tasks -- we might (silently) call it project competence, the entailments of which include start and finish, planning, tracking, responding to discrepancies, moving to completion, staged or incremental completion, coordination, multi-tasking, picking up, putting down, picking up again, application of a variety of resources and skills.

I believe the mediator's orientation here is very important. The operating metaphor I think I have detected at this point is from father's experience outside of parenting -- perhaps in the workplace or at school. I want to be sure to support his thinking, not challenge it or somehow characterize it as mapped from an entirely different, disparate context. Furthermore I want to help Mother to understand Father's mode of being a good parent and to see it's possible effectiveness despite how it differs from her own mode. How I form questions at this point is important.

I ask [divergent rather than converget? within rather than integrating layers?], "With a lot going on and interruptions and all, would you please say more about how you can put together the pieces over time?" "When you are able to be with the kids through entire cycles of activities, what skills do you use to greater advantage?" [I would avoid asking, where he learned to operate in this way, how this contributes to bonding, what good it will do the kids... because I am exploring at this point; once I believe the metaphor has been fairly accurately detected, brought in to conscious awareness and understood it might be useful to integrate with such questions]

Mother, in this same scenario, is very cautious about not being with the children a large majority of the time, saying that parenting is her calling, they come to her more with issues or problems right in the beginning, that they need continuity with the past when she was the stay-at-home mom, and how smoothly everything has gone and how relatively well-adjusted the kids are.

She seems to have her finger on the pulse of each child and the family all together, or to be tuned in. Questions: "Do you sense that pretty much your whole being is tuned in to what's happening with the kids?" "Are you sometimes able to sense things without seeing them or being told?" "Is it what they say, or the manner, the look, the body language?" "Talk about how you support the children emotionally or in spirit when you are not actually with them." "I'm sure there have been times when you felt you hadn't fully tuned in -- what did you do then?"

(Also see Familiar Sequences.)









Axon File: c:\axon2002\metares\gaps.xon
Last modified: 2002-08-13 10:45:28