Every person’s map of the world is as unique as their thumbprint

Margaret Mead said that she thought Milton Erickson invented a new therapy theory for every individual he saw. For a young student that sounds like an insurmountable task, but Rob McNeilly said that he didn’t invent it, he just listened to each individual’s theory and respectfully expanded it.

Erickson suggested that therapists should explore anthropology. The ability to observe and discover is much more important than to theorise  or impose. He did not colonise his clients, and I suspect he learnt a lot more from Margaret Mead than she did from him.

Theres a lovely paper, Ethics and Second Order Cybernetics by Heinz Von Foerster


He says….

Margaret Mead learned fast the colloquial languages of many tribes by pointing to things and waiting for the appropriate noises. She told me that once she came to a tribe, pointed to different things, but got always the same noises “chumulu.” A primitive language she thought, only one word! Later, she learned that “chu mulu” means “pointing with finger.”

In the movie What the bleep do we know? we heard that Indigenous people on Caribbean Islands could not see Christopher Columbus’s ships as they passed by. In that somewhat shocking discovery we get a glimpse of our own unfathomable blindnesses. We can only see what we understand and believe. Believing is seeing….not as is commonly said the other way around.

Every person is as unique as their thumbprint. No two people understand the same sentence the same way. Learning to be more interested in our client’s unique understanding allows us to curiously enter their territory and evocatively expand their vision.

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