Discovering Meanings

It is a very generally useful technique to clarify meanings. That is, find out what people mean by what they say. What are they referring to? How are they defining the words and symbols they use?

Most people are using a lot of terms without really being aware of what they are referring to. But more than that, they are responding and reacting based on symbols, without being conscious of what the symbols refer to.

It is a very common human condition to live and think within generalities, to respond to and interact with abstractions, as if one knew exactly what they meant. One can easily think that one understands something simply because one knows some words about it.

If one uses unspecified words and symbols and reacts to situations based on symbolic meanings, then one isn't well connected with one's own reality.

The reality we would like the client to be connected with is the reality of perceptions as opposed to ideas about ideas about perceptions. It is the reality of direct experience rather than symbolic representations. It is a live, dynamic reality, rather than a reality of frozen concepts. It is a reality made of processes rather than of frozen "things".

Clarifying what the symbols the person uses are referring to is a simple and powerful technique. It can be as simple as asking:

"What does that mean?"


"How do you define ___?"


"What experience does ___ relate to?"

The point is not to replace one abstract definition with other abstract words. The idea is to get it connected with some actual experiences and perceptions for the person. If she says: "But I LOVE my family" we can not just take for granted that we know what that means, or that she does. What does "love" mean to her? What is she doing that expresses love, what is she experiencing?

Of course there is only a point in doing this with something that is of particular significance for the client, i.e. something she wants, or something she is having trouble with.

Clarifying the person's desired outcome will often be all that is needed. Like, our client might come in and say: "I want to be happy". Don't assume that this automatically makes sense, it doesn't. We need to find out what she means. How come she is disconnected from being happy? If she really wanted to be happy and she was connected with what that relates to, she would simply BE happy. The reason she isn't is because she is somehow setting up structures in her mind that keep her away from what she wants. The clues to how she does that are found by clarifying what she means. What does happy mean? What would she experience if she were happy? What would she be doing? What is that want about, how is she wanting? Is it a feeling? What is she doing about it?

Clarifying the complaint works in a similar way. "There is trouble in my relationship" doesn't inherently make sense. We need to find out what it refers to. What does "trouble" mean? How is it perceived? What is the relationship? Who is relating to whom and how are they relating?

Once you clarify what is really meant, the main non-optimum situation has often evaporated along the way. Because what was wrong was mostly a mis-understanding, a matter of mental definitions, a failure to connect with what is actually going on.

If you simply, as the facilitator, stay aware of the fact that reality is something to perceive and experience, something that is dynamic, something made of inter-connected processes, something that is whole, and you simply try to understand how what the client says relates to something like that, then many, many issues will transform magically. You don't have to memorize any particular questions or procedures for that, you simply need to intend to clarify what is really meant.

This is in its purest what Semantic Processing is. What on Earth does she really mean? Connect what she says and thinks and feels to processes, rather than just to symbols.


- Take any random statement that another person says. Find out what she really means by that, what it refers to in terms of experience.

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