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Separating what we do

from what we feel 

Often what we feel gets entangled with what we, or others, are doing, or have done. We are in a knot of 'action and reaction' and it goes too fast for us to think it through. 


Mapping helps us stand back. Separating out what we do from what we feel creates a space for us to reflect.

It helps to do this side-by-side with another person.  They map out the words as we talk. 


This is how it goes. They ask us to reflect for a moment, and put the words for a feeling that comes to mind. Choose one that is routine and safe to reflect on.

Think about who or what was or is going on to give rise to the feeling words. Put the doing words down that capture what is going and stay open to the idea that it might be others, or you, doing some of the doing. Look then, at the link on paper between doing and feeling, and see if it makes a role or relationship, or points to a familiar pattern.

Follow the examples on how to do this on the adjoining video.

doing and feeling.png

What is it that helps?

  • Map and talk is like creating a listening map.  It helps listen together and pace our discussions.

  • It can help guide and shape the conversation and see when to go back or go in a different direction.  It guides, tracks and also paces the conversation whilst helping us listen.

  • It shows how several things can be going on at the same time. 

  • It develops relational awareness and orchestral awareness between the mapper and the talker or talkers.

  • It should help create a triangle between you and the story or memories and the words on the map.  Technically it is a form of externalising and making visible your thoughts and feelings. Or in other words putting them out there where you can navigate and negotiate a wider range and depth of meaning and understanding.

  • Recapping and reflecting on the process of mapping and talking helps establish and maintain a collaborative, co-creative workspace. 

Four types of mapping

In my book 'Therapy with a Map' there are four chapters on four different approaches to mapping. They are all connected and they help with any kind of therapy or counselling or in developing reflective practice and relational awareness. The four approaches to mapping are summarised as mapping: 

  • In our conversations: keeping track of how they develop, using the map to recap, to hover over different points of view and different states of mind.

  • In our relationships:  Mapping and tracking patterns of interaction offers a framework for talking about the replay of roles from the past in the present, of patterns that are part of our identities and the culture and context around us. We can work out changes that we would like to make or map out patterns of relating that would point to a better kind of future. 

  • From our life stories:  mapping patterns from stories helps the story unfold, fill out and come alive. We see stories within stories and the overlap between stories from present and the past and hoped for stories about the future. It helps develop narrative confidence that our stories matter and we can create space and authority to tell them. Mapping helps us learn from other people’s stories and recover our shared stories when they have been lost or wrapped up in myth and propaganda.

  • Moments in the here and now: to understand the push and pull of patterns of relating in our helping and reflecting relationships within, between and around us.   

Links and gaps

In the book Therapy with a Map there are two chapters on Relational Awareness and Relational Healing. The key theme is helping us recover awareness of links and gaps that have been part of our upbringing. Relational mapping explores patterns of interaction and offers a scaffolding to track the links and gaps in our understanding and our life stories. The relational awareness that mapping helps to develop lets us examine the dimensions of interaction within ourselves, between ourselves and others and with the world around us.

In developing relational awareness through working with maps and the process of mapping we can see simultaneously the process of interaction within ourselves, between ourselves and others and with the world or worlds around us. These are some of the dimensions

  • Self and others

  • Past, present and future

  • Perspective and detail

  • Involvement and detachment

There are many other dimensions and through mapping, the construction of these in our lives and our thinking is made more visible, more jointly owned and more negotiable and navigable.   

Look at the relational awareness grid to explore these patterns and dimensions more.

  • Doing and feeling

  • Hopes and fears 

  • In and out of dialogue 

  • Health and trauma 

Recapping is key to map and talk 

  • Every so often the mapper walks his or her finger and pen around the map, showing their understanding, checking for connection and agreement and reviewing progress.

  • It is an active and containing form of listening using the map as a scaffolding for retelling, rethinking, and re-voicing or re-wording things.

  • Circling, highlighting, underlining or crossing out words and arrowing lines of links between them according to the concepts of relational mapping.

  • Pause, hover and puzzle where words resonate (you are inviting moments of integration between the brain’s mapping networks where new thinking (reformulation), new narrative, and new shapes to the map can emerge.

  • Recapping helps the map become a shared scaffolding for thinking and feeling.

  • Recapping can both add mess to the map or tidy it up according to the stage of discussion.  

  • The quality of recapping is key: it is open, curious, compassionate and, in the zone of those taking part. It is descriptive and tentative not interpretative.  

  • Re-voicing what is on the map may trigger new emotional connections and responses as well as strengthen existing ones.  

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