More of the Healing Ways of Old Man
Geoff Guest, an Aboriginal Elder known as Old Man used to run Petford Youth Camp. For over 20 years Geoff and Norma have been supporting Aboriginal, Islander and other youth to find themselves rather than slide (further) into self harm and incarceration. The following provides a small glimpse into the every-day-life healing ways used by Geoff.
Ahmed is nine years old and exhibits behaviours consistent with Attention Deficit Disorder and Tourette Syndrome. Ahmed's father is a Muslim from a South West Asian country. Ahmed had been two weeks with Geoff when the following interaction is observed. Since Ahmed arrived, Geoff has been giving him neuro-feedback every evening. His neuro-feedback readings are consistent with the above conditions. Geoff has altered Ahmed's diet.
In the months leading up to Ahmed staying with Geoff, he had been soiling his clothes night and day. He had been non-cooperative. He had also been violent - especially towards females - on one occasion causing bodily harm.
When this segment happens, Geoff has five other boys and a young aboriginal man (with his partner and child) staying at his remote place approximately 200 kilometres inland from Cairns, Australia. Norma is away with family. It is late morning. Two of the boys are at school - collected by a school bus. One is back in the dining place doing school work in anticipation for being possibly re-accepted (following expulsion) into the school system.
Geoff, with Ahmed beside him assigns the other two boys and the young man to muster eight wild bush horses from an outer yard and lead them back a quarter kilometre to the main yard via the road. These are wild horses which Geoff and the boys had caught in the past week. Geoff is selling them cheaply to help pay next month’s bills.
Geoff is always one step ahead on what action the boys are to be involved in. Geoff keeps one of the horses with him and Ahmed as a 'resource' in his interaction with Ahmed. Geoff could have gone down the road where there were no prickles. Instead he walks beside the horse and Ahmed, taking a more direct walking track where there are prickles. The interaction modeller stays a few steps to the left of the horse (where he can be seen by the horse), and where he can hear and observe the interaction.
Annotated modelling of the healing ways used in the interaction is at end of the next segment.
It is late morning. Geoff is leading a wild horse that had been recently caught. Ahmed is hobbling along in front barefooted protesting and crying that prickles are hurting his feet. Ahmed is swearing a lot and slapping his face.
Geoff says, 'Well it is a good thing to look after your runners isn't it. Good boys do not throw away their shoes in the bush when they are upset do they. And what are you?'
'I am a good boy!'
'Very good! Aborigine fellas can walk in this country barefoot without screaming and yelling. Do you know how they do it. They scuff their feet along like this (Geoff demonstrates by sliding his own foot along the ground as it lands). This way the prickles roll off before going in. And you can do that. So you can learn how to walk barefoot, okay?'
Ahmed starts scuffing and finds it works.
Photo - Ahmed on the Path with Geoff.
'Now - are you a good boy or a bad boy?'
'How do you spell 'good'?'
'G. o. o. d.'
'Good boy! And what do you want from here?'
'Stop pooping myself (Ahmed soils himself day and night). Stop being naughty! And I want to ride a horse. I dream of riding a horse.'
'Good to have nice dreams - can relax you and now - are you a good boy or a bad boy?'
'How do you spell 'good'?'
'G. o. o. d.!'
'Good boy! What do you want to be?'
Ahmed stops the scuffing walk and begins a hopping limping sort of walk and gets his feet covered in prickles again. He starts swearing, crying and slapping his face. He then sits down madly scratching his feet. The prickles are very painful. Old man, ever patient, effortly squats on his ankles and with his free hand (the other is holding the reins) shows Ahmed an excellent technique to remove the prickles.
'See this way works. Now you do it. Good! Yes. That's right! You can do it! Now stand up and keep walking aboriginal way. Good! Yes. Like that! Now Ahmed, are you a good boy or a bad boy?'
'How do you spell 'good'?'
'G. o. o. d.!'
'What do you want to be?'
A few minutes later Ahmed starts hobbling and immediately gets his feet filled with prickles and the previous sequence is repeated.
'Ahmed, the prickles will get you every time. Now you're a smart fellow. What are you?'
'A smart fellow!'
'Very Good! And what else are you?'
'A good boy!'
'And how do you spell good?'
'G. o. o. d.!'
'Very good! Please now stand and walk always like aborigines walk!'
Ahmed walks scuffing his feet.
'Good boy Ahmed. Keep that up! And can you lead a horse for Old Man? I think you can! And I will be right with you all the time, eh! Good. So you can do it good. Right?'
Photo: 'I can lead the horse', says Ahmed.
Old man holds the reins behind his back where Ahmed can't see and hands the boy the front end of the reins to hold. 'Off you go. Walking like an Aborigine. Lead the horse for Old Man. Like a good boy!'
Photo: Geoff holding the reins.
Ahmed walks aboriginal way 200 metres back to the stockyard.
Geoff has some of the wild horses in the yards and does not want Ahmed to come near and spook the horses, or to wander off.
'Ahmed! I want you to sit down...here! (pointing to spot beside outer gate) I want you to listen carefully. Listen for other horses coming. Tell me if you hear them. Now be very quiet. Thank you! Sit very still. And Listen! Like a good boy!'
When the other boys are arriving Geoff tells Ahmed, 'Open the gate and stand to the side, still (so as not to spook the horses). Let them through and shut it and guard it.' Ahmed does this. The other boys help old man fill and give the horses feedbags. In all, Ahmed sits still for around 30 minutes while Geoff arranges feedbags for the horses.
Geoff and Ahmed -Therapy Process Modelling
The following is a (partial) therapy modelling of (some) of the healing ways used by Geoff.
GEOFF IS LEADING A WILD HORSE THAT HAS BEEN RECENTLY CAUGHT. AHMED IS HOBBLING ALONG IN FRONT BAREFOOTED PROTESTING AND CRYING THAT THE PRICKLES ARE HURTING HIS FEET. AHMED IS SWEARING A LOT AND SLAPPING HIS FACE.
Geoff uses emotional charged moments accompanied by symptomatic behaviour for corrective emotional experience - linking familiar feeling with new experience. Ahmed is experiencing a familiar blend of irritation, exasperation, anger, frustration and helplessness with new experiences set up by Geoff - new states embodying, 'I can do that!', being good, resourceful and demonstrating mastery.
During the interaction Geoff maintains excellent rapport with Ahmed at all times by pacing, recognising and acknowledging Ahmed's positive aspects. Geoff also paces or matches sub-modes of Ahmed's verbal and non verbal behaviour (speed of talking, volume etc), and then starts leading Ahmed towards more functional submodes. Geoff uses mentoring, repetition, shaping, pacing/leading, modelling, reframing, presuppositions, and inference. Geoff also uses direct, indirect and imbedded commands and presuppositions as well as other patterns. Examples of these patterns are identified in the following material. For an exploration of these therapeutic processes also refer the Healing Ways Encylopaedia.
GEOFF SAYS, 'WELL IT IS A GOOD THING TO LOOK AFTER YOUR RUNNERS ISN'T IT'
This sets up 'well', 'good' and being 'good' as themes. Ahmed's current inconvenience (prickles in his feet) is a direct consequence of Ahmed's past act of throwing away and losing his shoes. Geoff only infers this and the reference is caste in the positive. Geoff only responds to and refers to Ahmed's positive aspects. The focus is on future good behaviour.
'It' and 'thing' (in italics) are empty generalisations allowing Geoff possibilities of getting Ahmed's brain 'open' for the specific context about to be revealed, namely 'shoe care' and 'being good'.
There's elements of pseudo reorientation in time. Present inconvenience and pain; inference of past act (throwing shoes away) being linked to the present context; and Ahmed being transported to a future time when he is being good and caring for shoes. Geoff is linking ideas, behaviours, feelings and emotions.
'GOOD BOYS DO NOT THROW AWAY THEIR SHOES IN THE BUSH WHEN THEY ARE UPSET DO THEY.
The implication - 'Good boys can be both 'upset' and 'caring for shoes' and you are a good boy!'
'AND WHAT ARE YOU?'
'I AM A GOOD BOY!'
Self affirmation with instant positive recognition as reinforcement.
ABORIGINE FELLAS CAN WALK IN THIS COUNTRY BAREFOOT WITHOUT SCREAMING AND YELLING. DO YOU KNOW HOW THEY DO IT? THEY SCUFF THEIR FEET ALONG LIKE THIS (GEOFF DEMONSTRATES BY SLIDING HIS OWN FOOT ALONG THE GROUND AS IT LANDS). THIS WAY THE PRICKLES ROLL OFF BEFORE GOING IN.
Role modelling. Prior pacing - now leading. Micro-experience with immediate feedback that method does work. Link with prior notion, 'I am a good boy' and 'Good boys don't scream and yell'. A simple easy to learn micro-behaviour.
AND YOU CAN DO THAT. SO YOU CAN LEARN HOW TO WALK BAREFOOT, OKAY?'
The words in italics are imbedded commands. The underlined words are conjunctions linking suggestions to the two imbedded commands. The 'okay' reinforces the 'you will do this' presupposition imbedded in the words.
AHMED STARTS SCUFFING AND FINDS IT WORKS.
Micro-experience with instant feedback
'NOW ARE YOU A GOOD BOY OR A BAD BOY?'
'HOW DO YOU SPELL 'GOOD'?'
'G. O. O. D.!'
Geoff has set this sequence up as an oft repeated therapeutic ritual. Ahmed seems to like this ritual and the close alternating interaction between Geoff and himself. Ahmed seems to delight in 'having Geoff to himself' - without the other boys being present - and having verbal interchange with Geoff. Ahmed plays his part in the ritual exchange with gusto and enthusiasm - firing the answers back to Geoff with considerable earnest delight evident. He conveys an understanding of the meaning and behavioural significance of the words. One gets a feeling that Ahmed really wants to be different - wants whatever 'good' means to him.
Recognition and reinforcement that he is doing good right now.
(Personal comment by modeller: 'Geoff's tone and inflection in giving sincere recognition is delightful to receive. I received recognition from Geoff regularly, and it was invariably delightful - a very pleasant experience indeed!)
AND WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM HERE?'
'And' is a conjunction linking ideas of being good with desires and wants, to be specified - encouraging him to engage in meaning making - exploring better possible futures.
'STOP POOPING MYSELF (AHMED SOILS HIMSELF DAY AND NIGHT). STOP BEING NAUGHTY!'
He conveys an understanding of the meaning and behavioural significance of the words.
'AND I WANT TO RIDE A HORSE. I DREAM OF RIDING A HORSE.'
Ahmed, begins mirroring Geoff in commencing sentences with a conjunction. Geoff is engaging many aspects and levels simultaneously. One aspect is 'cooperating'. This boy has rarely been cooperative with anyone (typical of the youth that pass through Geoff's place). Geoff has Ahmed cooperating on this walk. Geoff is soon to link into Ahmed’s desire to interact with the horses. Ahmed is the one who has verbally introduced horses as a theme. Geoff had placed a horse in the current context of their private walk together to be available as a potential resource.
'GOOD TO HAVE NICE DREAMS - CAN RELAX YOU AND NOW - ARE YOU A GOOD BOY OR A BAD BOY?'
Geoff frames the dreams as 'nice' and links the suggested state of being relaxed. Even hearing Geoff say these words 'relax you' in a particular way is a strong suggestion to change state towards being relaxed. The word 'can' sets up the dispersed suggestion, 'relax you ...now'. This is linked with the tonal marked out overlapping dispersed suggestion 'now... you good boy'. The 'good boy' tag links back into the ritual game again.
'HOW DO YOU SPELL 'GOOD'?'
'G. O. O. D.!'
'GOOD BOY! WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE?'
AHMED STOPS THE SCUFFING WALK AND BEGINS A HOPPING LIMPING SORT OF WALK AND GETS HIS FEET COVERED IN PRICKLES AGAIN. HE STARTS SWEARING, CRYING AND SLAPPING HIS FACE. HE THEN SITS DOWN MADLY SCRATCHING HIS FEET.
Ahmed loses state and reverts to old way of walking and symptomatic reacting.
THE PRICKLES ARE VERY PAINFUL. OLD MAN, EVER PATIENT, EFFORTLY SQUATS ON HIS ANKLES AND WITH HIS FREE HAND (THE OTHER IS HOLDING THE REINS) SHOWS AHMED AN EXCELLENT TECHNIQUE TO REMOVE THE PRICKLES.
Geoff attends to positives and resource states Ahmed has - the free energy - and works with that every time.
'SEE THIS WAY WORKS. NOW YOU DO IT. GOOD! YES THAT IS RIGHT! YOU CAN DO IT! NOW STAND UP AND KEEP WALKING ABORIGINAL WAY. GOOD! YES. LIKE THAT! NOW AHMED, ARE YOU A GOOD BOY OR A BAD BOY?'
Geoff uses a series of short direct commands and suggestions (underlined). Recognition and encouragement are in italics. The word 'now' may assist Ahmed to stay in the external now focus and the reference to time helps set up presuppositions, e.g., 'Do it. Now. stand up' presupposes that he will cooperate in these acts. 'Like that' is ambiguous. It conveys both Geoff's approval (liking) and that Ahmed is doing it correctly. Both meanings are potentially reinforcing for Ahmed.
'HOW DO YOU SPELL 'GOOD'?'
'G. O. O. D.!'
'WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE?'
More of the therapeutic ritual exchange.
A FEW MINUTES LATER AHMED STARTS HOBBLING AND IMMEDIATELY GETS HIS FEET FILLED WITH PRICKLES AND THE PREVIOUS SEQUENCE IS REPEATED.
Neurofeedback evidences that Ahmed finds it difficult to concentrate and hold states. Geoff recognises this loss of 'state' is typical behaviour for Ahmed. Having Ahmed learn to stay in state is one of the outcomes Geoff is after in this current work.
'AHMED, THE PRICKLES WILL GET YOU EVERY TIME.
This learning from 'nature’s ways' is frequent in Geoff's work. Geoff is exploring the notions of consistency, regularity, limits, inevitability. The implication is how can we have these aspects - consistency, regularity, limits, inevitability ourselves so that we live well in the world. Geoff reverts to the ritual with positive affirmation.
NOW YOU'RE A SMART FELLOW. WHAT ARE YOU?
'A SMART FELLOW!'
'VERY GOOD! AND WHAT ELSE ARE YOU?'
'A GOOD BOY!
'AND HOW DO YOU SPELL GOOD?'
'G. O. O. D.!'
'VERY GOOD! PLEASE NOW STAND AND WALK ALWAYS LIKE ABORIGINES WALK!'
Geoff links the notion of 'good' with 'cooperation', and 'stay in state'. He does this with two commands (underlined) linked by conjunction. As commonly done by Geoff, he has used the respectful polite request and softener, 'please' linked to the time state referent 'now' to introduce the commands.
AHMED WALKS SCUFFING HIS FEET. 'GOOD BOY AHMED. KEEP THAT UP!
Ahmed complies and receives instant recognition and reinforcement and a further direct command to maintain state and action. This is all linked to the next imbedded command by the conjunction 'and'.
AND CAN YOU LEAD A HORSE FOR OLD MAN?
'Can' is used to set up the underlined command imbedded in a question. This introduces the horse into the context, and links in Ahmed's previous 'horse' reference in the context of being relaxed and good - as suggested by Geoff previously. Leading the horse and attending to the horse - and the clip clop of its hooves may allow Ahmed to stay in state of 'walking Aboriginal Way'. 'Staying in state' embraces the interacting states of concentrating and dissociating - concentrating on some things and dissociating from others - while continuing repetitive action - in this case 'hold rein and listen to clip clop' and unconsciously walk aboriginal way.
I THINK YOU CAN! AND I WILL BE RIGHT WITH YOU ALL THE TIME, EH! GOOD. SO YOU CAN DO IT GOOD. RIGHT?'
Ahmed knows that this is a wild horse. He has seen how fast it can run. It is twice as high as Ahmed is. It is a big powerful three year old. Geoff is totally congruent as he says the above. Geoff's verbal, non-verbal and body conduct all match. Geoff conveys to Ahmed that he can and will do the job well. Cooperation and compliance is linked to the word 'good' from the ritual. 'Can' sets up the command 'do it good'. 'Right' operates in a number of senses - as a command in question form, as reassurance, as setting up a presupposition of compliance, and as a softener.
'I CAN LEAD THE HORSE' SAYS AHMED.
Ahmed does not hesitate.
OLD MAN HOLDS THE REINS BEHIND HIS BACK WHERE AHMED CAN'T SEE AND HANDS THE BOY THE FRONT END OF THE REINS TO HOLD.
Ahmed has no knowledge that Geoff has full control of the reins and is placing Ahmed in the very best place for the 'comfort' of the horse. This has been the case from the start of the walk. Geoff is just in front of the horses left eye and Ahmed is just to the front left of Geoff where the horse can see him. Horses may be spooked by sudden movement of something coming from outside of their line of sight.
Ahmed stays on the narrow trail where there is less prickles. Geoff is just to the right of the trail. The horse walks quietly the whole way. Geoff has all along been keeping eye contact with the horse and nodding to the horse as needed to have it keep it calm especially when Ahmed had been jumping and complaining about the prickles.
Geoff had been also monitoring the monitor to see that he was keeping up, and to walking to Geoff's left and far enough back to be in the horse's line of sight - so as not to spook the horse - but still be close enough to hear and observe the interaction.
'OFF YOU GO. WALKING LIKE AN ABORIGINE. LEAD THE HORSE FOR OLD MAN. LIKE A GOOD BOY!'
Again Geoff threads together a string of four simple direct commands. Geoff is fully congruent and kindly in manner. One would hardly notice, if at all, that he is giving commands. 'Like an X' is a simple pattern for introducing metaphors. Example: 'A person without faith is like a leaf tossed in the wind'.
This time the 'good' ritual is invoked again. The second command is to 'stay in state', followed immediately by the dissociating 'distracter' - 'lead the horse'.
AHMED WALKS ABORIGINAL WAY 200 METRES BACK TO THE STOCKYARD.
Ahmed traverses a considerable stretch of prickled track with ease as Geoff engages with the observer.
GEOFF HAS AROUND TEN WILD HORSES IN THE YARDS AND DOES NOT WANT AHMED TO COME NEAR AND SPOOK THE HORSES NOR WANDER OFF. '
AHMED! I WANT YOU TO SIT DOWN...HERE! (POINTING TO SPOT BESIDE OUTER GATE) I WANT YOU TO LISTEN CAREFULLY.
The underlined words are imbedded commands. 'Perhaps you can X' where 'X' is a suggestion or imbedded command is 'gentle' in form. 'I want you to X' is a strong form.
The word 'here' has phonetic ambiguity. Geoff is referring to place, as indicated by gesture. The word 'here' also sounds identical to 'hear' and this meaning is resonant with the next expression about listening carefully. The pause before the word 'here' creates the double sense. Speech patterns such as this potentially engage the listeners brain in a hunt for meaning. This is similar to the two 'content empty' generalisations used at the start of this interaction (...it is a good thing...).
LISTEN FOR OTHER HORSES COMING. TELL ME IF YOU HEAR THEM. NOW BE VERY QUIET. THANK YOU! SIT VERY STILL. AND LISTEN! LIKE A GOOD BOY!'
Recall that with Tourette Syndrome people will yell gibberish and profanities. In the above segment Ahmed is given six simple direct commands. The sense he is to use is hearing. He has to listen. He has to be quiet. That is, he is not to use gibberish and profanities. With his Attention Deficit Disorder Ahmed typically has difficulty in attending and is hyper-active. His current task is attending and being still. This is linked to his just finished 'good boy aboriginal walking' experience.
AHMED SITS STILL FOR AROUND 30 MINUTES WHILE GEOFF ARRANGES FEEDBAGS FOR THE HORSES. WHEN THE OTHER BOYS ARE ARRIVING GEOFF TELLS AHMED, 'OPEN THE GATE AND STAND TO THE SIDE STILL (SO AS NOT TO SPOOK THE HORSES). LET THEM THROUGH AND SHUT IT AND GUARD IT.' AHMED DOES THIS. THE OTHER BOYS HELP OLD MAN FILL AND GIVE THE HORSES FEEDBAGS.
From the time Ahmed started leading the horse till Geoff and the others had fed the horses was around 40 minutes. Ahmed did not engage in any symptomatic behaviour at all in this period.
Geoff left the other boys to remove the feedbags when the horses were finished feeding and walked with Ahmed back to prepare for lunch. On the 300 metre walk Geoff kept up the 'Good Boy' ritual interspersed with remarks about finding his shoes and how well he guarded the gate.
Geoff keeps up this sustained therapeutic interaction with Ahmed and the other boys all day every day. After 8 weeks with Geoff, Ahmed had been free of symptomatic behaviour for four weeks. In this time he was sleeping through. He had not soiled himself. He had been cooperative and had not engaged in violent behaviour. He was able to cope with the occasional taunting by the other boys. Ahmed's neurofeedback results had changed significantly away from problematic modes. This will be written up separately.