Have you had a chance to try out the Externalising conversations exercise with a buddy?

  • What was your experience of the interview?
  • What you are noticing about the impact of the questions
  • How did it work for you to pair up like this online?
  • What else would you like to say?

Chelsea N. Yanuaria: December 6, 2014 

It’s easy to see that by externalizing the problem, seeing it as separate from the person, already provides a sense of empowerment. The problem in

It’s easy to see that by externalizing the problem, seeing it as separate from the person, already provides a sense of empowerment. The problem in this exercise was identified as Anxiety, or Worry (e.g. worry that I’m not good enough for grad school, worry that professors can see my anxiety and may not think I’m cut out for this work, worry that I won’t get into a doctorate program, etc.). By removing the person from the problem, she was better able to vocalize what was so important to her, why it was so important, and why it was so scary that Anxiety and Worry were getting in the way. In this conversation, her identity, her story, was more centered on her values, what she believes in, what is important to her, rather than giveing Anxiety and Worry the spotlight.

Judy Florian: December 14, 2014

Hi Chelsea,

It was nice to meet you Sunday in the webinar. You might remember me—I was the one shown as a telephone receiver instead of a face. LOL

Externalizing feels highly respectful. A person stops experiencing Self with Problem’s characteristics, and judged according to Problem’s flaws. This respect elevates a person in subtle ways, without a Practitioner being obvious (like their counterparts) as trying to actively ‘build self esteem’. Oddly, the respect seems to come from the NP–but as well–separate from the NP. The doing of it profoundly affects–but how it’s occuring feels (at first) rather mysterious.

The effect indeed feels empowering. Yet it feels so new/different/strange, while at the same time, it feels simply ‘right’ and as though coming home to one’s Self.

Have you had an opportunity to ask a person (not at the time but maybe later) what they felt when first experiencing Externalization? Along with the good feelings, the respect and empowerment can also bring forth anger about past mistreatment when another therapist, family, or friends focused on the person as if only the problem. It’s as if creating that separation opens the indignation from prior unjust attitudes and a voice to finally protest the mistakes others made.

I hope to see you again in a future webinar. You looked so delighted to be part of the conversation and perhaps as if you’ve been looking for a community like this?

I missed the introductions–where are you from?


Chelsea N. Yanuaria: December 6, 2014 

Hey there Judy

Yes, I remember you! Wonderful to meet you here. And I LOVE the way you describe externalizing conversations as coming home to one’s Self! I have never directly asked anyone what their experience was of an externalizing conversation. However, I can say that for myself, when first learning about this practice and the Narrative appraoch in general, I felt a sense of having been wrongly represented, and misunderstood in the past. I suppose that’s why I love this approach so much too. This isn’t just something that makes sense to me on an intellectual level, but on a feeling level too. I feel the importance of separating the person from the problem they are contending with, because I myself would hate to be identified with the a problem. I certainly wouldn’t feel understood, or known, or seen, and that is such a frustrating and helpless feeling. I suppose this practice is validating to me.

I am a student at Pepperdine University and have just finished my first semester of practicum training as a marriage and family therapist trainee, so perhaps in the future I’ll be able to provide more examples from actual practice :) For now, I tend to provide examples from my own experience of the material as I’m applying it to myself. I LOVE stories and have always appreciated the importance of stories as a means to understanding and making change. I’m a former journalism student and have a passion for social justice. Learning about narrative feeds this passion quite well :)

I’m currently home in Seattle, WA for the winter break. The skies are blue and the sun is out and the air is cold and crisp. I love it!

We will definitely meet again in a future webinar. Until then, where are you from? How long have you been practicing narrative?


Jo Viljoen: December 16, 2014

Hi Peggy and friends
I am so enjoying the course, but perhaps Agnes keeps me from writing down everything I am thinking as I read, re-discover known writings and remember the theory behind the work that I do. I have been involved with Narrative Practice since 1998, and a lot of it has become second nature. However, this course has helped me to examine my second nature and has helped me identify some short cuts that I have invariably developed as I suppose everyone does (?) So yes I am learning and relearning and practicing again some ways of asking questions that I have not considered for a while or perhaps that I have used without remembering where it came from or what its educated name is anymore.

What a long preamble. What I actually wanted to say is in the addiction recovery field externalizing conversations come to the client as a breath of fresh air. They say this is because the dominant discourse in addiction work is that the person is the problem. When we explain to them and their families what our philosophical position is, everyone is a little confused at first but once they understand that we are all going to team up against a common problem everyone feels a great sense of relief. We discuss responsibility and accountability too, because often folk are concerned that externalizing the problem of addiction exonerates the person from any responsibility. Taking back responsibility from a thief becomes part of our action plan and strategy.


Jo Viljoen