Bringing Design Closer with Gerry Scullion

"Unlocking Creativity: Exploring Liminal Coaching with Mike Parker"

John Carter
February 8, 2024
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"Unlocking Creativity: Exploring Liminal Coaching with Mike Parker"

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Welcome to another episode of This is HCD. Several months ago, I started speaking with today's guest, Mike Parker, owner and founder of Liminal Coaching in Wales in the UK. I'd heard Mike's name mentioned several times over the years online, especially after reading the brilliant book by Dave Gray called Liminal Thinking several years ago.

Now that book for me was transformative. Both personally and professionally, and over the years, as I explored ways and means to extend my level of knowledge in this space, I started to read more and more about the benefits of liminality to changemakers. So what exactly is liminality? And more to the point, what is liminal thinking?

If you haven't read that book, I really encourage you to pick it up. It's a brilliant book and a brilliant read. Now, liminal thinking is a concept, an approach to problem solving and understanding. The world that deals with the power of the thresholds of perception and belief. Now, the term liminal comes from the Latin word limen, meaning threshold.

And in a broader sense, liminality refers to a state of transition, the in between phase of a process of change, where you are on the threshold between one state and another. Some of Mike's work is really fascinating and involves holding space for yourself just to drift. So for anyone who knows me personally, they'd be familiar with the constant drive or chaos that surrounds my own life and is in constant conflict with this idea of just holding space.

But I truly love it and I love practicing it. I might not be good at it. But I know I want to get better at it, but that's probably a really nice way of framing it. So this episode is going to be of interest to me, or of interest to you if you're like me in that sense, always running close to empty and always striving for perfection and really ultimately being critically hard on yourself from time to time.

So in this episode we tackle some of those pieces and go deeper into Mike's practices. Let's get stuck in.

Episode Transcript

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Hey folks and welcome to another episode of This is HCD. My name is Gerry Scullion and I'm your host and I'm based in the wonderful city of Dublin, Ireland. Now I offer training to organisations internationally in service design, user experience design and design research and also work one on one with changemakers all over the world with my 12 week coaching programme that I offer through this podcast on  Now, about today's guest, several months ago, I started speaking with today's guest, Mike Parker, owner and founder of Liminal Coaching in Wales in the UK.  I'd heard Mike's name mentioned several times over the years online, especially after reading the brilliant book by Dave Gray called Liminal Thinking several years ago.

Now that book for me was transformative. Both personally and professionally, and over the years, as I explored ways and means to extend my level of knowledge in this space, I started to read more and more about the benefits of liminality to changemakers.  So what exactly is liminality? And more to the point, what is liminal thinking?

If you haven't read that book, I really encourage you to pick it up.  It's a brilliant book and a brilliant read. Now, liminal thinking is a concept, an approach to problem solving and understanding. The world that deals with the power of the thresholds of perception and belief.  Now, the term liminal comes from the Latin word limen, meaning threshold.

And in a broader sense, liminality refers to a state of transition, the in between phase of a process of change, where you are on the threshold between one state and another.  Some of Mike's work is really fascinating and involves holding space for yourself just to drift. So for anyone who knows me personally, they'd be familiar with the constant drive or chaos that surrounds my own life  and is in constant conflict with this idea of just holding space.

But I truly love it and I love practicing it.  I might not be good at it. But I know I want to get better at it, but that's probably a really nice way of framing it. So this episode is going to be of interest to me, or of interest to you if you're like me in that sense, always running close to empty and always striving for perfection and really ultimately being critically hard on yourself from time to time.

So in this episode we tackle some of those pieces and go deeper into Mike's practices. Let's get stuck in. 

[00:00:00] Mike Parker: I can indeed. Yeah, Dave, it was Dave's idea to call it liminal coaching actually.

[00:00:05] Gerry: there you go, super smart, Dave, um, Mike, I'm delighted to have you in the podcast. Um, for our listeners, maybe we'll start off with a quick question about who you are, what you do, um, and where, where are you based at the moment?

[00:00:22] Mike Parker: Uh, I actually live in Newport in South Wales, but, uh, everything that we do is delivered online. So, uh, you know, the services are pretty well global and most of my clients at the moment are in the U. S. actually.

[00:00:35] Gerry: Very good. Now, I stumbled across your work a number of years ago in Liminal Thinking, I think it was, I think it might have been mentioned in the book, um, by Dave Gray, but the liminal coaching piece is something that kind of sits alongside, um, a lot of that work and a lot of that stuff that was included in Dave's book.

[00:00:56] Um, Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You mentioned there that a lot of your clients are in the U. S. Um, what kind of services do you provide and who are the people that tend to look for those services?

[00:01:10] Mike Parker: Um, the services that we provide basically are to help people. Process, unprocessed subconscious material and to drain out what I refer to as their stress reservoir. So when we talk about stress, it can include unprocessed subconscious material. And that means stuff which has happened to us, which has never really been properly worked out, but which may be influencing our decision making, or it may be getting in the way of us being able to do the things we want to do.

[00:01:40] So the first phase of any liminal coaching program is to clear out the whole backlog of unprocessed stuff. That then forms the basis for doing a number of different things. So we've worked to enhance people's creativity, to enhance their collaboration, to help them connect better with intuition, and to help to help get into flow states where it's easier to find solutions to complex problems.

[00:02:13] Gerry: Mm

[00:02:19] Mike Parker: at Bath University at the Operational Research Society annual conference on, uh, neuroscience, large neural networks and creativity. So there's a lot of scientific background to what we do. It's not just, you know, we don't just hit it and hope.

[00:02:35] Gerry: Yeah. So when you talk about the stress reservoir, um, that's a really beautiful metaphor if you want for what we're hopefully going to chat a lot more about today. Um, if you imagine that everyone in the world went through liminal coaching and they resolved what was inside their stress reservoir, what would the world look like in your eyes?

[00:03:03] Mike Parker: Oh, we'd be living in a, we'd be living in a fabulous world.

[00:03:07] Gerry: Would Wales be winning the World Cup? The RugbyRuby World Cup, do you think?

[00:03:11] Mike Parker: Yeah, probably. It, it, it wouldn't be, it wouldn't be, it wouldn't be perfect. But we wouldn't be spending so much time, um, actually making things worse for each other,

[00:03:22] Gerry: Okay. Which is where I was going to take the conversation. So there's a lot of people, myself included, that have, you know, a reservoir that I tend to with, through my psychologist and, you know, daily activities that I do to try and keep myself in check. But what do you cover off in being able to address what's inside the stress reservoir?

[00:03:51] Mike Parker: Do you mean, what do we do?

[00:03:53] Gerry: Hmm, well, as part of the liminal coaching exercises, how, how do you discover those things? It sounds quite close to psychotherapy in that sense.

[00:04:03] Mike Parker: Oh yeah, I guess, yeah, there are some parts of it which are taken from psychotherapy. So, any one to one session, for example, is divided into two parts. And the first part is based on, uh, pretty much based on Solutions Focused Brief Therapy, which was developed by Steve DeShazza and his wife back in the late 70s, early 80s.

[00:04:23] And it was the first time that anyone started looking at the person themselves as being the best resource. with the most knowledge about what they needed to solve and where they needed to go. So, there's a, a quite a highly structured first half, uh, of discussion which is based around solutions focused breathe therapy and it's a solutions focused approach.

[00:04:47] I can give you a very brief example, so I might ask you, um, what does your preferred future look like? What's it like if you wake up in the morning and you're where you really, where you want to be? And nine times out of ten, people will say, Well, I wouldn't wake up feeling frightened of what the day was going to bring.

[00:05:09] I wouldn't wake up and immediately check my bank account. I wouldn't wake up and wonder how many horrible emails I was going to get. Okay. So,

[00:05:17] Gerry: you spoken to my wife? Hmm,

[00:05:28] Mike Parker: have happen. And that has added, that will have added almost as much stress to the stress reservoir as the actual event will.

[00:05:39] Gerry: Hmm, yeah.

[00:05:42] Mike Parker: what we then do is we say, okay. So that's your list of things that would stop happening, which are all the things that you don't like. What I want you to do, what I want to do now, is I want you to go back through that list, and I want to ask you, if that had gone away, if that wasn't happening anymore, what would be happening instead? And it sounds really simple, but at that point you see, people actually begin to start to think about and imagine where they would like to be. And so they start saying things like, Well I guess I'd feel lighter. And I'd wake up feeling enthusiastic and happy for the day. And I'd wake up feeling like I can meet any challenges that happen and be perfectly okay with them.

[00:06:28] And I'd feel good. So what's happening then is that they're generating all these images and feelings about how they would, where they would rather be. Okay, so the first half of the session basically focuses on developing that as much as possible. The second half of the session, which is the guided relaxation part, is where is where what you have been developing in the first half gets a chance to actually change patterns at a subconscious level and move towards making those things that you've just described become real for you. let me give you an example. Um, doing that first half, we think actually programs an area of the brain called the anterior cingulate, which is like a super secretory. And if you've ever had a, I'm sure you have had, uh, circumstances where you maybe, you've got a presentation to give. You think about it, you visualize it, you know where it's going to be and when it's going to be.

[00:07:30] You've got all the notes, you've got all the slides ready. And your anterior cingulate says, okay guys, we need to coordinate everything we can find in long term memory, short term memory, and everywhere from around the brain to help to make this thing happen at this time on this day. And then when you get to the actual event, you may be starting your talk, and you've got your notes, and the slides are up, and stuff like that, and suddenly you're remembering far, far better stories that you'd completely forgotten about, much better examples, and completely new ideas have come along, that you suddenly strike you as being, oh yeah, that's a much better thing to say, and then you're on a roll, and you're flying, and you're hardly even looking at the notes, because they've become irrelevant.

[00:08:19] So that's what the anterior cingulate does. So the, the idea in the session structure is, um, to program the anterior cingulate in the first half of the session. And in the second half of the session, during the guided relaxation, the subconscious gets an opportunity to start doing the re patterning necessary to actually make that happen.

[00:08:42] And there's a lot of, um, a lot happens during a guided relaxation. So we can speak very briefly about, uh, something called the default mode network. And that's a, a large neural network in the brain that gets switched on. when you're in REM sleep, but also when you're daydreaming, and so also during guided relaxation.

[00:09:12] It's really very interesting because I think it was only in 2012 that a couple of scientists, Rachel and Shulman, identified that in that state the brain can be using more energy than it's using on task focused things like mental arithmetic and stuff like that. So they decided that it was probably a good idea to stop calling it the idle state of the brain and do some further investigation.

[00:09:39] Then they found that actually Uh, a lot of different parts of the brain started networking together and talking to each other symphonically in this state. And since then, uh, a lot of research has been done on it, which shows that, well, most recent research, um, has produced strong evidence to show that the default mode network is actually causal.

[00:10:04] and creativity. So all those times when you are staring blankly out the window and you or someone else thinks you're not doing anything important, your brain is actually probably on, in that state and at a subconscious level, it's processing, uh, extremely complex problems. to deliver solutions to them.

[00:10:29] Gerry: It's amazing when you think about it, like when you look at organizations and their, their massive kind of curiosity to be always on and be delivering and stuff. And it's kind of the antithesis of this. Default mode network. There's a story that I've told on the podcast a couple of times before by John Cleese, where he was writing Fawlty Towers and he wrote the first script and it was during one of his divorces, I believe, and he lost the script and he realised that he had to write it by hand again, so he wrote the script from memory and he submitted it to the BBC and that's what got made the first season.

[00:11:09] But when he was clearing out his house, He saw that the first script, the original script, was behind the desk. So now he was in a position to compare. And he says that the subconscious had continuously been working on that script, and what he could see was the second script was considerably better. A lot of the storylines were tied up really nicely and neatly, and I can sort of see there's a connection between what you're talking about here, the subconscious and the default mode network.

[00:11:41] What's the, what is that connection or am I, am I kind of making it up?

[00:11:46] Mike Parker: No, you're not making it up at all. And the default mode network is largely a subconscious operation.

[00:11:52] Gerry: Right.

[00:11:53] Mike Parker: Um, you're not conscious of it. So when you're staring out of the window blankly, it feels to you like you're not doing very much at all. And yet, in the background, you're probably doing something similar to Mendeleev when he, um, developed the periodic table, who was stuck.

[00:12:12] He got, he was working on something and he got completely stuck. He knew that there was a pattern there, but he couldn't figure out why it was, right? He could not actually figure out what the paradigm was, until by his own, his own, uh, testimony. He says that he saw it three times in a waking dream and on the third occasion wrote it down and only later was it necessary to make one or two minor changes. And that's probably the biggest paradigm shift in scientific history. So you, you get some idea of what's happening at a subconscious level is, well, we need to, we need to, we need to find the pattern that fits all this stuff. and deliver it to the conscious mind.

[00:12:59] Gerry: So how do you see organizations, um, approaching this kind of, uh, thinking and mindset? What are the resistance, uh, or what are the resistant blockers, if you want, to adopting it?

[00:13:15] Mike Parker: I think it needs to have, there needs to be a commitment to a degree of culture change in order to make it work properly. Because you need to actually bite the bullet of deciding that you are going to Suggest to the people who are working for you that they need to be taking regular daydream breaks if they're engaged in, in problems which require, um, complex solutions.

[00:13:46] Gerry: Didn't Google have spaces in their offices, I'm sure they're probably still there in some of them, where they encouraged this whole kind of, uh, afternoon nap and, um, you know, space out sessions, I think they were called

[00:14:01] Mike Parker: they might have done, yeah, that would be about napping, and napping's a great thing, 20 minutes or so is usually really productive. And, but, um, we provide people with a free tool, which I call Liminal Pomodoro, after the, after the Pomodoro Time Boxing Technique. But in this case, what you do is you set a timer, and every hour, you stop, and you actually deliberately allow yourself to mind wander or daydream for three to five minutes.

[00:14:30] Gerry: it's going to change my life. This episode is going to change my life, folks. I am, now have the Parker permission to look out the window and daydream. But when I look out my window, Mike, it's grey and it's raining and it's wet. It's the perfect daydream conditions at the moment in Dublin. Um,

[00:14:52] Mike Parker: I'll send you the tool which actually has One of the main parts of the tool is a bunch of references from different scientific journals supporting how mind wandering is fundamental to creativity So, I provide that to people so that if someone comes along to them and says, What are you doing? Just staring out the window, they can hold it up and say, Well, actually, I'm allowing my brain to work nine times faster at a subconscious level on solving your problems.

[00:15:21] Gerry: It's like the reason why I'm not speaking so much in this episode, listeners of this podcast would be like, well, GJerry's kind of not talking as you, as much as he usually is because I'm pondering an awful lot at the same time, so I'm processing a lot. This is very similar and it's kind of providing a framework for me to reference my own life on.

[00:15:42] There was periods of my life where when I lived in Australia, when I needed to process stuff, I would go to Byron Bay. One of the most beautiful places in Australia that I loved. And before you ask, no, there was no drugs involved because it is kind of one of those hippy dippy spaces. But whenever I completely switched off, focused on beach life, walks, good food, um, things started to happen.

[00:16:10] Like, things became clear. And that's where originally this podcast, the whole kind of This is Hate City kind of mindset came from one of those trips. So. What was happening there, when you release yourself from the pressures of everyday life, you disassociate temporarily from the stressors in the stress reservoir, to use your language?

[00:16:35] Something was unlocked in my brain, and it happened more than once, it happened several times. Can you give me the scientific kind of understanding on what might have happened in there, like where I saw this moment of clarity on what I needed to do with my life?

[00:16:54] Mike Parker: I mean, it's highly likely that you were spending quite a lot of time with your default mode network switched on.

[00:17:01] Gerry: Hmm,

[00:17:02] Mike Parker: One of the things that we do know the default mode network does is to be continually working So, on reviewing, revising, and making more complete and more intricate our understanding of ourselves and our relationship with the world and other people around us.

[00:17:23] Gerry: hmm,

[00:17:24] Mike Parker: There's a whole book, um, it's a hot new area of neuroscience called Social Neuroscience, which was pretty much, well, the godfather of it pretty much is a guy called Matt Lieberman, who wrote a great book called Social, which is well worth reading,

[00:17:39] Gerry: okay.

[00:17:39] Mike Parker: which explores Uh, a lot of this kind of stuff about how much of the, how much of our time, uh, with the default mode network switched on is taken actually working out and computing our social relationships with one another because they're so fundamental to our survival.

[00:18:01] Gerry: So a lot of air quotes here, folks, creatives, um, on my right and assuming are pretty, um, pretty comfortable with that default, default mode network process. I mean, I could see this when I worked in ad agencies and now they'd have pool tables and table tennis and computer games and stuff. They were consciously trying to.

[00:18:25] Push us into that mode where we would.

[00:18:28] Mike Parker: Yeah, it's kind of funny that because a lot of those things, a lot of those games and stuff will actually, will actually exacerbate or amplify the sympathetic nervous system,

[00:18:39] Gerry: Oh really? The antithesis of it.

[00:18:41] Mike Parker: Which is centered around the amygdala, the fight flight response center. So it's actually about, when you think about it, pool is about calculation and winning and stuff like that.

[00:18:50] Most games have that kind of competitive edge.

[00:18:53] Gerry: mindset, yeah.

[00:18:54] Mike Parker: It's engaging your sympathetic nervous system rather than your parasympathetic nervous system, which is more associated with that kind of quiet. Realization insight type thinking so I'm not really sure how effective that would

[00:19:09] Gerry: How those situations are. Let's take a step back from the conversation for a second, Mike. Okay, so I'm speaking to you. It sounds like even your voice is very much controlled. Um, and when I'm listening to you, you've got my full attention. What is your background and how did you Get into this area.

[00:19:31] Mike Parker: Okay, well that's quite a long story so I'm gonna try and pricey

[00:19:35] Gerry: time, Mike. We've got time. People are driving their cars and out for a walk. Listen to this.

[00:19:40] Mike Parker: Well, I've always been absolutely fascinated by the mind, the brain, and different brain states, different states of mind, uh, which is why I got into trouble at school when I was 14 for hypnotizing my classmates during the lunch

[00:19:54] Gerry: not.

[00:19:55] Mike Parker: I did. I

[00:19:57] Gerry: did not. How did you do this?

[00:20:01] Mike Parker: was a book in the school library called Hypnotism for Medical and Dental Practitioners.

[00:20:07] Gerry: That is absolutely brilliant. Did you have one of the watches to go?

[00:20:11] Mike Parker: No, no, we weren't, you know, it was just a progressive muscle relaxation technique.

[00:20:17] Gerry: Right, so you did that at 14. I'd say you were popular with the teachers.

[00:20:21] Mike Parker: Well, not particularly. My form teacher was pretty irritated with me, actually.

[00:20:28] Gerry: What did that look like? You put somebody to sleep, was it, or did you put them into a different state?

[00:20:32] Mike Parker: You put them into a different state and sometimes it looks a lot like sleep. The default mode network does get switched on. The anti gravity muscles get suspended. Those are the ones which keep you upright. Uh, and stuff. So it's the same as REM sleep. And then you can do, but you can do a whole bunch of different things.

[00:20:50] So you can regress people, um, to recover previous memories. I used to regress people to their third or fourth birthday parties and get them to give details about them. And you can get them to anesthetize themselves. So I was getting people to anesthetize their hands and then, uh, sticking compass needles in them.

[00:21:08] I sterilized the needles first. Yeah.

[00:21:13] Gerry: were doing this at 14. What is the name of that book and is it still on the shelf?

[00:21:20] Mike Parker: I've, I've got it here actually, um, it's called Hypnotism for Medical and Dental Practitioners and I think it was, uh, published in 1960. It's actually a pretty good factual, pretty good factual, um, book, in fact, written by a doctor I think.

[00:21:39] Gerry: So at 14 you kind of aligned yourself to what you believed was your purpose. You wanted to learn more and explore the mind. Right.

[00:21:53] Mike Parker: of all, I found out, um, that hyp hypnosis was considered to be absolutely fringe and almost verging on the arc alcohol, especially back in the seventies. the, uh, the matron at school was completely freaking out because she thought it was black magic.

[00:22:12] And, um, there, uh, it wasn't until about 15, 16 years ago when we started looking at FMRI and EEG evidence. That, um, you could say for sure that hypnosis induces a different brain state. Up until that point, there were people making entire careers out of, uh, disproving that anything happened when people were using hypnosis.

[00:22:38] So, I was looking at, what I really wanted to do was to study psychology, but when I looked around at what was available, the only thing you could study was behaviorism. which is about as interesting as watching paint dry, really, and, and not particularly helpful in terms of, of, um, seeing what we could do with what was an obviously an enormously powerful capability that everybody has, everyone can access.

[00:23:06] So that, that meant that there weren't really any avenues open apart from in the, on the west, in the west coast of the U. S. There weren't any avenues open for exploring that kind of thing properly. So I did it myself really. I, I spent years, I did another career in information technology and payment systems.

[00:23:28] And then I also spent years looking at different models of, of psychology from different cultures and what was happening in our own and so on. So it slowly opened up a lot more. Sorry?

[00:23:42] Gerry: you became a student of the mind.

[00:23:44] Mike Parker: Yeah.

[00:23:46] Gerry: When I, when you're speaking about this stuff, I see a big connection between systems thinking and uh, organizational change and also complexity. Um, one of the pieces that I'm very interested in, and we've had Neil Theis from the author of Notes on Complexity earlier this year, is the understanding and the acceptance of working within complex problems and what's required to, you almost have to relinquish.

[00:24:21] This, this power that we tend to think that we have when working within complexity and become masters of experimentation to see what works without that mindset on. I've gone on that journey for the last couple of years reading. What are the risks? Um, That persists for practitioners as designers, as change makers, as business leaders, whatever it is, to not do the work that you're talking about doing here, like addressing what's within the stress reservoir, um, and just continuously challenge.

[00:25:02] Is it, is it fair to say that it'll be more difficult to access that complexity mindset

[00:25:08] Mike Parker: Yeah, for most people, for most people it will. For some, some people who have, who are blessed with great good fortune and who've had parents who aren't alcoholic or don't beat them over the head or whatever, and, and who haven't had major trauma happen in their lives or even a consistent level, consistent background low level, uh, trauma, um, and who are that way inclined and have had plenty of time and have plenty of space and mental space in which to relax.

[00:25:42] It's probably a natural thing. I actually think that the majority of people are naturally inclined, obviously, to spend time in those states because they know that they're beneficial. Um, but it's actually, if you think about the cult, the work culture that we've got and the industry culture that we've got, it's really based on Taylorism still, isn't it?

[00:26:03] And it, and that fundamentally comes from industrial revolution thinking, where you look at human beings as being elements of a, elements of a vast machine and nothing else. So the only thing that you're interested in is measuring how many units of X. that they're producing in a given amount of time.

[00:26:24] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:26:25] Mike Parker: And that is completely antithetical to what most people need to do their best creative work.

[00:26:30] So there's a big cultural, uh, problem there, I think. And I think it's very hard for a lot of people to do that. To

[00:26:38] Gerry: You mentioned,

[00:26:39] Mike Parker: the right mindset, 100%,

[00:26:41] Gerry: mentioned several times, um, traumas in people's lives. A lot of people listening to this podcast, you know, are familiar with the understanding of the complexities that persist within, um, addressing traumas in our lives. Um, Not everyone is fortunate enough to recognize that they have had trauma and they, they live their life in a state where almost in denial, um, and I believe that to be the majority.

[00:27:11] I think a lot of people have suppressed an awful lot of trauma in their lives that can provide blockers, um, unbeknownst to them. Can you give me your definition of what you think trauma is? Right.

[00:27:28] Mike Parker: Um, normally, if you have a stressful event happen, uh, what will happen is that it will create an emotionally charged memory. One of the things that happens when we go to sleep, when we're in REM sleep, when the default mode network switches on, one of the things I'm pretty sure it does, is to drain most of the emotion out of that memory.

[00:27:52] It leaves a little bit, so you can still remember the significance of it, because emotion is what actually gives value, a sense of value and judgment to our lives. So it drains out most of the emotion, and the other thing we're pretty sure it does, is to take that memory and put it on what they call the narrative timeline.

[00:28:10] So it gives it a position in your personal history and says, this happened after this event and before this event. So your brain knows it's in the past. What I think is, I think um, has been fairly well established is that in circumstances where something bad happens to you and you are completely powerless, you're unable to even try to do anything about it.

[00:28:36] So of course a lot of this happens in childhood. the memory may not get processed in the usual way. So it doesn't have all the emotion drained out of it, and it isn't put onto the narrative timeline. So when something triggers that memory from a very, a similar event, and if you've got a lot of stress, by the way, the event doesn't need to be that similar.

[00:28:58] Something triggers that memory. What happens is you re experience all of the emotion because it hasn't been drained out and it feels like it's happening now because it's not on the narrative timeline. So you get that sense of, Oh God, this is happening to me again. This keeps happening to me. Why does this keep happening to me?

[00:29:19] And whatever, whatever event triggers. That original memory also gets tagged with that emotion. So that event becomes part of an overall bundle of stuff around the original event. It's the same thing happens with phobia. There's what they call an initial sensitizing incident, which is for some reason you can't do anything about.

[00:29:46] There's a terrible fearful thing associated with maybe a spider or a snake or whatever. Um, and that gets, that can get worse over time. So I had a lady who had. Had a snake phobia for 30 years. And it had got so bad that, um, when a cartoon snake came on the TV, she'd turn white and start shaking and have to leave the room. So we did, uh, some sessions on that using a technique from NLP, which is called Rewind. And, um, she thought it hadn't worked, but then a week later she emailed me from the snake house in Vancouver Zoo. And so I don't know what happened, but something clicked and I still don't like them very much, but I'm in the snake house and I'm not sweating.

[00:30:31] Gerry: Wow. It's crazy. Um, I want to ask you a little bit more in draining the emotion you mentioned there about that. How is that possible? Um, how does that work?

[00:30:47] Mike Parker: It's a great question. And I, and I wish I knew the detail. And I'm not sure that anyone actually knows in depth what the detailed answer to that is. I think the limit of knowledge at the moment is that during REM sleep, this processing happens. And I guess what happened, it must have something to do with, um, releasing any tensions which are still in the body and In the, in the emotional brain,

[00:31:21] Gerry: Hmm.

[00:31:22] Mike Parker: and, and putting it into perspective, I think that's what happens with the processing.

[00:31:26] So, you know, when it, when we talk about this stuff, I should say, you can't talk about, you can't actually talk about anything without using metaphor. So, these are all metaphors. They're never, you're never going to have an absolute physical description of, of what the process

[00:31:44] Gerry: Yeah. When we were talking earlier on there, you spoke about, um, the work that you do with organizations about, about forming metaphors. Um, tell me more about what that looks like in terms of how organizations come together and what are they creating a metaphor of?

[00:32:05] Mike Parker: So in some group work that we've done with a couple of organizations, what we would do would be to say, okay, what journey does this group of people want to take? So if it's an exec team, for example, what's, what's the, what journey do you want to take? Where do you want to get to? What's the goal? And then we see it as being a journey.

[00:32:28] And, uh, then we would use a short special guided relaxation, which encourages them to see a landscape, which is a metaphor for the journey that they want to take. Then after that, we'd ask them to describe their landscape and the elements in it. What did they see? What was there? And we get answers from the whole team.

[00:32:54] And we put them all up on a board so that all the members of the team can see what metaphors one another came up with and how they relate to each other. So you build a canvas, a metaphor canvas of the journey that the group of people want to take together, which is an aggregate composite of what their subconscious has produced in terms of the metaphors that they saw. So

[00:33:20] Gerry: an example, can you give me an example of, you don't have to give me any client information obviously, but um, say you're working for a large bank and you had the exec team and they wanted to solve some problems, why would they use this method?

[00:33:38] Mike Parker: think the main reason for using the method is because once you start working with metaphor, You begin to open up, uh, very, very innovative perceptions of what's going on. Can I give you a brief example?

[00:33:51] Gerry: Go ahead. Go ahead.

[00:33:54] Mike Parker: I play something with clients, with, with clients and people who come to my webinars. At the end of the webinar, we have like a half hour for questions and stuff. And I, I love to play this thing I call the metaphor game. And the metaphor game is where you say to somebody, okay, so. You, whatever problem or issue you've got, you don't have to tell me what it is, but whatever it is, I just want you to imagine that it's a landscape, and just describe the landscape.

[00:34:21] Okay? So, um, one guy we had said, well, I'm on a desert island, uh, there's nothing around but ocean. It's very small, there's one tree. There's no food, there's no boat, there's no way off it. Sounds pretty grim, eh?

[00:34:41] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:34:42] Mike Parker: So then what you do is you start asking what I call clean questions about the environment. And so, well, do you ever see any ships on the, from the island?

[00:34:51] Do you ever see any ships or boats? Yep, yep. There are ships and boats come past quite often. And are any of them, do any of them come near enough so that if you were to wave or shout, they might see and hear you and take you off the island? And he went, Oh, yeah, God, yes. And then he told us that his issue was actually social isolation, and that had been exacerbated by COVID.

[00:35:19] But by using the metaphor, by using the metaphor landscape, he was able to see something that he wasn't able to see before. And basically when he translated it back, it was actually, there are people that I can reach out to, and I'm just not doing that.

[00:35:37] Gerry: So, within the business context of, say, you've got 10, 20 people in a workshop, that provides a level, or it requires a level of vulnerability from the participants to put themselves out there

[00:35:51] Mike Parker: We wouldn't necessarily, we wouldn't necessarily ask, ask people in that environment to go through that particular process. I'm just using that as an illustration of how, of how, um, developing a metaphor for where you are and where you want to get to and reveal things that you wouldn't normally see. So, in one case where we did a, we did it with a group, um, somebody came up with, uh, a tree, a particular kind of tree, a dragon tree.

[00:36:20] Um, which represented for them a particular part of the journey that they wanted to take, that they were going to take. Somebody else came up with a chasm. Someone else came up with a river. And, and when the chasm, they knew that the chasm was this particular problem that they'd been thinking about. But when they looked at it as being a chasm, then we could ask the question, what would help to cross the chasm?

[00:36:46] And I said, well, actually I could use wood from the tree to help to cross the chasm because the dragon tree had represented, I think the dragon tree had represented the insight that we're going to need for somebody, one person that was a tree. So by, um, by actually Using that technique, you get completely new perspectives on things.

[00:37:11] But as the people in the team are putting up their metaphors on the board, and I've actually used, um, Miro for this. As people are putting up their metaphors on the board, they start seeing relationships between their metaphors and metaphors that other people are coming up with. And they start going, oh yeah, so you see it that way.

[00:37:34] And I say, yeah, you think it's a nuclear explosion. Well, that's a bit like Miabus. so what happens is that because metaphors always come loaded with feelings, as well as thoughts and

[00:37:48] Gerry: That's what I was going

[00:37:50] Mike Parker: people begin to actually relate to and understand where each other are coming from at a subconscious level. So it lays a very, uh, lays an amazing groundwork for what is basically a socially negotiated metaphor map of the journey that the team wants to take. So we then take that and we take it away and I write a bespoke, uh, special guided relaxation around it, which we then get them to use, get the team to use while they're going to sleep each night.

[00:38:23] And, uh, and we back that up with one, some one to one sessions if they feel that they want them.

[00:38:30] Gerry: really, it's, it's, it's awesome to hear that organizations that they're already using these kind of methods to help understand themselves and their position within their ecosystems. Um. If people want to find out more about this kind of stuff, I know Dave Gray's got liminal thinking, which was the gateway into your world.

[00:38:57] Um, what's the best way for people to find out more about the coaching, the liminal coaching pieces, and also some of the other workshops here that you covered off. Um, they're liminal creatives.

[00:39:11] Mike Parker: yeah, there's liminalcreatives. com, which is more geared to people working in the creative community. Um, So we have quite a lot of writers and artists and people in PR and advertising and stuff like that who are very interested in that side of it. Liminalcoaching. com is slightly more kind of corporately oriented.

[00:39:32] So there we talk about, we talk about doing programs where we We would always start, by the way, by suggesting an initial program to drain out people's stress reservoirs and process unprocessed material. That's just a baseline. That's where you have to start from. Um, so basically, uh, go to either website, and I'm more than happy to talk to anyone who wants to chat, because it's, this, my, I geek out on this stuff, so anyone who just wants to talk about it, I'm really happy to do so.

[00:40:06] Gerry: I can definitely tell it's something that you love. It's not just a job, which, um, it's something that you've given your life to as well, because I can hear the deep level of expertise coming through and how you speak about these complex issues. So, Mike, listen, I really, really enjoyed speaking with you today.

[00:40:26] I'll put a link to Liminal Coaching and to Liminal Creatives into the show notes. I'll also put a link to your LinkedIn. If that's okay. So for people to connect with you and ask questions, but I'd like to wrap up every session that I do with thanking you, the guest for giving me your time and also your vulnerability about me asking questions and putting you in the spot and so forth.

[00:40:47] So I really, really appreciate you giving me the time today. So thank you so much, Mike.

[00:40:51] Mike Parker: I certainly appreciate being here. Thank you.

John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber

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