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Video Witnessing As "Practice-Led Theory"

The sacred art of holding both the uniqueness AND universalities of our adult journies
(Photo: John Oliver

Connecting the Filming Method with Current Research and Frameworks

Despite at first glance the method being of ultra minimalist design, there a great deal of research and references from psychology through to the wisdom traditions that point to how we show up in such a witnessing practice, including accessing subtle energy (introduction page on subtle energies and David Deida workshop recording here).

The research points to a number of theoretical frameworks that are diverse, yet offer complementary lenses on the practice - in such a way that can reinforce the outcomes of the InteriorTruth filming experience.


A danger in complex subjects such as meaning-making of the human experience through practices such as this, is to put the theory before the practice. A key tenet therefore is being present and engaging with the human experience first and foremost in an adaptive, flexible and intuitive way, before any bias that a particular theoretical lens may place on the way we engage.

Having worked in organisational and leadership development consulting for over 10 years, I have seen myriads of theoretical frameworks that would be the basis upon which any engagement was led - to the extent of natural biases leading to always see the world in a way that confirms the pre-selected theoretical framework (with equally numerous derivatives of each framework with their own commercial branding and packaging).

Putting the Method Before The Frameworks

Here are some key principles of this philosophical lens of how we might best understand such filming practices where the method is a starting point into exploring supportive frameworks:

  • Context is everything

    • Only through practice (with ideally high granularity) are we able to hold the infinite nuances of context

  • Being in a dynamic of 'being' vs. aiming for a destination:

    • Our complex world means that we are navigating polarities that are in fact complementary, vs. in conflict. It is only our reductional thinking that collapses polarites into conflict (e.g. right wing vs. left wing politics).

    • Playing with counter-factuals (e.g. testing your hypothesis by attempting to disprove it) can give some useful 

    • Safe-to-fail experiments, which should test naive and deliberately contradictory hypothesis is a powerful way of navigating such polarities and dynamics (See Dave Snowden's Blog post here "Start with action then reflect", and a Dave is a significant source on the general theme of this page, having worked in collaboration with him on client projects). 

Jordan Peterson on the significance of "free form" spontaneous speech and path to health:

Whilst the context of this speech at Cambridge University has a very broad sweep across both clinical therapy to social discourse, there is a key common thread with the Nic Askew / InteriorTruth method, in deep unconditional witnessing, no or few questions, and the reflection process back of what was heard by the film editor.

List of Theoretical Frameworks and Complementary Methods that Relate to the Video Witnessing Practice

Below is an initial overview of the frameworks from my experience to be directly relevant to the witnessing practice:​​


The Energetic and Emotional Arc in Personal Development and Learning:

It could be said that all personal development happens within a hermeneutic arc between the cognitive and the emotional. Our thinking evolves throughout our lives, as we move through new experiences that each contain an emotional or energy component. Below are some examples of research under this theme:


Dropping into different energy points - Theory U 

  • Scharmer, C. Otto (2007) Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges. The Society for Organizational Learning, Cambridge, USA.

  • And: Senge, Peter M.; Jaworski, Joseph; Scharmer, C. Otto; Flowers, Betty Sue (2 June 2005). Presence: Exploring Profound Change in People, Organizations and Society. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing. 

  • Presencing which is central to the book, variously defined, but Arriving at Silence (shifting the place of perception to the source) 

Subtle Energy


Individual Development Frameworks:

  • Person-centered​ approach

    • Developed by psychologist Carl Rogers

    • A humanistic approach that deals with the ways in which individuals perceive themselves consciously, rather than how a counsellor/therapist can interpret their unconscious thoughts or ideas.

  • Masks Work

    • References from drama therapy to working with archetypes

  • Voice Dialogue Therapy

Subject-Object Narrative Reflective Shifts:

Collective Development Practices

  • T-Groups

    • Facilitated group encouner sessions (Wikipedia article here). Carl Rogers described sensitivity groups as "...the most significant social invention of the century". A T-group meeting does not have an explicit agenda, structure, or expressed goal. Under the guidance of a facilitator, the participants are encouraged to share emotional reactions (for example, anger, fear, warmth, or envy) that arise in response to their fellow participants' actions and statements. The emphasis is on sharing emotions, as opposed to judgments or conclusions. In this way, T-group participants can learn how their words and actions trigger emotional responses in the people they communicate with.

  • Big Mind

    • Dennis Genpo Merzel

    • Related to, but with key distinctions from voice dialogue therapy work.

  • Bohmian Dialogue

Integral Theory Lens on Video Witnessing 

Integral Lens (Ken Wilber) on the witnessing filming practice - and proposing Integral Theory as a meta-map for navigating all the above frameworks and methods.

Click here to access a GoogleSlides draft document (open to comments directly on the document) of using the Integral Theory lens to the witnessing filming practice.

Ultimate Goals for the Video Library - Developmental Signification Resource

Creating a library of developmental narratives in video format, that continue the tradition of contemporary anthropological research done by figures such as Jean Piaget, Clare Graves, Elliot Jaques, James Fowler and Robert Kegan, to feed into their frameworks of developmental stages*.

A narratives signification framework is in the process of being edited - more news to follow soon.

A additional significant reference is the ground breaking longitudinal portrait film project by Michael Apted called 63 Up where a group of 12 children of diverse social backgrounds in the UK, from the age of 7 were filmed, and then re-filmed every 7 years until they reached 56 years old.

*Jean Piaget considered the "Western problem" that there was too much focused on the stages themselves and a fascination with finding how to speed up progression through the stages. Yet in reality stages for Piaget were only symptoms - his deeper interests were in the processes that enabled epistemological structures to develop.

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​ANNEX - References for further research

  • Acknowledging what is from Bert Hellinger, founder of Family Constellations

  • Full Appreciative Awareness (FAA) by NLP teacher Carl Buchheit. He describes FAA as basically being OK with what is - not in terms of condoning what is, but instead the choice of including rather than resisting the existence of what is. It's the consenting to the here and now, and what there is to work with. It's a stance towards self, others, and life that doesn't add anything in, and it doesn't take anything away. 

  • I-Thou "All real meeting is living" by Martin Buber. He contrasts I-It relationships and I-Thou. Check out his phenomenal book I and Thou.

  • "Radical hospitality" from Stephen Jenkinson who works in palliative care. Welcoming and inviting in, even (and perhaps especially) the darkness. 

  • "Love as letting appear" by Humberto Maturana

  • Unique Self Theory by Marc Gafni

  • Idealism as referenced by Bernardo Kastrup

​(Thanks to Alex Carabi for recommendations)

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