The InteriorTruth Filming Method
Embodied Sensemaking For Our Developmental Journies

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Outline of the Filming Method

The witnessing filming approach at InteriorTruth was originally based on training with in Inner View Method with Nic Askew (Soul Biographies), and has been adapted by me (John Oliver) through experimentation to typically follow the following sequence, whether filmed remotely or in-person:

  1. Closed-eye meditation: Both the filmer and subject close their eyes for a self-led body scan. The pace and timing is left for the subject to choose (from anywhere between 3 and 25 minutes) - the subject simply tells the filmer that they have finished the body scan and have opened their eyes. 

  2. Eye-to-eye silent witnessing: Both filmer and subject hold each other's gaze, in silence. Whatever narrative emerges into the silence is welcomed, unconditionally. Or the silence may just hold naturally (even up to 45 minutes or more!). Again, the subject is in control, telling the filmer the moment they feel they have come to the end of the silent witnessing, or to the end of their narrative. Typically, the filmer doesn't ask any questions, holding the silence or staying in a role of pure listening.

  3. Debriefing: While continuing to film. the last phase is transitioning into a more rational / cognitive reflective mode, and decompression. It's a moment to explore how was the experience, what was coming up, but not necessarily verbalised?

    • This phase can have fascinating iterations of layers, where while reaching to stop the recording and a transition to a 'normal' state of being together, new narratives spontaneously arise. It often happens that I press again the record button (with permission), to capture these subsequent waves of narrative.​

The next phase in the process is for me to absorb the footage over multiple viewings, and gradually signify/select the extracts to produce typically a short 3-5min edited film, with an optional 10-15min extended version.

Delivering the edited film to the subject/witnessee can be moment full of emotions, as it takes courage to watch oneself with the personal (and subjective) interpretation of the editing process. Often it can be ideal for the first viewing to be done live collectively, my sitting with the subject as they view the edited version.

Although there are many movements across energies and perspectives throughout the process, the 'Arc of Witnessing' schema below distils the core dimensions that are in play:    

The 1-2-3 Arc of Witnessing

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Energies

Gross

...

Subtle

...

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1st Person:

Free Expression - What narrative arises from the silence?

2nd Person:

Being Seen -  By a witness behind the camera, unconditionally 

3rd Person:

Watch yourself: Discovering yourself in the 3rd person in the edited film

Another way of offering 'pointing out instructions' as to what might be at play here using Ken Wilber's Integral Theory language, is that the process offers a self-driven exploration of our 'developmental edges' through our spontaneous narratives (="Levels" - ref. adult developmental psychology frameworks from Robert Kegan to Kurt Fischer to Suzanne Cook-Greuter), with the cycling through layers of energies (= 'States'), and held in multiple perspectives (='Quadrants').

I stress here the wording in the plural of our 'developmental edges', in that our developmental journeys are complex, non-linear, context dependent and multi-dimensional (cognitive, emotional, interpersonal, ego maturity etc.). But the idea of our 'proximal zone of development' as first attributed to Lev Vygotsky, I feel can evoke the potential of the witnessing film practice.

With my experience in working in developmental psychology and narratives in organisational development, the method could be referred to as 'Embodied Sensemaking'.

There is something unique about stepping into the combined realms of unconditional silence in the presence of a witness (the filmer and camera). Each filming is an experiment as we step into the unknown and invite whatever narrative wants to be expressed in the moment.

There are many references in the community of filmers that we need to step out of the way so that "nothing happens", with no expectations. It is the dance with the paradox of not having interview questions or prompts, and resisting the temptation to achieve a "result", that the more spontaneous narrative emerges, from a distinct energetic and embodied depth.

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From the Deeply Personal to the Universal - Video Narratives For Community and Dialogue

What could be considered to the be 4th and 5th stages, continuing from the above 1st-2nd-3rd person schema, are the sharing of the videos to the community, and the dialogue that might be generated therefrom.

Even if the video content is highly curated (through the editing process) and exchanged in an asymmetric way (i.e. it is not a live, 2-way conversation), we might consider that the video witnessing content provides a foundation for a deeper level of dialogue and sense of community.

From across the writings of authors such as David Bohm to William Issacs, the notion of how true dialogue arises from deeper levels of interiority, resonate with what the video witnessing process can contribute.

A dedicated chapter on this topic with research on the state of the art of online dialogue, and the potential of video in dialogue is in progress - please contact me for more details.

Love

Here’s the deal. The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved.

It simply wants to be witnessed - to be seen and heard and companioned exactly as it is.

 

Parker Palmer

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). 

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.

*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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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:​​

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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:

Focusing

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 Reflective Shifts:

  • Developmental Psychology - Subject-Object perspective taking shifts

    • Robert Kegan​

    • Bill Torbert (Appreciative Inquiry)

  • Psychosynthesis

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 https://bigmind.org/

    • 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.

​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)