Imagine this – the day is going great, you have just come off the phone from a really satisfied client, when the phone rings once more.

You pick it up, and with the first syllable uttered you feel yourself shrinking toward the floor, like Alice after drinking from the bottle labelled ‘drink me’.

How is this happening, and what initiated it?

As a GP, I always had a set of Russian Babushkas (Russian dolls) on my desk and have always believed that the Babushka strikes a deeper chord with us than we consciously realise. Perhaps it is because they are an expression of how we are made up, a collection of elements?

Alongside the Babushka on my rather cluttered doctor’s desk were other items including an antique hemi-spherically topped cotton wool container, a couple of empty specimen bottles and, very often, a glass of water.

Sometimes a patient would come to see me who was weighed down by a problem. I would listen to them and then slowly pick up the antique hemi-spherically topped cotton wool container and place it in front of them. I would not pause from my questioning and listening to the nature of the problem.

At some point I would then turned to the question of how they felt in relation to the problem, i.e. whether they were just about holding up, or were overwhelmed.

If they replied that they were ‘overwhelmed’ I would pick up the smallest Babushka, if they were ‘holding up’ I would pick up one which was a similar size to the container and place it next to the ‘problem’.

I would then bring a bigger Babushka forward and place it next to the ‘problem’, give them a moment to look at it and then ask “and how big does the problem seem now with this you”

Utilising this metaphoric representation would often bring about an open and solution focussed discussion and a recognition of the resources they had to deal with the problem. It also allowed them to reconnect with the fact that they were previously able to become the “big Babushka” and reduce what others might see as big problems to small ones that they were then able to deal with easily.

I often think that we are all like Babushkas, only an infinite number of them, usually best thought of as enfolded within the largest, but also as a line stretched back through time with the smallest appearing at birth or maybe even as early as in the womb.

Just a thought ………….

John Phillips

Retired GP


John has been interested in the study of NLP and Hypnotherapy for many years and we have been fortunate enough to have him with us on our last two Master Practitioner courses and we’d like to thank him for writing this article for us.  –  Andy