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The EXP Scale

The Experiencing Scale: A Research and Training Manual Volume 1,  (p.56-63)
by M. H. Klein, P. L. Mathieu, E. T. Gendlin and D. J. Kiesler (1969)
Wisconsin Psychiatric Institute

Stage One | Stage Two | Stage Three | Stage Four | Stage Five | Stage Six | Stage Seven


Stage One

The chief characteristic of this stage is that the content or manner of expression is impersonal. In some cases the content is intrinsically impersonal, being a very abstract, general, superficial, or journalistic account of events or ideas with no personal referent established. In other cases, despite the personal nature of the content, the speaker's involvement is impersonal, so that he reveals nothing important about himself and his remarks could as well be about a stranger or an object.

The content is not about the speaker. The speaker tells a story, describes other people or events in which he is not involved, or presents a generalized or detached account of ideas. Nothing makes the content personal.

The content is such that the speaker is identified with it in some way but the association is not made clear. The speaker refers in passing to himself but his references do not establish his involvement. First person pronouns only define the speaker as an object, spectator, or incidental participant. Attention is focused exclusively on external events. For example, "As I was walking down the street I saw this happen . . ."; "t read a book that said. . ."; "I put the lid on the box"; "He stepped on my toe." The speaker does not supply his attitudes, feelings or reactions. He treats himself as an object or instrument or in so remote a way that the story could be about someone else. His manner of expression is remote, matter-of-fact, or offhand, as in superficial social chit-chat, or has a mechanical or rehearsed quality.

The content is a terse, unexplained refusal to participate in an interaction, or an avoidance or minimizing of an interaction. Minimal responses without spontaneous comments are at stage one.

Stage Two

The association between the speaker and the content is explicit. Either the speaker is the central character in the narrative or his interest is clear. The speaker's involvement, however, does not go beyond the specific situation or content. All comments, associations, reactions, and remarks serve to get the story or idea across but do not refer to or define the speaker's feelings.

The content is a narrative of events in which the speaker is personally involved. His remarks establish the importance of the content but make no reference to the quality of this involvement. Remarks and associations refer to external facets of the narrative, other people, the events, objects, the speaker's actions; they do not give his inner reactions or perspective. If the narrative includes the speaker's thoughts, opinion j, wishes, or attitudes, these only describe him intellectually or superficially. Some speakers refer to ideas and thoughts as if they were feelings; e.g., ") feel that 1 am a good farmer"; "I feel that people should be more considerate." If terms tike "I think" or "I wish" could be substituted for "I feel" without changing the meaning, the remark is at stage two.

The events narrated are impersonal but the speaker explicitly establishes that the content is important to him. For example, he expresses interest in or evaluates an event, but does not show the quality or amount of his interest or concern.

The content is a self-description that is superficial, abstract, generalized, or intellectualized. No reference is made to the speaker's feelings or internal perspective. The segment presents the ideas, attitudes, opinions, moral judgments, wishes, preferences, aspirations, or capacities that describe the speaker from an external or peripheral perspective. One sees him from the outside.

The content reveals the speaker's feelings and reactions implicitly but not explicitly. If the speaker is emotionally aroused, it is evident from his manner, not from his words. If the content is the sort that ordinarily would be personally significant, the speaker does not say so. If the speaker mentions his feelings, he treats them abstractly, impersonally, as objects, or attributes them to others. Third person pronouns, especially "one feels" indicate depersonalization.

The content is an account of a dream, fantasy, hallucination, or free association. These should be treated as narratives of external events. They are at stage two if the speaker's remarks associate him with the account but do not give his feeling reactions to it.

Stage Three

The content is a narrative or a description of the speaker in external or behavioral terms with added comments on his feelings or private experiences. These remarks are limited to the events or situation described, giving the narrative a personal touch without describing the speaker more generally. Self-descriptions restricted to a specific situation or role are also at stage three.

The content is a narrative of events or description of an aspect of the speaker's environment (past, present, or future) with parenthetical personal remarks that give one of the following:

1) The speaker's feelings at the time of the event or in retrospect about it. For example, "He didn't call me back and I was angry" or "He didn't call me back; thinking about it now makes me angry."

2) The personal significance or implications of the situation by relating it to the speaker's private experience. For example, "it reminded me of being scolded as a child"; "It was one of those queer moods that comes on me when 1 get tired."

3) The speaker's state of awareness at the time of the event. Such remarks include details of motives, consciousness, private perceptions, or assumptions which are limited to the event. For example, "I knew at the time that I was reacting too strongly"; "I was aware of wanting to defend myself"; "I did it even though I sensed how foolish I was." Accounts of dreams, hallucinations, fantasies, and free associations should be treated as narratives; they are at stage three if feelings are mentioned.

The content is a self-description of circumscribed aspects of the speaker's life style or role or of his feelings and reactions presented only in behavioral terms. The speaker might, for example, describe how he functions as a parent or in his job, or tell what he does when he gets angry. Personal remarks enrich the description of the situation or reaction to it, but are limited to the immediate context.

In response to a direct question, the speaker tells what his feelings are or were. The interviewer's words are not needed to identify the feeling.

Stage Four

The content is a clear presentation of the speaker's feelings, giving his personal, internal perspective or feelings about himself. Feelings or the experience of events, rather than the events themselves, are the subject of the discourse. By attending to and presenting this experiencing, the speaker communicates what it is like to be him. These interior views are presented, listed, or described, but are not interrelated or used as the basis for systematic self-examination or formulation.

The initial content is a specific situation that is widened and deepened by the speaker's self-references to show what he is like more generally or more personally. The speaker must describe his feelings in great detail, refer to feelings as they occur in a range of situations, provide personal reactions to specific feelings, or relate reactions to his own self-image. The feelings can be immediate responses or remembered responses to past situations. Selfdescriptive comments must deal with internal and personal aspects of the speaker, not with moral evaluations or external or behavioral characteristics.

The content is a story told completely from a personal point of view. The details of feelings, reactions, and assumptions are integral to the narrative, so that what emerges is a detailed picture of the speaker's personal experience of the events.

The content is a self-characterization in which the speaker tells about his personal perspective. In talking about himself he makes explicit his feelings, personality, assumptions, motives, goals, and private perceptions. By revealing these internal parts of himself, the speaker gives a detailed picture of one or more of his states of being. The material presented is not analyzed or interrelated. The use of abstract terms or jargon to describe elements of personality must be expanded with some internal detail to warrant a rating of four. For example, the statement "My ego was shattered" would need elaboration, such as "I felt as if I was nothing, that no one would ever notice me."

Stage Five

The content is a purposeful exploration of the speaker's feelings and experiencing. There are two necessary components. First, the speaker must pose or define a problem or proposition about himself explicitly in terms of feelings. The problem or proposition may involve the origin, sequence, or implications of feelings or relate feelings to other private processes. Second, he must explore or work with the problem in a personal way. The exploration or elaboration must be clearly related to the initial proposition and must contain inner references so that it functions to expand the speaker's awareness of '-is experiencing. Both components, the problem and the elaboration, must be present.

The proposition or problem must be given clearly or strongly and should include references to feelings or to the personal experience at issue. If the internal basis of the problem is weak, as in references to undesired behaviors or styles, propositions about the external precipitants of behavior or feelings, or presentation of the temporal sequence of feelings, then the exploration or elaboration must have extensive inward references. It must be clear that the speaker is focusing on his inner experience rather than simply justifying his behavior.

The problem or hypothesis about the self must be oriented to feelings, private reactions, or assumptions basic to the self-image. It can be presented in different ways:

1) A feeling, reaction, or inner process, and in some cases a behavior pattern, can be defined as problematic itself or as seeming to conflict with other feelings or aspects of the self; for example, "My anger is the problem" or "Why am I so angry?"

2) The speaker may wonder whether or to what extent he has a specific feeling; not "What do I feel?" which would be three or four, but "Do I really feel angry?" or "How angry am I, really? "

3) The problem or proposition can be defined in terms of the personal implications, relationships, and inner ramifications of a feeling, including its origins or causes, its place in a temporal sequence of feelings and inner events, its mode of expression, or its personal and private implications. For example: "Do I get angry when I feel inadequate?" or "My getting angry means I've lost control of myself" or "I get angry just the way my mother used to."

4) Feelings, reactions, and internal processes may be compared.

All problems or propositions about the self must be explored or elaborated with inner referents. Examples or illustrations may show how the speaker experiences the problem or proposition in different settings or at different times; if so, the pertinence of the illustration to the problem must be explicit. The problem or proposition may be related to other internal processes or reactions. Alternatively, through hypothesis, speculation, or analogy the speaker clarifies the nature or private implication of the central problem, its cause-, or ramifications.

At stage 5 the speaker is exploring or testing a hypothesis about his experiencing. While he must define the subject of this process clearly with inner references, his manner may be conditional, tentative, hesitant, or searching.

Stage Six

The content is a synthesis of readily accessible, newly recognized, or more fully realized feelings and experiences to produce personally meaningful structures or to resolve issues. The speaker's immediate feelings are integral to his conclusions about his inner workings. He communicates a new or enriched self-experiencing and the experiential impact of the changes in his attitudes or feelings about himself. The subject matter concerns the speaker's present and emergent experience. His manner may reflect changes or insights at the moment of their occurrence. These are verbally elaborated in detail. Apart from the specific content, the speaker conveys a sense of active, immediate involvement in an experientially anchored issue with evidence of its resolution or acceptance.

The feelings involved must be vividly, fully, or concretely presented. Past feelings or past changes in feelings are vividly presented or relived as part of the speaker's current experience.

The structuring process relates these immediately felt events to other aspects of the speaker's private perspective. Thus, a feeling might be related to the speaker's self-image, his private perceptions, motives, assumptions, to another feeling, or to more external facets of the speaker's life, such as his behavior. In each case the nature of the relationship must be defined so that details of how the speaker works inside and the precise, internal impact of the changes is revealed. It is not merely the existence of a relationship, nor a sequential listing of feelings and inner experiences, but the nature and quality of the association that is made clear.

The synthetic, structuring process leads to a new, personally meaningful inner experience or resolves an issue. As a result of working with his feelings and other aspects of his private perspective, and exploring their relationship to each other, the speaker has new inner experiences. These may be new feelings or chary:' feelings, as when the speaker says, "Now I'm beginning to see that my feeling of guilt is caused by my ideas about work, and it makes me feel much less worried about that sense of guilt. What a relief!" Alternatively, an issue may be resolved: "You know, I've always kept my anger bottled up because I've been afraid of losing control of myself. Now I realize it wouldn't be so bad if 1 did; maybe I'd yell or throw something, that's all." If the speaker starts with a concrete external problem, the related feelings must be presented as part of his present experience and the emergent formulation must change his perception of the problem in some way. For example, "I never asked a girl out because I'm so short. I'm still kind of afraid a girl might call me a shrimp or something, but I'm willing to take that risk now. I guess it's because I realize that even if she did, it wouldn't break me up. I wouldn't like her very much, but I'd feel better about myself for having at least tried." Some elements in the emergent structure may be external, behavioral, or intellectual, as in a decision to act in a different way. Still they must be clearly grounded to immediate feelings. It is never sufficient only to state that a resolution has taken place; the experiences underlying the structuring process must be revealed or relived to satisfy the criteria for stage six.

Stage Seven

The content reveals the speaker's expanding awareness of his immediately present feelings and internal processes. He demonstrates clearly that he can move from one inner reference to another, altering and modifying his conceptions of himself, his feelings, his private reactions to his thoughts or actions in terms of their immediately felt nuances as they occur in the present experiential moment, so that each new level of self-awareness functions as a springboard for further exploration.

Formulations about the self at stage seven meet the requirements for stage six with the additional stipulation that they be applied to an expanding range of inner events or give rise to new insights. The development may follow one of several different patterns:

1) The speaker may start with an internally anchored problem, explore it, and reach an internally anchored conclusion that he then applies to a number of other problems.

2) He may arrive at several related solutions to a single problem and reintegrate them. Any self-analysis is followed by a more comprehensive or extensive synthesis.

3) The speaker may use several different formulations about himself, each of which meets the requirements for stage six, and integrate, relate, or reduce them through a more basic or general formulation.

4) He may start with one conclusion of the type reached in stage six and apply it to a range of situations, each with inner referents explicit, to show how the general principle applies to a wide area of his experience.

Experiencing at stage seven is expansive, unfolding. The speaker readily uses a fresh way of knowing himself to expand his experiencing further. Manner at this stage is often euphoric, buoyant, or confident; the speaker conveys a sense of things falling quickly and meaningfully into place.


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Last modified: March 20, 2001