‘Question: Why do scuba divers always fall backwards out of the boat? Answer: Because if they fell forwards, they’d still be in the boat.’
(That meme still makes me smile). It takes me back to a recent conversation with an action learning group. We were practising a Gestalt technique of noticing use of metaphors as a person speaks, then inviting playful exploration to see what fresh insights and ideas might emerge. It has some parallels with James Lawley & Penny Tompkins’ symbolic modelling (Metaphors in Mind, 2000).
Whilst thinking through an issue she was struggling with at work, one participant explained that she felt worried about ‘rocking the boat’. Picking up on the metaphor and stretching it towards a greater polarity, a peer asked, ‘How would it be if you were to sink the boat?’ Then, after she had had time to reflect and respond, another posed, ‘In that situation, what would it take to float your boat?’
In a Gestalt coaching context, I might invite the same person to enact the different metaphorical possibilities physically. We could use objects such as tables and chairs in the room to represent the boat and other significant people or situational factors, then experiment with rocking, sinking, floating or navigating through them. Doing it is very different to imagining it or talking about it.
What experience do you have of working with metaphor? How do you do it?
29/1/2022 05:09:28 pm
I love metaphors Nick - they are very much part of the way that I express myself and also a vital part of my clinical work. Sometimes these come from our unconscious and exploring what the metaphor means to the person who has expressed it can be really profound. I also find that asking clients to draw their metaphor/s can be really helpful in 'seeing' what is within and may have been out of awareness. Noticing how we feel when we say a metaphor and then 'see' a metaphor enables the work 'to go deeper.'
29/1/2022 08:50:27 pm
Thank you, Stella. Yes, I notice that if a client uses a metaphor and I simply reflect the metaphor back to them, they often look surprised as if something subconscious has suddenly been raised into conscious awareness. (This is when he or she has used a metaphor without realising it, rather than having used one deliberately.)
30/1/2022 09:28:16 am
Thank you Nick. As always much to reflect on. 'I remember reading some research years ago that suggested metaphors, when used in this way by a client without conscious awareness, could represent the language of intuition - that is, a different kind of knowing to rational thought and one that has its own language. It's often a language that speaks in pictures, not words.' - as always much to reflect on. '
30/1/2022 03:14:44 pm
Thank you, Stella. I think your reflection that, 'if we listen and tune in we will learn so much' is really important. In clinical practice, this is often about the therapist listening and tuning in deeply in order to know and understand the client.
4/2/2022 08:02:09 am
Thanks Nick. I love metaphor. There’s no need to have something up your sleeve, nor to smell a rat or count your chickens nor to miss the bus. Metaphor is the proof that we naturally drift into a world of poetry and mythology simply by using language.
4/2/2022 02:41:02 pm
Thank you, John. I love the way you expressed that! 😃
E.G. (Ervin) Sebastian - CPC, CSL
4/2/2022 12:47:21 pm
Great topic, Nick.
4/2/2022 02:49:07 pm
Thank you, Ervin. ‘Change your metaphors and you’ll change your life.’ I really like that. Metaphors are a way of construing reality…a bit like narrative, if you like…and often ourselves in relation to it. If we work and play with metaphor, all kinds of new possibilities can be created and emerge into view.
15/2/2022 04:34:26 pm
Metaphors make or break what we are trying to say. This is a great reminder on perspective ! The words you say matter.... so the change your metaphors... change your life is such a wise and true statement.
15/2/2022 04:35:55 pm
Hi Kelsey. Yes - and “make or break” is a great example of metaphorical language! :)
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