Metaphor is a figure of speech used to compare the similarity of two things. I find that using metaphor in therapy can be an excellent way to expand a person’s perspective and gain additional insight. Our bodies are often a metaphor for our thoughts and emotions. For instance our shoulders might rise and our muscles may contract when we are feeling “uptight”. We can then often tap into our physical bodies as we look to identify what we are feeling emotionally. As clients are looking to increase their sense of connection and grounding, I may have them tap into their legs and imagine the image of a tree with it’s roots into the earth. The tree is strong, flexible and connected with the earth.
We can also use concepts with which we are very familiar to better understand or visualize those that are more difficult to grasp or communicate. For instance grief can come in spells. Sometimes the sun is shining and you are looking forward to what the future might bring and then a memory comes up and a cloud passes over the sun, feeling sadness and grief for a spell. For some people this image allows them to embrace the transient nature of grief and that it comes and goes. They can learn through the imagery to expect clouds to cover the sun at times and they also anticipate the it will not last forever.
Last year for Brain Injury Awareness month I took on a challenge which I called Metaphors of Brain Injury. I encouraged people to come up with metaphors to help others better understand the life changing and often invisible experience of having a brain injury. I used a huge 10 hour day hike as my metaphor. There were many aspects of my hike that paralleled the experience of a day of living with brain injury. For instance I often hear that the fatigue of brain injury is like running a marathon everyday. At the end of my day of hiking, I was exhausted to the point that I was less effective in my communication and even my thoughts were not as quick. As well there were points on the hike where I found it difficult to navigate, just as those with brain injury can often struggle with wayfinding. I also consiously choose a route retraced our steps on the way back to represent the paths in the brain that need to be reinforced and rebuilt following brain injury. As I have learned about brain injury, many of my ‘aha’ moments have come when survivors share with me a metaphor that demonstrates their experience.
Day 28: Metaphors are all around us. Today be mindful of the metaphors you hear, use or see today. How do they help you to better make sense of your world? As you consider the metaphor do you see the concept or issue in a new way? You may find image metaphors are helpful to understand concepts which are typically more difficult to comprehend.