Here’s another in our series on metaphors we live by, the ways in which how we describe our lives and situations influences us. The specific metaphors we use, the way we use them and the stories we create with them may limit us, inspire us, or expand our options. Recognizing the ones you use is the first step to understanding they are affecting your life now.
In this essay Connirae gives you several examples of how to discover the stories you tell yourself and ways to loosen up any restrictions they are imposing on you.
P.S. If you find this has lit a fire in you, as it did early on with me, and you’d like to learn more and deepen your understanding and expertise of NLP, the Portable Practitioner is a FANTASTIC next step. It goes much deeper into the concepts covered in the book, and will give you knowledge and ability to use NLP to improve your life, and the lives of those you love, beyond your imagination. You can pick up your copy here.
How Our Metaphors Reveal Creative Solutions
The following is a guest post from Connirae Andreas
The man was right up against it-a wire fence with jagged barbs densely interwoven. No chance of getting through those barbs. The path ahead looked attractive. But the barbed-wire fence… Even if he could somehow get through the first one, he could see there was another beyond it. And another, and another. Yet he had to try.
Maybe if he could find someone who could give him a wire cutter.
In the middle of a large arena was a woman. Her stance was as if ready for a fight, knees slightly bent, torso leaning forward. And facing her was a young boy, in a matching posture. The two of them facing off. The boy looked ordinary, except for the fact that he had horns coming out of the top of his head. A little devil, I guess. The woman had horns too.
There he lay, flat on the floor, with a large man with heavy boots standing over him. Literally. The large man’s right boot was placed firmly on the reclining man’s chest, holding him in place. Trapped.
I wasn’t watching late night TV. I was sitting in my office, using Andy Austin’s Metaphors of Movement work, and these are snippets of what I was hearing from my clients. When I asked each person “What is it like?” (referring to the problem they wanted to resolve), this is what they told me.
The first man, who we’ll call “Dave,” had told me he experienced inevitable obstacles that kept him from moving forward in life. If he could just “cut through” it as he put it-then he knew he could have a really nice future. As we explored his metaphor, it turned out that the barbed wire fence went completely across the path in front of him from left to right-but then it stopped. Beyond the edge of the fence was just flat ground. The same thing on the left. The entire fence was only about 6 feet in length. Hmmm…
“Is cutting through this really what you need to do here? Or is it worth considering other options. What about finding the right way around this? Or exploring what’s left for you?”
Beth, the woman in the arena, couldn’t see any way out of her predicament dealing with a consistently “devilish” child. Yet when she actually explored her options, an interesting thing happened. I asked her, “What happens when you take a step to the right?” “What happens when you take a step to the left?” “Back?” I almost didn’t ask her to try taking a step forwards. It seemed like that would be likely to create more conflict. But I did. And as she stepped forward, she started laughing. “When I step closer, it all seems so silly. We’re bumping bellies. I feel closer to him, and I just want to hug him. I didn’t think I’d feel that way.” For the first time she looked relaxed and at ease.
To the man lying flat on the floor, I could just describe what was clear in the scene itself: “So you’ve been taking it lying down. It looks like you need to get something off your chest before you can really stand up for yourself in this situation.”
These are a few quick glimpses into the Metaphors of Movement work. I could tell you many scenarios from my clients, and from myself as well. Each is unique: each person is unique, each metaphor unique, and what works is unique.
The above might sound like dream interpretation. While there are some similarities, there are important differences. What is nice about the Metaphors of Movement work is that I don’t need to interpret anything. I don’t need to create any meaning. In fact I discourage that in my clients if they start doing that. Making up meanings for things tends to stop the work before it really begins. What works is noticing the literal scene, not interpreting it. By feeding back the scene, often in idioms (one of the strategies we learned from Andy Austin), the person often does have “Aha’s” and recognition of how this “is my life.” But it’s not a mental or conceptual understanding. It is more of a visceral recognition – something happening in a different part of the brain.
From the perspective of the client, by really recognizing “where I am” in this way it becomes possible to discover my options. Through metaphor we are able to tap into a holistic experience of the situation-and a wisdom about “how things are” comes through that is beyond just the wisdom of my conscious mind.
I may be trying to move forward, but it might work out better if I consider moving around. Perhaps I do need to get something off my chest. Perhaps if I move closer-or farther-other things will change. When I map out a metaphor with someone, neither I nor they really know in advance what will work. It’s a joint exploration. The only way to know is to try it out and notice.
These are three quick glimpses into the Metaphors of Movement work, developed by Andrew Austin. To learn more, you may be interested in Andy Austin’s “Metaphors in my Attic” online program.
We are bringing Andy to Boulder, CO for a live 4-day training, with an optional 5th exploration day. Dates are April 13-16, 2013, and the optional 5th day is April 17.
Steve, Mark and I have found Andy’s MoM work tremendously useful, and we invite you to join us to learn more along with us, when Andy teaches in Boulder.
(If you can’t click the above link, here is the URL: