Sometimes people, who experience conflicts with themselves or others or situations, need a new lens to look at themselves, others and situations differently. People are experts, resourceful and knowledgeable in their lives. What prevents people, sometimes, from accessing their own resources and knowledge is that they zoom into their problems too closely; therefore, their ability to locate everything in its own place and see things in a broader context is compromised and minimized.
In my therapeutic conversations with individuals and couples, I use metaphors to widen people’s perspective to allow them to see things from various angles. I use metaphors to assist them to see what constitutes and feeds their problems. People usually respond to metaphors in a meaningful way. Metaphors are to help people to re-view their actions or thinkings in a new way and support them to see how they somehow contribute to the presence of problems in their life.
“A therapeutic metaphor is an experience that allows one to learn about more than just that experience” (Wikipedia). Metaphors that i use in my therapeutic conversations include short stories or poems or songs.
A metaphor allows one to compare his/her situation with what is said in a story or in lyrics of a poem or song; it makes one identify some similarities and resemblance between two situations. The symbolic representation of one’s situation in a story or song or poem affects one’s thinking and allows a new meaning or explanation to form. This new meaning or explanation can lead to a possible solution to one’s predicament. Metaphors somehow connect the dots for a person and supports him/her to make a new sense of his/her situation.
In one of my sessions with Vikki, I played a song for her. She listened to the song and became tearful. Vikki is an individual who had experienced ‘abuse’ and had practiced ‘self blaming’ for years. The song affected her greatly and brought a new realization to her. It made her change the way she thought of herself. She took the lyrics into heart and said to me that she has been carrying a huge responsibility for so many years; she needed to place the blame where it was belonged to; she didn’t want to carry it anymore”. We carried on our conversations for a few more sessions when she was able to free herself from the ‘misplaced blame’.
Metaphors carry power, insight, and wisdom. When they are used appropriately, when they resonate with people’s life story, they make a significant difference in people’s life. Metaphors have ability to shed light on people’s understanding of self, others and situations. When they are used in therapeutic conversations, people’s awareness is exponentially increased and consequently the desired change takes place in their lives.
Tahereh Barati, M.A, RMFT