A metaphor is a “figure of speech in which a word or phrase denoting one form of entity or behavior is used instead of another to imply a connection or analogy between them.” It involves moving the relationship between one group of objects to another for brief clarification purposes.
The use of metaphors in hypnotherapy is universal and essential. It is used widely in hypnotherapy to pass suggestions to the subconscious mind while bypassing critical issues.
History of Metaphor
Milton Erickson is the pioneer in this field. He was the inspiration for using metaphors in a therapeutic context. His methods for communicating with the unconscious mind using sophisticated language patterns and metaphors are recognized now as essential for effective change. One of the main characteristics of therapeutic metaphors is that they are open-ended, thereby allowing listeners to draw on their resources for a solution.
A metaphorical story in a therapeutic context consists of elements that symbolically represent the client’s problem and offers a solution to the client’s problem indirectly.
Advantages of Metaphor Therapy
The following are the benefits and uses of therapeutic metaphor;
The value of metaphor in hypnotherapy is that it can bypass conscious resistances and serves to stimulate creativity and lateral think concerning problems.
- Cause something to be remembered.
- Make, demonstrate, explain, or illustrate a point.
- Create generative realities.
- Open up possibilities and strategies.
- Normalize or otherwise re-contextualize a particular position or content.
- Carry multiple levels of information.
- Facilitate new patterns of thoughts, behavior, and feelings.
- Stimulate lateral thinking and creativity.
- Reframe or redefine a problem or situation.
- Introduce doubt into a position that holds that there is only “one” way.
- Provide or guide associations and thinking along certain lines.
- Allow the client to form a choice or find his direction.
- Bypass normal ego defenses.
- Allow the client to process directly at a subconscious level (indirect suggestions.
- Shift the subject or redirect the discussion.
- Suggest solutions and new options.
- Provide a gateway between the conscious.
- Pass suggestions to the subconscious mind.
- Increase rapport and communication.
- Facilitate retrieval of resource experiences.
- Lighten up the mood.
Example of Metaphor Story
The following is an example of a therapeutic hypnotic metaphor story that frequently used by psychologists:
“Once Buddha and a few of his followers moved from one town to another. It was in the initial days. While they were traveling, they happened to pass a lake. They stopped there, and Buddha told one of his followers, I am thirsty, can you get some water from that lake there.
One of his followers walked up to the lake. When he reached there, a bullock cart started crossing through the lake. As a result, the water becomes contaminated. The follower thought about how I can give this polluted water to Buddha as drinking water.so he came back and told Buddha everything happened. After for a while, Buddha again told him to go to that stream and bring the water. The follower didn’t like Buddha’s request. He talked to himself. The water became muddy, but why couldn’t Buddha understand that? Without saying anything to Buddha, the follower went back to the stream.
He found that this time the stream had completely clear water in it. He picked up some water in a bowl and took it up to Buddha. Buddha looked at the mud and then glanced up towards the disciple and said, see what you’ve done to clean the bowl.
You let it be….. And the mud settles down on its own, and you got clear water. Your mind is also like that. When it is disturbed, just let it be. Give it a little time. It will settle down on its own. You don’t have to make an effort to calm them down. It will happen; it is effortless.”
Many psychologists worldwide have built their ways of using metaphorical interpretation in a very different and individualized way.