Metaphor Delivery Techniques
Different ways of delivering the same metaphor
The simplest way to deliver a metaphor is by Story Telling. A story can be understood at face value or it can be understood metaphorically, as carrying some other meaning. A metaphor always contains at least two parts: the thing stated and the thing compared to, and communicates on at least two levels: the surface meaning, and the deep structure meaning, the symbolic meaning.
Metaphors can be delivered while the client is awake, in the form of anecdotes, stories and waking visualisations, or when the client is trance in the form of fantasy or action metaphors. Metaphor therapy does not always require a formal induction: most clients go into trance spontaneously during the telling.
Metaphors can be either indirect or direct, from the client's point of view.
Indirect: In an indirect metaphor the client simply hears a story unfold and listens as the metaphor develops. At most the client may mentally walk through the situation described in the metaphor or watch or listen as something happens.
Direct: In a direct metaphor the client is the main protagonist and takes an active role in dealing with the metaphor environment. The client may push down walls or climb over mountains or stamp out fires, etc.
Metaphor Story Delivery Alternatives
The object of a therapeutic metaphor is to cause some sort of change in the client. The message hidden inside the metaphor can be delivered in many ways, each equivalent in terms of the outcome. For example if the aim was to give a client the confidence to approach other people and overcome a fear of rejection this could be done through anecdote, or by action metaphor or by direct visualisation. Each can deliver the same message, each is a form of metaphor. The three different versions are shown below.
Narrative Story Version
There once was a lonely little boy who lived with his parents in a big house. His parents were out most of the day doing important things and he was left on his own a lot. Outside there was a big garden with swings and sand pits and climbing frames and stuff. The parents told the boy to go outside and play while they were away but he never did. The garden out the back was large and full of fun things but it joined a neighbour's garden down at the bottom. The neighbour had two large dogs that ran about unsupervised and sometimes came into the little boy's garden and sniffed around. The little boy was very afraid of these two dogs. He stayed inside and played with his toys and wouldn't tell his parents that he didn't dare go out into the lovely garden they had provided.
One day the boy was so tired of being on his own that he opened the back door and stepped out into the garden and the two dogs appeared immediately. He saw them looking at him and quickly jumped back inside with his heart pounding and slammed the door shut. It was many weeks before he tried again. It was such a lovely day and he was just aching to go outside so he opened the door and stood on the grass and sure enough the dogs were there looking at him. He was pretty sure that he could jump back inside before the dogs got to him so he stood on the edge of the grass and just enjoyed being outside. To his surprise, after a while the dogs went back to running around in their own garden.
So the next day he went outside again, waited for the dogs to go away and moved a bit further into the garden, always ready to dash back indoors if the dogs looked like getting into the garden. After a few weeks he was going out every day and playing on the swings and the other things but always keeping a good distance from the bottom of the garden. From time to time he would be busy playing and then suddenly realise that the dogs were there, looking at him silently. He would flee indoors as fast as he could and slam the door shut behind him.
One day, in the spring, his parents gave him a ball. He was so excited he dashed outside without thinking and began to kick the ball around. He bounced it off the walls and a tree and it ended up at the bottom of the garden, so he ran to get it. Imagine his horror when the two dogs jumped into the garden and landed a few feet away from him. He fled in terror with the dogs pursuing him, and he ended up trapped in a corner with the two dogs directly in front of him. He shut his eyes and prepared to get eaten. He could smell the dogs and feel the heat of their breath on his face. He was imagining huge white teeth ripping his flesh when he felt a little touch on his foot. He opened his eyes in fear and saw the ball up against his foot. In desperation he kicked it at the nearest dog. His heart sank when it missed. But he saw his chance: both dogs turned and ran after it. But before he could get out of the corner the dogs were back, and one dropped the ball at his feet again. And sat there wagging its tail. He kicked the ball again, and again the dogs raced off and brought the ball back. And he didn't get bitten. In fact when he reached down to pick up the ball to throw it, one of the dogs darted forward and snatched it out of his hand. He was so surprised that he fell backwards and landed on his bottom on the grass. Then both of these huge dogs came right over him, barking and jostling each other, and licked his face. The feeling was so odd, so unexpected, so warm, so intimate that he smiled and then laughed. And he put his arms around the dog's necks and enjoyed their smell and heat, and the warm sticky tongues. They were so alive, so free and full of fun, and suddenly so was he. He felt his own feeling of warmth and friendship coming out. He realised that the dogs were lonely too. And after that he kept company with the dogs every day and they all became the best of friends.
Action metaphor version
Imagine yourself as much younger than you are now.... maybe five or six years old... something like that... you are in a large room with many toys.... it is clean and dry but very quiet... and lonely.... you are left in that room for most of the day... your parents are out all day doing important things...you can go out if you want to... you can leave that room.... and there is a lovely garden outside... it has swings and a sand pit and a climbing frame and other fun stuff.... but you know that at the bottom of the garden there is another garden ..... belonging to another house... and in that garden there are two big dogs... these dogs are left free to run around.... and sometimes they come into your garden.... you've seem them, sniffing around.... so you stay in that room... looking longingly out of the window.... and nobody knows you are afraid to go into that garden...
But one day, it's such a lovely day outside..... you just can't bear it any more.... you open the door and step outside..... into the sunlight and fresh air.... but almost as soon as you step on the grass... the two dogs appear at the end of their garden.... looking right at you....you run back into the safety of the room.... your heart is pounding.... you slam the door behind you... you are safe...
But still the room isn't what you want... more and more you want to get out... the walls press in on you ... you need to get out... you try again.... its only a step away from the room... one step... you step outside, onto the grass.... the dogs appear silently.... you watch them.... they are looking at you... staring... your heart pounds again..... but you stay there, unmoving, ready to flee.... and eventually the dogs turn away..... every day you do the same thing.... outside.... just wait until they go away.... and you can play on the swings... enjoy the sand pit and the other things.... you are still alone, but it's better....
And then one day.... somebody gives you a ball... a bright shiny ball... you take it outside... you kick the ball... bouncing off walls... bounces off a tree.... to the bottom of the garden... you run to fetch it ... suddenly the dogs are there.... right there in front of you... you scream.... you turn you run... the dogs are following... they're right behind you... you run as fast as you can .... trapped in a corner... you turn around ... there is no way out.... you shut your eyes and wait for the bite.... you can smell the dogs... feel hot breath on your face.... you imagine huge white teeth tearing your flesh.... you feel a nudge on your foot.... your heart pounding... frozen with fear... you look down.... and there's the ball ... in desperation you kick it straight at the nearest dog..... you miss... your heart is in your mouth.... but then.... the dog turns and runs after the ball... a chance... but before you can move... the dog is back .... right in front of you ... and it drops the ball at your feet.... and wags its tail.... something has changed... your foot kicks the ball.... and the dog races off and brings it back....and drops it at your feet.... you keep doing this.... then you pick up the ball and decide to throw it... to confuse the dogs.... to get away... but the biggest dog lunges forward... snatches the ball from your hand... you are so surprised..... you stumble backward and fall on you bottom on the grass..... both dogs run forward..... there they are, right above you... you shut your eyes and feel... a great sticky wet tongue rasps across your face... and then another on your neck.... the dogs are wagging and licking and barking with excitement..... you pick up the excitement too.... you put your arms around those great strong necks.... that lick is so odd, so unexpected, so warm, so intimate... you can feel a smile on your face... a laugh bubbling up... you enjoy the smell of the dogs... the heat of their fur.... the warm sticky tongues.... Those dogs are so alive... so free... so full of fun.... and you are too... You can feel it now.... you are ready to embrace all that warmth and friendship in the garden.... old feelings coming back ... and somehow you know that you have learned from those dogs.... and you will be sharing that garden from now on....
Direct Visualisation Version
I wonder if you can imagine someone alone in their own house... it's early evening.... someone is sitting at home looking out of the window.... just sitting and looking... maybe at sky or maybe at the scene outside... outside they know there are people going out with friends, to a club maybe, or on a date perhaps.... and I'd like you to experience that person inside... sitting at home.... thinking of all the things out there that they could do... and wonder why they choose to be at home alone..... In their hand they are holding an invitation.... an invitation to go out and join in a social group, a party or function of some kind... you see them take the invitation in both hands... and tear it up... into tiny pieces.... you know why they won't be going... because you know that person would hate it... everyone would look at them... they feel like a fool, don't fit in, feel awkward and uncomfortable.... it's easier to stay home.... tell people they have something else to do.... nobody knows they will still be sitting there... later.... when all the others are going home .... laughing... calling out.... getting into cars... happy... and I wonder if there is any part of that... that you recognise?
And now I'd like you to imagine that person at a different time.... it's a holiday.... a day off... they go out of the house... there are lots of things to do.... maybe go to the cinema.... or to the library... or go shopping ..... or maybe you can imagine going for a walk, or a drive in the car.... just to get out of the house.... but not really getting out... never really getting involved with people... people like that enjoy food, but eat alone... enjoy their own company... work late or watch television or read ... always need to be able to withdraw... to be safe.... tell people.... tell themselves... that they enjoy being alone.... and maybe you can image a time in the past.... when that person asked someone to share a meal or go out... and in your mind maybe you can feel what they felt.... when they got a refusal... a lame excuse ... a look .... and then you can imagine them going home... hurt and embarrassed... so they avoid situations... and when they think about trying to be with other people is all seems so difficult.... impossible... the mind thinks back to that look .... the embarrassment... the hurt.. so people like that find their own way in life, don't they... and usually spend the day by themselves... or maybe with an safe friend... safe... no entanglements.... knowing exactly what to expect... no disappointments... and they tell themselves they don't need passion.... or emotion.... they have their interests... they can turn to them whenever they want something to do... And I wonder if you know anyone who's life is like that?
And now I'd like to imagine an different situation... imagine that same person at home... looking out that same window.... but it is morning... the sun is out... it’s a bright day... because that person got a gift.... an idea.... from a video or a book or a talk they heard.... whatever it was ... an idea fired them up.... and they decided to try out the idea... and just see what happens...
the idea... is this - talk to the first person you see as if you have known them all your life... that's all there is to it... to start talking to someone..... to express genuine interest in them...to ask how their day is going, .. how nice they look ... or how you feel... to bounce things off them.... just see where it takes you... to start a relationship... as if you expect that relationship to last for ever... And now imagine being that person... going up to the first person you meet... feel the fear and apprehension... palms sweating... throat tight.... winding up your courage... to walk up to a stranger... on the street or in a shop... standing at a corner maybe... or in the lift... and I wonder if you can imagine the feeling.... when the first stranger looks surprised... and then pleased...and interested in you .... and welcoming... and starts talking back... and the next one too ... one or two... are puzzled... but they answer too... and suddenly the street seems to be full of interesting and open people... everyone is smiling and happy and talking .... and then.... imagine that person going into work... or to a school... or wherever they normally go.... and trying it with people they actually have known for years... and imagine how good you can feel when everyone turns and smiles and you hear 'It's great to see you today... so confident... venturing into a new area.. .' And then... 'I'm really glad we are having this chat today... you see I have been wanting to approach you ... for a while now... but you always seemed distant... ready to back away... I wasn't sure if it would be OK. Would you like to come to lunch? ... or join us for coffee?... everyone is looking forward to getting to know you better.... And you go the gathering.... and get swallowed by the group... and you feel wrapped up in the warmth and welcome from everyone there.... the teasing...and fun.... and that wonderful feeling of being accepted... it's as if you are being stroked... a feeling of belonging..... at last.... And later.. how good it feels.... sitting there... surrounded by people... smiling... welcoming... and as time goes on that feeling grows in you ... of acceptance... confidence... strength... and you are ready to embrace that feeling now... and all those old fears fade away like shadows chased away by sunshine.... and somehow you know that those shadows are gone forever, aren't they?