Why use metaphors?

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Imagine how many life lessons you have learned over the course of your lifetime. Not just school lessons, but the sort of learning that help you manage in the world— learnings like how to make decisions; how to set boundaries with others; how to weigh risk and reward; how to listen and concentrate; how to tap into your confidence.

You store most of these lessons and strategies subconsciously because they would simply overwhelm you if you tried to consciously filter through them all in your daily life. Even for your subconscious, it’s a challenge.

So, how can you possibly access what you need when you need it? You use metaphors.

A metaphor is a comparison of one thing to something quite unlike it but that shares some significant characteristic(s). We often make comparisons like this between a tangible, concrete object and an intangible thing, like a concept or feeling, in an effort to better grasp and express its essence.

Example: Jaime’s metaphor

My confidence is like a palm tree in my spine. It may bend when the winds blow, but it naturally rights itself.

We encode our significant learning experiences in metaphor so we can efficiently store them and other similar learnings in our subconscious minds for later use, like books in a reference library. When a challenging new experience occurs, we quickly—and subconsciously— go to our inner library to find the metaphor that suggests to us what coping strategy we used before and should use again.

So, in the example above, Jaime’s reference book might say, “When the going gets tough, give a little, be flexible. Soon enough, you can get back to being true to yourself.”

We all have metaphors like this, most of them hidden from our awareness. They bubble up into our word choices at an astounding rate— typically up to six times a minute, according to research!

Clean Language enables the coach to guide clients to unearth their subterranean metaphors. Once in touch with this inner symbolic world, they can strengthen the helpful metaphors and fix the out-dated or faulty ones. The changes ripple far beyond just thinking differently. On a deep level, your clients will feel and act differently because the metaphors that guide them are now encouraging different strategies.  Clients often report that making different choices or deciding on their course of action feels ‘natural’, ‘effortless’, or ‘easy now.’