Metaphors use the language of the mind (symbols) and hypnotic language to create powerful "healing stories" that help your clients to resolve problems at the unconscious level – often even without their conscious awareness.
Creating a metaphor consists of four basic steps:
- Create characters or objects in the story that correspond to the people and relationships in the actual situation.
- Pace the client's problem by having those characters and objects behave in a similar way to the current situation.
- Giving the main character in the story some internal resource (state, strategy or new behavior) that the client is missing in the current situation.
- Finish the story by having the character resolve the conflict and achieve their outcome.
The following two pages will show how to create a metaphor using these steps.
- Clearly identify the problem
Do not proceed until you know the problem is a problem. Ask, "How is that a problem?"
- Analyze their strategy
Does the client have an unresourceful strategy? If so, you can install a new strategy through the metaphor. This is the basic principle behind stories like The Little Engine that Could
- Identify new outcomes, choices and solutions
It's important to always have an outcome or solution in mind. You can state it specifically or ambiguously, but you should avoid conscious connection.
Ask, "What is this an example of?" Then, "What are other examples of this?" to get possible resolutions.
- Create anchors for strategic elements in the solution
For example, you might anchor all the resources from the main character on the knee.
- Displace referential indices: map over all nouns (objects and elements) to establish the characters in the story. The characters may be anything, animate or inanimate, from rocks to forest creatures to cowboys to books, etc. What you choose as characters is not important so long as you preserve the character relationship. Very often you may want to use characters from well-known fairy tales and myths.
- Establish an isomorphism between the client's situation and behavior, and the situation and behaviors of the characters in the story - map over all verbs (relations and interactions): Assign behavioral traits, such as strategies and representational characteristics, that parallel those in the client's present situation (i.e., pace the client's situation with the story). Make use of any anchors you have established previously to secure the relationship.
- Access and establish new resources in terms of the characters and events in the story: This may be done within the framework of a Reframing or reaccessing of a forgotten resource; again, using any appropriate pre-established anchors. You may choose to keep the actual content of the resource ambiguous allowing the client's unconscious processes to choose the appropriate one.
- Use nonsequiturs, ambiguities and direct quotes to break up sequences in the story and direct conscious resistance, if such resistance is present and is hindering the effect of the metaphor. Conscious understanding does not, of course, necessarily interfere with the metaphoric process.
- Keep your resolution as ambiguous as necessary to allow the client's unconscious processes to make the appropriate changes. Collapse the pre-established anchors and provide a future pace, if possible, to check your work.
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