The Power of a Metaphor On Your Mind

The Power of a Metaphor on Your Mind


“Im walking on egg shells”

“I have the weight of the world on my shoulders”

“Just one more hurdle”

These are 3 examples of everyday metaphors. But why do we use metaphors in a daily language? “George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, in their landmark work ‘Metaphors we live by’, pointed out that our daily language is full of metaphors” Often we say and hear metaphors without realising that the language used was metaphorical, instead we simply process the sensory language, helping us to understated the communicators meaning.


Metaphors are often emotionally based communication “I’m having a rough day.”   As the receiver of this communication, your brain has to quickly process the meaning behind these words.



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 Bridging Communication


To communicate more effectively we use metaphors to bridge the understanding from one frame of reference to a new situation. Imagine you asked a friend how her recent date went?


She could answer with a detailed and specific answers  allowing you to build up an accurate image of the date. For this image to be emotionally correct she would have to explain all the variables.  With communication alone, she would have to discuss tone, pace, vocabulary.


To quicken this process we instead use metaphors  with known frames of reference. An example is the temperature “cold.” We all have a frame of reference for the feeling of coldness, when asked “how was the date” your friend can reply metaphorical stating “he gave me the cold shoulder”


Our mind can process this sensory based metaphor allowing us to attribute a emotion to the description.

“We see that metaphors are engaging the areas of the cerebral cortex involved in sensory responses even though the metaphors are quite familiar,” says senior author Krish Sathian, MD, PhD, professor of neurology, rehabilitation medicine and psychology at Emory University. “This result illustrates how we draw upon sensory experiences to achieve understanding of metaphorical language.”


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 Using Metaphors in Hypnotherapy


When a client presents with a metaphor “I feel like there is a wall in the way of my path” You can explore this metaphor with the client to help them to make changes at the subconscious level.



Exploring the Metaphor – Practitoner Questions


The first set of questions are designed to help your client describe their goal as a metaphor.


1             Do you have a goal you want to achieve or something you want to change?Example answer: I want to be more confident in my workplace


2             How near are you to completing your goal or making the change? Example answer: really far away-I cant even see me achieving this goal


3             How do you feel about that? Example answer: I feel that if I did make an effort my colleagues would laugh at me.


4             When you feel that way, what image do you create in your mind? Example answer: I see my colleagues laughing and I’m sinking into the floor, like you would do in quick sand.


Gain details of the metaphor – don’t add your own details/images this is the clients metaphor not yours.


5             What kind of “client’s words” is that? Example question: is the floor made of quick sand, or is it a floor that feels like quick sand?


Example answer: Erm.. yep the floor looks like quick sand and I’m sinking into it.


6             Whereabouts are you/is “the clients words” example question: where are you and where is the quick sand floor?


Example answer: I’m at work, in the office and the quick sand floor is in the middle of the room.


7             Is there anything else? Example answer: No, just my colleagues pointing and laughing


8             Where did “client’s words” come from Example Question: where did the quick sand come form?


Example answer: It’s mine, I bring it to work.




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9             Are there any connections between “client’s words” and “clients words”?Example Question: are there any connections between you sinking and your colleague’s laughter?


Example answer: Yes, if I wasn’t sinking they would be laughing, they just get on with there work and I could get on with mine.


Give options – you need to go with what the client is telling you and test the different options.


10          What would happen if you changed “client’s words” Example Question: What would happen if left the quicksand at home?


Example answer: I would feel good-everything would be ok


11          What would happen if you “did something different”? Example Question: what would happen if you could make the floor solid?


Example answer: that would be good, I can see some strong cement in the corner of the room I could use that to stop the quick sand.


12          What needs to happen for you to achieve your goal? Example answer: Its funny but the company name on the cement is called “go for-it cement” I think I need to just be me when I go into work and not to worry about what people will think-this will make me more confident.


Check reality


13          How would you feel if you made this change/“client’s words”? Example Question: How would you feel if you went into work being you?


Example answer: I think people would like me-I’m easy to talk to


14          Is there anything else you need to think about/look at?


Example answer: No, I just need to take a deep breath on Monday morning and “go for-it” I think people will really like me.


15          What are the consequences of you achieving your outcome?


Example answer: I would feel more confident, people would like me and I would enjoy going to work every day.


With the metaphor technique, you need to listen to what the client is telling you and ask questions that allow the clients unconscious and imaginative mind to work, as it is there subconscious that will give them the answers they need.


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Chris Delaney NLP Life Coach, Hypnotherapist and Career Advisor is available for booking for One to One Private Sessions, Group Training Sessions and Public Speaking Events


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