A metaphor can be a story.
Almost all cultures, religions and traditions include storytelling as a teaching component. Parables from the bible, Sufi stories, fairy tales, Native American storytelling, Norse sagas, Indian Puranas (stories of wisdom), children's fables -you name 'em, they have stories.
These aren't just random stories. They're often used to teach folks valuable moral principles and life lessons. And they're stories designed to have a specific effect on the listener.
Why do they work so well? They work because they engage both the conscious mind (the linear, sequential mind) and the unconscious mind (the emotional, symbolic mind). A story has both a linear,
logical sequence and emotional and symbolic content. Engaging the mind at both the levels can be ultra-powerful.
Definition 2: A metaphor is a way of talking about something without talking about it
"Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig."
If you wanted to get the message across to someone that they were going to a lot of effort that would only result in trouble, you might use the pig quote. For one, it's a softer way of
introducing and idea. It's much gentler than saying "You're wasting your time. Stop it." It's softer because you're talking about something without talking about it directly.
Why is Metaphor so Powerful?
In order to explain why metaphor works so well, let's get into the roles of the different parts of the mind.
Part of the role of the conscious mind is to analyze incoming information to determine whether or not the incoming information agrees with current beliefs, behavior patterns and attitudes.
When we use a metaphor the analytical, reasoning, evaluating, judging part of the mind is relaxed, allowing new information and ideas to more easily enter the subconscious/unconscious mind, with less emphasis on previously held beliefs. When the critical factor is inactive, new ideas are accepted more easily.
When the critical factor is relaxed and the mind of the listener is fully engaged by a story, this enables the true meaning of the metaphor to be absorbed by the mind.
In short, a good compelling metaphor puts a person in a trance
state, keeps the critical factor out of the way and gets them concentrating powerfully on an idea. The unconscious mind recognizes the parallels between the story and the listener's life and applies the lessons of the metaphor.
When using metaphors with clients, there is limitless possiblities of how one might construct one to help the client change.
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