Presented to The Developing Group 5 Oct 2002
An interesting discussion with Mariette Castellino sparked the thought: How do people make use of their metaphors and symbols once they’ve identified them?
This is such a natural thing for us to do that we had not appreciated the extent to which some people can develop a metaphor but then do not know what to do with it. They do not naturally link their metaphors to changing behaviour or perception in their everyday life.
We decided to find out what was happening. We have begun by investigating how people who ARE aware of utilising their metaphors do this. And this topic will be the focus of the October 5th Developing Group day.
As research material for the morning, please bring examples of when you (or a client) have consciously made use of a self-generated metaphor. We are not referring to the use of metaphor simply as a descriptive tool; rather how you (or clients) have consciously applied a previously discovered personal metaphor to an aspect of your life.
Some examples of utilisation we’ve noticed:
To affect your state, e.g. to consciously bring a metaphor to mind/body to relax, motivate, sleep, etc.
To make a decision, e.g. utilise a symbolic decision-making strategy or use a metaphor as a value or criteria to be met.
As a signal or awareness indicator, e.g. when a metaphor is remembered as a signal to notice or do something (such as Caitlin’s work with teenager with anger problems)
As a common language, e.g. a couple using their metaphors to resolve a conflict in the relationship.
As a framework for thinking, e.g. a metaphor to help categorise information or act as a checklist.
As a problem-solving process, e.g. using the metaphor to identify new solutions.
To help create a design, e.g. using a metaphor as part of a logo or marketing material (such as our arc’s, waves & arrows incorporated in to The Developing Company logo. See also Like a kid in a sweet shop.
To spark creativity, e.g. to generate new ideas or ways of perceiving a situation.
As a planning tool, e.g. the metaphor helps to sequence events and to identify critical milestones.
To capture a vision or desired outcome, e.g. the metaphor is invoked to remind a group of the desired outcome and to keep it in mind during a discussion, meeting, or over a longer time period (such as used by Health South USA and the Metaphor and Clean Langiage Research Group).
As a time-management tool, e.g. using a metaphor to remind oneself to keep track of time so that discussions and meetings finish as planned.
To support the healing process, e.g. visualising/meditating on a metaphor for strengthening the immune system (such as the examples in Mind, Metaphor and Health).
How did you do that?
Although we want you to describe the metaphor and the context in which it was utilised, we are most interested in HOW you (or others) did that. The fundamental questions we are attempting to answer are:
HOW does a person translate a metaphorical representation into a behaviour?
HOW does a metaphor get applied over a period of time?
HOW does a metaphor identified in one context get transferred and utilised in another context?
In all these cases we are interested in when you were aware of using a metaphor to influence your actions, perceptions or state. We recognise that metaphors often have an out-of-awareness influence which we only realise later and that it is possible to make use of other people’s metaphors (this is commonly known as education). Fascinating as these are, neither of these is part of our remit for the day.
So bring your examples to the group, and we’ll compare notes and draw conclusions.
Examples from participants:
A and his partner created a metaphor for the quality/health of their relationship which was used to measure the relationship and to assess how it progresses over time.
B discovered a metaphor for “Where I am” which was under her feet. By attending to this place she was not nervous before giving a training anymore.
C found a metaphor of a fan that opened one segment at a time. This gave her a way to be conscious of the changes she was making.
D discovered her “Rhythm of Life” and the point where rhythm changes from singing to non-singing (which represented her losing patience with people). Now she can catch the point, she can be aware of it happening and be more accepting that “that’s life” which increased her patience!
E has a map of a “connection that jolts me back to a fear state” (an old idea of herself). When this happens she now knows she just has to put the connection down to regain her confidence.