One of my clients just completed a graduate degree and was feeling stressed about his career path. He needed to earn an income to support his family, yet he wanted to stay true to himself. He talked about needing to cross a “bridge” to find work aligned with his heart. But the metaphor that spontaneously arrived in our session was actually a bowl of soup. With this new image, my client immediately got an “ah-ha.” He realized it was telling him he didn’t need to “go somewhere else” (cross a bridge) to find his right work. He already had everything he needed to offer his gifts (bowl of soup) to others. He said with a chuckle, “I’m ready to serve.”
Another client just turned 80 years old, and lives alone in a home she’s been in for over 40 years. The image that spontaneously arrived was a “crossroads” and this was obviously true. She was facing the unknown and many decisions, including her son’s desire for her to sell the house and move into an apartment. But the crossroads wanted her to know that it was a spacious place. It was a place where she could gather with friends and family, rest, and celebrate beauty. It said to her: “I am the crossroads. I’m a safe place; you don’t have to go anywhere… I see you wondering about the larger questions—health, money, your home and living situation. What I would like you to do is be here now, and celebrate this spacious place.” The spacious crossroads and its wisdom immediately calmed her, giving her strength and clarity to make decisions that were aligned with her heart, rather than with fear or other people’s demands or expectations.
I tap into metaphor to resolve my own issues as well. This has been an amazing year for me, but with all the good things that have been flowing in, I’ve also felt increasingly stressed about not having enough time for everything. The metaphoric image that showed up was of “bouncing a ball” — I was learning how to “bounce the ball.” The image told me that I get tired of bouncing the ball, and sometimes I hit it too hard (overwork) or too soft and then I “lose it” for a day. I’m not used to having to bounce the ball consistently. When I looked further, I saw that learning how to dribble the ball consistently was self-care. It was an act of love and tenderness to be consistent, not pushing too hard or too slow.
The shift that occurs from stepping into healing metaphors is visceral, not cognitive. We feel what it’s like to be a tasty bowl of soup, a spacious crossroads, or steadily bouncing the ball. The transformative metaphors that come up during sessions are always specific to the individual. The metaphor is exactly what the person needs right now, and it’s always something that the body can feel. These metaphors are not created by the thinking mind. They come from the shamanic field.
Indeed, your rational mind would want something much more slick and polished! A bowl of soup and dribbling a ball are simple and lighthearted, far from being “hip” or “cool.” But the truth is, the most profound shifts are simple…because all the complexity that our minds create is stripped away. That’s the wisdom of metaphor.