We all use metaphor in our everyday language. You think we don’t? Do you ever battle or fight against anything? Do you slip or slide into a bad mood? Do some things just flow for you? Do ideas blossom or grow? Our everyday phrases are full of metaphor, and we don’t realise it consciously.
Once we become aware of it, we can choose to use this tendency well, to help us. You see, metaphor is a powerful way of encapsulating how we experience something and has a major effect on our mood and attitude. It influences how we filter our experience, what we notice.
I was watching a programme where someone was arguing that ‘glass half empty’ and ‘glass half full’ were the same thing and it made me cross! That may be logical, but this variation of metaphor is not logical, it’s based on emotion and attitude. A ‘glass half empty’ person notices what’s wrong, and is discontent, unhappy with their lot, whereas the ‘glass half full’ person notices what’s good, what’s right, and is more optimistic and cheerful. Which would you rather be?
Metaphors relate to our beliefs about what it is like to be in the world and drive our way of reacting to events in our life. If we have absorbed the belief that life is a struggle, we will tend to use ‘battleground’ metaphor: ‘my idea was shot down by the boss’, ‘I had to fight to get my point across, ‘I won out in the end’. This set of metaphors is very prevalent in western industrial culture.
On the other hand, we may have absorbed the belief that there is a natural order to things, so we have growth, dormancy, ebb and flow, highs and lows.
Now neither of these is right or wrong, true or false. The question is, which is more useful as a guiding principle for living your life well? And we can choose.
Although fundamental beliefs about how the world works tend to be absorbed unconsciously when we are young, we can change them if we become conscious of them.
- We can begin to notice the less useful metaphors we apply to ourselves and our lives and consciously adapt them
- We can begin to notice the more useful metaphors we come up with and consciously reinforce them
- We can choose to have a fundamental belief that the world is supportive of us and works with us as it does in nature, and look consciously for evidence to support that belief
So next time you are battling your way through your day, just ask yourself how else you would handle that day if the world were supportive of you.
And enjoy the days where you know that you are in the flow if it!!