What Metaphor Works for You?

DA asks: “Is metaphor training new-age? It is a technique used by my catholic therapist.”

From what I could find on the subject of metaphor therapy, it is not New Age, although it can certainly be hijacked and used in ways that promote New Age thinking by practitioners who are so disposed.

For the sake of explanation, metaphor therapy, sometimes referred to as metaphorology, is a method in which we are taught to change the way we think about a certain situation or condition through the use of a metaphor. For instance, if we see life as nothing but a long trial full of suffering and hardship, we will certainly live differently than someone who sees life as an exciting adventure.

Psychotherapists employ a technique known as metaphor therapy to help a person see a difficult situation differently in order to help them heal. This site gives the example of a timid dentist who found it difficult to express himself in a group, a quality that he viewed as being like soft clay inside. A therapist helped him to find a substitute for that soft clay, which the dentist decided should be steel – specifically battleship steel. Within days, he was at a convention with hundreds of other dentists and for the first time in his life, he spoke up in a crowd.

Another example was that of a man who suffered from anxious and worrisome thoughts that left him feeling very troubled because he was identifying with them. Using metaphor therapy, he was taught to regard his mind the same way he regarded his home, as a place where “visitors” came and went. These thoughts were like uninvited visitors who he could ask to leave. If they refused to do so, he could “starve” them by not “feeding” them with his attention. The process helped him to stop identifying with these troubling thoughts, and thus brought him some relief.

However, we should always be wary of any practice that changes the way we think because this is a hallmark of the New Age human potential movement with its various mind control techniques.  It’s too difficult to see how this kind of therapy could be dangerous in the wrong hands, such as when it used to make a person “unlearn” their Christian worldview by substituting some seemingly harmless metaphor, such as how to stifle the guilt of sin or learning how to rely on the self rather than on grace.

But in the hands of a reputable Catholic counselor, I don’t see any problem with metaphor training.

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