Do you realize how often you find yourself trapped by words…. Have you ever felt like «It´s not the first time I´m worrying about it…» or «I´ve been thinking about it for ages… and nothing has changed…» That´s what we call «word entanglement» and this is where the metaphor can be a powerful tool to both help illustrate and change it. Metaphors have been used in therapy for ages and in many different approaches.

If you want to understand it better, there’s nothing like reading a popular metaphor by Steven Hayes included in «Acceptance and Commitment Therapy book. An Experiential Approach to Behavior Change» by Steven Hayes, Kirk Stroshal & Kelly Wilson.

«Man in a hole» metaphor: «The situation you are in seems a bit like this. Imagine that you’re placed in a field, wearing a blindfold, and you’re given a little tool bag to carry. You’re told that your job is to run around this field, blindfolded. That is how you are supposed to live life. And so you do what you are told. Now, unbeknownst to you, in this field there are a number of widely spaced, fairly deep holes. You don’t know that at first—you’re naive. So you start running around and sooner or later you fall into a large hole. You feel around, and sure enough, you can’t climb out and there are no escape routes you can find. Probably what you would do in such a predicament is take the tool bag you were given and see what is in there; maybe there is something you can use to get out of the hole. Now suppose that the only tool in the bag is a shovel. So you dutifully start digging, but pretty soon you notice that you’re not out of the hole. So you try digging faster and faster. But you’re still in the hole. So you try big shovelfuls, or little ones, or throwing the dirt far away or not. But still you are in the hole. All this effort and all this work, and oddly enough the hole has just gotten bigger and bigger and bigger. Isn’t that your experience? So you come to see me thinking, “Maybe he has a really huge shovel—a gold-plated steam shovel.” Well, I don’t. And even if I did I wouldn’t use it, because digging is not a way out of the hole—digging is what makes holes. So maybe the whole agenda is hopeless—you can’t dig your way out, that just digs you in».

Realizing that no matter what you do, even if it seems like the best thing to do, the best solution is actually burying you alive and is very powerful and it´s a first step for a change. «How to do that? » you might ask. What is the poor man supposed to do? That is exactly what we learn in a therapy room by using many metaphors and exercises that help us to realize what´s going on, how we react to that and decide whether the tool we used is the right one or not.

Without the help of metaphors we would just get stuck in convincing or giving opinions about your life without realizing the core problem of it- you´re in a hole and burying yourself alive. What if what you need is to stop and then you would be able to ask yourself questions as: by digging am I getting what I want from life? Am I getting closer to things that matter to me? Do I know what these things are? Sometimes we´ve been digging for so long that it feels like we forgot what´s out there. Then we´d be working on clarifying goals and objectives and helping you to choose and continue on a completely new way of approaching it. «It´s hard work» you might say, and I can´t deny that but for what it´s worth- Being able to take care of people and things you love and want in your life is the best prize you can ever win.

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Sinews MTI
Instituto de Terapia Multilingüe
Psicología, Psiquiatría, Logopedia
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