Metaphors as healing tool

17 10 2009

As a person who is multi-lingual, I like to contrast and compare metaphors in different languages. This process has allowed me to better understand cultural differences, which in turn helps me navigate the existing cultural differences in my relationships.

I’m defining metaphors as a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them.

As a writer, what is interesting to me is how easily metaphors can help you organize your writing, making it more clear, clean and concise. As an astrologer, when I’m with my clients, I notice how a few choice metaphors can act as the glue that binds the entire communication into a satisfying process.

When we do not want to be confronted with uncomfortable truths, a good metaphor can sneakily slip through our defenses and mobilize our senses in the most vivid way, creating understanding in a flash of light.

In my life, the metaphors I have used have helped me look at my feelings and circumstances. I’ve used metaphor as a personal management tool to fix, repair and above all heal myself. My life coach, Helen, came up with this metaphor about “Mind Penguins” to explain the negative thoughts that are constantly swirling around in your mind. Penguins are those creatures in your head that are there to protect you. They are very loyal, stubborn, relentless, hard working penguins. Unfortunately, some of them were put in there years ago, and haven’t had their job-descriptions updated. This metaphor has helped me deal with repetitive thought patterns that prevented me from getting out of my comfort zone and experiment with blogging, for example.

The metaphors I create help me express a myriad of emotions without fear of retribution. By expressing those feelings and circumstances through metaphor, I can confront them, play act and wash them away. A metaphor can be compared to a bridge that helps you cross over and start a new journey. When I was giving my first public speech, anxiety plagued me. It felt like hot caramel was churning inside me. By “cooking” the candy all the way up to a soft ball stage, I was able to finish my presentation in a much more relaxed mood.

In my practice as an astrologer, it is always fascinating to watch clients spontaneously come up with a metaphor that totally encapsulates their personal planetary combination. On seeing her chart for the first time, a client with a stellium of planets in Scorpio said, “That’s a lot of kilowatts in that part of the sky!”

Another client, a triple Pisces, said, “I never know if I am coming or going. I feel I am always waiting for the fog to lift off.” That described her chart well!

Many times metaphors help the message slip through the defenses of a client who does not want to confront a difficult transit. A choice metaphor states clearly the story I want to tell and helps me proactively help the client relate to change. A divorced client was having a difficult transit over his 7th house of relationships and was reluctant to face up to the reality of his position. A metaphor, borrowed from astrologer Adrian Duncan Ross, served to illustrate how he could best handle the transit.

Here’s the story I told him: Do you know that feeling of having left a cheese at the back of the fridge? Months have gone by. One day you see a dark object and you reach in to remove it, whatever it is. As your fingers sink into the soft and furry exterior, you begin to wonder, “What’s that?” When the stink hits your nostrils, you remember the cheese. Now here is the question. Should you put the cheese back and hope it will go away? Or do you have to take it out – take everything out – and give the fridge a thorough cleaning to remove all the fungus spores?

I do not know the outcome, but I am pretty sure he hasn’t forgotten the cheese metaphor.

Metaphors are a huge part of our daily life, so much so that we may not even be aware of them anymore. But metaphors are as common as the oxygen we breathe.

I would love to hear some of your metaphors. What are the most common ones you use in your work or your personal life?




8 responses

22 10 2009
Beth Barany

Hi Fabienne, Congratulations on getting your blog up! And for your first post. I too hadn’t thought about the healing power of metaphors when i wrote my post, I love how you’ve transformed this post! I am honored to be working with you. All my best, Beth

20 10 2009
Jennifer Bearss

Hi Fabienne-

I love the blog! Good job on setting that up, the name astrology unboxed was a good choice. I like the topic of metaphors, It has given me some food for thought and has started me on thinking of some of my own. Keep up the good work-I look forward to seeing more of your writing. You have such a natural “voice” when you write.


19 10 2009
Ana Cecilia


Dizer o que? Senão que é uma delícia participar desse seu vôo…
E não é que acabo de realizar que sou uma metáfora ambulante?
Deve ser por isso que não me ocorra uma específica para deixar aqui agora.
Mas me ocorreu uma frase que li dia desses:
“Pena que os Homens não podem trocar seus problemas. Todo mundo sabe exatamente como resolver o problema dos outros.” de Olin Miller (não faço idéia de quem seja, mas adorei!).
Deve ser por isso que a metáfora funciona tão bem … entendemos o mundo exterior! E eis que metáfora, como vc disse, é a ponte que pode trazer esse entendimento pra dentro.


18 10 2009
Donna Cunningham

Sorry, I had more to say, yadda yadda, but the comment went on ahead and posted itself. What I wanted to add was that I read all the books about Neurolinguistic programming years ago and one story stuck with me. A famous NLP person saw a client who was trying without success to quit drinking. The NLP person told him to go sit in front of a big tall cactus and meditate on it. The client did and suddenly quit drinking and did not return to it. The conclusion the author came to was that the cactus was somehow a metaphor for what it would be like to go without a drink for a very long time.

I’m so delighted that you ‘ve started a blog. From your participation in our writing class, I know that you have a very fine and original mind. This is a great forum for developing a fluency in getting those ideas out there and finding people to exchange ideas with. Congratulations, Donna

18 10 2009
Anna Maria Lopez

Very cool post! Something to ponder while I chew my organic microbiotic grain 100 times before swallowing! Really like what you’ve written here.

18 10 2009
Donna Cunningham

What an excellent topic! I do use metaphors often, both with clients and in my writing–though none come to mind just at the moment. I’ve never really thought about the healing implications, they just seem to pop into my mind. And the client seems to get them directly, in a way tons of verbiage about the astrological aspect and what it means, and yadda yadda does not.

17 10 2009
virginia greene

this is a wonderful post & topic! as a painter & astrologer, i can very much relate to images but suddenly realized reading this, particularly with the “cheese” example, that engaging ALL the senses as much as possible in the metaphor is a particularly powerful and vivid way to speak to a client’s heart. congratulations on your new blog!

17 10 2009
astrology unboxed

Thanks Virginia. I agree it is a very interesting topic. Metaphors are much more present in our day to day lives than we realize. Check out Metaphors We Live By from George Lakoff. I learned a lot from that book. I use them a lot not only for my clients but also for myself. They can very healing.

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