Metaphor In EFT - An Introduction
Holly In My Throat, Darkness On My Soul
by Silvia Hartmann
One of the most powerful forms of communication possible lies at the threshold between conscious awareness and the realms of the unseen – the metaphor.
Not a linguistic construct, not a highbrow nominalisation, but a shortcut phrase to describe an incredibly beautiful and complex function of our neurology, metaphors truly and literally “reach the parts that no other words can reach”.
In the quest of “getting in touch” with your own or a client’s unique internal experiences of any given problem, metaphors are probably the single most powerful, infinitely subtle and precise forms of linking up that are known to us at this point.
If you think of any given problem as a localised disturbance at the energetic level, and we wish to re-balance this disturbance and return it to Even Flow, the key task is to make contact with that disturbance, to reach it somehow, because only if we can reach and touch it, can we change and heal it.
In EFT for example, the “opening statement” performs the function of this link up to the disturbance; but every energy therapy has by needs the link up performed in some way, even if it is only the client thinking about the problem in question.
How Can You Describe A Love?
We have certain generic labels for emotions – love, hate, panic, distress. There’s quite a few of them but it is important to always remember that:
Firstly, your love is NOT my love and your hate is NOT like mine. Any one single persons individual experience is absolutely unique and totally idiosyncratic. If I have learned anything in the last 25 years, it that simple fact.
The same holds true for any other form of pain and suffering. My toothache is inherently different from your toothache, even if the exact same tooth was damaged in the exact same way which in and of itself, is a structural impossibility.
To begin to communicate about such internal experiences at all, and have a hope that at least a resonance or gentle echo travels across to another, we label these experiences, best we can. The more intense and/or disturbing these experiences become, the less possibility exists to still use the “off the shelf” categories of words to try and explain, even to yourself, what is going on inside. It is then people turn automatically to metaphor.
For energy psychologists and users of meridian therapies, this is a wonderful gift. Metaphors are in many instances, absolutely the keys to unlocking the door behind which the disturbance lies, and in many instances, they are about the only key that will fit that particular door.
But metaphors are much more than that, of course.
They are the bridges between sensations and emotions and conscious awareness; they also bridge unconscious awareness to conscious awareness, such as would be in the case of so called “repressed” memories or incidences that were simply forgotten, or that were causative to the genesis of a disturbance yet consciously, we do not know about the cause and effect involved.
Spontaneously Occurring Metaphors
In general treatment with clients, or with the self, metaphors that occur naturally and spontaneously should always, always be listened to and treated with the greatest respect.
When someone thinks or says that a problem is “like a huge weight on my shoulders” or that they feel as though they were “drowning in sorrow”, it is not just a poetic turn of phrase that would be better served with a more sensible expression. What you are looking at when metaphors are expressed is a cohesive energetic system that contains many separate components within it, delivered to you for the resolution right there on a platter so a superior and highly ecological solution can be found.
How wonderfully complex and rich metaphors really are, and how many levels of meaning and being they encompass is hard to put in linear words. However, here is a simple example. One lady could not speak up for herself to anyone in authority and never in front of a group of people. She said her throat would begin to feel scratchy, as though “a piece of holly was stuck in there”. In this case, it was an EFT treatment and the holly sensation turned into the first opening statement. After a number of rounds and some talking in between, a causative memory emerged of being terrified of Santa as a child, being unable to speak up and say what she wanted for Christmas. At the time, she had had a cold and her mother excused her on the grounds of this and took her out of the situation.
Consider, for a moment, how amazing that is. Fifty years later, the lady describes the pain in her throat in terms of “holly”, something that in the UK is absolutely associated with Christmas and nothing much beside. The metaphor did not only pertain to the absolute sensation, locked in all that time ago, of both having a sore throat and being terrified to speak out loud, but also told us already of the causative incident, showed how very well remembered it was even though it had been consciously forgotten, and gave us the very key that would unlock the problem at last.
Consider also, if you will, how much harder it would have been to find the causative incident and to really repair the energetic injury caused way back then and locked right into the structure of the client’s energetic systems without the guidance of the holly metaphor. Following the treatment, the sensation never recurred and the speaking-up problem never came back in that form.
As metaphors are such a superb system to guide us towards the right intervention points, as well as allowing the client or the self to express sensations, emotions and states of being in a deeply personal and meaningful fashion, the act of helping someone name their problem in a metaphorical way is a most useful intervention from many angles.
There are many ways in which a metaphor for a problem may be elicited. The simplest way of conversational metaphor elicitation is simply to ask, “So what is this pain like?”
Your intuition may well begin to twitch and stir when answers come such as, “Ah it’s like someone is beating me constantly in the back, with every breath I take.” – “Like I’ve been stabbed in the back” – “Like something is cutting away at me” – “Like there’s something pushing down hard on my stomach” and other examples of this nature.
But whatever the answer may be, and whether or not you can sense just how this particular metaphor had been chosen and not any other from a million different possibilities, using the client’s very words for opening statements or treatment points is profoundly effective, as well as often profoundly moving.
A different approach to eliciting a metaphor is to ask, “If this pain had a colour, what would it be? If you knew what size it was, how big would it be? If it had a shape, a weight, what could those be?” That can be quite enough to do a treatment most successfully – “Even though I have this big grey green block on my heart, I deeply and profoundly love and accept myself.”
Sometimes, one could go one step further and ask directly at this point, “And what does this big grey green block remind you of?”
This example actually happened, and the answer to the question was, “It reminds me of my brother’s Wellington boots when he stood on my chest that day.”
It is interesting to note that metaphor can be expressed behaviourally just as well as through speech. When you ask someone how big a pain is, or where it is, what shape it is, and so forth, they will show you with their hands, in fact they will be painting an existing energetic reality for you into the room so you can see it, too.
Making Real Changes Visible
Metaphors are not only for the beginning part of the treatment to find an entrance point to the problem; not only for the middle part of a treatment to deal with the problem directly, they are also a superb feedback mechanism and testing device.
The holly in the throat, for example, did not disappear on the first round of treatment but it shrank and moved slightly lower instead. If we consider the holly to be a description of a real energetic injury, we can track the effectiveness of our treatments most precisely through the changes in the metaphorical representation or interface.
Someone who showed with their hands how big and wide a pain was and where it was located upon asking, can show you with the precision of a tape measure just how much repair was accomplished during the treatment. This, by the way, is an excellent device to use with children and those who have difficulties with words in general – “Show me where the pain is, show me how big it is.” – before, and after the treatment.
To sum up:
Metaphors are not an esoteric past-time but a highly sophisticated, extremely powerful interface device that is easy to use if it is treated respectfully and within its own context.
Metaphor elicitation is a very useful treatment strategy under many circumstances, from using the swiftness of their targeting to take you to the core of the problem, to sometimes being the only way into a problem in the first place, especially if the problem is highly repressed or has resisted treatment in the normal way to begin with.
Switching to metaphor elicitation when the treatment seems to get stuck or go nowhere is extremely helpful and provides the breakthrough in many instances where nothing else would or could have worked.
Using the client’s own natural metaphors is the fastest and easiest way to resolving existing problems known to mankind. Listen with great care for the verbal markers and watch with similar care to the behavioural descriptions and use what you have learned.
Metaphors represent a very accurate, client driven feedback device that is perfect for testing and monitoring the changes that are occurring during and after the treatment.
Metaphorically based energy therapy interventions are extremely ecological and holistic because they bring together both the conscious and the unconscious awareness of any given problem in its totality – as an actual physical manifestation as well as its energetic dimensions.
Silvia Hartmann, 2000