Introduction to Metaphor
Deriving from Greek roots and meaning, literally, to “carry overâ, metaphor involvesÂ describing or explaining something in terms of something else. Erickson is the generallyÂ recognised master of metaphorical suggestion in hypno-psychotherapy relaying personalÂ experiences, anecdotes, life-situations and case studies to his clients. His approach has been extended by hypno-psychotherapists such as Rosen (1982) -presenting a fascinatingÂ compendium of-Erickson’s case vignettes – Lankton & Lankton (1989)and Havens & WaltersÂ (1991) – who design metaphors for specific presenting issues – and Greenleaf (1996), whoÂ frequently appears to “out-Erickson” Erickson himself.
To illustrate the Ericksonian use of therapeutic metaphor, clients may be invited, subtly, toÂ reflect upon their difficulties as part of a journey, smooth seas never having made an expertÂ sailor. Distraction from discomfort may covertly be elicited by the Ericksonian hypno-psychotherapist casually mentioning everyday experiences involving habituation: not noticing the glasses on the bridge of your nose, nor the weight of your feet on the floor, nor the noisy clockÂ ticking five minutes after you enter the room. Trying too hard toÂ be successfully prevented through implicit parallels with the evident relaxation of the world’s best sprinters in action or the absence of effort characterised by the professional golfer or tennis player “in the zone” . Panicky clients may be discouraged from reacting to their own reaction by viewing panic as an itch better alone rather than scratched. Addicted clients may, similarly, be urged to “stop feeding the monster”.
Such shorthand comparisons may be dressed up, and further debarred from counterproductive conscious processing, in full-blown stories.