I’m going out on a limb somewhat here but bear with me.
So, it was World Mental Health Day last Friday. A wonderful, empowering day that is getting more and more people opening up about their emotional wellbeing (I have a problem with the Mental Health tag but that’s just me, probably a generational thing).
One posted image that caught my eye encouraged people to keep moving forward even if it’s only one step at a time. And this rankled.
I will elucidate.
The every day language we use is embedded with a lot of unconscious meaning which describe our state of mind at any one time. It just needs to be unpacked.
When I see a client, who for what ever reason, is somehow ‘stuck’ in their life the first thing I will do is go through the Metaphors of Movement process. This was developed by Andrew Austin as a means to allow the client to see what their current problem is.
It begins with asking the client ‘So, your current situation, your life as it is now…what’s it like?’
Generally the client will then offer a lot of feelings or emotions.
‘Not what I asked though, I didn’t ask what it feels like, I asked what is it like?’
Confusion reigns. This is good, we are looking for imagery and the brain is having to think about it.
A gentle nudge is needed.
‘If I were to draw a picture of what your life is like what would that drawing be like?’ Often at this point an example is given. Then I sit back.
The eventual image is packed with information. The work Andy Austin has done is phenomenal, drawing on hundreds of clients sessions. Studying imagery, iconography, and archetypes he has allowed us to look at the metaphor offered up and ‘translate it’, thus allowing us to work on the real issues and then to move on to developing better coping strategies with the client.
So returning to ‘moving forward’.
What if subconsciously you were on a cliff edge? Or what if you were in a pit, or in a cage? How useful would being told to keep moving forward be? I’ve had clients who were floating in the air surrounded by clouds. This particular client had their head in the clouds, were directionless (airhead maybe?) and they needed to come back down to earth.
See how this works?
The person on the cliff edge could keep moving, they could move left or they could move right, heck they could even move back but that depends on the metaphor. (These directions are investigated as well to give clues as to what is best for the client).
So you can start to get a feel for how people become stuck, the subconscious is keeping them safe but they can’t necessarily move on until this is explained to them.
There is no outcome to the Metaphors of Movement process, it is about bringing in to conscious awareness why you are stuck and what could be keeping you in that state. Then we can use our other therapy and coaching skills to get the client to where they want to be. Moving in the right (correct) direction – just not necessarily forward.