It’s very common that at some point in our life we encounter a person who changes the way we think about something. It may happen regularly of course. The more open we are then the more we are likely to allow these new influences to change us. Metaphors were one such topic for me.
We know that events can have a significant or even a fundamental impact on our lives. Positive, negative, or a mixture of both. Sometimes it takes time to discover the positive aspects of something.
I’ve always enjoyed language – the way certain words sound, the joy of saying them aloud. Knowing what things mean and their usage.
I came across an approach called Metaphors of Movement, developed by Andrew Austin. I attended a four-day training course (in person!) and he challenged me to think about language in a new way.
Metaphors are a common tool in therapy, often used in a storytelling context, or used to provide a path for change. What I hadn’t appreciated was how the metaphors that we use to describe our current lived experience can be explored to discover what’s happening now. The phrases we choose to describe our situation aren’t random – they’re not just a phrase or convenient saying – they reflect how we feel about our situation.
I learned that problems are about an absence of motion (e.g. I feel stuck) and an absence of direction (e.g. I don’t know what step to take).
I won’t describe the process and what it entails – I’ll point you towards the Metaphors of Movement site and you can find out there everything you might be curious about.
There are many levels and it’s a rich exploration. More importantly, it’s a really helpful approach for introducing movement into a problem, allowing people to explore where they are and how they can change their situation. It’s not outcome-based; it’s not looking to tell you what to do, but to reflect where you are and what is stopping you from taking steps. Even writing that I’m being careful with my language.
Let’s take some examples that are very common and that I hear without any specific elicitation:
“I’m stuck” “I’m on edge all the time” “It’s a real rollercoaster” “I’m going round in circles” “It’s a real uphill struggle” “I’m keeping my head above water” “I keep hitting my head against a brick wall” “I’m holding myself back” “Something’s holding me back” “I’m in a rut” “I’m being taken for a ride”
I’m sure you can think of many more. Once you start becoming aware of them it’s hard not to hear them and to start to get an idea of what’s happening for them.
Generally, people want to move forward with their lives. I’ve never experienced anybody contacting me and saying that they’d like to work with me because they’re moving forward with their life.
It’s a lack of forward movement that people contact me for. They feel that they’re stuck for some reason.
This isn’t limited to our personal life, and can be very helpful when we explore our business.
I use this work both formally, as in a Metaphors of Movement session, and informally by offering casual idiomatic responses to their metaphor that fit their description. It’s powerful and often people respond very well to having their situation ‘understood’ this way.
But it was one particular aspect of the work that has really stuck with me. I was on the course and I was describing a metaphor with Andy and all of a sudden he asked, “I know?”. I had no idea what he was asking – I was just telling him about my metaphor. I didn’t understand. He looked at me expectantly. Moments passed that honestly felt a lot longer. Then he said, “You just said ‘You know’”. I was stumped. What did he mean?
Again, moments passed. Then he explained that I had done what so many people do in relation to their own experience. I’ll give an example: “When I say what I want I feel embarrassed, you know?”
He was picking up on the ‘you know’. His response well might be – “I don’t know, it’s not my experience”.
Now I understood. It wasn’t the last time I said it and it wasn’t the last time he picked me up on it. Ever since then I make it plain that it’s my experience, you know.
I hear it everywhere myself. It’s commonly used to express inclusivity, a generalising of our own experience, making it universal.
“You go into a shop, and you feel it’s not the right place for you, you know?”
My experience is, “I go into a shop and I feel it’s not the right place for me.”
I have noticed that since I’ve switched to owning more of my experience that it’s had a positive impact. I can’t tell you why specifically, just that I feel more comfortable through that ownership.
When I want to make a generalisation then I make it clear that I’m talking universally (not that everybody has that same experience of course).
Listen out for it yourself. It’s so common. It’s almost fundamental.
There have been many people whose work has impacted me, whose insights and research I’ve benefitted from. But I recognise them and acknowledge them. I’m grateful for being able to utilise their work and to continue to share their work.
I wonder who I’m going to meet next who changes my mind about something?
I’d love to hear about whether you’ve had a similar experience. Why not contact me?