NLP Techniques

Creating Metaphors for Change

Have you ever changed your behavior or what you believe due to a logical argument? Me neither? Creating metaphors is a great way to get someone to change by communicating with their unconscious minds.

A Process

Creating metaphors involves firstly mapping out the present situation or problem in terms of relationships and strategies the person is currently using. We create stand in characters and situations to build a story. Then the new strategies and resources are woven into the story to lead to the desired outcome.

  1. Determine the desired outcome.

  2. Clarify where the person is now.

  3. What resources does the person need? What different perspective would resolve the problem?

  4. Map out key characters. You will use referential index shifts and selectional restriction violations. A butterfly, bear, rosebush, princess etc can stand in for the person. Milton Erikson used the character of a tomato plant to stand in for a man with terminal cancer.

  5. Map out the relationships. A dragon can stand in for a woman’s dominating boss. An annoying blowfly can stand in for the constant ringing of a telephone. A harsh winter can stand in for a recent loss.

  6. Map out the strategies the person is currently using. The panda spending all day eating can stand in for a packed work schedule. A butterfly flitting from flower to flower can stand in for a series of empty relationships. A dry well can stand in for the person’s lack of creativity.

  7. Map out the resources or new strategies for where they want to be or how they can solve the difficulty. An elk escaping a lion by pacing himself can show the need to keep going over the long term. A prince changing places with an peasant can show the need for the boss to get a different perspective.

  8. Make a story, which replaces all the real life characters, relationships and strategies/resources.

Creating Metaphors Example

Present situation

A young man works long hours with little time off. He sees recreation as wasting time and is very goal oriented. His current strategy for finding a long term relationship has been the same goal approach he uses at work.

He goes to places where there are lots of prospects, like speed dating and night clubs and quickly sums up whether they meet his objective criteria. He finds relationships unsatisfying and generally short term. He tends to end up with the same kind of driven person every time.

Desired outcome

A comfortable partnership with someone he shares common goals and interests.

Pathway – strategies and resources

A more indirect and thoughtful approach would be useful – not being in such a hurry and enjoying the process. Finding out more about himself and his own interests and needs. Looking in different places where he has a chance to get to know someone a little before making an accept/reject judgment.

A story

pandaA panda bear thought he would never find a mate. There seemed so little time to go searching, as all day was spent finding enough food to eat. He met lots of pandas but they seemed just as busy.

One day he decided it really didn’t matter if he ate a little less, the winters had become much less cold so there was always plenty of food.

The small amount of time he gained from not eating he spent being more sociable. He discovered what he liked to do, and what he found enjoyable. Soon he noticed a very nice panda doing similar things that had been there all along.

OK, I know – it needs work, but you get the idea right?

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