Manipulating a metaphor

The metaphor of drowning has been a persistent image during my years of depression. “Drowning in possibilities.” “Drowning in the complexity of life.” “Drowning in my mistakes (the harm I’ve caused).” “Drowning in uncertainty.” Etc.

The other day, as I was doing active relaxation (focused attention on and releasing of bodily tension), the imagery changed. Rather than engage in an exhausting fight to keep my head above water, I realized I could surrender to the experience. Curious, and refusing to worry, I allowed myself (in a visualization) to relax and take that “scary” breath . . . What’s this?–I’m breathing underwater. I’m swimming gracefully in the water of self-acceptance. Nothing to prove. No fight to win. It was as if I was connected to my Higher Self–the self that doesn’t worry; that delights in each new experience; that is whole; that flows with life. Rather than inspiring a wish to retreat from life, it inspired the delightful thought that life can be truly pleasant if I slow down and breathe it in.

Slowing down isn’t something my anxious mind does easily. Relaxing into a trusting, heart-centered mode of experiencing life, however, is possible–with practice. (Consciously experiencing ourselves in a challenging situation but in an unhurried–“extra-timely” (outside time)–mode of being.)

Good stuff.

Re-fashioning painful metaphors is a therapeutic modality championed by the late David Grove of En Zed (New Zealand). Rather than having the therapist suggest metaphors, Grove emphatically insisted that the metaphors should be produced and manipulated (changed/fashioned) by the client. He taught therapists how to use “Clean Language” that allowed for none of their personal, projected narratives to enter the sessions.

I’d love to find a therapist trained in Grovian Metaphor therapy!

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A way to look at pain

A woman recently posted on a private Facebook page about her feelings of hopelessness and unlovability (she’s going through a divorce).

Feeling heartfelt compassion for her, I thought about her situation and wrote the following response:


Thank you for sharing your raw, honest self with us, [name withheld]. It takes courage to be vulnerable, and your reaching out is a brave step in the direction of a life joyfully connected with people who “get” and love you.

Feeling hopeless is so, so painful. It consumes our energy and often blinds us to innumerable paths we might take to higher ground. When in a depressive state, we often need people on the outside of our pain to help us understand our resources and to celebrate our freedom to choose our next steps. I hope we can provide support, friendship, and some wise advice to you at this time, and going forward.

I think we sometimes invite additional suffering by judging our pain as wrong and therefore unacceptable. Feeling down for any number of reasons is a natural part of being human–and negative emotions are part of our body’s warning system (a signal to pay attention to an unmet need or a damaging situation).

Feeling lonely and worried about continued isolation is “helpful” in that it reminds us of what we truly need: connection, acceptance, and belonging. Rather than despise those feelings, rather than believe that they are a portend/diagnosis of inevitable future pain, you might just allow yourself to feel them. Where do you feel them most strongly in your body? Pay attention to how they feel. Breathe into the feelings– breathe into that place in your body where they’re residing–and accept them. Trust that they’re doing their “job.” You might even thank them for faithfully reminding you of the importance of connection, acceptance, and belonging. Then let them go, reassuring your body, “I got the message! I’ll get working on connecting with ‘my people’ right away!”

A mantra I recently adopted is: “I choose to believe that everything I experience is contributing to my growth and healing.” You might try that mantra on and see if it serves you.


This viewpoint keeps pain in perspective.  I hope to remember the suggestions, myself, next time I’m feeling the blues.

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A role to try out

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