Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Here's another question from a visitor:
You note that you like using metaphors in psychotherapy. Can you elaborate more on the use of metaphor. I personally find that using metaphors can have its downside. Some metaphors, once useful--or helpful to those who never heard of them--can become quite trite and cliché. They may even take on negative connotations if associated with unpleasant memory or a disagreeable person from the client's past.
To some degree it is a personal indulgence on my part to attempt to use metaphors. I think you're quite right that this could be unhelpful or annoying to others, and at the very least trite or cliché. I would need to keep this tendency of mine healthily reigned in when necessary. It is, however, very characteristic of me, and a pleasure of mine, to seek out a new metaphor, and therefore an aspect of genuineness that I would attempt to share with patients at times.

Theoretically, it has been part of a larger world-view of mine, that a great deal of wisdom is couched in metaphorical language, yet this language is often taken literally by dogmatic adherents. The dogmatism intensely suppresses the wisdom. This happens frequently in religion, politics, and even in science and medicine. Joseph Campbell was one of my influences: I think he had a great balance of wisdom, humour, and story-telling ability--these are qualities of a good physician, thinker, or healer. Campbell himself was influenced by psychoanalytic thinkers such as Freud, and particularly Jung, but in my opinion his writing never had the annoyingly dogmatic and preachy tone characteristic of these psychoanalysts. Yet, Campbell's ideas are intellectually limited, and I think one should be wary of going too far with them (I find many styles of therapy which are overtly about "exploring myths", etc. to be tiresome, ignorant of modern scientific evidence, and overburdened with jargon). But I liked Joseph Campbell's style, and maybe this is one of the reasons I like "indulging in metaphor" at times as part of my work.

1 comment:

mysadalterego said...

I definitely believe in that and like it, my favorite kind of psychology is the myth kind. Of course, coming from a family of artists, I guess maybe I have a leaning more toward that. I always thought my last shrink never quite "got" it when I spoke in metaphor.