Some people see life as a battle. Every encounter is a struggle, and if they don't win, they feel like they have lost. Others view life as an adventure. A new day brings new opportunities to explore. If something goes badly today, there's always tomorrow.
How do these metaphors develop? As children we begin to understand and organize the world. If we think of the brain as a filing cabinet, then childhood is when we open the files and label them. We often spend the rest of our lives putting new material in these old files. If childhood was healthy, then we may have a pretty good filing system. If it was a struggle, then we often see struggles for the rest of our life.
What are your metaphors? This is not usually obvious. We have to stand back a long way to see patterns like this in our lives. A few examples:
· A Battle
Everything is a competition or a struggle. We are always either winning or losing.
· A Garden
Relationships are cultivated like flowers or vegetables. We see things as growing, flowering, producing.
· A Mission
We believe that we have the truth and we need to convince others that our point-of-view is right.
· A Journey or an adventure
We travel from place to place meeting new people and exploring.
· A Building
Starting with a solid foundation, then adding floors and rooms.
· A Roller Coaster
Life consists of ups and downs, and we are along for the ride.
· A Stained-glass window
Full of light and colors.
· A Mountain Climb
Life consists of hierarchies. We are always climbing the corporate ladder.
· A Race
Always finding the fastest route; "keeping up with the Jones’s."
· A Courtroom
Everything in life should be fair.
· Stepping Stones
We barely get comfortable where we are before we are looking for better job or a bigger house.
· A Prison
Feeling like we don't have choices, like others have all the power.
· A Classroom
There are always new lessons to learn.
· A Battery Every encounter seems to drain energy. We need the weekends to recharge.
These are just a few of the life metaphors that run people's lives. What metaphor(s) fit your life? Do they work or do they cause problems and limit your choices? It's possible to change metaphors, but it's not easy.
Good mental health includes having life metaphors that work.
The American Indian mystic and writer Black Elk said the following:
'It is in the darkness of their own eyes that men get lost.'
Black Elk is talking about our life metaphor, the most hidden and powerful perspective that we have. If your are lost, unfulfilled, stressed or confused in any area of your life, or if you want to become more motivated and productive, the very best course of action is to change the eyes with which you see.
Related yet unrelated. My Father gave me a plaque upon which was inscribed:
'Life is an adventure for those with the courage to explore.'
A Metaphor Poem
Its words take your hand and lead the way,
Into the world behind the eyes.
Like children they pull you this way and that,
Excited to show you their clever lies.
They bring you to a garden of ideas,
You see roses with faces of lovers.
You feel warmth in a blanket of snow,
And rest on the green bed that it covers.
The night stars watch over you like angels,
Morning brings the symphony of the birds.
Then the awakening really begins,
From this, the hypnosis of words.
For this is a shadow world only,
A place to visit, but never a home.
The real world is even more marvelous,
When you escape the world of the poem