CONVERSATION 19 — METAPHORS
There is one thing we haven’t spoken of yet, Guy, and that is Metaphors and how they affect us all. Metaphors are a very interesting part of our Way of Being and play such an important role in our everyday lives; yet we remain completely unaware of them.
A Metaphor is how you would describe something; not the actual reality. To quote from our 8-week online programme, entitled “Creating your Life through Vision”:
"A Metaphor is a word; expression in language, or a language of images; vision if you will, that is used in order to describe something else."
It’s a way to describe something in order to explain; or make it understandable, to the listener—a means of transferring difficult information and make it understandable.
Do you remember how you explained the importance of experiencing what you don’t know that you don’t know, and make it conscious in order to understand your potential? You used the analogy of learning to drive a car… We can learn all the theory by reading of it, but we need to practice it in order to become a driver!
This makes it totally understandable to every one of us, even if we have never tried to drive. Still the level of our understanding is according to our earlier experiences and as you use this analogy, we will use everything we know about the subject, with all its sub-modalities, like how it feels and what else we connect to our knowing, to make our very own understanding of “what you don’t know that you don’t know”, and our potential.
I want to use a story from the Old Testament to indicate what I mean; the story where God told Moses to split a whole expanse of sea with his wooden staff, and saved his followers from the soldiers who wanted to kill them.
Is it possible that this is a Metaphor? Let us assume for a moment that yes, it is a Metaphor. How would I interpret it?
Well, I see God as the Essence of Universal energy of unconditional love, who creates life and the source we all bear as spiritual beings. I see water as an image of feelings and an entire sea as the united sea of feelings that comes from humanity. I see Moses and his followers as humanity searching for love, his wooden stick is a manifested tool to reach his true potential; the love he can lean on during this long and fearful journey, and I see the soldiers as the energy of fear.
So Moses is guided by his Universal God Essence, to use his potential power of love, not to split human feelings into good or bad, but to walk—safe and balanced, whilst not being interfered with by either good or bad. When he chose to believe in his ability to do so, his followers experience this too!
So it is a story of human capacity when we are balanced in love, and how one balanced person can affect and save so many!
We understand through our feelings. Fear; bitterness; pain; sorrow, those feelings give us another understanding than joy; happiness; love and enlightenment. When there is something we don’t understand, it is the level of our expectations that gives us what we are able to comprehend. If we don’t understand, our natural tendency is to deny its existence—we don’t believe it. Or we make sure everybody understands how dangerous it is.
I remember when I was a child, there was this amazing television series about a man from the Stone Age, who in some mysterious way, ended up in our modern time. What I remember best, was how he heard the phone ring (he thought it was a bone), picked it up and it started to talk. Naturally he became afraid, and told this boy he had met, about how a wizard had used magic and made this evil bone, in order to destroy them and take all their power!
Hmm, imagine if he could put that out on the Internet...
Jokes aside, this was his Metaphor of modern connection through phone-lines—yes, this is back when we were still only connected with phone-lines—and I often think of the author of this series, I don’t know if he or she actually knew at that time, how genius it was, making that Metaphor so easy to understand for a child. The knowledge I received back then, has been with me ever since, as a platform to understand that if something is holding us back, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the way we think; it can be that we don’t understand what it really is.
We do this, every single one of us, to explain things according to our understanding. And more importantly, we tell other people about it. We take our Metaphors for granted as being the truth, as the language of Metaphors itself is a part of the third language, the spiritual language; something that is a part of our DNA. And now we arrive at another Metaphor, how do we explain spirituality?
We learn the Metaphors through our family and the society, and from that we create our very personal Illusions, which we use to interpret everything we experience. And the Metaphors of our family, our community and our society are at some point, created by the Metaphors we find in religions. God is the ultimate authority, which we are separated from and we need to follow specific rules in order to satisfy this authority.
The single human being is made helpless and small, forced to behave in a certain way. And we are so familiar with it, that we don’t even recognise it. We live with it every day, we tell each other that, "we are only human; what can you expect?"
We judge other people with other Metaphors and Illusions! We live through our Metaphors, we behave according to our understanding of them and we very easy put other people down, because they live according to their own Metaphors. We nurture what we believe; we seek support, and the more support we have, the more it proves that we hold the truth! And again, the whole world is connected, so we can spread the word.
What is of interest is that we are so familiar with the language of Metaphors! The language of art; dance; beauty or music… If all you make out of art is techniques and you don’t experience it with your heart, you will miss the message. It will pass you by. Just as the wisdom of every person you meet.
Tell me, Guy, what is your perspective on this? In your work both as an Ontological Coach and also an artist, I presume you are very aware of Metaphors.
Metaphors are like little angels in disguise, aren’t they, Kari? And there’s a Metaphor already! Humour aside, they are indeed angels, because if we became more conscious of them, they could teach us so much about our language. This in turn teaches us to become more proficient observers, which brings about transformation in our lives.
At least this is my understanding as a novice in the world of Metaphors… As you are well aware, Kari, so much of my work revolves around the manner in which we use Language, yet until recently, the only meaning Metaphors had for me, was that they were simply a figure of speech.
Well, we never cease to learn, and that’s what makes life so exciting—such an amazing adventure! Language is a vast field, with so many applications and interpretations; it’s not surprising that our use of Metaphors hasn’t really showed up on my radar until now.
Well, since Kari drew my attention to the world of Metaphors, I am better able to comprehend the profound impact they have upon me.
Here’s the realization I had: Pretty much every time I begin a sentence with, “It’s like…” I know I’m about to launch into a Metaphor! So whenever I want to gain somebody’s understanding, I use a description (Metaphor) I know they will relate to. And the biggest surprise, is now that I’m aware of when I use Metaphors, the more they appear like little red blips on my radar! I use them all the time!
We make great reference to Metaphors from our past—particularly those inherited from our parents and grandparents—many generations back, in fact. If we take religion into account, those Metaphors go back thousands of years, as Kari has so importantly illustrated. Although I don’t subscribe to any particular religion nowadays, I was baptised as an Anglican and was taught the stories of the Bible as a child.
We remember these teachings, because they are taught as stories; wonderful escapades that capture the imagination and, most importantly, are retained in our conscious minds, ready for referral as and when required to be employed as Metaphors for lessons about life.
The story of Moses I always remember as being particularly gripping, especially the part where he cleaves a path through the Red Sea, with only a wooden staff! Now we could debate the chances of this particular phenomenon having occurred exactly as it was told (in a modern context, this would only happen in a fantasy movie), but that’s not what is important. What’s important (at least to my humble understanding) is that this great Metaphor was written to teach us something about life—and it’s up to the individual to interpret the Metaphor as they see fit.
We apply all these Metaphors in our daily lives. The more religious amongst us would obviously use biblical Metaphors more than the likes of me—and religious leaders use these biblical Metaphors more than anyone to convey the wisdom of their faith. The very same applies to Moslems and their Qur’an; Jews and their Torah, and so on…
Let’s say there was an ancient story about a king, for example… Metaphors are used in these stories to make them both more gripping, as well as inspirational. So then, the king is clothed in gold! How grand! Pulls at our heartstrings, doesn’t it? Imagine this king head-to-toe in shimmering gold: what a magnificent figure! Really? Well, in reality, gold is pretty heavy stuff, so the “clothed in gold” bit is hardly believable, is it? So it’s a Metaphor used to conjure up emotions and energy, getting us to ‘buy into’ the story.
Moving into an everyday life scenario of understanding Metaphors: You had a traffic accident on the way to work last week and you’re telling your friends about it. “This guy appeared in front of me out of thin air and I just didn’t have time to react,” you might say. Now, we all know that a car and its driver don’t simply materialise in this manner (unless you’re on the Back to the Future movie set)… You’ve employed a Metaphor to explain to your friends just how unavoidable the accident was; or perhaps covering up for the fact that you were fiddling with the car radio whilst driving or something.
I remember a story back when I was studying Graphic Design at college: We had a deadline for handing in a project (making or sculpting something from paper to illustrate the concept of ‘war and peace’) and I hadn’t even begun… On D-day I explained to the lecturer, “well I had actually finished my piece and, see we have this outdoor sprinkler system that comes on at 2am… I had my window open and my project got drenched by the sprinkler…”
The lecture gave me a wry, knowing smile and allowed me (and the rest of the class) an extension of deadline until the following day. Well I twisted some black paper around a length of wire and rolled it up to resemble barbed-wire, and placed a paper flower at the end of the ‘barbed-wire’… It only took me half an hour to make, but that isn’t the point.
My point is that I concocted this elaborate Metaphor to get the lecturer to accept the fact that I hadn’t completed the project within the deadline, whereas I could have just said, “I didn’t do it.” Well, he did award me 90% for an excellent interpretation of the topic and “for a great story,” as he put it…
We also concoct Metaphors for ourselves. What about that abominable ignoramus in front of us in the traffic today, who clearly couldn’t drive to save her life?
As an Ontological Coach, I must express my gratitude to you, Kari, for providing me with a whole new domain of distinctions to use when observing the language of others. We live and learn. Isn’t life wonderful?
So now, Kari, you’ve learned about the importance of observing Language from me, as I’ve learnt about becoming more aware of the Metaphors within our Language, from you… How do you set out to make your clients conscious of their own Metaphors, and the impact it has on their everyday lives?
You are so right; by being an observer of our Language we will become more aware of our Metaphors. And let us be clear, Metaphors are a part of human evolution! Like the Metaphors of the Old Testament, they have existed for thousands of years. It is our understanding of them that has changed.
When Metaphors come up as a topic with my clients, it is most often when we work with the blueprint; the DNA. It is in our blueprint we are most affected by our Metaphors! So before I answer you, I want to point out something very important:
I don’t wish to make this conversation about religion, but the fact is that religion has such a huge impact on our blueprint. Our ancestors believed in God or Gods, no matter where we live in the world. In Norway, Christianity was forced upon people about 1400 years ago, in the time of the Vikings. They understood the power of a sword, so if you did not agree to believe in what they called “White Christ” you got yourself killed!
For hundreds of years Norwegian people were forced to go to church every Sunday, sitting for hours listening to a man who only spoke Latin! They did not understand what he said, but this man had the power of life and death over them! He understood God and what made God angry. One of the things that made God angry was if poor people kept their money for themselves and not hand it over to the church. In order to be good Christians, they had to starve! Or if you in any way believed you had any importance at all, you where condemned! And above all, there was no way to learn the rules for yourself, because it was forbidden to learn to read and as I said, the preaching was in Latin, so nobody understood what was said. And the Metaphors were told as literal truth, so when human beings failed and made mistakes, this God they did not understand, would get angry and condemn them to be forever subjected to the greatest pain of flames and horror.
Can you imagine how frightful this must have been, Guy? How helpless people must have felt! This fear is still in our blueprint, whether we believe in a religion or not. We can deny it as much as we want, we live in a society where all the rules, written down and well known or unspoken of, are originated from a literal understanding of Metaphors from something higher and more powerful than ourselves.
The illusions we spoke of before are partially created from this as our personal explanation; how we ourselves understand this. And no matter what happens, we experience it with our egotistic self. And now we reach a new junction of possible problems.
Because for some reason, the ego has become a bad thing… Why?
A newborn baby doesn’t have an ego, as its experience until the moment of birth had been as a part of mum. After a while he starts to understand he is separated from his mum, and he gets confused. He continues to experience and after a while it starts to get excited about exploring the world. This is when he starts to hear NO!
I once read that a two year old hears that word hundreds of time during the day. And every time he hears it, is when he tries to figure out something; tries to explore something. If he doesn’t stop, he hears NO again and again, until he gets punished.
It is all a part of upbringing; we have all both experienced it and done it. But it brings a degree of shame to the little boys repertoire of experiences. Maybe he is told he is a bad boy! He doesn’t actually know what that is; only that it is not good. He is not good. Then it starts to become a part of his ego’s understanding. If he wants something for himself, it is bad!
Let us return to Metaphors. No matter if it is religious Metaphors; Metaphors in fairytales or the Metaphors we constantly use without being aware of, they are social understandings. Like “rules” that are not written down, you are supposed to understand what they dictate. The code! And the code says that other people are more important! If you believe you are more important, then you are very egoistic!
It is confusing, because on the other hand, we are told that God loves every single one of us. We are told that we are so incredibly important. But we are not supposed to do or say anything that in any way could describe us as being important.
So how do we solve that? A very common way is to believe we are less worthy, deflate our own value and raise others. Can you see how unbalanced this is? Now we have different expressions of this, from taking advantage of other people to simply acting like a big “excuse me for living,” with all shades of extremes!
People become ill from this! To live in such unbalance, is far from healthy.
So when I get clients with this kind of problem, we talk about how he or she explains this unbalance. And here we are back to the definition of Metaphors again, how to explain an experience, not the exact experience. As you say: It is like…
Then we start to work on whatever is accurate in the blueprint: Inherited hypnotic statements, unbalanced timelines, or barriers somewhere in one or more of the levels from highly conscious to deeply unconscious and so on…
We have so many expectations we don’t question at all! It is like it is; everybody knows it! There is nothing we can do about it! And so many of these statements are simply what our ancestors believed!
So we act on these statements. And as we have talked about so many times before, our brain just does as it’s told. So we believe there is nothing we can do…
Let us go back to Moses. He is counted as one of the most important men in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, presumably living circa 1200 BC. So here we have three religions, all disagreeing and fighting so much—and to a large degree still do, with the same root of understanding. Along the way, men called masters; enlightened men; men with the ability to understand Metaphors and see the illusions, were born, lived and died. They got followers, human beings who where not enlightened to the same degree, so they handled the information the best they could. And what they understood was the hardship of life. Separation. Judgment. War. And this has continued up to this day!
“There is nothing we can do about it, this is God’s will!”
We want peace on Earth; we want a good life filled with love and joy. In order to do that, we need to understand how our Metaphors have such a deep impact on us.
You know, Guy, I always look for the beauty in everything—and the beauty here is that our Metaphors are Universal truths that reveal their secrets according to our understandings. And now we are back to increased consciousness again and the fact that Metaphors are a spiritual language; so natural for us, that when our consciousness increases, we will gain more access to the information in our blueprint, our potential!
I am sure that this is very applicable to PowaBase, Guy! Can you tell us what you think about that?
Thank you for mentioning that, Kari, because as I was reading through your response, I was thinking how powerfully PowaBase addresses this “spiritual language” of Metaphors, in a manner that is both simple and practical on the one hand, yet transformational and generative on the other.
You know, looking back to our conversation about Love, and applying it now in the context of Metaphors, leads me towards a new train of thought: that of Metaphors in relationships. Seeing as we’re handling one touchy subject—in the form of religion—I thought I’d throw in the gender debate as well…
Whenever we experience a bad breakup of a relationship, we tend to seek release for our pent-up anger and emotion, by using Metaphors to generalise what we tell ourselves and others, and in doing so, to cover up our own fears.
We say things like: “You see, he turned out just the way they all do…” Or, “Another loser—all men are losers…” Here’s the best one of the lot, which goes back almost 320 years, from playwright William Congreve’s tragedy, The Mourning Bride, and over the years has been abbreviated to: “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” We use these frivolous Metaphors to convince ourselves (and anyone else who cares to listen) how right we are; and how wrong ‘they’ were… They hold no substance though, because they can only bring us down and are generated by our uncontrolled ego. They should be let go of!
Another very influential aspect of Metaphors we haven’t yet spoken of, Kari, is that of superstition and mythology. Many people are not superstitious as all, but for those who are, superstition can play a virtually debilitating role in their lives. Things like having seven years of bad luck for breaking a mirror or walking under a ladder, for example… God forbid that a black cat should cross your path!
The implications are even more serious in the traditional African culture (in South Africa and indeed the entire African continent) where mythology and magic are so well rooted in the people’s Way of Being. I recall as a child, how the live-in gardener would have his bed raised on bricks to keep the Tokoloshe away. This is a small troll-like creature summoned by a shaman to wreak havoc in the lives of those who have offended them.
I have heard of instances where people have died (in fact whole families have perished, or fallen grievously ill), because some witchdoctor had placed a curse upon them. The same applies to Voodoo beliefs (of African origin) from the Caribbean and Louisiana in the USA.
Now you and I may not believe in such things, but in many countries throughout the world, mythology plays a very important role in people’s belief systems! In fact, I seem to remember you telling me, Kari, of the trolls of Scandinavian folklore—although in a first world country, trolls are unlikely to be considered factual creatures…
Having said that, I happen to have spent some time living and working in Hong Kong many years ago, and I have never experienced such a situation where a belief system, arguably based upon mythology and legend, has such a major impact upon society in a city so modern, industrious and technologically advanced.
Feng Shui plays a role in the day-to-day lives of literally all of the population of Hong Kong, whether they’re Asian or otherwise; believers or not… It’s the Hong Kong way of life. It shows up in the manner in which people engage with business, as well as their personal lives, right down to interior decorating and even the architecture of the largest skyscrapers!
I recall a particular hi-rise apartment building in Repulse Bay that was built with a gigantic hole at its base, “to allow the Dragon easy access to the sea,” so I was told…
We place such great emphasis upon these Metaphors that they create unconscious moulds in our language, which in turn shape our Way of Being.
So we are constantly reciting Metaphors to ourselves, whether we’re aware of it or not; and depending on the circumstances, we slip into a vortex of emotions, assessments and stories as a result. As Kari mentioned, this could spell dire consequences for some; bringing on illness, self-degradation and clinical depression—perhaps even suicidal tendencies!
How then, do we set about A) recognizing and assessing these Metaphors and B) getting them to work for us in a positive and sustainable manner?
Allow me to again make mention of PowaBase, the four-day programme under The PowaForce Forum banner. Dealing with Metaphors, Language and Limiting Patterns of Behaviour are high on PowaBase’s agenda, and how these aspects relate to our Unique Blueprint and influence our Way of Being, either positively or negatively, according to the choices we make.
Why not begin by making a note of all the more obvious Metaphors that you can recall, and how they have influenced you in life to this day? Do you engage with them positively or negatively? When you read them or hear them, do they instill uplifting emotions in you? If not, ask yourself why.
Then look at the language other people in your life might use to describe you; be it family, friends or work colleagues… What Metaphors do they use? Even go through old school reports, which quite often give a good indication of how your teachers perceived you in these formative years of your upbringing. Also, any old aptitude tests you may have done, which outlined your strengths and weaknesses, or showed a predisposition towards a particular vocation. Do you feel connected with the manner in which they defined you and have you perhaps become what they predicted you might?
All of these people—what they think, do and say—have had an impact on you in your life and have (whether they knew it or not) either contributed to your success or failure through the Metaphors they used to describe you. At school, your parents and teachers might have started to behave differently towards you, depending on those school report Metaphors (which are used, by the way, to ratify the grades you attained). They might have begun placing uncomfortable pressure on you to better your grades; preventing you from pursuing a particular hobby or interest you were passionate about. “It’s in your own best interests,” they would say… Ah, now there’s a great Metaphor to question, because, if you search your heart, was it truly in YOUR best interests, or was it perhaps driven by the guilt of THEIR own shortcomings?
What then, were the Metaphors you used back then to tell yourself (and the world) who you were and where you wanted to be? I’ve mentioned before, how my father always instilled in my siblings and I, that us McGowans just don’t have “that killer instinct” to succeed in business. Now that Metaphor has always stuck with me like a leech; I’ve always had this misguided belief that one has to have a “killer instinct” in order to achieve success!
You really should question all that comes up for you, because for better or worse, you are where you are RIGHT NOW because of those crucial Metaphors from way back when! You created your path in life in accordance with them! YOU made those choices! Nobody made them for you!
Everything boils down to choices at the end of the day…
Now that you have developed a clear understanding of these Metaphors and how they’ve impacted your life, ask yourself which ones worked for you and which ones worked against you? Discard out of hand those that didn’t serve you, because they originate in Scarcity, when all you are striving for is Abundance!
Remember that Metaphors are created in Language and Language is easily changed—simply by making a choice. It’s time to choose new Metaphors. This new language of Metaphors is what will propel you to the heights of your envisioned success. To where you want to BE!
In our next conversation, Kari, I’d like to discuss Timelines: What space do we occupy in time? What are the possibilities of us occupying more than one dimension of time simultaneously, and how can we use this thinking to our advantage?
(Artwork by Greg Mort)