Metaphors in NLP – what is and how it helps?

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Metaphors and stories are powerful and fun ways to shift someone’s attention and attitude. It is the most powerful tool which can be used and learned to bring shifts in a person’s life.

What is a Metaphor according to English literature?

metaphor is a figure of speech that describes an object or action in a way that isn’t literally true, but helps explain an idea or make a comparison. … A metaphor states that one thing is another thing. It equates those two things not because they actually are the same, but for the sake of comparison or symbolism.

Metaphors in NLP 

Metaphors are used commonly in NLP in order to enable the NLP trainer to make connection with the client’s unconscious mind. The best advantage of working with metaphors is that it connects them with the core pattern in the clients mind map behaviour, thus enabling the trainer to change rapidly and reframe it.

Metaphor is the soul of language. Every human being use 6 metaphors in a minute consciously or unconsciously. These metaphors can be positive or negative. The positive ones need not to be touched, but yes the negative ones needs to be reframed properly by the coach. Milton Erickson used this technique to pace a person’s experience, distract their conscious mind, and allow them to find resources or solutions on their own. Strictly speaking, a metaphor, a simile and an analogy are different, in NLP they are used in similar ways. The purpose is to transfer meanings and understandings from one situation or thing to another.

There are several types of metaphors used in NLP – shallow metaphors, deep metaphors, and embedded metaphors -:

Shallow Metaphor: A shallow metaphor makes simple comparisons and creates a better understanding like a rat up a drainpipe. They are very simple metaphor compared to simile.

Like for Example:

Good metaphor:- life is like a game of chess.

Bad metaphor:- life is like a struggle.

Deep metaphor: These comes from the unconscious level of mind. It has stories with many different levels of meaning and is typically most useful when a client is in trance in order to communicate with the unconscious mind of the client.

Like for example.

Good metaphor:-. a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Bad metaphor:- when I think of xyz, I see a very big storm coming towards me.

Embedded metaphors

Embedded metaphors are those metaphors where more than one metaphors are linked together (like Ronnie Corbett frequently used in “The Two Ronnies”). The idea is that the conscious mind of the client is confused as the stories appear to make no sense, thus allowing the trainer to get access to unconscious resources and make suggestions to improve learning or healing.

Tony Robbins has championed the use of life metaphors as a way to make far reaching generalized changes in a person’s life. Seeing relationships as a dance rather than a battle for instance.

Creating Metaphors for Change involves firstly mapping out the present situation or problem in terms of relationships and strategies currently used with 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.

Sharing anecdotes or tales often works well because the listener instinctively relates to the protagonist and can’t help but try on the situation and the solution as they listen.

 Uses for metaphors:

  • Can help clients to better understand something about the object or idea to which the metaphor is applied
  • In therapy, Induces rapport building.
  • Can make speaking, and writing more lively and interesting.
  • Can communicate a great deal of meaning with just a word or phrase and reframing.
  • Can create a mind shift since they imply rather than directly state relationships, can get clients to think about what they are hearing and take on new learnings.

Metamorphical stories can have subtle and sneaky effects on how we see ourselves and what is a satisfying life. The macho hero stereotype for instance can leave a man feeling inadequate or being inappropriately aggressive. The stories and analogies we use effect our interpretations of our experiences. If we think of relating in terms of a battle, then every interaction may be seen as an attack that needs a defense or offensive.

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Mugdha is a NLP master practitioner and students' mind coach. She is excellent in teaching memory techniques to students and enable them to enjoy learning.
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