Metaphor - What's That? And WHY?
Would you like to know what metaphors really are, and how to work with
metaphors most powerfully, regardless of whether you want to do this
for therapy, for art, for creativity or simply because you know
there's something incredibly magical about metaphors?
Well, make yourself comfortable, and I shall begin.
In the beginning, there is a human being who experiences the world
through their many senses.
You could say that they are constantly receiving a data-stream from
Now unlike popular opinion would have you believe, this data-stream is
not electrical in nature, nor is it only coming in through the
"scientifically recognised" five senses - it is what we call
"energetic in origin" and is received not just in the brain, but in
the wider matrix of the energy body.
When people think, as they do, about the world and try to make sense
of the incoming data streams, they do this according to
Neuro-Linguistic Programming or NLP lore, either in words, or in
pictures, or in a combination of the two.
However, those things are just a TRANSLATION of something else that is
at the bottom of it all - a self generated data-stream of invisible
and inaudible energy, in fact.
Just like behind the icons on your desktop screen there lurk a billion
lines of programming code, behind every word a person may "say to
themselves" inside their head, behind every "thought" they may have
and behind every "picture" they might make, there are a billion
billion lines of "code" - the true information processing and thought
and memory devices, the data-stream, in other words.
We interpret this data-stream in simple experiences which are based on
our previous experiences with the world - mountains, skies and seas,
other people, animals, houses and cars and so on and so forth.
Metaphors arise naturally when a data-stream of information is
received and it is too information-dense to be put into simple, two
Language is a further abstraction from the data-stream based thought
processes and of course, the internal images, events and full-body
movies THAT PRODUCE the linguistic description at the top level which
is classified as "a metaphor", is only *a remnant* or a third level
abstraction of that real internal experience, which in and of itself
is a translation of the original energetic data-stream.
Let's say we have a therapy client who says the words, "I'm drowning
in a black ocean, cold and inhospitable, and I haven't got the
strength to go on swimming any longer."
Now, let us switch viewpoints so we're now, instead of on the outside
with those few words and "linguistic structures" you can dissect until
the cows have died of old age and never get anywhere, INSIDE that
person's head who just said that.
I'm going to give you a metaphor to explain what they are doing.
They are acting as an observer, like a TV reporter crouched behind a
fallen wall in some war-torn 3rd world country, commenting on what is
happening right now, in real time.
And our therapy client is receiving a data stream that is energetic in
origin, FAR TOO information rich and dense to be put into linear
words, and which gets translated across into *an internal
experience* - namely that of actually really being in a cold dark
ocean with strength failing and no hope of rescue.
Now, let me be quite brutal and clear about this - you cannot have a
metaphor WITHOUT THAT INTERNAL EXPERIENCE.
Metaphors arise DIRECTLY from the "deep structure", or in other words,
the energetic data stream produced by the person's own systems -
feedback devices that know about body states, about all the memories
and experiences that person ever had, that are in a standing, resonant
contact with all and every part which comprises a human being, visible
and invisible both.
So, one more time:
1. We have the datastream
2. Which is EXPERIENCED as a full body sequence of events
3. Which in turn is then DESCRIBED in terms that are the closest match
to that full body sequence of events.
That final description is a metaphor.
It is essential to understand that you cannot construct metaphors the
other way around.
People have tried to identify *bits* of the linguistic structures,
grammatical structures, xyz structures of metaphors for many
millennia - but what you end up with, most literally, if you try to
build a metaphor with such a mechano set of dead parts, is a
Frankenstein's monster of a linguistic and neurological event -
nothing but a travesty of the real thing, an empty, soul-less shell,
those nasty formulaic Hollywood-type productions which have no heart,
no truth, no nothing beyond being a plastic, robotic NOTHING.
And note all those metaphorical type words I used there - soul-less,
You could just say "data-stream-less" instead.
Or content-less, if you will.
The magic of metaphor lies exactly in that they are representing a
HUGE amount of underlying data in those EVENTS.
Metaphors are NOT just pictures - they are events. With feelings. With
depth and you just KNOW when they have been artificially constructed
the wrong way around.
Examples are the clumsy attempts in healing and therapy, for example,
to make a metaphor such as "the pancreas as an insulin factory" in
order to "communicate with the unconscious mind".
The unconscious mind *is* the energy matrix, and it doesn't
communicate "in pictures" at all but in direct energetic, high
information density data-streams.
These are incredibly precise and they never lie - to explain this a
little, imagine for a moment if you could see auras and such. And
there's this person standing there who is clearly and visibly shrouded
in contorted darkness - but they're talking about healing with love
and how they've forgiven everyone!
At this energetic data-stream level, lying doesn't work. All is there,
all is recorded and when you can read the data stream, you have access
to it all.
You can't lie to the "energy mind" - or the unconscious mind.
If you want to use metaphor as a data-transmission device which
carries EXPONENTIALLY MORE INFORMATION than linear language (the
further the level of abstraction from the original experience or
data-stream, the more impoverished the information transmission must
by needs become), then empty or constructed or "Frankenstein"
metaphors are simply not an option.
So what are we to do?
In the case of our therapy client, it is very easy.
You take the existing metaphor - the cold black sea - and you try and
insert an extra component that wasn't there before. Such as the fact
that it is actually only 3 foot deep and all the person would have to
do is to recognise this and stand up.
Rather than trying to interpret, or analyse the metaphor (which takes
it further and further AWAY from the original data-stream), when we
stay WITHIN the existing or presenting metaphor, at least we can't get
the communication totally wrong.
At least, there's a chance to touch the data-stream, to change it, to
insert a new component.
Such as a lighthouse on the horizon.
If the data-stream accepts this insertion, then the metaphor will
change and the client will in turn, change their experiences, their
thoughts, and their behaviours which were based all and totally on THE
ORIGINAL DATA-STREAM beneath the metaphor.
In that way, the metaphor BECOMES also the feedback device as to when
the data-stream has become changed and long BEFORE the new results
and/or behaviours have even manifested.
This time-delay in therapeutic metaphor work, and the deeply
ecological changes FROM THE DEEP STRUCTURE OUTWARD which eventually
result in behaviour and cognition changes, has in the past led people
to believe that either metaphor work was very hit and miss, or that
whatever changes resulted were due to something else - an accident,
natural healing, the new drugs regime and so forth.
So that is where metaphors come from - they arise when someone
actively and in conscious awareness, receives a data-stream of
information either from themselves, or from outside themselves, and
seeks to describe the experience of that data-stream by translating it
into *situations* and *unfolding events* complete with emotions,
meanings, puzzles and possible solutions built in - and then tells you
about their internal experiences.
To create metaphors, one has to touch the data stream directly. People
do this naturally all the time and they have their own metaphorical
world which is imprinted in their languaging - the language becomes
the short cut symbol FOR A FULL BODY INTERNAL EXPERIENCE of an
underlying and existing data-stream.
True metaphors cannot be constructed linguistically, and they cannot
be borrowed from another. This is done often in the so-called creative
arts but even the greatest Muppet and the most uneducated idiot on
Earth will naturally baulk at hearing, "Your eyes are like the stars
in heaven ..." - IF THERE IS NO UNDERLYING DATA-STREAM AND FOLLOWING
EXPERIENCE DESCRIPTION to back it up with REALITY!
And that's how come that when Shakespeare said it, it was poetic, but
if Mr Plagiarist does, it is pathetic.
Here's how to do it.
Look into his eyes and let all thoughts drop away. Let the data-stream
emerge and simply comment on your own experience as you're having it -
"Your eyes are so beautiful ... like a still pool on a summer's day
And now it's true, it has true content, it works as the data-stream
derived message is received to really TOUCH the lover in question -
and the greatest beauty of it all is that if it's honest, it will
ALWAYS be poetic, no matter what the choice of words may be, and
It takes only little practice to get good at it.
It only takes very little awareness of the underlying data-stream
which doesn't lie and tells far more than a picture or a movie even
with its n-complex information density to KNOW INSTANTLY if you are
looking at the real thing, or the Frankenstein's monster version
Thus understood and used, metaphor is the most powerful form of
commenting on our experiences of reality available in language format.
It is also the most powerful and direct way to linguistically touch
and make changes to the "deep structure" - the energy matrix of a
Be intensely respectful of it.
Learn all you can about it.
It is the one true language which binds humanity.
Metaphor is our linguistic key to real, actual, universal truth.
© Silvia Hartmann, PhD
Author, Project Sanctuary
16. 10. 2003