Case Study: Woman Standing in the Ocean

 

In our last email we promised you an example of the Metaphors of Movement work, and here it is:

Anna is a professional woman and single mom. At the time she came to see me (Connirae Andreas), her teenage son was in trouble with the law, and court-ordered to live with her.

It was an extremely challenging situation, as the son was quite hostile and mostly withdrew into his room, refusing to communicate.

Anna’s ex-boyfriend (who had been a step-dad to the son for a number of years), got re-involved, wanting to help Anna with the son. Anna both appreciated this support, and loved reconnecting with her ex. She said, “We have this heart connection. I can tell we’re still in love…. But he’s living with another woman now, and is committed to her.”

Anna was feeling overwhelmed by it all. Emotionally she felt increasingly attached to her ex. She was concerned that something might not be quite right about this deepening connection, but it was difficult to resist.

The Metaphor

With Metaphors of Movement work, we first discover/uncover the person’s unconscious metaphor for their situation.

We ask, “This whole situation… What is it like?”

Anna answered, “I feel like I might be getting in too deep.”

As I continued asking the specific questions* to elicit her metaphor, here’s what emerged:

  • She is standing waist deep in the ocean, facing out to sea.
  • There is sand under her feet.
  • Behind her is a beach, and behind that some buildings.
  • The water is cool, and dark, and it gets colder and darker the farther out she gets.
  • There’s an undertow, a current that is spiraling and pulling her down and out.

* (You’ll learn specific ways to elicit the metaphor at the training with Andy. There is a sequence that makes it easier for the person to become aware of their metaphor, and ways for you to recognize when the person isn’t giving you the information you need.)

Now imagine that this is your metaphor. So you are standing in the ocean, looking out to sea, with nothing but water all the way to the horizon. There is sand underneath your feet. Behind you is the beach, and you are in the cool dark water up to your waist, feeling an undertow that is pulling you down and out.

And now notice your experience as I describe “your” position using idioms…

  • “You’re in up to your waist.”
  • “You have some support, but it’s not very solid. It could give way.”
  • “You’re in fairly deep already, but if you continue in the direction you’re heading, you’ll soon be in over your head.”
  • “If you continue in the direction you’re heading, you’re going to be all wet.”
  • “There’s a current, you could easily get carried away. And the deeper you get the more easily you could get carried away.”

 

Woman in the water

Using idioms in this way—to match their metaphor—is part of the method you’ll learn from Andy at the Metaphor training. When the metaphor is actually yours, there tends to be a visceral connection, a “yes, of course!” experience, of the idiom fitting with our life in ways that can bring a kind of visceral knowing and clarity.With Anna, I went on and added a few more idioms to describe her position in the metaphor:

  • “The water is colder as you get in deeper… Moving in this direction is turning you into a cold person.”
  • “All you have to look forward to is getting into deep water, getting in over your head, getting carried away, and becoming colder and colder.”

When I said these last two, about “becoming a cold person” something clicked for Anna. She said, “That’s really true! I am becoming a cold person the more I get involved this way.” It was clear that this bothered Anna — she didn’t like being a “cold person.”

When we use idioms to describe the person’s scene, we don’t need to know what’s happening in the person’s life, to be “right on” in matching their experience. I didn’t need to know what “you’re becoming a cold person” meant — she knew.

Anna had been concerned that she might be “getting in too deep”. But the metaphor helped her recognize what was happening in a more detailed and visceral way, and she immediately became clear what she needed to do.

Taking Action: I asked Anna what she wanted to do in this position. “What direction do you want to go? You could take another step forward, and get in deeper, and become a colder person.” She said, “No, I want to turn around. I need to turn around.” She was quite adamant. “I’m turning around and going toward the beach.”

The next session she said she’d “turned around” in her life situation. She had set clear limits on seeing the ex, and had taken steps to move on with her life. She was pleased that the metaphor work gave her the clarity and courage to do what she needed to do.

Feedback: Recent email from Anna

“I’ve been thinking a lot about the work that I have done with you, and how the images have helped me so much – have shifted so much in my mind, now that I have moved forward from the emotional and psychological places where I was before. Really powerful.”
The Metaphors of Movement work is helpful for…
  • Understanding a troubling situation “viscerally” instead of just intellectually.
  • Recognizing when our way of dealing with our life situation isn’t working, and doesn’t have a chance of working.
  • Helpful when we need to change direction, but don’t know what move to make.
An Uphill Struggle

When we get a clear picture of our situation, sometimes that’s enough to know what to do. The metaphor lays out our unconscious mind’s wisdom and information about the situation as a whole. When we try to “think things through” using our conscious mind, it’s a more linear process. The metaphor taps into our unconscious understanding of the whole thing.This is a quick glimpse into one way Andy Austin’s Metaphors of Movement work can be used. If you’re someone interested in personal growth, a therapist or coach, or wanting a way of engaging conversationally with people’s metaphors in any environment (business, education, church, etc.), we think you’ll find this training useful.