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Metaphors for Aches and Pains


Practice Group Report

The topic for the main part of the meeting was physical symptoms, and what difference it could make to pay attention to them using metaphor and Clean Language. We started by developing metaphors for the symptoms, such as:

  • My bad neck is like… two rough pebbles grinding together, with bits chipping off
  • My itchy finger is like… the hairs at the top screaming, and something yellow, stale and stagnant
  • My sore hands are like… a ball of energy
  • My toothache is like ... a blocked drain, blocked with a lump of custard
  • My craving is like… a cave
  • My back problem is like… having an oily rag tied around my spine

Even as these metaphors (and others) were explored, using Clean Language, some of them started to change in unexpected ways. Then we asked: “And what would that [symptom] like to have happen?” and developed our answers to that question, too. Many changes were noted by the end of the evening. For example:

  • Rough pebbles wanted liquid and this meant movement. This person hadn’t been moving her neck and now realised that that was what was needed. She has since reported that her neck is feeling better.
  • The itchy finger needed to be in a circuit with the heart and to be in the fresh air. This person had had the itchy finger for a while, but had not paid it any attention before, except to scratch it and wish it gone.
  • The person with sore hands / ball of energy did lots of her processing non verbally and at the end of the session said she was now ready to imagine herself riding (showjumping and horse racing) in order for her to paint pictures of horse riding. She said it was like healing her own hands.
  • The blocked drain wanted to be unblocked, and when the pressure built up, the unblocking would happen, and the custard would gurgle down the drain - but then the pressure would build up all over again. The whole thing was like a volcano and a needle with a sharp point was needed. This was ‘work in progress’ and the processing of this continued after the session.
  • The craving cave changed into something that could be taken out of the body and placed on the head. This will allow the person to think.
  • The oily rag changed into a pristine white flat rag - the kind a surgeon might use. This person will visualise this rag before she sits down at her computer.

Of course, we will not know for a little while whether any of these changes are long-lasting. (If you do have anything to report, please use the comments box below.) Some symptoms may not be ready to change and may need investigation by a doctor or dentist.

What did anyone learn about Clean Language?

  • One of our newcomers was fascinated by how there is no need to repeat someone’s words verbatim, that it’s sufficient to use certain key words. She also noticed how quickly she became sensitised to the idea of only using the other person’s words and was able to spot when she hadn’t done so.
  • In the ‘toothache’ example, the pressure would build and then the poison would drain away, but then the pressure would build all over again… and when using Clean questions to model this, it became apparent that there was a ‘loop’. To draw the person’s attention to this, we needed to ask, “And when pressure builds up, and poison drains, and pressure builds, and drains,a nd builds and drains… all of that is like what?” This allowed us to start working at a ‘higher level’ with the volcano metaphor, which includes all the features of the loop.
  • One person received some feedback from herpartner that she needed to ‘keep out’ a bit more; she said that this, and another incident with a client was making her realise even more that the session really is about the client, and that the facilitator needs to let go of their ego when doing this work.

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

About Marian Way

Marian Way's avatar

A highly skilled facilitator and trainer, Marian, who founded Clean Learning in 2001, has developed and delivered training across the world. She is the author of Clean Approaches for Coaches, co-author, with James Lawley, of Insights in Space and co-author, with Caitlin Walker, of So you want to be… #DramaFree.

Marian is an expert Clean facilitator, an adept modeller, a programme writer and an inspirational trainer. She has a natural ability to model existing structures, find the connections between them and design new ways for people to learn. Marian was a leading innovator within the Weight Watchers organisation, which included developing the “points” strategy, a local idea that went on to become a global innovation. She is a director of both Clean Learning and Training Attention CIC, world leaders in clean applications for corporate, educational and community development. She designs our programmes and workbooks, leads workshops and teaches on all our courses. She’s trained people in Great Britain, Russia, Sweden, Germany, Australia, Japan and the USA. Marian is also a recognised Clean Assessor.

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