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Metaphorically Speaking

Updated: Jun 17, 2020

Metaphors are like mini-myths. One little expression can tell a story, both the true kind and the false ones. When we pay close attention to the words we speak or the way we describe things, and then take some time to get curious about the metaphors we use, we often begin to see and understand ourselves and our lives better. (Grammatically speaking, these may be similes or idioms or other grammatical forms, but for simplicity, I’m using the word metaphor.)

Take for example the word wrap. Perhaps you’ve heard yourself or someone else say, “She’s too wrapped up in that” or “Could we please wrap this up?”

One way to become curious about a metaphor is to look up synonyms or definitions of words in the metaphor. For example, to wrap means to cover or enclose something. Interesting...Then ask an open ended question like, “What is being covered or enclosed? Add similar words such as “What is being hidden or protected?”

You can also look at the opposite meaning of the word or words in the metaphor. Unwrapped could mean open, exposed, visible or unprotected. Get creative: the opposite of enclosed might be disclosed, and too much or too little disclosure could be a problem. A wrap (noun) can also refer to something that keeps you warm, like a shawl. What comes to mind when you think of warmth? How about the opposite, like the expression, “Left out in the cold”, meaning ignored or forgotten.

One of the best ways to explore the metaphors or expressions that you find yourself hearing or saying is by journaling about them. Metaphors are like little keys to your unconscious, so take a peek behind the doors of your metaphors to learn more about yourself. You can also look for metaphors in your dreams or in art images. A window may be a metaphor for another perspective. A doorway may be a metaphor for stepping into something new. A train may be a metaphor for things moving in a new direction. Like geocaches, metaphors are everywhere.

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