Monthly: May 2015

CBT Therapy Techniques Part 4 – Metaphors

Working With Metaphors

Related to my recent blog about working on your self talk, another way of helping yourself is to notice what metaphors you are using to think about and describe your concern.

Metaphors can give you an idea how to you relate to the problem, and noticing, then changing these metaphors can help.

For example I hear people describe metaphors such as:

  • I feel like there is a brick wall in front of me
  • I think that I’m stuck in a rut
  • It feels like this is too much of a steep hill to climb
  • Trying to progress feels like trying to wade through mud
  • I can’t see where I am going
  • It seems like I’m always living under a cloud


I have found most people have a way of translating their concerns into metaphors. This is very useful because we can use the metaphors to work out how bad the problem is by asking ourselves a few probing questions. For example working with my previous examples you could ask:

  • How big is the brick wall in front of you? How wide is it? How tall is it? How deep is it?
  • How deep is the rut that you are stuck in?
  • How steep is the hill you are trying to climb? How long is it? Where abouts on the hill are you – right at the bottom, halfway? Is there a way of going around the hill, rather than over it?
  • How thick is the mud? How deep is it? How close or far are you from getting out of the mud and back on to solid ground?
  • How sharp is the vision you have of your destination? What does it look like?
  • How big is the cloud? How tall and wide is it? What colour is it? How high above you is it? Can you see any blue sky?


As you may notice, a simple metaphor which at first can just seem like an off the cuff thought or comment, can yield some useful information. With this information we can start to change the metaphor. For example what happens to the way you relate to your problem if:

  • You take bricks out of the wall one at a time until you can see through to the other side?
  • You stepped out of the rut? Or climbed up the side and peeked your head above ground?
  • You halved the steepness of the hill? You halved the length of the imagined climb?
  • You halved the thickness, and the depth of the mud?
  • You instead use a map to get you to where you are going, rather than looking for something that is not in sight yet?
  • You halved the size of the cloud, and doubled the height it is above you?


Notice the metaphors you are using, and start probing them and changing their qualities. This is a way of thinking which can yield long lasting results and really doesn’t require a great deal of “hard work”.

As always, if you have any questions, you are more than welcome to get in touch.