The Power of Metaphor in Relationship


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power of language. You might recall some of my earlier posts where I discussed how powerful language is in creating reality. 


Today I’d like to continue the thread and talk about a little something called metaphor.


I’m sure you’ve heard the term before, but here’s a quick definition. According to Wikipedia: 


“A metaphor is a figure of speech that, for rhetorical effect, directly refers to one thing by mentioning another. It may provide clarity or identify hidden similarities between two ideas.


When done skillfully, throughout history, masters of metaphor have crafted observations that are so spectacular they have taken up permanent residence in our minds. 


Why is this idea so powerful? 


Well, it exists at the level of context, and context has the power to change how you relate to your life. 


Here are some examples:


“It’s an uphill battle”

“She has a heart of gold”

“Life is but a dream”


Can you feel the gist of each of these? They each create a picture in our minds. And pictures can create emotions. And emotions can create reality.


Are you familiar with the famous Forrest Gump saying, “Life is like a box of chocolates — you never know what you’re going to get”?


(For you sticklers out there, this is actually a simile, but we’re going with it anyway.)


So, let’s take on this perspective for a minute. If we were to operate from the perspective that life is like a box of chocolates, how would we relate to the world? 


How would we show up?


There would be a certain level of curiosity we’d approach events with. There would be an expectation that we might be surprised with something enjoyable, and maybe the fact of being surprised was part of the fun.


Or maybe it would be a surprise you weren’t quite fond of (like the cherry-filled one no one likes) but it was still a chocolate, regardless, and maybe it had a lesson or a gift for you (like, next time you’ll know not to choose that shaped chocolate). 


Seeing life this way sounds like an inviting way to live, doesn’t it? With curiosity, positive expectation, and gratitude for life’s lessons. We have a leaning for violent metaphors in our culture. 


For example, “he murdered on stage” or “she crushed it”, or even saying “I’m dying” or “you’re killing me!” when something is hilarious. 


I was recently working with a client who said, “I just need to figure out a better way to handle our fights when my girlfriend fires her shots.”


Woah! Is there warfare happening in the living room? Does he need to figure out how to disarm her? Flank her or outmaneuver her?


If we work from the idea that language creates reality, then his experience is one of going to war with his girlfriend and he sees the relationship as a battleground. 


This is the way his reality was occurring to him. 



My job as a coach is to bring his awareness to the unconscious way he’s describing the situation and the construct he’s therefore creating for the relationship. 


So, if he believes she’s attacking him, then in response he feels the need to shore up his forces and steel his defenses.


In reality, he knows she’s not actually shooting at him, but his lower, reptilian brain that is based around survival hears that internal dialogue and goes into fight or flight. 


And while in that place, use of his entire brain is not at his disposal. 


He can’t allow himself to be open or vulnerable. If we consciously strip away the war metaphor, we can separate the story he’s got wrapped around her words, and from that place can interpret it differently.


We can see the intention behind her words — maybe she’s just expressing herself or has a complaint or a negative emotion, or she’s hurt and is operating from that place.


He then has access to a new way of responding where he doesn't have to be defensive, strategize or feel his life is at risk. And he might even see that she’s not even talking personally about him — that it’s not about him at all.  


And how differently might he react if he sees it’s her just expressing herself passionately, instead of it being an attack on him? 


What metaphors do you use to describe your life or situation? Are they as empowering as you’d like? 


For the next week, I invite you to pay attention to those little, innocuous phrases that come up and examine them. 


If you feel like you’re in a situation that's disempowering, is there a metaphor you're living into that makes you show up in a way where you’re losing power?


Language is not just descriptive – you create your reality internally and when you speak it out loud, so be responsible with your metaphors. 


And if you have been telling yourself stories about your reality that are disempowering and are ready for a change, I might be able to help. 


As a coach, I can hold a mirror to you so you can see how language is shaping your world, and together we can help you step into a more regenerative, joyous and trusting way of being.


Which metaphors have been running your show?  I’d love to hear. 


And, if you’d like to experience a dialogue with me to see how coaching can help you, shoot me an email  ([email protected]) and tell me a little about yourself.


And if you’ve enjoyed this post, consider subscribing to my Youtube channel, where you'll find a ton of content like this, and more. I’ve also got a webinar coming up called 3 Keys to Attracting a High Quality Man  and a guide on the 8 Secrets to Creating a Rock Solid Relationship. Check these out — I'm sure there's something that will be aligned with what you're looking for.


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About the Author

Clayton Olson

Clayton has been empowering individuals and couples from around the world to find harmony and authenticity in their relationships. With a background in Professional Coaching and Neuro Linguistic Programming, Clayton takes a holistic approach to carefully reconstructing what is truly possible for his clients. Through his work he has revitalized relationships, brought together lost loves, and witnessed clients find their soul mates. Clayton's content has been seen on Fox news magazine, Huffington post, the Goodmen project and he's even had an article featured on The View.