Word Or Two About Words

By metaphor, I refer to one form of communication (along with stories, tales, and anecdotes) in the story genre in which an expression is taken from one field of experience and used to say something about another field of experience. To describe a bully as being as angry as a bear with a sore paw does not mean the bully and bear are literally alike but that the description, phrase, or story about the bear and its demeanor communicates an imaginative image of the bully and his or her behavior. It is this symbolic association that gives metaphors their literary and therapeutic potency.

Metaphors in therapy and teaching are designed as a form of indirect, imaginative, and implied communication with clients, about experiences, processes, or outcomes that may help solve the child's literal problem and offer new means of coping. The therapist may talk about what a person needs to do to protect himself from a bear with a sore paw as a means for managing the circumstantial or emotional issues the listening child is encountering with a bully. Such metaphors may include stories, tales, anecdotes, jokes, proverbs, analogies, or other communications. Some of these different tools and techniques for communicating in metaphors with children are expanded in Chapter 3. What distinguishes therapeutic metaphors from other tales, stories, or anecdotes is the combination of (a) a purposefully designed, symbolic communication and (b) a specific healing or therapeutic intention.

It is not my objective in this book to be too pedantic about the differential characteristics of stories, tales, and anecdotes. In fact, most times I will use the terms synonymously. Where I employ the words metaphor, healing story, or therapeutic tale, it is with the purpose of emphasizing that this is neither just a casual, anecdotal account nor an inconsequential tale such as we may relate at a party. By metaphor or healing story I refer to a deliberately crafted story that has a clear, rational, and ethical therapeutic goal. It is, in other words, a tale that is based on our long human history of storytelling, grounded in the science of effective communication, demonstrating specific therapeutic relevance to the needs of the client, and told with the art of a good storyteller.

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