Puppets Dolls And Toys As Metaphor

Cath, the astute mother of ten-year-old Tim, recently told me a nice, illustrative story of how she used a toy metaphorically. Tim was a keen and capable young soccer player, but after his team lost the national final—despite neither team's scoring a goal—Tim began awakening in the night, screaming out loud, and going into his parents' bedroom, disturbing them. One night Cath led him back to his room, picking up a jigsaw puzzle from the family room on the way through. She sat at Tim's bedside, spread the pieces out on a tray, and said, "Sometimes when we have a problem, it is like a jigsaw. There may be pieces everywhere that don't seem to make sense. When we put them in the right places, we can solve the problem and see it for what it is." Together, mother and son sat on the bed solving the puzzle.

The next morning, over breakfast, Tim explained to his mother that his state team had played poorly in the national final, leaving the weight on his shoulders as goalie. Conversely, he had played his best game ever—not allowing a single ball to sneak passed him. As the opposing team accepted the trophy, their coach made a speech in which he said the trophy should really be Tim's as he was the player of the day and would undoubtedly go on to be a national champion. Tim began to have nightmares, constantly worrying, "But what if I let a goal through one day?" And this was why he was awakening, screaming in the night.

Following the nocturnal jigsaw solving and his discussion ofwhat had happened, he declared to his mother, "Only I can help myself." "Then what do you need to do to help yourself?" she replied. Tim talked to his coach, changed positions, began to enjoy his soccer again, and was soon sleeping well.

Cath illustrated nicely how the use of aids, toys, and games, combined with one or two simple, presuppositional questions (i.e., questions that presuppose an outcome in contrast to asking why a behavior is occurring), can be used metaphorically to help resolve a problem.

Similarly, teachers and therapists can use puppets, dolls, and toys to structure and communicate outcome-oriented stories. This is a different process from using them diagnostically to interpret the psy-chodynamic symbolism of childhood play. In metaphor therapy, the stories acted out by the puppets, dolls, or toys will (a) identify the problem, (b) communicate means for resolving the problem, (c) model the types of skills and resources necessary for such resolution, and (d) offer a potentially attainable outcome. In Chapters 14 and 15 I will explore how to structure such outcome-oriented metaphors— whether communicated verbally through books, videos, drama, puppets, toys, or other aids.

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