ICARUS: Please Help to Share Who We Are and What We Do


This is just a quick post to ask all of my wonderful 10,477 followers who will see this messsage to please click the link below and click Like on the new Facebook page for the not for profit organisation that I have set up with my friend and colleague David Bellamy.

It will make a massive difference for us to have every one of you liking and sharing our page as it will help us achieve our aim of helping as many people as possible in the UK’s uniformed services that are struggling with mental health concerns and don’t know where to turn, have been dropped by other providers or even turned away. Sadly yes this does happen.

So please help us by hitting over 10K likes and just imagine how many people we can reach if you all share the page too, mind blowing possibilities.

Thanks for reading and helping us make a huge difference for so many people that need what we do.

Click below and make a difference

Icarus Online Facebook Page

Simon

Forces & Veterans Mental Health Helpline


It’s been a busy time since before Christmas in my house with a trip to New York to speak for the NYPD Hostage Negotiation Unit and the New York Association of Hostage Negotiators and the FBI/NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force. This month I’m speaking as part of the Seton Hall School of Law in Newark’s Spring 18 Crisis Negotiation Course, to talk about hostage survival.

We also sold our house and found a new one just before I left for New York, so straight after Christmas and New Year, it was all hands on deck to pack up the house ready to move on the 19th January so it’s been a tad crazy, to say the least.

In amongst all this, I have been discussing, planning and beginning the creation of two new initiatives with a very good friend of mine and fellow psychotherapist and hypnotherapist, David Bellamy, read all about his work here: www.davidbellamy.org

Through David, we have connected with three former Generals; Peter Currie, John McColl, and Andrew Graham. We also have onboard former Colonel David Richmond CBE who is about to finish working as Recovery Director at Help 4 Heroes and chairman of the Contact Group.

The first initiative is to update the working structure of the military charity sector. At present it is unregulated, there are no minimum standards of operation required for start-up and ongoing and this has lead to many people being neglected, ignored and falling by the wayside. Over the last ten years, these are the people I have treated for PTSD and all it’s associated conditions and this working group that has come together is in complete agreement that things must change. The irony is that the system is not failing people because of a lack of funding, it is failing them because there is far too much bureaucracy, red tape, and BS.

I am not by any means saying that it’s all bad, there are some great people doing great work for many people, however, as with any system there is always room for improvement and it is now time to implement changes that mean more people can benefit from those positive changes.

Some of the changes being discussed are:

  • a national standard on military charities that require them to furnish proof of certain minimum standards and accessibility in return for which they become approved on a national list.
  • sharing of resources, information, and learning because at present this does not happen. There are 350+ military charities and mostly working in isolation which is crazy considering what could be achieved with total collaboration and cooperation. This would entail national sharing of resources, treatment, response and technical ability.
  • run both initiatives as a not-for-profit organisation

The second initiative which has been easier to get going is a national free phone number for serving and veterans to access advice, help, and guidance on mental health issues.  Ironically, while I was looking into setting something like this up, Lord Dannatt wrote an article in the Daily Mail on 14th January, you can read the full article here, Lord Dannatt’s article in the Daily Mail

In the article, he states that the government had declined the option to set up a 24/7 mental health helpline for serving personnel because it would not be cost-effective. The outcome of their assessment of needs concluded that it would require 40 therapists, cost £2m and attract less than 50 calls per year. This does not make sense because if they needed 40 therapists then they would be expecting far more than 50 calls a year surely?

My own research into costs showed that it is cheap to get started and can be increased as demand requires, so we have set up a freephone number 0800 6890864 for all serving and veterans to call should they have mental health concerns for themselves or someone they know. The company we chose to provide the phone service has given us 90 days free trial and then its £24.99 +VAT per month, we have two therapists available at present and we are building a list of volunteers to help as demand grows. So the cost is far from prohibitive as the government suggested.

Our aim for this is to provide unbiased, impartial, confidential, free advice, guidance and help for people serving in the British Armed Forces and veterans with mental health issues. We no longer want people to feel ashamed, afraid, embarrassed about asking for help, and as we are not connected with the MoD or government in any way we offer complete confidentiality. A large part of what we aim to achieve is to create a network of charities and organisations that we can steer people towards to access the specialist help they need that’s local to them. We also provide counseling, therapy, and coaching as part of our service.

I emailed Lord Dannatt and through his PA I now have a telephone conversation booked for Monday 12th February to discuss what we have done so far, what our future plans are and take advice and guidance from Lord Dannatt to ensure that we at least match his expectations of this sort of service.

I have also been in touch with ITV’s This Morning and my email is with the planning team who do the scheduling so I am keeping my fingers crossed. On top of this, a new friend Stephen Finlayson is helping by speaking to his connections at the BBC who he dealt with for a programme about him from a couple of years ago and also introducing me to people he knows at the CTP, (Careers Transition Partnership) who organise resettlement for people leaving the forces.

We are looking for funding and support across the board, so if you have any ideas or would like to help us in any way then please get in touch via my email simon@simonmaryan.com or via the facebook page which is Forces & Veterans Mental Health Helpline Facebook Page 

Please share this with your friends, family, colleagues etc and help us to spread the word about the service we offer and what we are striving to achieve.

Here’s to a very successful 2018 for all of us.

Simon

Fresh Approach To NLP Training


I have been experimenting for a while and having trialled it out, I am now launching NLP training in the following formats: 1-2-1 and in groups of 2 or a maximum of 3. This means that you get much more attention and focus on the little nuances that can make all the difference for you.

I am offering this as face to face training and also via Zoom. The advantage of the virtual training is that it is cheaper as there are no venue, meal and refreshment costs and no travel and accommodation costs for you. All you need is a notepad, laptop or computer to access Zoom to meet your training partner or partners and get started working together with coaching and feedback from me.

I have tested this out and it works extremely well and very cost effective for everyone. It also takes less time as we can work through the content a bit quicker with less people and you’re getting far more personal attention.

So if you’ve looked at NLP training before but been put off by the cost of training plus the travel, accommodation and food expenses on top, then this is ideal for you.

To enquire about the courses email me on simon@simonmaryan.com and please share this with your friends, family and work mates. You never know, they may just want to train with you.

Simon

 

Mind-Body Matters Series Video #3: How To Set Effective Goals To Set you Up For Success


Welcome to the third instalment in the Mind-Body Matter Series.This one does what it says on the tin, it’s all about how to set goals so that you can be more effective in the process and be more successful at what you want to achieve.

I have just updated a free ebook all about how to create effective goals that set you up to succeed, all you have to do is click on the link and download your free copy.

It has exercises in it that help you out the theory into practice and if you get stuck just drop me a message and we can arrange a time to chat through it and get you moving again.

How To Set Effective Goals To Set You Up For Success

Once you’ve worked your way through the workbook and completed all the exercises, drop me a message and let me know how you got on and if I can help you in any way.

Have fun with it.

Simon

 

Why Are Our Beliefs So Important?


Mainstream psychology and related disciplines have traditionally treated belief as if it were the simplest form of mental representation and therefore one of the building blocks of conscious thought. Philosophers have tended to be more abstract in their analysis, and much of the work examining the viability of the belief concept stems from philosophical analysis.

The concept of belief presumes a subject (a person) and an object of belief (the idea). So, like other propositional attitudes, belief implies the existence of mental states and intentionality, both of which are hotly debated topics in the philosophy of mind, whose foundations and relation to brain states are still controversial.

Beliefs are sometimes divided into core beliefs (that are actively thought about) and dispositional beliefs (that may be ascribed to someone who has not thought about the issue). For example, if I asked you “do you believe tigers wear high heels?” you might answer that you don’t, despite the fact you’ve never had to think about this situation before.

This has important implications for understanding the neuropsychology and neuroscience of belief. If the concept of belief is incoherent, then any attempt to find the underlying neural processes that support it will fail.

Philosopher Lynne Rudder baker has outlined four main contemporary approaches to belief in her controversial book Saving Belief:

Our common-sense understanding of belief is correct – Sometimes called the “mental sentence theory,” in this conception, beliefs exist as coherent entities, and the way we talk about them in everyday life is a valid basis for scientific endeavour. Jerry Fodor is one of the principal defenders of this point of view.

Our common-sense understanding of belief may not be entirely correct, but it is close enough to make some useful predictions – This view argues that we will eventually reject the idea of belief as we know it now, but that there may be a correlation between what we take to be a belief when someone says “I believe that snow is white” and how a future theory of psychology will explain this behaviour. Most notably, philosopher Stephen Stich has argued for this particular understanding of belief.

Our common-sense understanding of belief is entirely wrong and will be completely superseded by a radically different theory that will have no use for the concept of belief as we know it – Known as eliminativism, this view (most notably proposed by Paul and Patricia Churchland) argues that the concept of belief is like obsolete theories of times past such as the four humours theory of medicine, or the phlogiston theory of combustion. In these cases science hasn’t provided us with a more detailed account of these theories, but completely rejected them as valid scientific concepts to be replaced by entirely different accounts. The Churchlands argue that our common-sense concept of belief is similar in that as we discover more about neuroscience and the brain, the inevitable conclusion will be to reject the belief hypothesis in its entirety.

Our common-sense understanding of belief is entirely wrong; however, treating people, animals, and even computers as if they had beliefs is often a successful strategy – The major proponents of this view, Daniel Dennett and Lynne Rudder Baker are both eliminativists in that they hold that beliefs are not a scientifically valid concept, but they don’t go as far as rejecting the concept of belief as a predictive device. Dennett gives the example of playing a computer at chess. While few people would agree that the computer held beliefs, treating the computer as if it did (e.g. that the computer believes that taking the opposition’s queen will give it a considerable advantage) is likely to be a successful and predictive strategy. In this understanding of belief, named by Dennett the intentional stance, belief-based explanations of mind and behaviour are at a different level of explanation and are not reducible to those based on fundamental neuroscience, although both may be explanatory at their own level.

So after all that, how do we define Belief?

Definition: A belief is a Driver (usually Unconscious) we hold and deeply trust about something. They can trigger our Values, Emotions & Behaviours. Beliefs tend to be buried deep within the subconscious. We seldom question beliefs; we hold them to be truths even when there is no solid evidence to support the belief.

A Belief is aroused by an Event e.g. without being aware of it, Andy held the belief that it was ok to openly criticise people. Alienation of his friends caused him to identify, question, and change this belief about what is acceptable to others.

We each behave as though our beliefs are true. What we perceive defines what we believe and this belief or perception is what guides our behaviour. A Belief is a form of judging something to be true, sitting somewhere between opinion and knowledge. Opinion is a subjective statement or thought about an issue or topic, and is the result of emotion or interpretation of facts. Knowledge is learnt expertise, skills, facts and information.

A simple definition for a belief is: A belief is an assumed truth. We create beliefs to anchor our understanding of the world around us and thus, once we have formed a belief, we will tend to persevere with that belief, sometimes even when holding onto that belief is detrimental to us.

Change begins with awareness. Awareness begins with learning about how beliefs and emotional reaction are created by choice.

Some fundamental information about beliefs:

  • They may or may not be based on truth
  • They can also be easily formed out of emotion relating to one or many incidents
  • They may or may not be supported by irrefutable evidence
  • They usually have an emotional attachment, which strengthens belief
  • They do not update themselves automatically and therefore are stored at the initial stage (emotional state, etc.)

There are 3 Basic Types of Beliefs

1. Casual Beliefs: Everyday, practical beliefs that don‘t matter much if we get them wrong such as – I believe it will rain tomorrow

2. Conditioned Beliefs: These come from an assessment of what has happened in the past and then predicts the same results in the future. So we get beliefs such as I‘m no good at this or I can‘t do that. These beliefs, if negative, can stifle our potential and limit our lives.

3. Core Beliefs: Can be positive or negative, lead us to be an optimist or pessimist and decide the answers to such questions as Who am I?, What is life about? What we learn and experience in early life shapes beliefs about the world and ourselves. Core beliefs are like a mental framework that supports our thoughts, beliefs, values and perception. Core beliefs are the deepest of all because what we believe “deep down inside” underpins our value system and our attitudes and opinions. This is one of the reasons why core beliefs are seldom questioned even when they are causing enormous problems within the person who holds that core belief.

Last of all, there is a fourth type of belief that overlaps all three previous types and these are Limiting Beliefs. These can be hugely destructive and even lead us to the point of complete hopelessness and suicide. Now of course, this does not have to be the case and is rare in the grand scheme of things, however, these limiting beliefs that we all have from time to time can really hold us back from achieving what we want to achieve in life.

“Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone.”

Damn right it does.

The one common false belief holding you back is that you think that your past determines who you are. If that were true, no one would ever overcome adversity, benefit from a second chance, or improve themselves through education, self-discipline, or perseverance.

Your past actions, good and bad, can be judged by you and by others. You can learn from your errors as well as your successes. Others can think what they will, but neither your reflections on your past nor others’ opinions of you determine who you are now or in the future.

Believing that your past defines who you are is a toxic fallacy. Consider a circus elephant chained by one leg to a stake in the ground: Why doesn’t the elephant just pull the stake loose and wander away? Because it couldn’t do so when it was young. And so the adult elephant is still restrained—not by the chain, but by its past, or rather, the learned associations from its past (Chain around leg means “can’t walk”).

Cognitive dissonance is the culprit that motivates us to maintain the belief that what we were in the past is all that we ever will be. Leon Festinger originated the concept back in the 1950s. He also proposed the principle of cognitive consistency—that is, that we seek to maintain mental and emotional balance by thinking and acting in compliance with who we think we are. And who do we think we are? The same person we have always been. And so when we attempt to think and act differently, cognitive dissonance sets in.

Here’s the trick— metacognition. That simply means being able to observe one’s own thinking and feelings objectively and unemotionally, so that one can assess what may be “pushing our buttons.” If you want to change but experience cognitive dissonance in the process, metacognition can help you identify dissonance as a normal but unhelpful reaction. With effort you can then master the dissonance and proceed with the changes you want to make, until those changes become the new normal.

Are you chained to the past? If so, that chain exists only in your mind. You can remember and reflect on the past without being defined and limited by it.

What’s stopping you? Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Negative_thinking-limiting-beliefs

Limiting Beliefs are beliefs we have that limit the way we live, or from being, doing or having what we want. We all have limiting beliefs from time to time in our lives, particularly when we have to learn something new that is way out of our comfort zone, beyond our current skill set or just so completely different from anything we’ve done before.

If you speak to any Olympic athlete they will tell you that there have been times when they wanted to quit because at times they felt it was just too hard to achieve that small improvement in performance to throw or jump further, to swim or run faster. They constantly have help from their coaches to reframe these negative thoughts that create limiting beliefs.

I remember very clearly several occasions during my time in basic training to become a Royal Marine where I wanted to quit. There were a couple of key tests that pushed me way beyond my limits at that time and the self induced pressure from that put my mind into a negative spiral of doubt and self criticism. My training team new I could do it, it was purely that stress and pressure had sown that seed of doubt and reframed my usual positive outlook into a limiting belief about these key tests. Just as the Olympic coaches do with their athletes, my training did the same for me and reminded me of everything I had achieved so far and what I was working so hard for, that elusive and exclusive Green Beret. Something I had wanted for a long time and this stirred the fire in my belly and revved up my determination, motivation, commitment and desire to refuse to quit until I had that beret on my head. They reminded me of the Royal Marines Corps Spirit, Values and Ethos which are:

The Commando Spirit

These four elements of the Commando Spirit; courage, determination, unselfishness and cheerfulness in the face of adversity, were etched into my mind during my basic eight months training and are well known to all Royal Marine recruits by the time they complete their Commando training. But these constituents of the ‘Commando Spirit’ are what make the Royal Marines individual ‘commandos’. What shapes the way they work as a team, giving the Royal Marines its special identity, the way they carry their duties, is a second set of group values laid out below. They should seem quite familiar. It is the combination of individual Commando Spirit qualities, coupled with these group values, that together forms the Royal Marine ethos.

Royal Marine ethos = Individual Commando Sprit + Collective Group Values

  • Courage
  • Unity
  • Determination
  • Adaptability
  • Unselfishness
  • Humility
  • Cheerfulness in the Face of Adversity
  • Professional Standards
  • Fortitude
  • Commando Humour

These elements collectively are what have stood the test of time for me and all of my clients that I have worked with over the last twenty years in smashing Limiting Beliefs, these beliefs fall into five main categories:

1. Any ‘feelings’ that you can’t feel: If the description you give yourself or someone else gives you which, when you “try it on,” is something you cannot feel without hallucinating substantially. Eg ‘I feel I have to worry’. Also, where the word ‘feel’ could be replaced by ‘believe’ and the sentence still makes sense, then that could indicate a limiting belief. Eg ‘I feel (believe) people don’t like me’.

2. Negations: Anytime there is a negation describing anything, which might be an emotion eg ‘I’m not clever’, ‘I can’t have a good relationship’

3. Comparatives: Whenever there are comparisons. Eg ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘I can’t make enough money/friends’

4. Limiting Decisions: Whenever a Limiting Belief is adopted, a Limiting Decision preceded that acceptance. A Limiting Decision preceded even the beliefs that were adopted from other people. Eg ‘I should know all the answers’, ‘I should get it right every time’.

5. Modal Operators of Necessity: Words such as have to, got to, must, ought, should.

The Pygmalion effect refers to the phenomenon in which the greater the expectation placed upon people (such as children, students, or employees) the better they perform. The Pygmalion effect is a form of self-fulfilling prophecy. Within sociology, the effect is often cited with regard to education and social class. The principle works in both ways, if you have high expectations then people will generally respond positively and achieve what’s expected, equally on the other side of the coin, if we have low expectations of people then they will respond according to our attitude and behaviour towards them.

Pygmalion_Effect

Some examples of Limiting Beliefs are as follows:

I must stay the way I don’t want to be because__________________________________

I can’t get what I want because______________________________________________

I’ll never get better because_________________________________________________

My biggest problem is______________because_________________________________

I’ll always have this problem because__________________________________________

I don’t deserve_________________because____________________________________

I’m not good enough to_____________________________________________________

NB. It is important to distinguish between statements of fact/truth, and limiting beliefs, for example:

POSSIBLE TRUTH/FACT ————————— LIMITING DECISION

I don’t have any money ———————— I can’t make any money.

I am not a good athlete ———————— I cannot become a good athlete.

I don’t have any qualifications —————- I need qualifications to succeed.

I don’t trust people ——————————- People are not trustworthy

Below is a little exercise that explains how to change or reframe a limiting belief so that you change your beliefs/thinking/attitude/feelings which changes your actions/behaviours which changes the results you achieve in your life.

Beliefs-Behaviours-Results

I would really like you to  consider this exercise and take some time to think about the times in your life where you have doubted yourself and created a limiting belief or had a long held, conditioned limiting belief that held you back from achieving something you really wanted, perhaps not permanently but something that slowed you down and got in your way. Use this exercise to draw out the detail of a limiting belief/s and use this knowledge to reframe it into an empowering belief that drives your life in the direction you want it to go.

EXERCISE:

Every single one of your beliefs is important to you because what you believe determines who and how you are.

I would like you to use this cheat sheet and take some time to think about the times in your life where you have doubted yourself and created a limiting belief/s that have held you back from achieving something you really wanted. Perhaps not permanently but something that slowed you down and got in your way. I recommend writing a description of each belief in as much detail as possible so that you really understand what it is made of, this makes it much easier to identify what you can, want and need to change in order to reframe it and change it into a positive, empowering belief.

Answer the following questions and write your answers down:

  • How does it make you feel when you think about that limiting belief?
  • Can you identify what changed and when, if it did?
  • What limiting belief/s do you have right now? How does that make you feel?
  • What do you want to believe about that situation, person, people etc that would change the outcome to one that is positive for you?
  • How does changing the belief about that situation make you feel?

Part 1: What are My Limiting Beliefs

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Part 2: Now I Know My Limiting Beliefs, What Can I Reframe Them Into Empowering Beliefs

Use this section to reframe and rewrite your old limiting beliefs into new Empowering beliefs that bring a whole new spin, a new energy to them as they transform you and lead your life in a direction that you may have been striving for and now it will happen all by itself as you change your thinking, behaviour and results.

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My final thought is this.

Screenshot 2017-03-28 12.24.49

References:

Bell, V.; Halligan, P. W.; Ellis, H. D. (2006). “A Cognitive Neuroscience of Belief”. In Halligan, Peter W.; Aylward, Mansel. The Power of Belief: Psychological Influence on Illness, Disability, and Medicine. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-853010-2.
Jump up: Baker, Lynne Rudder (1989). Saving Belief: A Critique of Physicalism. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-07320-1.

The Use of Metaphors in Coaching


The word metaphor is from the Greek metapherein, which means to transfer or to change. For the purpose in coaching, I use the term metaphor as a symbol that captures or represents qualities of my client and of the journey he or she is making. Myths, archetypes, natural phenomena, animals, and common objects may all serve as metaphors. By way of distinction, metaphors are not are adjectives, literal descriptions, judgments, or assessments.

Metaphor is the language of archetypes, symbols, and essence. Because it is a language that is representative in nature, it simplifies and focuses perception. Our culture uses metaphors abundantly to capture an idea or essence. For example, we say things like: She has stars in her eyes; we are drowning in data; and, here’s some food for thought.

A a coach, I have found that using metaphors can capture the essence of the client and the coaching issue in a way that descriptions, cannot, because metaphors hold within them worlds of association and information. The pictures that metaphors paint are, indeed, worth a thousand words, because the images stay with us long after descriptions or data have faded from memory.

Application

Although there are countless ways to use metaphors in coaching, I share my experiences with clients using metaphors in two primary application areas: assessment and practice design.

First, an important distinction: I use metaphor to capture and explore the client’s issue, not the client as a person. A metaphor is but a lens through which to see. Just as it focuses perception, it also limits it (Morgan, 1996). If I confuse the metaphor for the person, I obscure from sight the person’s multidimensionality, the full mystery of who he or she is. When used as a lens on the coaching issue, the metaphor provides the coach with useful focus and depth.

Assessment

Metaphors have proven invaluable to me in gaining clarity about my clients and their coaching issues. For example, one of my clients had received feedback that she was seen as aggressive, arrogant, and prone to loss of control over her anger at home and in her workplace. Underneath this behaviour appeared to be an inability or unwillingness to yield, an orientation that she knew best and that her perspective was the right one. The metaphor we developed for the shift the client needed to make was to bring her from a dormant or dead oak tree to a weeping willow.

Another client came to me for leadership coaching. He seemed very together but had received feedback that he didn’t play the game according to the rules of the culture and didn’t connect well with peers and superiors. His superiors, however, thought he had the makings of a good leader. It was difficult at first to get any other impression besides how smooth and together this client seemed. Diagnostically, I used this feeling data” to uncover a metaphor that initially guided the coaching: tarp was the metaphor that surfaced. The shift that this client needed to make was to move from tarp: protective, tightly woven, and invulnerable, to tapestry: permeable, colourful, warm, yet solid.

These images were useful to me diagnostically, because they crystallised and simplified my understanding of my clients’ issues. Perhaps even more important about metaphors, however, is how much information they give back to us about the client issue. The oak to willow image was, first, a useful handle on my initial take. But what I found most amazing is how delving into the image itself could actually deepen my understanding significantly. For example, if we work with the image of oak, what else is true about an oak tree that might be true of this client? The oak holds onto many of its leaves in winter and even in death. What might this client need to let go of? The oak tree is associated with tremendous strength. Might this client be too strong, too forceful, for her own effectiveness? Then look at the weeping willow image. It sways in the wind. What might our client need to let move her? The willow weeps. Might grief be a component of the coaching journey?

Following the same brainstorming process, I began wondering about the tarp, metaphor. What was this image telling me about what I was seeing in this client’s dilemma? Tarp is efficient. This client was smooth, he did his job well, but he sensed that his superiors and colleagues were envious of him. How does that fit with tarp? That somehow they couldn’t relate? Couldn’t get through? Couldn’t see vulnerability? What else about tarp? It is useful when it is raining, but not that interesting to behold. Its texture doesn’t invite us in. What do tarps do that might relate to this client? It covers up, protects. Was this image pointing to the client’s need to raise the cover, go through life with less protection? Was this client efficient at the expense of being engaged in relationships? What is opposite of tarp? Tapestry. What does tapestry have that tarp, doesn’t? Rich texture, colour, a story, relief, warmth, weight. Can it still protect and cover? Yes, but in a different way.

As you can see, these simple images led me to many questions that might never have been explored otherwise, for metaphor is the language of our intuition. At once, it both captures reality and reveals mystery. It mirrors back to us what we already know about our clients’ issues and, yet, also shines a light on what else might be waiting to be discovered.

Practice Design
Metaphors have led me to ideas about practices that my left‑brain might not have revealed. For the first client, the oak‑willow metaphor itself was a very physical one and surfaced my intuition that the client herself might be very physically oriented. Therefore, I gave her the practice of learning aikido to give her a physical way to learn that meeting force with immovability was ineffective. In this case, I shared the metaphor with her and explored the word arrogance in the context the metaphor provided, since that was a major piece of the criticism she had received about herself at work. Arrogance comes from Latin, meaning absence of questioning. I asked her to look at the oak tree as more absolute in its stance and asked her to explore through the willow image where she might need to be more open to questioning her own assumptions or conclusions.

For the second client, the tarp, metaphor led me to develop a practice to help the client shed some of the protection that had been so vital to staying invulnerable. His first practice was a simple one of looking at the world through the eyes of others with whom he had significant contact each day. He was to imagine what they were feeling and to notice how he gathered clues about their reactions to him. He was also instructed to notice when he had a feeling connection to someone and to be as specific as possible in writing about how he thought that happened. As time went on, the metaphors proved invaluable, as I learned how much this client actually feared being in relationships with others and had found strategic ways to manage within them without giving himself away. The outcome metaphor, tapestry, helped me see a way to move forward with this client to help him create and embrace his own tapestry with its own rich colours, warmth, permeability, and stability.

The Metaphor-making Process
Metaphor making is fundamentally an intuitive process and for more intuitive coaches (for example, high Ns on the Myers‑Briggs Type Indicator), metaphors may come naturally and easily. However, I would like to make metaphors available to all coaches who would like greater access to their intuitive wisdom. The following five‑step process for accessing and working with metaphors id a great place to start.

Step 1: Be clear and open. The first step for any coach is to be clear and open when meeting your client. Listen, observe, notice your own internal reactions and what the client is not saying.

Step 2: Describe the client with regard to his or her issue. Bring the client to mind, and visualise them in the domain of life in which they are experiencing difficulty. Think about what they look like, sound like, and feel like to you. Think about their gestures, their posture, the sound of their voice, what they evoke in you when they describe their issue or their words. What three or four adjectives or phrases come to mind? If an image comes to mind at this point, you’ve got your metaphor. But if not, just work on getting a short description. Try not to censor what comes out. You’re done when you have three to four adjectives or phrases that feel like they really capture the client in their struggle.

Step 3: Free associate images with the adjectives. When you picture the client and the adjectives you’ve described them with, what images come to mind? Free associate. Don’t censor these. Note the first one(s) that come to mind. Try to work as little as possible in your rational mind. If nothing comes up, you can scan a few different areas: something from nature, characters from movies or books, myths from any culture, types of transportation, or household objects. Usually, your first images are good ones to work with. It often helps to come up with a ‘from’ image (one which captures the client as they currently relate to the world or their issue) and a ‘to’ image (one which captures the client operating as they would like to).

Step 4: Turn your focus away from the client and fully explore the metaphor. Now that you have your metaphor(s), forget about the client for a minute and simply delve into the images themselves. List all the attributes you can about them, What are the characteristics of your metaphors (for example, tarp and tapestry)? What characteristics distinguish the first image from the second? What would help something transform from the first state to the second? It is helpful to speak these associations out loud with a partner or write them down without worrying about making sense or expressing yourself eloquently.

Step 5: Bring the client back into focus. What did following the metaphor tell you about your client? In what new ways do you see the client and how you might work with them? What are the metaphor’s implications for the self‑observations and practices you will design?

Conclusion:

In working with metaphors, I have found a rich way to assess situations and design practices to help my clients. I have also experienced some lessons learned that I want to share with you.

First, be aware that the metaphor helps you to create a hypothesis about the client’s situation. It is not an absolute. As a coach I cannot claim to know what is best for my client. My job is to offer possibilities to my client. Sometimes the client rejects the possibilities that I offer them, and there is data to be gained from that experience. More metaphors may surface for you. Follow your metaphors confidently but lightly.

Second, to share or not to share?. I don’t suggest that you always share your metaphors with your clients. I don’t always share mine. In deciding to share, base your criteria on what will be useful for the client. In the oak‑to‑willow work, I shared the images and they were useful. In the tarp‑to‑tapestry work, I did not share the images.

I have shared metaphors in a few different ways. Once, I wrote a poem about a client. The metaphors surfaced in the writing. Sharing the poem with the client seemed a natural thing to do, for it opened possibilities for them. Sometimes I ask the client to watch a movie that has the metaphor embodied in a character or situation the movie depicts. I often ask my clients to read books for the same reason. Sometimes we draw the images that show up for us. Sometimes we just talk about them.

Third, if you use and share metaphors that are within your client’s current world, you may run into trouble. Why? Because the client may make it more literal than is useful. Also, you run the risk of swirling in the loop that had them stuck in the first place.

Fourth, the metaphor does not have to work completely to be useful. For example, when I thought of a weeping willow, I thought of grace, flexibility, air, and movement. That was as far as I needed to go with that metaphor as it related to that client. There are other properties of the willow, however, that may not lend themselves to understanding this client’s movement.

Fifth, it helps to talk through your metaphor with another person. I have found that my understanding of my clients and my own approaches deepens with each metaphor conversation I have. I make time to do this and it has proven to be incredibly productive for me as a coach and also as a parent to two young kids.

If you haven’t deliberately used metaphors yet, I highly recommend beginning to practise creating and applying them as often as possible and notice what effect they have on your conversations. Most of all, have fun with it.

Simon