The Metaphor of Me
"Learning to read the language of symbols has a positive effect on your self-image and energy." Caroline Myss
I’ve just been reading a book on Mindfulness. One sentence really struck me.
“Who is the creator of all your self images?”
This got me thinking like this ... If I am the creator of my self-image, then perhaps I am “authoring” myself, writing my own life story with myself as heroine, villain, warrior, orphan or whatever. Perhaps if I become more aware of my Metaphor of Me, I can also choose to be the narrator of a better life story?
Listening to our own self talk can provide us with powerful clues. We can become aware of the language we use about ourselves and what that says about who we believe we are. It is rather like an actor picking up a script and “stepping into character”. Trouble is, we’re not often aware that we’ve typecast ourselves yet again!
Do you ever say things like “Typical. That always happens to me.” You might be casting yourself as the Victim of your story. Or perhaps you catch yourself saying “Onwards and upwards”? That sounds very like the language of a courageous Pioneer.
Sometimes we will catch ourselves using a Metaphor to explain our mental state. “I’m cracking up”, and “I’m on target” are both metaphors. You don’t really mean that you are an earthenware vessel that has been damaged; nor that you are an arrow or even a heat-seeking missile. It's a way of explaining your mental state and presenting an image of yourself through Metaphor.
A couple of years ago, I took up the practice of daily journaling. It’s been very beneficial and very therapeutic “meeting the Self on the page”*. I started noticing a discrepancy between the image I was trying to project to the world and what I actually felt like inside – my inner and felt image of myself. This inner image seemed to consist of mental states, feelings, emotions, injunctions (the “shoulds” and “oughts”), as well as something I can only describe as an internal map of myself.
So what is my Map or Metaphor of me? How can I find it and actually read it?
Opportunities to explore the Metaphor of Self don’t often occur in our lives. Yes, we live in an image conscious society, but our culture doesn’t really support self reflective thinking. We are too busy to stop and pay attention to ourselves. We may even feel a bit frightened to explore something which may seem a bit obscure and hidden. How can we start this discovery?
One safe and proven way to explore the Metaphor of Me is through Stories, especially those legends, myths and traditional tales that have Archetypes like Hero and Heroine, the Child, the Warrior, or the Sage. Stories also help us to encounter the Shadow, the wicked witch, ogre, Trickster, without self-accusation but with self-acceptance, compassion and humour. Stories act like a mirror to help us to recognise ourselves.
When we reflect on our self-image, we begin to understand that the creator of those images is ourselves. We can observe our current Metaphor of Me and start creating a more integrated narrative of our lives. Once we are the Author rather than the hapless character in the Story, we will have more confidence, enjoyment of life, and wellbeing.
More conversations about Stories at www.facebook.com/TheStoryCafe. Come and join in!
Next Story Cafes are on 26 June and 24 July. Email me to reserve your place.
* Reading: The Therapeutic Potential of Creative Writing: Writing Myself by Gillie Bolton; Jessica Kingsley, 1999