The Use of Metaphor in Coaching


The right brain is generally considered to have a more holistic capacity for organizing information and tend to be 'bigger picture' oriented. In contrast, the left brain will zero in on the more precise details. The right brain is also considered to be the female side of the brain, whereas the left brain is the masculine side of the brain. When a client is 'stuck' on a challenge he or she faces, the use of metaphor can rally the right side of the brain to consider an issue or a problem in a new way.

'Metaphor' is taken from the Greek language and means 'to carry something across'. It is a story with powerful undercurrents of meaning that undercuts our natural propensity to be 'cynical' about a solution directly offered.

For example, a client was struggling with a conflict she was having with indecision. She could not decide whether she should do an animal husbandry course, even though she had fantasized about working with animals all her life. The use of a metaphor about a girl who was able to overcome her fear of horses to rise one brave the client the subconscious impressions of courage, overcoming an obstacle and a fear, breaking through a limitation and jumping over hurdles. This type of story has a powerful effect on the subconscious and right brain installing new ways of looking at possibilities and claiming positive resources. These meanings are then 'transported across' as pertinent to the dilemma my client was facing without having to first bypass the inner gatekeeper — the left brain. Attempting to work with direct confrontation with a left brain analysis of the indecision would have been far less effective than engaging with the power of the subconscious impressions bestowed upon the client through the use of a powerful metaphor.

The use of metaphor as a coaching tool in situations where there is strong resistance or a deeply ingrained pattern is a helpful way to achieve major breakthroughs. The creation of 'flexible thinking' around situations enables the client to have new perceptions and new awareness about the choices available to them. Opening up the right side of the brain is a way of engaging with potential and creative solutions. This is especially potent for someone who tends to take a linear or rational approach to problem solving. The use of metaphor is also a way of bypassing the 'gatekeeper' which is the inner cynic. This is a part that often adheres to a belief that does not need to serve the client but keeps the client safe from fear of change. Metaphors can restore the client's flexibility, faith and strengthen the pool of inner resources.

Lisa M Fitzpatrick