Metaphors describe one thing in terms of another and give form to things which are otherwise difficult to describe. Suppose, for example, someone says that trying to stay in control is creating a ‘tension all around the top half of my body, like big iron armour crushing inwards’, we get a very graphic sense of how this person is experiencing their situation from the metaphor they have used.
Metaphors are not simply a figure of speech; they play a fundamental role in the way we understand ourselves and the world around us. It seems that we actually structure our thinking through metaphor, although we are not usually consciously aware of doing so. When we shine a light on the metaphors that we naturally use to describe our experience we often reveal a richness of information that would otherwise have remained hidden. These metaphors can be an almost magical way of getting to know ourselves better.