Using Metaphors: A Journaling Exercise

seaport during daytime


The key to understanding all the astonishing puzzle solutions created by the human Imagination, every human insight or innovation for navigating the wild world, boils down to the little concept This is like that.

-Martha Beck, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World

Sometimes when we are trying to solve a problem or deal with an issue in our lives, we come at it from a purely linear, left-brain perspective.  How can I fix this?  What is the answer?  I’m sure if I rack my brain long enough I will figure this out!  This can be a self-defeating, limited approach.  But there is another way, a more playful approach to trying to figure things out than with mere left-brain logic.  Instead of looking at things head-on, we can engage the power of the right brain through metaphor by juxtaposing two seemingly dissimilar things, in this case the issue we are currently dealing with and any random object, and writing about how they are “like” each other.

Let me give you an example.  Maybe you are trying to figure out what your true work is in the world.  Juxtapose that puzzle with, say, a tree.  How is a tree like my true work?  You might write something like:

My work needs to feel deeply rooted in my authenticity.  From this stable foundation I will be able to grow tall and strong, branching out in many directions.  What can I do to make money that feels deeply rooted in who I am?

And you could go on and on from there, exploring this puzzle in your life from the perspective of how it is like a tree.  Using metaphor in our journal writing opens and expands our sense of what’s possible.  It also has a certain level of playfulness to it and encourages creativity and new connections which you may not have considered before.

With that, take our your journal and a pen and get comfortable.  Close your eyes and let your breathing become slow and steady.  Release any tension from your body and continue breathing in stillness for a few moments, allowing yourself to come into the present moment.  When you feel centered and ready to tap into your inner wisdom, blink your eyes open.  Think of a situation, a problem or puzzle in your life that you are trying to solve.  Once you have chosen one, choose an object to use as a metaphor from the following list and begin writing.  My situation is like a ____________ because…  Don’t overthink.  Let your metaphors be playful, silly, quick to arise.  Keep your pen moving and write down whatever occurs to you.  Sometimes a seemingly random connection will bring a deeply profound insight.  Work with just one metaphor or, if you feel like you have tapped one out, move on to another one.  Continue playing on paper for 20 or 30 minutes.










Once you have finished, go back through what you wrote and underline anything that feels particularly resonant for you.  Use that information to help guide your inspired action this week or as a prompt for further writing.


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