Gut Instinct: The Influence of Metaphor in Everyday Conversations

Welcome to our featured therapist Blog Spot where this month we feature Adrian Ward, a psychodynamic counsellor whose work is particularly informed by Jungian concepts of understanding the mind regarding unconscious influences on our ways of being. In this post Adrian explores the influence of metaphor in everyday conversations which can help to make sense of more complex situations, and, in this specific case, shed light on the nature of the counselling relationship.

Adrian Ward Psychodynamic Psychotherapist

Adrian Ward Psychodynamic Psychotherapist

A friend recently told me that he and his partner had taken part in The British Gut Project (www.britishgut.org). The project seeks to map microbial content of the intestines of people in Britain with a view to improving lifestyle choices as well as the health of the digestive systems of the participants. He was surprised at the marked difference between his and his partner’s gut flora, even though they live together and consume largely the same food and drink.

So why am I writing about intestinal health on a counselling and psychotherapy blog? Well, firstly, it felt like the objectives of the project are broadly in parallel with those of counselling and psychotherapy. We aim, as therapists and clients, to investigate our internal world, to acknowledge, log and map the emotional inhabitants therein. We then try to make sense of this information to improve our understanding of ourselves and others. We also consider how we are influenced by external factors. This might enable us to make different choices as to how we might use or react to these dynamics.

Further than this, I was struck be the previously mentioned surprise my friend felt when acknowledging the fact that his “internal world” was markedly different to his loved one. It evoked a feeling that many people coming in to, or contemplating, therapy feel. The difference of their internal world, their emotions and reactions, are often not understood or even given credence by those closest to us. It is felt that their friends, family and loved ones assume that the client’s emotional reactions will be the same. This may be due to having similar upbringings and experiences, but regardless of the reasons why, can leave us feeling isolated and incongruous amongst the people we hope to feel closest to.

This can lead to us hiding, or disguising, our emotions, for fear that they are unusual and shameful, and this can lead to significant emotional distress, anxiety and depression. Therapy gives us a chance to voice our feelings, and to have someone actively explore this emotional topography with us. It can give us a voice and a more solid foundation on which the structure of our future selves can be built.

I guess that this train of thought was activated in me by a seemingly unrelated discussion, made me think about how my way of working (I am a psychodynamic practitioner who works to a large extent with metaphor in order to inform understanding and empathy) might be of benefit to clients, to why someone might feel therapy with me might be a valid endeavour. The capacity to take seriously, and explore, anything a client might bring to a given session allows us to access our unconscious processes, and give voice to parts of our psyche which are usually silent.

The act of feeling acknowledged and understood can have a beneficial effect on our mental health; and allow us to live happier, more fulfilled, lives. We need to explore the unknown, or obscured, to be able to travel down the desired path of our future.

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