What Is the Purpose of Metaphor (In Personal Development)? - Kim Marie Coaching

What Is the Purpose of Metaphor (In Personal Development)?

You might be wondering what’s the purpose of metaphor when you’re reading a women’s empowerment blog. I want to show you why metaphor can be so important for helping us to understand more of ourselves, which of course is a big part of how we move forward on this path to empowerment. 

In this article, I’m going to talk about what the purpose of metaphor is, particularly in personal development, where we can find metaphor to work with, and how we can use metaphor in our lives to continue to grow, expand, and become more empowered. 

What Is The Purpose of Metaphor?

Metaphor is a tool used in literature and storytelling to compare two things, almost making one thing another by symbolically representing it. Metaphor helps us to see something from a new perspective. The things being compared may seem unrelated, but metaphorically speaking, we can see they actually have a connection. 

Metaphor in personal development specifically is an opportunity for us to see ourselves in different ways, almost through the eyes of different perspectives.

I often talk about the phrase, “as above, so below.” We could look at that and say, “as macrocosmically, so microcosmically” and vice versa. 

We see this incredible reflection of life itself within us. This is one of the most amazing things that I find about human beings, and also in looking at life metaphorically or archetypally. This is so powerful because human beings have all within us. We have the plants, the animals, the minerals, the sky and the earth inside of our being.

A metaphor can be a symbol. Maybe it’s the tree or the sky or a cloud. We hear things like, “She was stuck in a cloud of despair.” She wasn’t literally stuck in a cloud of despair, but we sure know what that means when someone says we’re stuck in a cloud of despair. 

The comparison and the power of recognizing the relationship can be amazing, and that’s one way it might be used in storytelling. 

In personal development, what we do with metaphor is begin to explore, “How can I see myself in these other things? Where does that cloud of despair live in me? How does it express itself in me? How does it show up?”

We can also see examples of metaphor in stories like the hero’s journey. We have this concept of a hero’s journey guiding us forward, and we relate to the story on some level within the inner journey of our Soul life. 

We can see metaphor in the concept of an object like, “She was a block of ice.” She’s not literally a block of ice, but there’s this understanding that she must be really cold.  

This is the power of metaphor. There’s something in them that creates an image, an experience, or a relationship that speaks to the Soul.

Metaphors help us with our personal development work. They help us with our Soul work. We begin to see ways in which we relate to the world around us, and the way the world around us can relate to our inner experience, as well as how it’s expressed to us through these stories or physical objects or experiences. 

Where We Can Look for Metaphor to More Deeply Understand Ourselves and Life?

One of my absolute favorite ways to learn from metaphor is through the Wisdom of Fairy Tales

These stories have so much within them both metaphorically, if we look at them as a metaphor for our own Soul’s journey, and archetypally if we look at the characters.

The slight difference is looking at comparing or contrasting two things using a metaphor to symbolically represent something else, whereas an archetype is like an original blueprint. We all know what a mother archetype is. We all know what an archetype of a tree is. We have a picture of what it’s supposed to look like, or what it’s supposed to have, or what’s part of it, or how it behaves. 

When it’s a metaphor, we become trees. We don’t literally have roots growing into the ground, and yet we do have roots. I use the support of archetypes and metaphors very significantly in my Solace program for helping us to come home to ourselves. 

In the idea of looking at stories as archetype, and also Nature, we are the water, we are the trees, we are the birds. How are we these things?  You can ask yourself that question. You don’t have to ask someone else. Explore them for yourself.

“How does the tree live in me?”

“How does the water live in me?” 

“How do I express like water? Am I flowing or am I damned up?”

I’m not literally flowing out as a puddle on the ground and I’m not literally damned up. But when I say things in those terms, you know what I’m talking about. This is the power of metaphor in personal development. 

We can also find metaphor in objects. What does it mean to say, “He was stiff as a lamp?” There are objects we can relate things to.

We can also take something from history and metaphorically compare it to something going on today that can come in many different examples. 

If we want to look at slavery as a symbol of something, we can say, “He was enslaved to his work.” It’s not the same as the oppressive experience of slavery, but we know what slavery means. If we had a partner that came to us and said, “You’re enslaved to your work” versus “You work too much,” which one’s going to sound more powerful? Which one’s going to hit us harder? Which one’s going to resonate more on the Soul level? 

That’s the power of metaphor. We can find it in so many places. 

I also love looking at every sacred text for metaphor. 

Before I knew metaphor and archetype, it was hard for me to consider sacred texts like the Bible. I have a Christian background. I’ve expanded significantly to include lots of different wisdom traditions in my own spiritual practice. The Bible was difficult for me because so often I found the preachers wanting to literalize everything, and it didn’t make sense to me. When I knew and understood how to look at things metaphorically, instead of literally, everything expanded, all the stories and the details. 

How We Can Use Metaphor To Feel More Empowered

I believe all of us, all of Nature, all of existence, are connected on a certain level inexplicably.

I don’t profess to have all the answers, but because of a sense of connection, we have the capacity to relate to everything in life. When we work with that idea, metaphor comes alive. 

We can find out more about ourselves through our own inner tree. I encourage you to take a look at the details of my Solace journey because I relate to the archetype of the tree, the stages of the journey and how we start with the roots. Then there’s the trunk, there’s the branching out, and the blossoming and fruiting. These are stages of our own development which we can relate through looking at a tree and looking at how it metaphorically lives within us. This is how we use a metaphor in our day to day lives. 

We can see metaphor in stories. We can read a story and look at how it relates to our life without it literally representing our life, just knowing, “Ah, yes, I had a similar trauma, difficulty, challenge, success and victory.” We start to see this in the picture of things and we’re able to offer a different kind of compassion toward life, and a different kind of understanding. 

We start to see more of life within us, and ourselves within more of life.

I’d like to leave you with a challenge. Consider how today or tomorrow, you can start to look at where things in your life are a metaphor for you. 

How are you the cup of coffee you drink in the morning from how it’s made to how it ends up in your cup to how you drink it? 

How is that living in you? 

Are you getting ground up like a coffee bean? 

Do you feel like life is draining you, like emptying the cup? 

Think about it. It could be different for everyone. It doesn’t matter. There’s not one version.

We can all relate to a metaphor in a different way, depending on our own experience. 

Ask yourself: 

How are you the cup of coffee? 

How are you the story you read from the beginning to the end, and all of the adventures and characters within it? 

How does an animal like a bear live in you from the way they behave, to the activities, structure and ways they’re seen? How is that living in you? We hear the term for mothers, “Mama bear.” We know what that means. We have a sense of that. 

How are you the sky, from the clear blue sky to the cloudy gray raining sky? Think about how these are in you. 

I challenge you to explore these images. You might be surprised at how much you can begin to know yourself and explore the language of the Soul when you see yourself in metaphor. 

Enjoy the fun. Enjoy the challenge and leave a comment. Let me know what you think.

For a video version of, What Is the Purpose of Metaphor (In Personal Development), watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acTL0HC_DsM

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