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Metaphor as a therapeutic tool for ruminant thoughts

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In a previous article published in Psychology and Mind, I talked about the defusion of distorted, deeply intrusive and usually ruminative thoughts. And the technique of cognitive defusion as a therapeutic strategy to avoid taking those thoughts literally. I invite you to read it.

Here we will continue to address those intrusive thoughts, which cause us discomfort, disturb us and can even make our lives bitter, through cognitive defusion techniques, whose function is, essentially, to put into practice question certain products of the mind, establish doubts about the veracity of one's own thoughts. These contextual psychotherapy techniques frequently use metaphors as a way to promote a more meaningful defusion for our patients.

Professionals use metaphors and allegories to make change efforts, in some way, more playful. An effective defusion through metaphors can really change the way of thinking of those who live believing that their negative, irrational, dysfunctional thinking defines them as people.

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  • Related article: "Therapeutic Defusion of distorted thoughts: what is it and how does it work?"

Defusion metaphors

Frequently, we hear in the words of our clients, figures of speech with which they try to describe their mental suffering. In some forms of modern therapies and evidence of effectiveness, deliberate use of metaphors is made. Metaphors, like other elements of cognitive defusion techniques, are used in the direction of teaching that, in reality, It is not necessary to change those thoughts that can disturb us to move forward and develop a life satisfactory.

Actually, Defusion techniques usually give rise to new ways of focusing, of narrating a thought, because defusion is not a denial that changing a thought does not have its benefits, it simply demonstrates that our Distressing or counterproductive thoughts do not need to disappear for us to be able to take charge of our lives in an adaptive way. and effective.

Like any technique, some metaphors used for the cognitive defusion of ruminative and intrusive thoughts will have a greater therapeutic impact on some clients than on others. In any case, in general, the use of defusion metaphors positively influences three fundamental axes of experiential acceptance and cognitive and behavioral changes.

  • You may be interested: "Cognition: definition, main processes and operation"

Strategies to achieve changes

These three strategies or therapeutic axes help to identify the areas of clinical interest on which there is significant consensus about its significance, such as motivation, thinking, relationship or flexibility psychological; and which can be acted upon through therapeutic procedures that include the use of metaphors.

  • A first strategy consists of helping the client discern (functional analysis) the relationship between what he does and the problematic consequences he experiences.
  • The second of these strategies is to focus on the client's competence to learn to maintain an observational distance, without avoidance behaviors, to understand how those thoughts, emotions and sensations emerge that cause significant discomfort.
  • Finally, the third strategic axis consists of developing the ability to clarify and differentiate what is important for their life and what is not and what would be the concrete actions that will help follow the direction that suits our client.

We must always keep in mind that there is no “metaphor therapy”, but rather its use in psychotherapy helps to establish situations of congruence. with the context of the problem and can encourage the client to adopt different strategies than those they had been deploying in response to their thoughts. ruminants. Therapeutic metaphors make it easier for the person to learn something new and useful in the face of the conflicts that have brought them to our consultations.

Experiential exercises as metaphors

In experiential exercises in psychotherapy, we suggest different types of activities with the client in the direction of coping with the problem that disturbs you, and that we hope will be beneficial for the process therapeutic. The appropriate metaphors to use as sources in experiential exercises are those created in dialogue with the therapist.

However, in the exercises that we agree upon between patient and therapist, already developed metaphors can be used that also serve to place the person we are treating in the present. That is, they are capable of collapsing the nostalgic rumination of the past and the anticipatory rumination of anxiety. Metaphors are a good connection bridge with the thoughts that we need to accept and the actions that can modify them., so that the client moves in the direction he wants.

The experiential exercises that we can develop as metaphors can reveal to us the way we interact with our problematic thoughts, rather than focusing on the content of those cognitions and the disturbing preoccupation with modify them. Metaphors must allow personalization and, consequently, make the client obtain a more intense experience that allows them to take distance from ruminative, obsessive and intrusive thoughts, and from the therapist, opportunities to more constructively address their reactions.

Final considerations

To conclude, I want to emphasize the importance of defusion metaphors having the property of induce to establish a language, a new way of speaking, which offers the opportunity to disengage from repetitive thoughts. Like other forms of defusion of distorted thoughts, it is advisable to take advantage of the therapeutic potential that metaphors make available to our intervention strategies; both those that can be generated in the therapeutic relationship, as well as those that are usually part of the Toolbox of the psychotherapist.

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