Metaphor opens a door to deeper understanding of yourself and other people – and Clean Language is the key to unlocking people’s metaphors.

We use metaphor easily and naturally to communicate complex ideas, and to understand other people’s ideas from their metaphors. It’s as if metaphor is the native language of the mind, particularly the unconscious mind.

The word ‘metaphor’ here simply refers to those times when we think and speak of one kind of thing in terms of another kind of thing. If the speaker says, or implies, “It’s like…” or “It’s as if…” then the next thing you’ll hear is probably a metaphor.

Great speeches and great pieces of writing are rich in powerful, memorable metaphors. Examples abound, such as Shakespeare’s ‘All the world’s a stage’. But in fact metaphors are much more common than that. Academic research has shown that we use between four and six metaphors per minute in English, almost all of them unconsciously. That’s because the metaphors underpin the way we think, and bubble to the surface in the words we use.

Clean Language uses the casual metaphors that occur naturally to reveal the hidden depths of our thought processes. It brings thoughts we have not been conscious of into the light of awareness, where they can be shared and enjoyed. For example, have you ever had a ‘hunch’ about something important, but been unable to convince your colleagues to follow it because you couldn’t back it up? With Clean Language, that ‘message from your subconscious’ could come with full documentation!

Clean Language is a way of finding out about others at profound level, greatly enhancing communication in diverse groups. While metaphors may often seem to be shared (e.g. ‘We’re a winning team’) the details of each person’s metaphors are unique. Scratch the surface using Clean Language and you’ll discover the surprises behind a person’s words (e.g. Is that team a football team, a Formula 1 team, or a quiz team?). When everyone in a group is enabled to share their metaphors, a new level of joint understanding and focus can emerge.

Using Clean Language with metaphor creates a bridge between the conscious and unconscious mind, enhancing self-awareness and self-understanding. This provides a powerful method to help people to change, for example in therapy, coaching or counselling, with no need to consciously explore unpleasant past experiences. Becoming aware of the metaphors around a difficulty encourages a different kind of thinking, which can lead to profound life transformation.

To find out more about Clean Language, explore other artciles on this site or read Clean Language: Revealing Metaphors and Opening Minds by Wendy Sullivan and Judy Rees.

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