I have just finished reading a great book, a lovely book, with a HORRID title, but you cannot have everything. You will understand why I have put certain phrases in Italics if you read the book, or read the bit at the end of this Blog.
I will tell a story from the book: “One of Erickson’s clients was an alcoholic. Erickson told this man a bit about the humble cactus, how the plant conserves water and can survive for up to three years in the desert without rainfall. He then told the man to go to the local botanical gardens to observe cacti.
Erickson never heard from this man again. Many year’s later, after this client had died, the man’s daughter visited Erickson to tell him that her father had been sober since the day he went to the botanical gardens.”
I was chatting to a friend from Transition Chichester yesterday and we were talking about how you get the message across, how tough it is to change how people see things, and then change their behaviour. Of course I should have known I would then find an example of how easy it is to change behaviour, one’s own or other people’s, it is easy if we only knew how to do it.
It seems to me that if we imagine that changing people’s behaviour is difficult then everything we do will be confirming how difficult it is. But if we imagine that changing people’s behaviour is easy, if only we knew how to do it, then we would be constantly looking out for the easy way and every now and then find it, and then everything would be easy.
The book I have just finished is about Metaphor. The author, James Geary, is saying we live our lives through metaphor, and by changing the metaphor we change who we are and therefore what we do.
Looking back, I remember how easy it was for me to stop smoking when I read Allen Carr‘s The Easy Way to Stop Smoking. My metaphor changed. Actually, the book has a few metaphor changes and the more you change the easier it gets to stop. One metaphor he changes is that related to addiction, because you are invited to believe that the addiction is nothing, it is insignificant. I adopted this and found I had almost no withdrawal symptoms. But I think the biggest change in metaphor was seeing smoking as just ugly and smelly.
I think one big metaphor I would like to change is feeling we are still at school. That there are right ways of doing things, things we must do and things we mustn’t do, and by when and how. At work there are things that seem as if they ‘have to be done’, instead of things we want to do. Maybe we are so far away from the natural way of living that we forget that we can just be who we are, that we can just be with people and not do much. That we can just go for a walk, even without a dog. That we can get up at 4 in the morning just to see the sunrise.
I would be more convinced of the need for the school/factory metaphor if I felt that at least now things do get done, get done well and on time, but they don’t. The one metaphor that I learned from my time with some aboriginal people in Australia was that it is possible to live without the sense of owning everything, or even anything.
I think that is the biggest metaphor change the planet needs, it is an orchestra and we are only one small group of players, who all think they are conductors.
The book I referred to is called I is an Other. I think James Geary offered that title to be one of the most challenging he could find for the life as a Metaphor. But to make it a bit easier for us his subtitle is ‘The secret life of metaphor and how it shapes the way we see the world.’