NLP, Metaphors, Health

Filed Under (NLP life coaching) on 01-01-2018

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NLP, metaphors, health. What’s the connection? Many people say that the older they get, the more slowly their ailments heal, or the worse their health gets. Others say that their injuries never fully healed. How do those people encourage and discourage healing without realizing it?  

The NLP answer lies in their metaphors for health.

First of all, what you think and say to yourself matters.  Energy follows thought. Therefore energy flows where attention goes.  Attention = concentration = energy. You get what you concentrate on.  If you concentrate on pain, you’ll get pain.  Statements like “I have a head/tooth/backache” strengthen your concentration on the ache, therefore affirm that you ‘have’ the ache. The ache is a rather static thing which you ‘have’ and can do little or nothing about.  The mind and body are one inseparable system, hence the mind plays an active part in (not) healing the body.

What you say to yourself matters. Hence if you say things like

  • my back is killing me
  • put your back into it
  • I can’t back out of this
  • break a leg [= quaint British slang which means good luck!]
  • it’s doing my head in
  • this (situation / issue) is a headache
  • pain in the neck/butt
  • (don’t) break your neck [meaning don’t hurry]
  • it costs an arm and a leg
  • this is  getting under my skin
  • you make me sick
  • this is / you are getting on my nerves
  • it’s breaking my heart
  • they’re bleeding me dry
  • it’s / you’re making my blood boil

NLP confirms that those and many similar metaphors will certainly affect your health.

War for balance? How does that work?

Medicine should help us regain balance. Yet at least in the Western world many people play (and condition others to play) to the metaphor of medicine as war. People often describe health as successful defence against constant attacks from the outside. We’re encouraged to fight germs. Tonics / vitamins / potions / medicines can bolster the body’s defences. Recovery = battling the illness, fighting the disease. You may likewise suffer from a sudden attack of illness.

Pharmaceutical companies advertise the vast arsenal of drugs in the medical armoury in evocatively military ways. Some drugs are described as painkillers, others as magic bullets, and they’re all there to fight / kill symptoms.  The immune system is often called an army or a killing machine.  We fight a war against cancer and other illnesses and diseases. Likewise we die after long-term battle with illness / disease. And all this happens despite research showing that we have a hand in creating these conditions – or a foot in the enemy camp.  We’ll certainly never win a battle when we fight for both sides at once.

Metaphors have consequences.  

What are the consequences of metaphors of this kind for any person who uses them so naturally that s/he doesn’t realize it day over day, year over year? How do these metaphors influence our thinking?  They draw the attention to disease, not to health. They encourage us to look for answers and solutions outward, not inward.  As a result this thinking encourages our dependence on health professionals, treatments, and drugs – and makes us give them permission to control our power over healing. We may become dissociated from our health. We may also become separated from parts of our bodies or even view them as enemies. And as a consequence of the metaphor of war we may rely too much on the ability of medicine to repair the damage with drugs and treatments…

Illness can teach us a great deal.  Many people often try to batter it into submission with drugs without understanding its message or our reaction to it. But the battering approach has consequences too. The enemy may come back stronger, the message may come shouting more loudly, and the drugs will damage our bodies.

How can we use metaphors for health in different ways?

How could the metaphor of martial arts or karate lead you to maintain health gracefully, to use your opponent’s force to defeat him?  Similarly, would you like to have a black belt in good health? Health as balance is a useful metaphor. So what are the consequences of this metaphor?  We live in balance with other organisms and nature.  Illness is a sign that we are out of balance and must pay attention to regaining balance. Illness likewise points out the weaknesses in our balance. Attention to regaining balance will make our balance stronger. How you think of health will therefore influence what illness means to you and what you do when you’re ill.  So what’s your more useful metaphor for health?

And finally…

The essence of NLP coaching is to help the coached person find / restore balance in all aspects of life.  Many people rightly argue that health is the most important aspect of life, because if we don’t have health, we don’t have life.  If you would benefit from someone impartial to your life to help you find / restore balance in health and other aspects, let’s talk about it.

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