I’m Like a “Pain au Chocolat.” How About You?
Are you feeling a heaviness today? Maybe woke up in a “funk?” It may be hard to describe, but you know something feels off. Shoulders start slouching, feet feel like lead, steps are slower. You aren’t exactly angry or unhappy or disappointed. Maybe a combination of the three?
How can you explain it when your friend asks, “How are you?”
What do you write about in your journal when the only word that comes to mind is “meh?”
How do you respond to your child who wonders, “Are you sad, Mommy?”
Finding a word picture gives clarity to muddled emotions.
Why is clarity important? We gain understanding which gives us hope to move forward. Confusing, undefined emotions often add to a sense of unrest, dissatisfaction, and lack of joy.
Our emotions are housed in the wordless, right hemisphere of our brain. How can we expose them so that the language centers on the left side can talk about them and find a way forward? Metaphors and word pictures are perfect tools to uncover hidden emotions.
Use your senses to seek out word pictures that help describe your current emotions.
I feel trapped like the security bars on the window, unable to escape.
I feel like that one small, yellow flower growing in the dry, dusty lot. I have no support around me, and somehow I’m still surviving.
I feel like the one pain au chocolat that I picked out was sans chocolat. I feel cheated of something I wanted.
The neverending wedding drums echo my swirling thoughts.
The unceasing honking of horns remind me of all the hardships that have been coming my way.
My daughter’s laughter feels light like bubbles. Life is good.
The sweet smell of jasmine from my neighbor’s garden cheered me like the conversation I just had with a friend.
The stench of the overflowing dumpster suffocates me, similar to how I feel conversing with my difficult landlord.
The sizzling onion smell soothes me and fills me with anticipation as to what comes next.
What are the benefits of using a word picture or a metaphor?
1. Metaphor Leaves Space.
A picture isn’t the complete story, so more can be imagined. Maybe you are grieving over a relative’s death. “Sadness” is how you’re feeling, but that word doesn’t quite capture your full demeanor. Comparing your sadness to a slow sunset conveys the feeling of a loved one’s fading, the patience of change as the colors blend into another, and the emotion of loss as it disappears.
2. Metaphor takes into account difference and nuance.
We might both use the word “discouragement,” but the capacity of the word is deep with many layers.
Two friends, over tea, might admit that they are discouraged. One waited all day in a line at the post office to pick up a package. Not easy! But then, the other friend slowly conveyed that her discouragement stemmed from a year of infertility.
The word “discourage” couldn’t fully sum up this woman’s affliction. Maybe a word picture could help these two friends better understand the other’s experience, so that they can appropriately care for one another.
3. Metaphor Invites More Conversation.
It’s hard to know what to say when someone says that they are depressed.
We might be tempted to quickly give advice to silence the awkwardness, when it would be better for the hurting one to communicate more what they are feeling. Encourage them to talk more using word pictures.
What does it feel like to be you? Are you drowning in a dark, rushing river? Suffocating in a metal room? Feel trampled on by a flock of sheep? Or gliding freely like a soaring stork? Word pictures invite deeper conversation and understanding, so that we can move forward and see beyond our current circumstances.
(Ideas about the benefits of metaphor gleaned from Spurgeon’s Sorrows by Zack Eswine.)