Trapped In A Web Of Anxiety
The other day, I was chatting with a friend who was feeling anxiety. She runs her own business and was growing anxious about finances with not a lot of future business on the books.
“I feel like I could cry,” she said, as she did she made a spinning motion with her hands. I made the same spinning motion back and ask her for more details on that feeling. “What’s that feel like?”
As she went deeper into the feeling it got stronger and became almost a feeling of panic. I asked her to describe more about the feeling. She said, “It’s like a web in my chest, white.”
Changing The Metaphor
That was her metaphor–that the feeling was like a web in her chest.
I asked her to pop that web outside of her body where she could look at it and as she did, it turned black. I asked her to ask the black web what it was trying to do for her, she got the answer, “safety.” I asked her what it sounded like and she said, “Like the phone ringing.”
I asked to flip the image over and it spontaneously changed it to a different color–yellow. At that point she felt and intense relief from her panicky feelings. We popped the new configuration back in to her body and she felt even greater relief. I added a bit of language about it being better able to function now to help her find safety. The entire process took about five minutes.
I talked to her a couple of weeks later and she said she’s continued to feel comfortable when thinking about her business and finances. She said, “I can’t look at it the same way or feel the same way about it as I used to.” And even better news, she’s taking care of business efficiently–without the anxious feelings.
How Do You Do It?
I don’t know what exactly to call this style of work. But here’s how to do it…
You use the metaphor the unconscious gives you when it represents the problem. Essentially, you mess with the metaphor until it functions better. Typically that also means the client feels better.
You can change any aspect of the metaphor’s submodalities; color, direction of spin (if it has spin), orientation (flip it around or upside down), shape, size, speed (if it moves), temperature, tonality, volume, location.
- Keep in mind that if the metaphor is something like a spinning wheel, if you spin it faster, it’s liable to feel more intense. If it’s red and you make it a brighter red, it’s liable to feel worse. It’s a good strategy to change things in a way you think will lessen the negative feelings instead.
- I like to move negative feelings out of the body and have the client look at them. The dissociation tends to give a bit of relief and it helps them get a new perspective on the situation.
- Asking the metaphor what it wants for the client is an old ericksonian process. It helps get rapport with the metaphor and separate behavior from intention.
We’re Not Going For Insight And The Devil Didn’t Make Us Do It
One of the things I like about this style of work is that it’s relatively free of any theoretical background and psychological or religious/spiritual interpretation. You can put that kind interpretation on this technique but it’s not necessary and it just complicates the process. I know some of you will take this and try to make it about entity possession or alien abduction, but that is not only unnecessary, it’s harmful to the client.
And although insight and understanding can come from doing things this way, that’s not the point of this approach. The point (to me) is to help someone feel and function better.
One of the reasons this kind of work can be so fast is that it’s mostly content free. We don’t know how the problem got started. We don’t know what the problem was about specifically, beyond business and finances. And if you think about it, you’ll realize we could have worked without even that bit of content. She could have come to me and said, “I feel bad. It’s like a web in my chest” and we could have done the same thing. Not having to get all of that content saves a ton of time.
The disadvantage is that we might not know enough to do a good ecology check. It’s possible that a client could want to go in to business as a hired assassin and be feeling some anxiety. That might be detrimental to other areas of her life 🙂
In other words, it’s a good idea to get enough content to know what the client is up to.