Metaphors and Christmas Tales - by Matthew Wingett

Matthew Wingett discusses some of the healing messages in the Christmas story, and how, for the Licensed NLP Practitioner, stories are useful templates for building life-affirming metaphors.
Little gifts brighten the mood at Christmas
One of the great things accomplished NLPers do in their work is use metaphor, often in the shape of storytelling, to help people overcome difficulties.  It readies the unconscious to find new ways of behaving and offers patterns of healing and transformation that are not directly tied to the client's current situation.  This means the client is able to absorb the message of change without feeling the emotional challenge of being reminded of their own particular circumstances.  
Whether you believe in the Christmas story, have a different spirituality, or think the whole business is just bah! humbug!, there's no denying the power those stories exert on the imagination.  The patterns and inter-relations in the Christmas stories have been around for a long, long time - often longer than Christianity itself - and the refreshment they give the soul seems to come from the very way they are constructed.
Understanding some of the metaphors inherent to the stories of Christmas can help you generate metaphors to fit uniquely with your clients.
Here are five examples of positive, generative metaphors in the Nativity story:
1) Kings Bow Down Their Heads
The powerful icon of Kings kneeling before a lowly child is a great symbol of equality.  One message this story gives is that even the poor and the defenceless deserve respect from the powerful. Another is that we all have value, no matter how lowly we are.  Are there others?  What else could this story mean?
2) Snow On Snow
The idea of a birth in the deep midwinter is a strong symbol of hope for anyone who has endured the dark winters of Northern Europe.  
In the Northern Hemisphere, the shortest day of the year occurs a few days before Christmas, at Winter Solstice.  By Midwinter's Day on the 25th December (also Christmas Day for most people in Europe), the sunlight has at last started its slow return to the land.  
The images and metaphors you can draw from this flood in thick and fast.  For example:  
The "child born of heaven" who is "the light"  and "brings life" can certainly be read as a sign that sunshine is returning to a dead land, which is ultimately a message of hope.
Carl Jung, in Man And His Symbols, takes the metaphor one step further and equates this return to life as a metaphor for a person coming out of their own period of darkness, or crisis to renewed mental health.
However far you choose to take it, the upshot is, that a newborn baby is all about hope!

3) Follow The Star
"Following a star" might be used as a metaphor for the determination you feel when you are on a quest.  It could also be used to suggest that you have special knowledge or a secret inspiration which keeps you focussed on whatever it is you want to do in life.  Following a guiding star might be used as a metaphor to say: "Follow your hopes, dreams and aspirations."

4) We Come Bearing Gifts...
Giving gifts in the winter was around a long time before Christ was born.  The Ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia, which was held in the nine days up to 23rd December, was a wild time in which, among other things, candles were given as gifts... once again spreading light in the darkness... and, on a practical level, raising one's spirits, too.  
In storytelling and metaphorical terms, gift-giving in a time of darkness might mean that someone who is suffering or struggling with a task is offered a gift of knowledge, hope or inspiration through a kind and generous gesture. 

5) King of Kings...
Related to the first point, the metaphor that a lowly child is a direct descendant of a king implies the value inside everyone - and points to the even more wonderful person you could yet be.

There are many more elements of metaphor within the Nativity story, and many ways in which you can interpret them to highlight a story, but I think these give you a hint as to how you can build metaphors for yourself when you are dealing with clients, and the positive messages you can give.
Next month, I'll talk about a very specific method of using metaphor on a client in trance, known as "Constellation Hypnosis".
Watch this space!
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