I want to talk of metaphor. How it shapes us, our thoughts, our self, our very being, of who we dream we are, who we were, who we are to become. I read a post today it reminded me of a passionate interest I have. I had been searching before reading this of something I wrote long ago, a series of questions during my master’s studies that I put to a group of people. I wanted to post it here but it has been lost, multiple changes of address and hard drives but the passion still excites me. I want to you ask you my dear readers what story defines you? What metaphor drives you? Are you aware or is it under the surface defining you without your knowledge.
Did you know that the brain cleverly and economically functions on metaphor. It is the most brilliant method of data storage we have in our organic super computer brains. We think the super computers we carry in our hands now days are amazing yet the function of our human brain is beyond anything we can create, yet. I refer to this as the human brain has an incredible ability to serve or destroy us. Created like the universe in a magnificent inexplicable evolutionary moment similar to the ‘big bang’ (or for the creationists among us when the word of God brought about the world) the Homo sapiens brain evolved and was able to remember, formulate future, to imagine, to plan and to create on a level that no other creature on Earth comes close. It didn’t happen to all of them, just some and over time there were more (through genetics and learning). Yet there was a cost, a high cost. The cost was the need for a high protein diet, the need to attend to our young for much longer than any other creature on this planet. These brains of ours are large and are not fully grown when we are born. We seem to be born with a relatively open template for growth that we can adapt to incredible differences in languages, in culture and in environment. To do so we spend 50% of our childhood sleeping in the REM state. What is the REM state? Dreaming. Did you know that within the cycle of sleep we spend a significant period of every 90 minutes dreaming? This dreaming period expends as much energy as the ‘awake’ brain does. Did you know that you experience the REM state while awake? Every 90 minutes (more or less, the time varies person to person) during your waking day you ‘trance out’ (know the feeling when you need a glass of water, a nap, a break, a walk, a coffee, some food….). This is the moment needed to solidify learning or let go of experiences not needed. Same as when we sleep.
Significantly we dream to release the emotional arousal or expectations of the day. We dream in metaphor to avoid any issues as the brain, elegant as it is, does not know the difference between the real, the imagined or the dreamed. This process is sometimes referred to as ‘Expectation fulfillment theory’ or the ‘flush toilet mechanism’. A simple example is perhaps the boss says something that you do not like but cannot without jeopardising your employment say what you would like to them. That night fuming you go home, fall asleep and dream of telling someone in authority, say an old teacher or public political figure etc, exactly what you think of them. You wake and return to your work environment without feeling emotionally aroused and ready to tell you boss: ‘F *%& you buddy you can F*&%ing stick your stupid job’.
But back to the point, what stories defined you as a child? Have you updated these ideas or inadvertently is your brain still seeking to fulfill these metaphorical ideals? My personal example is the classic ‘Snow White’ story. I didn’t have many books, in fact very few, but I had this one book with wood block prints and lyrical verse. I was lost to it. But this metaphor defined me far longer than I ever intended. Until I consciously realised and created a new metaphor for myself that launched me into something unexpected. I wrote something simple and childish to bridge the gap between where my metaphorical expectations were and where my adult self realized I wanted to be. I defined myself as a ‘knight in shining pink armour on a quest of knowledge and learning’. My metaphor before this (as defined by Snow White) was that I was persecuted for who I was and would be hunted by women of perceived power and those within the execution of their will and my only hope was to be saved by a prince on a white charger… seriously these stories we read have great effect (I am no feminist just one who has seen and experienced the difference this choice makes for man and woman). I have had several more metaphors since this first consciously rewritten one which was playful and made me smile in the face of adversary. Metaphors don’t need to be elaborate…. Can you remember what your favourite childhood story was? Is it relevant now? Does it still have a hold on you? Do you need to take charge of that magnificent brain of yours and feed it some better information setting it on a search for a much richer and wonderful tomorrow? Humour me. Lets see what comes to mind in the next few days….
Please feel free to email me privately with any questions.