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March 26, 2017

What's in the Package - A Visual Metaphor

By Dr. Richard Boyum

The use of visual metaphor is a powerful way to help clients both identify their problems and create their own solutions. Clients and students in late middle school, high school, and post-secondary school settings who have formal operational thought skills can benefit from these techniques. The following exercise is based upon the core belief that clients can identify the source of their problems and identify helpful solutions.
I want you to imagine that there are two boxes sitting in front of you-think of them as packages or presents that are wrapped. One box is labeled "the problem" and one box is labeled "the solution". Please take a moment to think about an issue that is concerning you at this particular time. This is your problem, maybe something that has come up recently, or it may have been something that has been with you for many months or even years. Often we think we know what the problem really is, but keep an open mind as you imagine the package or present that says "the problem".

Imagine yourself taking off the wrapping paper and opening the box. As you lift the last part of the lid, hear yourself say, "The problem really is..." As you open the box, see if the description or label for the problem is any different than what you previously thought that it was (to the counselor: for example, sometimes someone will say, "My problem is that I can never start a relationship." In reality, the real problem at the next level may be that the individual is afraid of rejection).

After you have examined this possible new definition of the problem that is concerning you, imagine that inside that box, with that description/label, you find another smaller box. Imagine for a moment that you can no longer use the label or description for the problem that you have just defined. Now open this next box, and as you do so, hear yourself say, "The problem or issue that I must work on really is..." and see what answer you come up with this time. Again, sometimes when we peel away another layer, we get closer to another level of an issue that we need to work on.

You can do this as many times as you wish. You may find three or four different labels for something you choose to work on and better understand in your life.

Next, move to the package or present marked "the solution". You will be using the same procedure here. You may, at the top of your head, have something that you plan on doing to work on the problem. On the other hand, you may not be sure how to deal with this. Trust the power of your intuition to give you a direction to move. Be open to an idea that may come to you. As you imagine yourself opening the box-taking off the paper, etc., be prepared to say, as you lift the lid, "Something that will help me deal with this problem is..." Then open the box and see what thought/image/idea comes forward. Trust that this will be helpful to you.

Again, imagine that there is another box inside of the bigger box. Do not allow yourself to use the words or solutions that you just heard yourself say. As you open the second box, using the same procedure, imagine yourself saying, "Another possible solution or way of getting at this problem is..." As you open the box, see what comes to you.

By using these techniques, you may be able to create insights that will help you develop the kinds of change that will move your life in the direction you would like it to move.