The Power of Image and Metaphor in Times of Stress

When humans process overwhelming experiences, our metaphors and images become depictions of how we feel and sometimes actually hinder our ability to move forward. With a little awareness and practice, you can harness the power of your metaphors and images to help ease the negative emotional and physical symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Here is one powerful technique you can use on your own.


Reframing is all about using your imagination to transform your stress depictions into something more supportive of a positive experience. When we reframe, we help move an image and grow a metaphor; we tap into our higher intelligence to tell those parts that are protecting us subconsciously that there are better ways to do their job.

Here’s how: Begin with belly breathing (breathing that pushes your diaphragm out); invite your body to relax, and when ready, recall your issue. Ask the issue to form an image of itself; then begin to make creative changes. Ask the image its name (first name that comes to you). If your image is a big angry ball with fire-y eyes and puckered lips called Oscar, then begin getting to know Oscar. Ask its gender (don’t assume—you’re speaking to your subconscious—it has different rules); thank Oscar for communicating with you in a way you can understand and for protecting you. Let Oscar know you would be more comfortable if she/he/they looked different; change whatever you want, asking permission as you go. “Oscar, can you make your mouth a straight line? Can you make yourself my favorite color? Can you turn your eyes to blue and make them softer/kinder? Can you get smaller?” Keep going until Oscar is a more pleasant image or disappears altogether; before you know it, you will notice changes in how you feel and in how you perceive your issue.

Metaphors work the same way. If your metaphor is an elephant sitting on your chest, explore the where, what, how, and anything else about that elephant sitting on your chest. Then ask yourself, “What has to happen for the elephant on my chest to move? And then what else?” Keep going until your metaphor shows you a solution and your elephant has moved.

This technique works on a lot of levels to ease negative emotions and help you move forward. It takes practice not perfection and is never a substitute for seeking professional help.

Questions? I'm here to help!