If you have ever tried to change or eliminate an intrusive thought you may notice that it usually returns. In part, the return of the maladaptive thought can be attributable to the fact that we use the same thing that created the thought in the first place: language. Metaphors and images provide another way to understand our thoughts and perhaps accept their existence. On occasion, I’d like to use this blog to highlight various metaphors I encounter that I think may help others in their quest for a more value-based life.
Today, consider the following metaphor:
Picture your life as a room. One day you notice a dripping pipe in the corner. The sound of falling drops brings about nervous feelings and you want to quickly rid the room of the leaky pipe. Instead of calling a plumber and addressing the root of the problem, you repair the leak with some duct tape and your peace of mind returns. Soon after, the water finds its way through the tape and the dripping begins again. You add some more duct tape to create some more moments of quiet. Of course the quietness does not last and you have to fix the leak again, again, and again. The problem seems somewhat manageable as duct tape is rather inexpensive and you always seem to have some nearby. It can take months; even years until you notice that the big clumsy repair slowly fills the whole room and you gradually have less and less space to live. The dripping comes closer to you and in order to get around the room you have to navigate the tape and falling water. You spend more time “fixing” the pipe than actually living in this room.***
Questions to consider:
What types of “duct tape” do you use in your life? Some examples may include alcohol or drugs, diving into relationships, self-harm, working too much, avoiding certain people or activities, etc. What might it feel like to live in a room like the one described above? How do you design your life around your “duct tape”?
* Dylan Thomas
**Martin Luther King, Jr.
***Metaphor paraphrased from the Association for Contextual Behaivoral Science website